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Ichabbie ~ Designed By Love

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DBL Ch 1 - Meet Cute

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1~

Abbie would never have believed a few months ago she'd be sitting in the Miami International Airport, making a connection flight to the tiny Caribbean Island of Saint Patricia. It had been far too long since she'd been back. It would be nice if the circumstances were better, but life doesn't always go how you expect, no matter how hard you plan.

She'd nearly killed herself starting out in the fashion industry, working a menial assistant job, pulling swag from the closet for Baroche Magazine, while she went to law school. By the time she graduated law school, she'd been hired as An assistant to a junior Fashion Editor at SHé Image Magazine at LaFox Publications. Abbie ruffled a few feathers when her boss retired and made her Junior Fashion Editor, in her place. The Editor in Chief, Raven Standra was pissed, because her top pick was Katrina VanTassle. The two had been gunning for her the moment she got the position, and it was only a matter of time before they finally forced her out. Yes, she quit. But what choice did she have after the way they'd sidelined her, and refused to recognize her hard work.

Now she was Blacklisted. Labeled "difficult to work with", what magazine would hire her? She would have to find a way to make it in the industry on her own. Thankfully she had her law degree to fall back on if she couldn't make her dream come true. What she needed now was perspective and a complete change.

"Just don't tell my mom, or Tasha," Abbie grumbled. She sat in her seat wearing a cute but comfy black and white halter-top sundress and low heeled sandals. She had her white sweater on to stave off the chill of the air conditioning.

"I can't wait until you get here," Sophie smiled over the phone, not allowing Abbie to dwell on her misfortune.

"Me too. I need sun, beaches... A complete change of scenery to clear my mind," Abbie took a deep breath almost meditating on the thought.

"And you need a night out. I'm going to make sure you get some good Caribbean dick."

"Sophie!" Abbie gasped quietly into her cell phone, and tried not to laugh out loud in the crowded Airport.

 

"Don't act like you're not thinking about it. Forget Calvin's dumb ass. That fool has no idea what he's lost."

Sure after Abbie was fired from her project and forced to quit her job, Calvin had chosen that Becky with the good hair. It stung. Not that Abbie was in love with him, but they were a team. He pretended like they were going to go far together, him photographing her designs. But he bailed on her at the first sign of trouble. The hurt was that he was now stuck up under Katrina. Yeah, getting laid really good would be one way to relieve some stress.

"Not gonna lie, that would be nice... But I'm coming home to focus. I'm going to try one more time to get my fashion career on track, otherwise, I'll go back to law, take the Bar exam and go from there. I'm twenty-nine. I thought I'd have it all figured out by the time I turned thirty."

"You will figure it out. If Fashion is where your heart is, you will make it happen. Have you designed the costumes for the Freedom Festival?"

"I'm working on them as we speak, since this is a nightmarishly long layover," Abbie tapped her pencil on her sketchbook. She had a digital one too, but there was nothing as therapeutic as putting pencil to paper. And at a crowded airport, it was exactly what she needed. "I hate delays."

~

2~

Ichabod finally made it through customs, grabbed his carry-on bag and went to get a bite to eat. Everything seemed to be crowded and take forever at the huge Miami airport. But he was from London, so crowds and delays were no big deal.

He was dressed smart but comfortable in a pair of slacks and a thin light blue button-down shirt, which was undone baring the upper part of his chest. He checked the time on his wristwatch as he stood in line.

He wasn't used to wearing the watch yet. If it had been a gift, it would have been nice. But he had inherited the watch from his grandfather. His death two weeks ago had been a crushing blow. He was far closer to his mother's dad than he ever was to his own father.

William Crane, with his fancy title and massive business, had expected Ichabod and his older sister to study Business at Oxford University, marry well, drop a couple of grandkids, and run the family business.

Though his sister Sydney had done just that, Oxford Business, married a Bristow, and already had one child... Ichabod had rebelled. He instead studied Architectural Engineering, history, and foreign languages. He then used his degree to run off around the world doing charity work for World Neighbors, abandoning the family business for years.

While away he made things worse when he broke off his engagement with Mary, and began dating women he was working with. Ichabod was completely content with his life choices, until his choices proved fatal for Mary. The family came down on him hard after her death, and guilt brought him home to London.

He used his degree to work on building projects for his father's company, but guilt over Mary was eating at him. His grandfather George was his only comfort, the one person he could talk to over the past couple of years. Now grampa George was gone. And Ichabod was left to deal with the remains of his estate. At least it would get him away from London for a few days. The Caribbean sun and fresh air might do him some good. Give him some perspective. He needed something, because he had no idea what he was doing with his life.

"Can I get an order of chips." Ichabod hardly looked up as he reached to pull his card from his wallet.

The young man pointed to a selection of potato chips "what kind?"

"Oh... pardon. I mean fries," Ichabod shook his head. "and a tea?"

"Sweet or unsweetened?"

"Two sugars."

"Sir, we have sweet or unsweetened," the young man seemed slightly annoyed. "We can't control how much sugar it has."

"I can put two sugars in an unsweetened for you," one of the servers offered as she grinned, flirting at Ichabod. "I don't mind, for a cutie like you."

"It's quite all right. Sweet tea is fine."

He searched around for a seat and found one available next to a larger man in flip-flops and a flowered shirt. It was perfect because there was a tiny table between the empty seat and a cute young woman chatting away on her cellphone, Long dark hair covering her face. She had gorgeous slender dark legs and a sketchbook opened on her lap. Ichabod averted his eyes from her smooth bronze legs as he sat down.

"Dear god that's awful," Ichabod grumbled at the cold sweet tea after taking a sip.

"It's not done," Abbie furrowed her brow looking up from her drawing. She was going to say something else but the soft blue eyes looking back at her caught her off guard. She found herself momentarily lost in the sea of blue.

"I beg your pardon, miss... I meant the tea. Your sketch is lovely actually." Ichabod gave her a kind apologetic smile. Goodness, she was beautiful... those eyes and perfect lips.

Ichabod wasn't easily taken by women. He was one of those guys that women just seemed to gush over when they saw him. He was always polite about it but never fed into it. Confident but not overly cocky. And not looking... Not since Mary, and Jules (that's a story for another time). But he couldn't deny, the big light brown eyes surrounded by thick dark lashes, and full, perfect, lightly glossed lips made his heart skip.

"Thanks," Abbie smiled. "No... It's a guy who sat next to me..." She turned away from him quickly, and continued talking to Sophie. Dear god, he was gorgeous, but she was not even trying to get all hot and bothered by a stranger at the airport.

Ichabod sat his fries and drink down on the tiny table between them, and pulled out a copy of Architects Digest. He munched away as he flipped through the pages. As he read Abbie's drawing caught his attention. He heard her mention festival and Carnival as she spoke softly on the phone. The sketch of the colorful bikini was provocative, sexy, definitely capturing the essence of Carnival, with its wing back and massive headdress of colorful feathers. He watched as her petite hand made a few strokes while she talked.

"Remember the costume you did last time you were here?" Sophie asked.

"Yes, I have a picture of it here." Abbie pulled out a picture of herself from four years ago. It was the last time she'd been home before making Junior Fashion Editor.

"I want a headdress similar in style to that."

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Ichabod's eyes nearly fell out of his head. he swallowed hard. this young woman was stunning. Shorter Than he thought, but petite was perfection on her. He wasn't paying attention as he reached into his basket of fries... at the same time, Abbie did.

"Oh my god... I can't believe I did that. Damn... I was in the zone and not paying attention." Abbie was fifty shades of embarrassed. Who reaches in and steals a stranger's fries?

"It's not a problem," Ichabod smiled amusedly. "You're welcome to them."

"I couldn't. I'm on a diet actually," Abbie winced. "I don't usually steal people's fries."

"Yes, you do!" Sophie laughed loud enough over the phone for Ichabod to hear.

Ichabod raised a brow and was thoroughly amused. But for the life of him, he couldn't figure out why someone so petite with what appeared to be a gorgeous figure, was doing on a diet.

The flight was called over the intercom, and everyone gathered their belongings. They filed into the small plane that sat.

~~~

3~

There were nine single window seats on the small PC-12 plane. Everyone filed in, Ichabod behind Abbie found the seat beside her with just the small aisle between them. He offered to help her put her carry-on bag up. As they sat down they noticed that the plane was very warm.

"We apologize, everyone. We had the Air Conditioning go out on us. We wanted to get it repaired but the delay was taking too long. Bear with us for three hours and we'll have you on the beaches of Saint Patricia in no time.

Two large fans were set up in the aisle to circulate the air. All of the passengers leaned into the aisle trying to catch the breeze. But after only an hour it was hot.

Ichabod had started the flight with perfectly gelled back hair and shirt three buttons undone. An hour and a half in, his shirt was undone almost halfway down his torso, sleeves were rolled up just above the elbow, and his hair was a fussy mess. He kept his cool, however, leaning in on the aisle armrest sipping his water. He tried to focus on his magazine, but each time the fane osculated up and down, it raised her skirt, revealing her speak bronze thighs. He had to clear his throat and adjust himself.

Abbie caught a glimpse of him a couple of times, looking completely unbothered, and hot as hell in so many ways. Abbie adjusted, uncrossing then crossing her legs again. How the hell did he look sexier with his hair a mess? Maybe it had just been too long since she'd been properly laid. No, it was him. He smelled so damn nice, with those blue eyes and the baby beard...

"Damn it," Abbie fanned herself. She had her sweater off and slightly loosened the black halter top of her dress, attempting to fight off the sweat. But she was feeling extra warm with this man leaning into her.

"This heat is terrible," Ichabod returned.

"The worst," Abbie could not get enough of his voice. She got up from her seat. She needed to splash some cool water on her body. "Excuse me."

Ichabod nodded and went back to his magazine. Clearly, she was not interested in him. It was an odd experience for him. He realized if he wanted to find out who she was, he was going to have to ask. He'd been out of the game for a while but he certainly had no problem speaking to women. He just wasn't used to them not coming on to him, and this the one time he wished she would.

Abbie took a moment in the cramped bathroom to splash water on her body, cooling herself from the heat and the 'Heat'. That was better.

"Get it together Mills. He's a tourist... Here for a day or two then back to England. Don't even let yourself get caught up."

She was about to leave the bathroom when the plane jolted. She grabbed onto the door handle to keep from falling onto the toilet. She'd experienced turbulence before, and it always freaked her out a little. And this was pretty hard.

"Okay, everyone. We're coming into some rough air," the pilot said over the intercom. "Fasten your seatbelts. We'll be out of it in just a few minutes."

Ichabod looked back to check on Abbie, and saw her staggering from the bathroom, staying upright through the trembling of the plane. He was relieved to see that the pretty young woman that captured his attention was okay. As she made it the few feet to her seat the plane jolted hard raising on the right, sending Abbie left, off of her feet. She was seconds away from landing on the floor at Ichabod's feet, but he quickly reached with his long arms and pulled her onto his lap.

I've got you," Ichabod held her tight as the plane continued to shake. "Are you quite alright?"

"Yeah... Thanks for the save," Abbie grabbed onto him and the seat in front of him as the plane continued to shake and the seatbelt light flashed.

"Sorry about that folks. Just hang on for a few minutes and we'll have smooth sailing... Or flying," the pilot joked, keeping everyone calm.

Abbie made a feeble attempt to get out of Ichabod's lap, but the plane would not stop jerking.

"Thaaaaanks!!!" Abbie's voice pitched up as the plane dropped slightly.

He grabbed her, awkwardly across the chest. "I am terribly sorry."

"Here you go." Ichabod put his seatbelt around both of them the keep her from hitting her head on the ceiling of falling on the ground.

Abbie was relieved for a second until she felt that her skirt was hiked up one thigh and she definitely had her ass wedged upon his groin, and the plane was jerking.

"I am dreadfully sorry about our most unfortunate position." Ichabod wasn't one to feel so awkward but this was highly unusual. He willed his body not to react to anything that might feel good about her bum gyrating on his crotch. "I apologize if I inadvertently..."

"No need to apologize," Abbie could tell exactly where his comment was going. The DSF was no joke. "It's just one of those things."

Abbie gasped hard when the plane dropped hard again. Her heart was racing a million miles a minute, and now she was shaking.

"It's going to be fine... I've got you," Ichabod's deep husky voice, spoke softly in her ear, as he gave her a gentle comforting squeeze. Her skin glistened, her scent was delicious, and Ichabod breathed her in. She was calming to him and he wanted to do the same for her.

Abbie relaxed feeling his heartbeat against her back, steady and strong, easing her own. She put her arms around his. Those slightly sweaty, lean, hairy arms were holding her tight. Their breaths found a rhythm her back rising and falling in perfect harmony against his chest. Everything was just fine.

This was the first time she wasn’t in a complete panic going through hard turbulence. Usually, her thoughts were ‘Is this how I want to go?’ And well…

The plane began to calm as they held steady and close. She was so warm and soft, his thumb gently brushed her hand as their arms entwined. He was solid. Abbie may have let her fingers flutter down the length of his firm arms.

 

"Alright folks I think we're all clear," The pilot said calmly after a few minutes. "Sit back and relax. We'll be in Saint Patricia in less than an hour."

It took a moment, the two having made themselves quite comfortable. They almost didn't want to move. Ichabod undid the seatbelt and the two had to peel off of each other. Ichabod pulled the nearly demolished magazine over his lap keeping it strategically placed over his situation, as Abbie got up and fixed her dress.

"Thank you again," Abbie was desperately trying not to blush as she went back to her seat.

"My name is Ichabod Crane," he held out his hand for her as she sat down. "I feel after that, we know each other so well in unexpected ways."

Abbie let out a soft chuckle and took his hand. "Abbie Mills."

She expected a handshake but he raised her hand to his lips and gave it a gentle peck. "It's been a pleasure getting to know you."

"Ichabod, was it?" Abbie tried not to sound flustered.

"Yes. But my friends call me Iche... or Crane..." he smiled with a slightly raised brow. What he wouldn’t give to be able to take the time and get to know her. He was captivated by her smile, her voice her talent. They had almost an hour to…

"And I'm Lydia," A woman in her mid-fifties reached from behind Ichabod and held out her hand. "And this is my good friend Heather."

"Oh... Well, how do you do ladies?" Ichabod politely shook their damp hands, pretending it was too far to reach back.

'How do you do' was an expression to Brits, it wasn’t a question that needed an answer, but unfortunately, that was lost in translation. He turned back to Abbie but the ladies kept talking to him.

"We are doing just fine," Lydia was eyeing Ichabod up and down. "Except for this god awful heat."

"And that was some terrible turbulence," Heather chimed in.

"Just awful. It was sure sweet what you did for that young lady. The world needs more fine gentlemen like yourself."

"Where are you from?" Heather asked keeping his attention.

"London," Ichabod let out a sigh. This was what he was used to. It happened all the time. He was a gentleman and would be polite, but there was only one person on this plane he was interested in talking to.

The ladies continued not letting him out of the conversation as Abbie held back her laughter and sunk into her seat. After a few minutes, she felt bad and reached across the aisle, handing him an earbud.

"This is that song I was telling you about." Abbie lied coming to his rescue.

"Oh, of course... Ladies, it was a pleasure." Ichabod gave the two ladies a quick head nod, and quickly took the earbud from Abbie. He placed it barely in his ear, mouthing thank you to Abbie.

Sade, By Your Side... That was the song.

"Think I'd leave your side, baby. You know me better than that.
Think I'd leave you down when you're down on your knees.
I wouldn't do that.
I'll tell you, you're right when you are
If only you could see into me.
Oh when you're cold, I'll be there. Hold you tight to me.
Oh when you're low, I'll be there by your side."

He relaxed back into his seat, glancing up to see her sultry lips mouthing the words. The sunlight beaming through the small window surrounded her and she was radiant perfection. His breath caught when she swooped her hand over her neck, raising her hair to cool herself with the fan's oscillating breeze, She was a vision that would forever remain with him.

Lydia and Heather tried to get Ichabod's attention a couple of times, but he simply pretended he couldn't hear them.

She glanced up blushing, giving him a side grin before turning back to the pages of her sketchbook. After the landing was announced, everyone put their seat-belts on.

"I’m certain I have sanitizer," Ichabod reached for his laptop bag after taking out the bud.

"Oh don't worry, I've got it," Abbie took the ear-bud, fully understanding it might be sweaty. She bit her lip as she watched him run his hands through his damp dark hair. It was a hot plane ride.

 

4 ~

 

The approach was beautiful. Nothing but blue skies, turquoise seas, white sandy beaches and green palms in sight. The ambiance instantly lowered the stress and tension that everyone had and was leaving behind.

Abbie loved coming home. She could almost feel the sand between her toes and the cool sea breezes. This was exactly where she needed to be. She could feel it.

Ichabod helped Abbie get her bag from the overhead, then extended out his arm for her to walk ahead of him. "After you."

The two made small talk as they entered the baggage claim area.

"You have impeccable taste in music."

"I have impeccable taste in everything," Abbie quipped back as they walked to the luggage belt.

Oh, she was cheeky, and he liked it. "I’ll just have to get to know you better, and you can show me.”

Abbie blushed but said nothing but tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.

He stepped closer looking her right in her beautiful brown eyes. “Honestly, you made this trip worth it."

"Well, it's the least I could do, after you saved my life." Abbie wondered what he meant by that. Made it worth it, as if he wasn't here to enjoy himself.

"Abbie!" two young women squealed from behind her. Tasha and Sophie ran up to her, encircling her in a group hug. They began chatting up a storm.

Abraham waved to Ichabod from just outside of the small airport.

"Girls this is Ichabod Crane, and this is my cousin Tanisha and friend Sophie," They quickly exchanged pleasantries. "Crane, thanks again for everything," Abbie tried to settle herself.

"It truly was my pleasure. I'm staying at the Royal Palm for a few days, if you ever want to get drinks or share some music."

"I might take you up on that. We may not have a good spot for tea, but I can definitely hook you up with some amazing coffee," Abbie grinned, but her mind was already thinking twice.

"Ah, I do enjoy coffee."

"I love it. It was nice meeting you, Crane."

 

"I assure you the pleasure was mine," Ichabod gave her a parting head bow and the two parted ways.

"A tourist Abbie?" Sophie questioned quietly as he walked away.

"A fine as hell tourist with an equally fine ass accent," Tasha hissed through her teeth. "All tall and moist."

Yeah..." Abbie and Sophie fawned with a smile and thought on that for a moment.

"But you're right he's just a tourist." And he was too good looking for a one night stand or a short fling. Abbie could not let herself get caught up. "Did he look back?"

"Yeah, he looked back..." Sophie pierced her lips with a grin as she watched the tall Brit, glance back before exiting. "Twice."

 ~*~

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~*~

Chapter Text

CH 2

Present Day

Abbie sat swaying on the porch swing, alone on a deck overlooking the white sandy beach and the Caribbean Sea. It was crazy how much she missed Ichabod. He seemed to occupy the recesses of her mind all the time. She missed him, sometimes so badly that it physically hurt her to think about him. She hadn't seen him for five months. The longest five months of her life, waiting, wondering, praying. She gently flittered her hand across the smooth curve of her belly and wondered if she'd ever see him again.

The corner of her mouth turned up in the tiniest grin as she thought back on the day they met in the airport, and the flight they shared on the way to Saint Patricia. She had no idea then, that her life was going to completely change due to a chance meeting. She had no idea that one chance encounter, would be followed by the most amazing time of her life. It was a summer she would remember with fondness and love forever.

~*~

 

1~

 

Blue skies, lush trees, green brush, the turquoise sea in the distance, New York was already feeling like a distant memory. It was surreal being back home as Sophie drove them across the island to Abbie's family farm. She kept the window down so she could take in the fresh tropical air, and hear the calm low rush of the water meeting the sand and rock.

Tasha and Sophie were chatting on about everything that had been going on this summer, getting her all caught up on the gossip. She was too excited finally immersed in her old familiar surroundings to really hear what they were saying.

"Oh I love this song," Tasha scooted up from the back seat between Sophie and Abbie in the front and turned up the volume on the radio.

"♪ ♫ Can't believe ah... Can't believe ah... Take me girl away from me ♪ ♫ " The girls waved their hands and sang along, dancing in their seats just like old times.

"We're going out tonight right!" Sophie declared more than asked.

"Oh... Francisco lets you go out?" Tasha joked.

"Lets me," Sophie rolled her eyes. Her fiancé was a total nerd, and clubbing was not his thing. But he was adorable and she loved him.

"I still can't believe you and Ash are really over," Abbie felt very much out of the loop.

"They are ancient history. And don't be mad if I get all up on that one, cause Ash is fine as hell," Tasha did not have any chill when it came to being thirsty for Big Ash.

"You can try," Sophie shrugged it off. "He's not mine anymore, and I am over him. Unlike Luke..."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Abbie questioned. "Luke and I haven't dated since I finished grad school. The long distance thing wasn't working."

"You know he almost put in for NYPD to give things another try between you two?" Sophie stated, as if this was strict insider information. She and Luke worked together at Saint Patricia Police Department, under Commissioner Leena Reyes. Nothing happened at the Station without Sophie knowing. "He told me he was going to ask Leena for a reference, but after talking to her, he decided not to do it."

"No! I had no idea. When was this?"

"A few months ago, around the time you moved in with Calvin. Maybe Leena told him and I guess he changed his mind."

"Uh... Calvin was such a huge mistake," Abbie sulked.

"Girl he did you so wrong on top of everything else," Sophie shook her head.

"So are you gonna tell me what happened or no?" Tasha folded her arms and eyed her cousin.

"I told you... I just need a break," Abbie let out a heavy sigh.

"Okay, I see. You tell Sophie but you don't tell your own cousin?"

"Because you have a big mouth," Sophie shouted back. "You would have told Auntie Lori and Leena everything."

"Okay that's probably true, but you're here now... Tell me what happened. Why are you leaving that big-time magazine? Why are you leaving that tall, dark and handsome photographer? I need answers!"

"I'll tell you but you have to let me tell mommy."

"I swear. I won't say a word to Auntie," Tasha was practically jumping out of her seat.

 

~

2~ Abbie's NY Life

 

"What do you mean the head of Orion Industries is here!? Now!? Standra Raven, the Editor chief of SHé Image Magazine was not accustomed to surprises. And when the top Investor pays a visit to the magazine, she liked to be in complete control of every detail.

"Sorry ma'am, but he just showed up unannounced," Kim Albertson scrambled as she scurried behind Standra.

"Where is he now?"

"I think he wanted to see what's happening in the studio..."

"You think?!" Standra nearly took Kim's head off.

"Well... Um... Yes. He's definitely on his way to the studio."

"Who's in there shooting now?"

"Looks like... Junior Editor Abbie Mills. She's shooting her concept for the April issue, With Calvin Riggs."

"The Sanctuary concept?" Standra hissed. It was one of the best concepts pitched in months. And Abbie's designs for the concept were stunning. There was no way she wanted Abbie Mills getting all the credit. "Where is Katrina? I want her in that studio before Orion gets there!"

"I'm texting her now," Kim was frantically gliding her fingers across the phone.

Within a few minutes, Katrina met the women in the elevator. They quickly primped as they headed down the hallway towards the Studio. Katrina was Standra Raven's pick to move up from junior editor to Senior Editor, but Abbie seemed to be besting her in skill and talent. However, in Standra's mind, Katrina had the look the magazine wanted to promote, and wanted to have as the face behind SHé Image. She was tall and modelesque, with red hair and blue eyes. Abbie just wasn't. She didn't see why Abbie wasn't working in the closet behind the scenes putting out designs without any recognition. Why did Abbie insist on being so damned good at everything?

To Standra's dismay when she walked in, Orion was standing right beside Abbie as she was cheerfully flipping through her sketchbook and explaining her vision for the Sanctuary concept and layout. Clearly, Orion was impressed.

"You see the two are complete opposites, but when they come together it works seamlessly, both covering and bringing out the best in each other, creating this peaceful, cohesion, a sort of..."

"Sanctuary... Yes. It's brilliant and your designs are stunning."

"Thank you, Sir," Abbie couldn't believe the owner of the top investment company was having a casual conversation about her ideas.

"Please, call me Orion," he gave her a charming smile.

"Orion Angelo, what a surprise," Standra stepped in front of Abbie and gave him an air kiss to the cheek. "You really should have told me you were coming."

"That would negate the point of a surprise visit. I wanted to see for myself where our dollars go, without the pomp and circumstance I usually get when you are informed the investors are coming."

"I hope you're not disappointed," Standra gave Abbie a side eye.

"Not at all. I can't believe Miss Mills is only a junior editor. This is probably one of the best concepts we've had in months."

Standra fumed internally because she completely agreed. She just never wanted Abbie getting all the credit. "Well as you know, our editors collaborate on all things. In fact, this is Katrina VanTassel. She is also a Junior Editor, but I believe she has what it takes to make Senior editor by the end of the year."

"Oh... So you collaborated with the Sactuary concept?"

"Um..." Katrina looked at Standra who eyed her to speak up. "Well, my thoughts on this particular concept was the inclusion of a mysterious element. I want something that would in a way separated the two contrasting materials that have oddly bonded together. You know, break things up a bit..."

"But wouldn't that mess up the cohesion?" Orion furrowed his brow confused.

"It all works together," Standra quickly deflected. "Now let’s allow Abbie to get back to work. I am in talks with another advertiser, and I would love to pick your brain about how they would fit in with SHé Image. You know how important it is to have the right look in all aspects..."

Abbie watched as she whisked Orion away with Katrina and Kim in tow. She thought nothing else of the encounter with Orion until the April issue was announced. Her concept and five of her designs made the cover and centerfold.

~

"Is it too early to celebrate," Calvin waved the early copy of the magazine with a bottle of champagne when he arrived at Abbie's studio apartment. He turned to the main page that listed her first under editor and head designer.

"We can celebrate!" Abbie let out a lovely hum when he lifted her up and spun her around.

"And I am listed as the photographer," Calvin bragged before kissing her. "Baby, you and I are gonna go far together."

Calvin poured the champagne while Abbie read through the magazine. "I hate that Standra got Katrina's name put on it. Even if it's listed last. She didn't do anything."

"Don't let that worry you," Calvin handed her a glass and they both had a drink. "You and I made the cover. That's all that matters."

"Mmm..." Abbie smiled as she took a drink. "You're right. I'm already working on some new designs. This is only the beginning."

"Move in with me."

"What?" Abbie almost choked. She was crazy about Calvin he was good looking and ambitious. But moving in? She liked her space. Her studio was filled with sketches, materials, accessories, and equipment. "You don't want me and all my junk crowding your apartment."

"You can have the guest room for all your stuff... Come on. Your lease is up next month. Let's do this, baby."

"You're crazy," Abbie shook her head with a cautious grin. "Okay. Let’s do it."

"Looks like we have more celebrating to do," Calvin put his champagne down and lifted Abbie again. This time her legs wrapped around his waist as he carried her to the bed.

~

In April they moved in together and for a few weeks, things seemed to be going smoothly their first month together. Calvin wasn't happy that Abbie insisted they still use condoms even though she stayed on birth control. They still hadn't exchanged I love you's, which was important to Abbie commitment-wise. And Abbie wanted to be extra careful until they were ready for something deeper, more meaningful and emotional.

He didn't push too hard because it was still the best sex he'd ever had. Abbie felt like it was adequate. And she was satisfied. She had the good-looking guy and the career on the rise. It was enough.

Work was the same. Standra was constantly riding her ass about everything and making sure she knew she didn't fit what SHé Image wanted in a Senior Editor. At every turn, she was elevating Katrina for the minutest contribution while ignoring the fact that Abbie did the heavy lifting on every issue.

 

Everything came to a head the middle of May as they were putting together the concepts and ideas for the July issue. The week before, they did their pitches for Standra. Katrina pitched a Deliverance concept that was disturbing, hinting at incest, with bizarre designs featuring used jeans and dirty corsets. Abbie pitch a concept called Paradise Lost, featuring designs that were naughty yet angelic, Beautiful and whimsical with a touch of sin. She thought of it as mostly innocent with a touch of Heathen.

Standra watched Abbie deliver her pitch with a permanent scowl plastered on her face. She nearly choked trying to find ways to minimize how stunning Abbie's sketches were. Hell, the whole concept was a winner and it made her blood boil. Why hadn't Katrina thought of it? That Deliverance concept was just gross.

"She loved it," Caroline, Abbie's assistant was giddy.

"Really," Abbie tried to hide her grin. "She looked like she would rather vomit than pay me a compliment."

"I know," Caroline stifled a laugh. "Did you see the vein popping out of her forehead? I think you have another winner. And... I heard that the advertisers and Investors are coming Thursday to see the concepts themselves. I have a feeling she's going to have Katrina scrap that Deliverance idea."

"Yeah, what was that?" Abbie scrunched up her face.

"I don't even want to know where she got that idea from." Caroline feigned clutching pearls with a turned up nose.

On Friday Abbie's appointment to pitch her concept in front of the Big Money was set for eleven. She had six outfits sketched and made three dresses. She'd sent Standra one of the dresses and one of the designs sketches. She had two more dresses with her that morning, putting on the final touches before heading to the office. She was fussing about, making sure everything was perfect when her cell phone buzzed.

"Hey, where are you?" Caroline was speaking in a frantic whisper as if she didn't want anyone else to hear her.

"Abbie checked the time. It was only 8:15am her appointment wasn't until eleven. "I'm home finishing up my dresses. Why?"

"Standra wants you to send me the other designs and have a messenger drop off the dresses you’re working on. She claims she wants to review them before the investors... But I just saw Katrina with your dress! The one you sent over yesterday."

"What?" Abbie felt her heart sink.

"Yeah... There's no sign of that gross dirty jean and corset concept. She has another outfit... it's hideous, but it looks like it has feathers, and maybe it's trying to fit the Paradise Lost theme. I think you should get here yourself...."

"Caroline, is Abbie sending the other dresses?" Standra snapped, the sound of her heels clicking grew louder as she hastily walked toward her desk.

"Yes, ma'am. I'm on the phone with her now. We're making arrangements," Caroline faked a smile, as Standra walked away.

"Is she gone?"

"Yeah... Do not send those outfits over unless you come with them. I'll see what I can find out."

Caroline went to Standra's office door and snooped outside for a minute. Sure enough, Standra was helping Katrina prep for the Paradise Lost Pitch.

 

~

By the time Abbie arrived, it was a little after nine and Katrina was delivering the Pitch before Standra, Orion, the other financial backers, and the owner of LaFox Publications.

"I can't believe they're letting her pitch my concept." Abbie was fuming. "I'm going in..."

"You can't," Caroline stopped her. "Standra made it clear no one is to come in. I am only allowed to knock if you bring the other dresses."

Abbie pulled on the locked doors and a minute later Kim cracked the door open.

"Did you bring the other dresses?" Kim asked in a hurried whisper.

"No. Why is Katrina..." Abbie started but Kim closed the door on Abbie and locked it.

Abbie was two seconds away from banging on the door, but realized her boss and the people with the money were all in there. Causing a scene would only make herself look bad.

"I'm so sorry Abbie," Caroline coaxed her away from the door. "But you need to calm down. I'm sure you'll still get credit."

"Why is she doing this? We never pitch another editors concept without their permission. What the hell!"

"Abbie..."

"I know... Deep breaths." She was already sick and tired of being disregarded, but she thought it would be worth it in the long run. Now she was beginning to doubt it. "Where's Calvin? He left early this morning. Maybe I'll feel better after talking to him."

"Um... He's in the meeting," Caroline winced.

Was he for real? Abbie couldn't believe Calvin would go into this meeting and not give her a heads up about what was going on. It hurt. Sure they never said I love you, but she cared about him and thought he cared just as much about her. And they were living together.

When the meeting ended Abbie watched everyone leaving with smiles on their faces. Apparently, the Concept was a success and the investors were happy with how their money was being spent. Everyone including Calvin seemed to walk right by her, until Orion saw her.

"Miss Mills," he walked up to her, clutching her hands, giving her a half hug and an air kiss to the cheek.

"Please, call me Abbie."

"I must say I was surprised you weren't in there for the pitch."

Abbie was about to respond when Standra cut her off. "We thought this was perfect for Katrina. As you know our editors collaborate."

"I'm sure they do, but I recognize Abbie's sketch work... The sketched designs we want to use are Abbie's, as was the one dress that we liked. It so perfectly fits the concept, that I have a feeling Abbie had more than a small hand in this."

"Thank you for recognizing my work," Abbie tried to hide her disappointment in being excluded, and be grateful that he remembered her unique style.

"I admire your work a great deal. I think I'd recognize it anywhere. Ever since your work with Sanctuary, I am a fan. I have told my partner Daniel all about you. Our daughter Olivia even tried to create a replica of the pale rose and yellow dress. She looks like a princess in it."

"Really," that made Abbie genuinely smile. "How old is she?"

"She's nine, and she calls herself a Nubian princess, which she absolutely is. I call her my little angel," they both chuckled. "Anyway, she thinks the world of your designs."

"Well tell her I said thank you."

"I will," he assured her.

"Orion we have another meeting to get to," Standra was desperate to get him away from Abbie.

"It was good to see you again Abbie. I look forward to your work on the July issue."

~

Abbie couldn't concentrate on work. Her mind was consumed with how much more of this bull she could take. Was it worth it to stay if she could inspire other girls like Orion's daughter? Was it worth it to stay if every day they were taking a piece of her and discarding it? She was dieting, desperately trying to maintain an unnaturally tiny waist, straight hair, perfect make-up. There was no way she could grow another five inches and she wasn't about to lighten her skin. But everything else she did, was to try and look the part. Why wasn't it enough? Hell, why wasn't her hard work, dedication and talent enough?

She stood in the bathroom looking at herself in the mirror. She was pretty, she knew it, had been told her whole life growing up, but somehow working in this place with these people made her feel different. She wasn't going to cry, she fought against it. These sons of bitches weren't going to see her break. She took a deep breath and straightened up when the lavatory door opened.

Great it was Katrina.

Katrina paused at the door when she saw Abbie, reconsidering coming in, but then tossed her red hair and waltzed up to the mirror.

"Just so you know, it's nothing personal." She freshened her lipstick. "We share concepts all the time."

"But we don't pitch someone else's ideas like low life thieves," Abbie snapped, taking a deep breath to keep from throttling Katrina.

"Look, Standra gave me an opportunity and I took it. I want to be the next Senior editor, and I'll do whatever I have to so I get the job. Don't pretend you wouldn't do the same."

"The difference between you and me, is that I want to earn it."

Abbie walked out, miraculously without slapping her.

An hour later Standra called Abbie into her office. When she walked in she saw Standra leaning casually on her desk with her legs crossed, Calvin and Katrina sitting on the sofa.

"Come in and close the door," Standra waved to her with a cunning smile. "I want to apologize for excluding you from the pitch. I should explain that when I heard the owners of LaFox Publication, our parent company, were attending, I thought Katrina would be best to do the pitch. They have a certain expectation and she fits what they are looking for. The more money we get, the more we can do. The sky is the limit."

Calvin and Katrina let out soft laughs with nods of agreement while Abbie stood with her lips pinched and arms folded.

"Anyway," Standra could see Abbie wasn't just going to get over what happened. "They loved the concept so much the entire July issue is going to be Paradise Lost. So, we are going to need at least a dozen outfits, accessories, you name it. Calvin was just telling me how hard you worked on this project."

"Really?" Abbie relaxed just a little. Maybe Calvin was trying to have her back after all.

"Yeah... I've seen the dresses you were working on for Paradise Lost and they are phenomenal."

"Uh huh..." Abbie furrowed her brow.

"I'm hoping you can bring the dresses first thing Monday." Standra smiled in her face.

"So I'm heading up the July Issue with my concept?" Abbie asked.

"Actually, we just need your designs for the July issue. I want to put you on a special project. We need someone with your people skills to do an article on Editors of the past and editors of the future. A few interviews with up and comers, college students hoping to get into the fashion industry. It'll run this fall."

"Who is running the July issue?" Abbie asked incredulously.

"I'm going to keep Katrina on it, and Calvin has agreed to work closely with her to ensure your initial ideas come through with our re-engineered concept."

"Re-engineered? You're using my entire concept verbatim! What have you changed except adding a couple of Katrina's trash outfits?!"

"Trash outfits!" Katrina interjected.

"You heard me. TRASH!" Abbie looked right at her and didn't miss a beat. "You are a talentless pair of whisper tits, skating by on your looks and Standra Raven's bizarre obsession."

"How dare you! You're just spiteful and jealous!" Katrina snapped back feeling the sting of truth in Abbie's declaration.

"Ladies that is quite enough!" Standra interrupted. "Abbie, just hand over the dresses, and you'll get to work on other projects."

"I'm not handing over a damned thing. If I'm off the project then I'm not helping you."

"Why must you be so difficult?" Standra snapped.

That was it. Abbie had had enough. "I quit. I'm done!"

"Abbie, be reasonable," Calvin pleaded. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking I need to preserve my own sense of dignity and self-respect. I was happy to be a part of the team. But I won't let them take all my hard work, give someone else credit and discard me like I'm nothing. I'm done!"

"You still have to hand over the dresses," Standra huffed. "Anything you created while under contract belongs to SHé Image."

"If you use my concept or any of my designs without giving me full credit, then I'll sue."

"You won't win!" Standra sneered.

"Maybe not, but at least it'll expose what goes on here, and the racist, misogynistic practices of LaFox Publications."

"Abbie, maybe you should take some time to calm down, and we can talk about this tonight." Calvin tried to reason with her.

"You can go to hell!" Abbie was thoroughly done with him too.

~

"Honey I'm home," Caroline teased as she walked into her tiny studio apartment five weeks later.

"Hey," Abbie gave her a half-hearted smile as she chopped Romain lettuce for their dinner salad.

"I know that look. No luck on the job front?"

"No. It's been over a month. I've applied at VaLúre, Mode... Nothing," Abbie sighed. "I was talking to August today. He says I shouldn't give up just yet, but he reminded me that I can always return to my second love."

Abbie enjoyed the fatherly wisdom she got from August. He stepped in and really looked out for her after her dad died by letting her live with him, so she could be educated in the United States.

"I did look into a study course. I could take the BAR Exam in July. At least I have my Law degree to fall back on as my dream of being a fashion designer goes up in smoke."

Caroline felt terrible. She gave Abbie a gentle arm rub before washing her hands and helping her with the light dinner and bottled water to drink.

"It sucks. The rumor at the office is that Standra went around telling the other Editors in Chief that you are difficult to work with. And she promoted Diana Thomas to Junior editor in your place, to prove they aren't racist at SHé Image."

"Great," Abbie grumbled as she served her and Caroline their salads. "Not that I expected them to ask me to come back. I guess Calvin is all over Katrina now?"

"Yeah, rumor is that they're fucking… for a couple of weeks now. Anything to stay in Standra's good graces. He's such an opportunist. You deserve better, to be honest. But, I have some good news..." Caroline teased as she sat down on the sofa and took a bite of the leafy green meal.

"Good news, from SHé Image? Do tell."

"I saw the book. And it's all you! And it is phenomenal. Your concept, designs, and you get full credit. I guess the investors didn't want to scrap it and Standra didn't want to get sued."

"Well, at least I'm going out with a bang," Abbie laughed softly, hiding that she actually wanted to cry.

"I hate to hear you talk like that, Abbie. Fashion is your dream."

"I like the law too... It's just I was so close to making it as a designer. I feel like it's just being ripped away from me."

"You have time before the BAR Exam. Why don't you get away for a while... Rethink things..."

"Get the hell out of your apartment," Abbie teased taking a bite of her salad.

"No," Caroline chided her. "I actually like having you here. I mean you should get away for you. Gain some perspective."

"Actually, Corbin suggested the same thing. He says going home to see Mommy, Leena and the family, might do me some good."

"You have enough savings right?"

"Yeah, I do... I could actually wait to take the BAR in February if I needed to... And it's been three years since I've been home. I've been so consumed with getting ahead at SHé Image, I haven't taken a single vacation day."

"If I were from a beautiful Island in the Caribbean, I'd be going home all the time." Caroline teasingly scolded.

"I guess I'm going to Saint Patricia," Abbie smiled genuinely thinking of how much she missed home, but dreading telling her moms.

 

*

3~

"So that's what happened," Abbie shrugged.

"Okay, can we go to New York and beat all three of their asses!" Tasha asked with all seriousness.

"They aren't worth it."

"When are you going to tell Auntie?"

"Maybe tomorrow. I don't want to deal with that tonight. And you know Leena will want me to go back into Law. I just don't know what I want to do yet."

"You know Auntie and Gra'ma are planning a big dinner for you,"

"I told mommy I'm on a diet. I hope they don't go overboard for me."

"Gra'ma is making her spicy ribs and empanadas. Auntie is making Ackee, salt fish fritters
Pelau."

"Great... So everything has starch, meat or fried," Abbie chuckled.

"If you don't eat Miss Elli will whoop your tail," Sophie nudged her friend as she kept her eyes on the road.

"After dinner, we're taking you out," Tasha did a bump and grind in her seat to the music.

"What's down that road?" Abbie pointed to a new road that wasn't there sat time she was.

"Oh, you don't know? They tore down those two old motels that were built in the seventies. It's a whole new resort village now... Two actually. Old Fredrick's is like this boardwalk. Wait until you see it tonight. We'll drive by on our way."

"Tonight?" Abbie furrowed her brow. "I thought we were going out to party. We should go to the townships of Victoria or Bailon."

"Maybe tomorrow. Luke is working his side hustle, DJing at Club Rojo Vivo tonight." Tasha informed her. "It's new, and a lot of tourists go, but it'll be fun. Besides, we all go out when Luke is working."

"Oh," Abbie was more than slightly intrigued.

"And club Rojo Vivo is right next to The Royal Palm Resort, where a certain tall handsome British guy, is staying."

Abbie could not hide her grin. Ichabod Crane, was still very much on her mind. She had to keep reminding herself he was just a tourist. Probably here for the weekend and gone again. But good gracious, he was fine as hell.

 

~

4~

 

There was nothing like the invigorating feeling Abbie felt as they drove by the Roberts' Family Farm. She felt like a kid again, as a rush of pleasant childhood memories flooded her mind. She was home.

Almost five miles of planted fields mostly sugar, their main commodity, then cocoa and coffee, which they traded mostly locally. The majority of the fruits and vegetables were grown just for the family. And there were also a dozen chickens, and a couple of cows.

The car turned down another narrow road that lead to the yellow and white gate to enter the property the house sat on. It was a modest house for such a large farm; yellow, two-story, with wrap around porches. Most of the indoor living space was on the main floor with the four bedrooms and a guest room in a separate section of the home.

She wasn't even out of the car when her family rushed to her. It was a full three minutes before Lori let her daughter go so that everyone else could get a hug. Next were Gra'ma and Papa, Lori's life partner Leena, an uncle and several other cousins, their spouses and children. It was overwhelming in the most wonderful way, in the way that one feels welcomed and wrapped in warmth.

They ushered her inside to the back veranda where chairs and picnic tables were set up for the family gathering. Abbie could smell the food cooking and made her mouth water for all she'd missed

The way they welcomed her back warmed her soul. There was a lot of catching up to do with who was together, who wasn't, new babies, new jobs... It was a lot. Every time they asked about her, she insisted they tell her more of what she'd missed from home.

 

"Abbie!"

"Cynthia!" Abbie practically leaped out of her seat when she heard the voice of her other favorite cousin. Last time I saw you, you were eight months pregnant!"

"And I'm pregnant again!" The girls hugged and squealed. Abbie picked up Macey, delighting in the beautiful little toddler. "When am I finally going to meet this husband of yours? Is he still in the military?"

 

"No. I told him as soon as Macey was born, that if he wanted to be with us, he had to settle down and actually be with us. He's a pilot now." Cynthia waved him over "This is my husband Frank."

"Hi, nice to meet you. Sorry we're late. I had to get a quick nap in after my flight." Frank sat down next to Cynthia with two plates he made for both of them. She was barely pregnant, and not showing yet, but he was already pampering her.

Abbie found him very caring and liked him right away. "I recognize your voice. I think I was on your flight from Miami this morning."

"That was me. I apologize for the rough ride." Frank pulled his two-year-old up on his lap so she could dig into his plate.

"I didn't mind the turbulence actually. I had a very nice gentleman help me out," Abbie grinned remembering the way Ichabod held her, and how safe she felt in his arms.

"You hate turbulence," Cynthia gave her cousin an odd look. "You don't even like flying."

"She was in good company," Frank hinted, making Cynthia suspicious. He whispered. "I'll tell you later."

"You hardly touch your food girl," Gra'ma Ellie chided Abbie and put another spoon of Pelau on her plate.

"Ya too skinny. Eat some more and get some meat on ya bones." Papa Jacob agreed.

"Gra'ma I told you I'm on a diet. I have to maintain my look..."

"They don't eat in New York?" Gra'ma pierced her lips looking like an older version of Abbie.

 

"Mama stop," Lori waved them down as she pulled a package from the sideboard.

She was so proud of Abbie that she could not help but brag on her. "Our baby girl, the famous fashion editor and designer is finally home. She knows what she has to do to make it at that cut throat magazine... And look what I have!" She pulled out the brand new issue, just released of SHé Image. "It just came in the mail. It's all Abbie's designs. Look!"

Lori pointed to Abbie's name on the center page as lead designer and editor under the credits. Abbie fidgeted nervously with her rice, while everyone gushed over her accomplishments.

"I'm so proud of you," Leena smiled.

"Right..." Abbie sighed not looking up as she tried to fake a smile.

Lena took her hand misreading her step-daughters sad demeanor. She had been very skeptical when Abbie decided against taking the BAR Exam after grad school three years ago. "I know I gave you a hard time, but I was wrong. I wanted you to go into Law because I did. And in a way, I liked that you got something from me... even if you aren't mine. But you're making your dreams come true, and I am happy for you."

Abbie sat silent.

"Abbie, baby what is it?" Lori asked, now growing concerned. Abbie's eyes could not hide the hint of sadness she was keeping in. "This is wonderful. You're sure to get the senior editor position, or even better... Get the financial backing to strike out as an independent designer."

"Just tell them," Tasha prompted.

"Tell us what?" Lori asked, but Abbie sat silent.

"She quit," Tasha blurted out. "Look, they don't appreciate her at that fancy magazine, and she's too good for their sorry asses."

"Tasha!" Gra'ma scolded the young woman's language.

Abbie rolled her eyes at Tasha but at least news was out. "She's right. They didn't appreciate my hard work so I left."

"Where are you and Calvin going to work at now?" Lori asked.

"Calvin is his own person. He's staying at SHé."

"That won't be awkward for you two?"

"No... I moved out. We aren't together anymore."

"Oh..." Lori was certainly taken by surprise. "Well... With this cover and centerfold, I know other publications will be beating down your door."

"And if not, you can always go back into Law," Leena reminded her. "You have your degree. If you want to move home to Saint Patricia permanently, You know, as Police Commissioner, I can put in a word for you... Get you a really good position."

"And forget Calvin. You don't need an American boy anyway. We can find you a nice respectable young man from Saint Patrician."

"Slow down you two," Abbie half smiled. Thank you for being concerned about me, but I'm going to be okay. I am here to clear my head, and think about what I want for my future. I have time."

~

After dinner most of the family began to part ways. Abbie, Sophie, and her cousins went to her room to get ready to go out.

"I wish I could go with you," Cynthia pouted as she watched the others primp in the mirror.

"You should come. It'll be like old times."

"I'm two months pregnant. Frank might have a heart attack."

"Ain't nothing wrong with a little dancing. Get your freak on," Tasha prodded eagerly. "You don't have to drink. You could be our designated driver."

"Frank is a sweetheart. He won't mind," Sophie joined in. "Please. For old time sake? It's Abbie's first night back in years."

"I don't know. I look terrible. I've gained so much weight since Macey, and now being pregnant again..."

"I'll hook you up, don't worry," Abbie dug through her suitcase.

All the girls gathered around. This was certainly a perk of having a cousin working in the fashion industry. She started pulling out clothes, handing them to the girls to try on.

"How are we going to fit into your fancy designer clothes with all our shortness and extra curves." Sophie asked holding up one of the dresses to her body.

"Have you seen my ass?" Abbie gave her a side eye. "I alter all my designer clothes or make them myself. I swear these designers like to pretend all women are built like flat-chested, flat-assed twelve-year-old boys. We're grown ass women. We have shape to our bodies."

"You got that right," Tasha had already slipped into a mini dress. "Girl, this looks hot. Shows off all my beautiful curves.”

"Oh Abbie, can I borrow this," Cynthia eyed a more elegant loose-fitting halter dress. "I need something for my anniversary dinner, but nothing fits me right. Frank wants to take me somewhere special and I haven't got anything to wear."

"I'll do even better... I'll make you something special for your anniversary."

"Are you serious? Thank you!" Cynthia gave Abbie a squeeze.

"Wait... I want a dress too. I'm your favorite cousin," Tasha pouted.

"Well, I'm your best friend," Sophie chimed in.

"Okay, okay. Let me make this for Cynthia. Then I will make you both something after I do the Carnival costumes for the Independence Day Festival, I promise."

The girls squealed with delight, hugging Abbie again before getting ready to go out. "I need to get a shower."

Abbie grabbed her things and hurried to the shared bathroom. She needed a shower bad after the day she'd had. She was still feeling hot and bothered after the flight that she shared and the ride she had on Ichabod's lap. Good lord, she could still feel the sensation of the indentation his cock left on her rear end. The way he throbbed between her...

"Oh hell!" Abbie felt a warm tingle rush through her lower belly. She sucked air between her teeth as she squeezed her legs together.

She fussed through her small bag and pulled out her special friend, flicked to switch and grumbled.

No batteries. The girls would be ready to go out soon. She didn't have time to comb the house for batteries, and she certainly wasn't about to ask.

"Damn!" She grumbled in a low voice realizing she was going to have to make due.

The last thing she wanted was to go out to the club feeling the urges of sexual frustration. She quickly pulled her hair up into a loose bun and hopped in the shower. Even as she soaped and lathered up her body, she couldn't stop thinking about the way Ichabod's hands were all over her body.

She imagined he could easily cup her breasts in his hands, kiss them, suck them as he looked up at her with those deep blue eyes, that left brow arching extra high so mischievously.

"I've got you." Abbie could still hear his deep baritone soothing her, as her hand traveled from her breasts down her abdomen and between her thighs.

She moaned softly as she leaned back against the shower wall, letting her fingers play around her clit and slide in and out. God his fingers would be so much better. His dick inside her was what she really wanted. Her legs quivered as she clamped her thighs tight around her hand, letting the pressure build, imagining his voice saying nasty things to her, imagining his thick dick sliding in and out of her wet folds. Her mind was a blur with the thought of him sucking, licking fucking her into delirium. She wanted that big ass cock to tear her up.

She moaned softly, breathy and hot as the pressure began to peek and pleasure took over. She'd never made herself cum so easily.

"Mmm... Crane," she hummed and panted his name as she found her much needed release.

She felt so much better after that, but her mind was still on Ichabod Crane. What the hell? She cursed to her self. Was it the smile, the blue eyes, that sexy voice?

"Damn," she laughed to herself thinking maybe she was already hooked on the D. "No, that'd be crazy."

 

~

 

5~

"What is all of this?" Abbie looked around stunned as they drove up to the new Resort development. It was like a mini village of all new buildings, vibrant, lively and tourists everywhere she looked.

"This is Saint Fredrick's Board Walk," Sophie pointed out.

"Yeah... Developers came in and made this mock-up village to resemble our capital city Victoria." Tasha still didn't know how she felt about this place. It was too new to feel like it belonged as a part of who they were. Not to mention it was built by a bunch of rich Europeans.

"The style is eerily similar," Abbie looked around at the new buildings with the old world colonial look. There were bars, Restaurants, shops, everything a tourist could want to get a generic taste of Saint Patrician life.

"They came in promising job creation and a booming tourist industry. There's a lot of service industry jobs, but most of the management jobs have gone to outsiders and expats. But I guess it's better than no jobs."

 

"The developers tore down the old Royal Palm and the other motel that used to sit on the beach," Sophie continued as they drove past the Boardwalk to the Resorts further down the beach in Bella View. "That is now the Royal Palm."

"Wow!" Abbie gawked. It was stunning. Hell, it was exactly the kind of place she would want to stay at for a dream Caribbean vacation. "It's gorgeous."

"Come on," Sophie hurried them after Cynthia parked the car. "Rojo Vivo is right next door, but we can check and see if that British guy is here."

"I don't know," Abbie suddenly felt nervous.

"What's the harm in saying hi?" Cynthia tugged her cousin, entwining their arms together and walking her into the lobby.

~

"I'm afraid Mr. Crane is out," the receptionist informed them. "Can I leave a message for him?"

"No... That's okay..." Abbie started but Cynthia cut her off.

"Yes. Tell him Abbie Mills came by, and she hasn't forgotten his kind actions on the flight they shared."

"I will give him the message," the receptionist smiled.

The girls left and giddily hurried towards the sound of music coming from the neighboring club. Saint Patricia was a colorful blend of people much like the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, People ranged in color from very fair, lighter than Sophie, to very dark, much darker than Tasha. But there was no mistaking the tourist. Even dressed to the nines and heavily drinking, they stood out like sore thumbs to the locals.

Club Rojo Vivo definitely had more tourists than locals, no surprise, but there were enough locals to breathe life into the place. The atmosphere was hot and charged, as the beat thumped heavy. The dancing began the second they entered the crowded club.

Even though the girls were petite in stature, they were beautiful and turned heads as they danced their way to the bar. Especially when Abbie stepped in. Her hair was out in large loose curls. She had a natural glow wearing very little makeup on. Only her eyes were done up, and her lips pink with a light cherry gloss. Her white blouse was buttoned, exposing a touch of her matching lace bra and showing her cleavage, the white contrasting with her chestnut skin. Her high waist black mini shorts showed off her bum, hugging the curves perfectly. Her long trim legs with the pair of white high heel pumps that gave her just a bit of height. She was impossible to miss.

"Abbie Mills!" Miguel the bartender couldn't believe his eyes. "Long time no see mama!"

"Miguel!" Abbie half leaned across the bar to meet his awaiting hug.

"You look good! Too good beautiful girl... Like a model!"

"Stop," Abbie blushed tucking a curl behind her ear. She caught herself, stopping herself from being flirtatious. Miguel was cute and she was still feeling a little wound up. "They got you working here too?"

"Yeah, you know how it is. These tourists get wasted and practically give their money away. I like being an accountant, but nothing beats these tips. Here, drinks on me."

Miguel made the girls a fruity Rum concoction and they downed the drinks quickly. Abbie looked around, almost hoping she'd see Ichabod, even though she doubted this was his scene. It was worth a shot.

The girls went back to the center floor and cut loose, dancing together and mostly keeping to themselves. Abbie looked up towards the DJ and saw Luke watching her intently. There were girls dressed in bikinis and skimpy dresses dancing on the platforms to his side, all trying to get his attention. She wondered if she should say hi, or wait for him to go on break. Maybe she shouldn't say anything at all. But he kept looking at her. Watching her dance.

Luke wanted to get her closer. A lot of guys were watching her already and he didn't want to lose his chance to some tourist, or another guy from her past like Miguel. If Abbie was back, he wanted to be the first to have a chance with her.

"This song goes out to a very special girl with the sexy as hell body and unbelievable dance moves," Luke announced as he put on 'Baby Boy' with Beyonce and Sean Paul, one of Abbie's favorite songs from back on the day.

She could not resist getting turned up when this song came on. Luke waved for the other girls to get off the platform then pointed to Abbie. Abbie pulled Tasha up with her, and the two danced together on the platform. They started with a little tick-tock movement together and morphed it into a twerk. Abbie was definitely a show-off, dropping low then doing a little Wine Up.

 

Luke couldn't resist, and Halfway through, he got up on the stage wedging himself between the two girls. He called one of his boys to come dance with Tasha, doing his best to draw Abbie's full attention. It worked. He was quite the charmer and they danced very familiar, like old times.

They were very sexy together, the way he gyrated his hips against her, the way she dropped low in those impossibly high heels then did a wine, slowly grinding her full round bottom up against him. All eyes were on them cheering them on.

 

~

 

6~

He hadn't wanted to go out to the club after dinner at one of the nearby restaurants. But Abraham had insisted on taking his friend out and showing him a good time.

Ichabod almost felt overdressed in his button-down shirt and slacks as they entered the club. All the guys had on pants and shirts, but were not so straight-laced. The women, however, were in bikinis or the very skimpiest of outfits.

They barely got in the door before girls started throwing themselves at him, grinding up on him. One poor blond looked completely wasted, as Ichabod peeled her off of him and made his way to the bar.

"Didn't I tell you," Abraham bragged. "We are definitely getting laid tonight."

"Is that all you think about Bram?" Ichabod laughed as he took his beer from the bartender.

"And you don't, Iche?" Abraham laughed, knowing his friend's history, the way he was before Mary. "Did you not pick up a girl on your flight here?"

"I wasn't looking... That just happened. Like fate, or destiny," Ichabod mused with a smile as he remembered Abbie literally falling into his lap.

"This song goes out to a very special girl with the sexy as hell body and unbelievable dance moves," they heard the DJ announce.

Ichabod and Abraham looked up and to both of their surprise, there she was. Abbie Mills, the young woman who held Ichabod completely captivated on the plane, now had him transfixed again.

"Whoah... She can move," Abraham's eyes nearly fell out from gawking. "I would let her ride my..."

"Bram!" Ichabod hushed him.

He stood up and walked towards her, drawn as if entranced by the movement of her body. He swallowed hard, desperate to quench the desire building in him as he watched her body move. The sultry look in her eyes, the way her tongue danced across her plump lips as she popped then swayed her body. He could get lost just watching her.

Then as if being punched in the gut, the DJ got behind her, grinding his hips into her perfect round bottom. She didn't turn him away. Just the opposite. Their movements were close, and familiar. It wasn't like two random people dancing. She knew him, and he knew her. He anticipated her moves and moved his body in kind. Was this a boyfriend? Ichabod had to wonder. Either way, it was disappointing and disheartening. Any hopes of having a good time tonight were certainly dashed.

"I think I'm going to call it a night," Ichabod put down his barely touched beer.

"Come on Iche. It's just dancing. Around here dancing together like that means nothing."

"It's not the dancing... They are familiar. And besides, I don't know her. For all I know, he's the reason she's in Saint Patricia."

"Fine then let's find you another girl. They're practically throwing themselves at you. You can bang any one of them you want... Or two," Abraham eyed a group of local girls and waved them over. "You can have first pick."

"Honestly, I'm not in the mood. It was a long flight from England. I could use some air."

Abraham followed Ichabod out of the club with the three girls in tow. "Come on. We can go back to my suite and have some fun. Right girls."

"Oh we can have a lot of fun," the girl with mahogany complexion and hair dyed purple and blond spoke up before tongue kissing Bram.

~

"Oh my god, Cynthia... That's the guy!" Sophie shook her friend prying her attention off of Luke and Abbie.

"Who's what guy?"

"Abbie's British guy... He's the tall brunette standing with the blond!" Sophie pointed. "Where is he going?"

"It looks like they are leaving," Cynthia watched as they walked out the exit with three women she didn't recognize. "You don't think it's because Abbie was dancing with Luke do you?"

"Naw... It's just dancing." Sophie shrugged. “We danced like that all the time; guys, girls, friends, strangers. It don't matter.”

"Yeah, but you know those British guys can be kind of proper and up tight. Maybe we should go talk to him. See if he wants to stick around and meet up with Abbie." Cynthia suggested, getting up from her seat and moving towards the exit.

By the time they made it outside, Ichabod and the others were gone. They went to the resort but hadn't checked into his room.

"Can I leave my number with the earlier message," Cynthia asked the receptionist, and left Abbie's cell phone number for Ichabod. She hoped he didn't get caught up with some other girl or girls, especially if Abbie really liked him.

They spent the rest of the night dancing and having a good time. Abbie was thoroughly enjoying herself, so Sophie and Cynthia decided to wait until tomorrow to tell her that she missed Ichabod. At the end of the night, Tasha went back to Miguel's, leaving Cynthia to take Sophie and Abbie home.

"Hey, I can take Abbie back out to the farm. It's all the way on the east end of the Island and I know you two live on the West side," Luke offered.

"I don't know," Cynthia eyed him.

"It's okay. He can take me," Abbie insisted, more because Cynthia looked exhausted, not because she necessarily wanted alone time with Luke.

"Get her home in one piece Morales. Or I'll make sure Auntie Leena kicks your ass," Sophie wasn't joking.

"Will do Foster," Luke assured Sophie and they parted ways for the night. "So, you want to go hang out someplace private, catch up proper or..."

"Or, you can take me back to the farm. It's late," Abbie nudged him. "We can catch up on the drive back."

It was nice hanging out with Luke and the girls. But Abbie could not get her mind off of Ichabod Crane.

 

~*~

Chapter Text

DBL Ch 3
Familiar Ground

 

Present Day

Ichabod opened his eyes. Hot, damp, darkness. He hears the same familiar chains clanking that he's heard every day for... How long had it been? He lost count of the days some time ago. Even his eidetic memory betrayed him, not allowing him to do the calculations. Someone was screaming and being dragged, a sound he heard on occasion, not every day... on what he called bad days.

A door opened and sunlight poured into the damp dank cell for just a minute. It was sad, they only got their brief glimmer of sunlight on bad days. He squinted and tried to look and see who they'd taken, but his vision failed him against the brightness. The door closed and a few minutes later there were gunshots. Ichabod closed his eyes, hunger pains plaguing him, his body aching from torture.

Eyes closed, he let his mind wander back on the one thought that sustained him. It was easier to close his eyes and just sleep, because Abbie was always there in his dream. "I'll come back for you" his words as he promised it would only be a two-month mission. That was the day they saw the little peanut shaped outline on the sonogram and listened to the heartbeat. He loved that rapid swishing sound, so strong and vibrant. His eidetic memory played it over and over like a song lulling him back to sleep.

Sleep was his only relief, the place he could go to relive the events of last summer. He always started with their meeting at the airport, when she briefly touched his hand while stealing his fries. The adorable grin of embarrassment and the kind sparkle in her eyes that he loved so much were always there. He remembered the first time he held her on the flight to Saint Patricia. She was just as much a comfort to him as he had been to her. The memory of holding her brought him comfort now.

 

~*~

 

1~

"Well you work fast," Abraham chided his friend as he walked out of the airport doors, after watching him flirting with the group of local girls. He was hoping a change in atmosphere would get his best friend out of the seemingly never ending relationship slump, and cheer him up after his grandfather’s passing.

Ichabod looked back fondly at Abbie who was now joyfully chatting away with her company. "Her name is Abbie... She's marvelous, isn't she?”

"Yes. She is very pretty," Abraham admitted, giving his friend a welcoming hug. "Her friends are cute too. But don't get caught up on the first girl you see. This place is a gold mind of beautiful women in all colors, shapes, and sizes."

"None like her I assure you," Ichabod had an almost determined look on his face and Abraham nearly laughed out loud.

"This is how you used to get into trouble Iche Crane."

"I haven't gotten into that kind of trouble in quite some time. Trust I've learned my lesson." Ichabod looked back one last time. "I don't fall in love easily... Not anymore." Ichabod usually didn't, after what happened, but there was something about Abbie, a feeling he got that he just couldn't shake.

"Excuse me, are you gentlemen using this cab?" Frank Irving asked as he hurried out of the airport. It was the last cab with other passengers having already taken the rest.

"We can share, if you're heading towards the resort," Abraham offered.

"I'm actually living here locally, so I'm heading west into Pamelo."

"Please you're welcome to it," Ichabod offered. "I have quite a bit to do so we might be better off renting a vehicle."

"If you're sure," Frank gratefully accepted.

"It's the least I can do for you, after navigating us safely through all that rough turbulence."

"Sorry about the bumpy ride."

"Don't be sorry, my friend. Thanks to you, the woman of my dreams may have fallen right into my lap." Ichabod was only half joking.

Frank laughed, "Well I'm happy to help. They do say Paradise is for lovers. Welcome to Saint Patricia."

Abraham and Ichabod walked over to the rental office and chose two motorcycles from the limited inventory. They strapped his luggage down and headed to the resort town of Saint Fredrick. As they drove up to the board walk Ichabod pulled over, parked his motorcycle and took a look around.

"Well... It turned out better than I expected," Ichabod looked around with a sigh.

It was his first architectural project three years ago. Using pictures and studying the history of Saint Patricia through books, he'd replicated a place that he felt would be authentic to the island, rather than glossy polished modern buildings. He'd taken on the project begrudgingly, but it soon consumed him, and he was glad of it. After the tragedy that befell his dear friend Mary, he needed something of this magnitude to help his troubled mind cope.

"I can't believe you've never come to see your vision come to life," Abraham looked around admiring his friends work.

"I was hoping when I did it would be under better circumstances," Ichabod let out a sigh.

Nothing about the project held a fond memory, and nothing about his current visit was for pleasant reasons. To be honest the only good thing had been his chance meeting with Abbie Mills.

 

"I should probably get to work. It is imperative that I tend to Grandfather's properties, and see what condition they are in. Sydney will want to make a decision whether or not to put them on the market.

 

"Iche, I'm sorry about your grandfather. But you said he loved this island and the people. Maybe you can try to have a good time, like he would have wanted. Relax! The beach house, the Sugar Mill and the factory will be there tomorrow. You can evaluate them then."

"Perhaps you're right."

"Come on. Let's get to the resort, and relax for a bit. Later we can go out for dinner, and go out dancing. The women here are delicious," Abraham lowered his sunglasses as two women in bikinis walked by waving at them. "So delicious."

"Is that all you think about, Bram?" Ichabod teased his friend.

"I'm looking out for your need of a good shag too. You are in a painfully dry spell, by choice. I mean to have you snap out of it before you return to London." Abraham desperately wanted to cheer him up. So far only seeing Abbie Mills had brought a smile to his face. "I can't wait to introduce you around."

"Bram, I don't want people knowing that I'm involved with the development and such. I don't want strangers clamoring to me because my family has money."

"Oh come on, mate. If people know you come from money..."

"Exactly," Ichabod raised a brow. "I don't want to go flaunting it about. That's not what I'm about."

"Fine. We'll just have to make do with our charm and good looks."

~

In less than an hour Abraham and Ichabod were dressed in their Speedos, towels wrapped around their waist, and headed for the resort pool. The young men made their way down, hoping to have some fun.

 

Abraham couldn't be jealous of his friend, being a good looking man himself, tall with blond hair and green eyes. He chose to be obvious in letting the young ladies know he was available and ready, as they turned heads.

But Ichabod was a head turner, without even trying. He easily attracted, with his tall lean stature, dark hair and sparkling baby blues. It was in the way he carried himself. He had a kind confidence about him. And there was something desirable in the way he was never looking, never purposely flirting, that seemed to draw women, and some men, even more.

Ichabod breathed in as the hot sun and warm sea breeze hit him. He was starting to feel what Abraham was talking about.

"You who... Ichabod," Lydia called and waved to him as she watched him enter the pool area.

Ichabod gave her a polite nod and wave as he continued past her, to two empty lounge chairs. She eyed his lean muscular form up and down. It was easy to tell this was his first day, since his skin had not yet been sun kissed. But he still looked fine and the older woman had to fan herself. She wasn't the only one, as Ichabod removed his towel, revealing more than just the form fitted Speedos. One woman literally had to wipe the drool from her gaping mouth.

But no matter how hard any of them tried, he paid them little attention. There was only one woman that had captured his attention enough to make him think thoughts beyond initial physical attraction. Her name, her voice, all rolled around in his mind interfering with the painful memories that plagued him only moments before their encounter. The troubled thoughts that had left him emotionally paralyzed for the last three years.

He went to the quiet end of the pool and dove in. The cool water sent a refreshing chill over his body. Back and forth he swam laps, occasionally coming up for air before going back under. He easily blocked everything out, wanting only to see one thing.

He was grateful that his eidetic memory would allow him to recollect that beautiful face of hers exactly as it was. But other memories also seized upon him, replacing her perfection, with the pale bloody face of Mary, her cold lifeless eyes looking back at him. All because of the fateful choice he made against his families advice.

 

~

 

2~ Ichabod's Story

 

"Ichabod why must you rebel against everything and anything I ask of you?" William Crane had had enough of his son's nonsense. "I swear, Sydney, please talk some sense into your brother. He simply cannot continue with this ridiculous plan of his."

"I've tried father," Sydney threw up her hands. "He refuses to listen to me!"

"This is not some ridiculous notion. You've made it clear that I am a massive disappointment. You have Sydney and her new husband to run the business..."

"So this fool’s errand, running around the world, pretending to be a hero... it's to punish me and your sister for abiding by our responsibilities!"

"Of course not, father. What I am saying is that I am called to do something different... Something more than just sit back and make more money. There are people around the world who are in dire need. I can help by rebuilding homes and infrastructure, protecting people who..."

"You're going into war torn countries, son. You're going to get yourself killed!"

"Father!" Sydney didn't want to think about that. "Ichabod, you're going to live in tents with mud and dirt, cold bucket showers..."

"I'll be the engineer on the projects. Building the homes, digging wells and running water lines… these will be my primary responsibility. I spent six years during university as a Captain in the Royal Army Reserves and you were not concerned about my safety then."

"Brother," Sydney implored him, "There are safer humanitarian efforts. Perhaps Habitat for Humanity or the The Red Cross..."

"There are plenty of volunteers willing to do those jobs. World Neighbors goes into the more dangerous places, where so few people with my skill set are willing to go. And I have the military training as well. This is a risk of course, but I am not afraid. It's done. There is nothing more to discuss."

"What about Mary?" Sydney had to ask about her young friend.

She and Ichabod had been dating for a couple of years while she was in college and he was in grad school. Ichabod's father strongly pushed the relationship, though Ichabod had yet to fall in love with her. He did have love for her, and didn't want to trivialize that.

"She'll be terribly worried."

"Mary and I are no longer together. We won't be getting engaged. We spoke yesterday and again this morning on the matter. I told her that I'm leaving."

"You did what? Ichabod, our families have been close for decades. Her father is one of my business partners..."

"My relationship with Mary should have no bearing on your business relationships."

"The girl is madly in love with you. Ichabod, she will be devastated."

"I know. She was terribly upset, and I feel badly. I do. You know I care very much for her. We simply are not meant to be. I know it will be hard for her at first, but she has medical school to complete and occupy her time. She'll soon enough get over me and move on."

~

"They don't understand Grandfather," Ichabod sat weary of arguing. It was late and his flight to Africa was leaving in the morning.

George Fredrick was his late mother's father, and he felt closer to this man than he ever did to his own father. William was all business, cold and heartless at times, judgmental and pushy often. While George was a man with fire, compassion and a generous, much like himself.

"I will support whatever decision you make," George assured him. "I just want to make sure you're going for the right reasons. This isn't to get some distance between you and Mary is it?"

"No..." Ichabod let out a sigh. "Though the distance will help. I didn't realize how attached she had become."

"Girls like Mary tend to get that way when sex is involved. You should be more careful in the future."

"I will. And she's not why I'm leaving."

"Then, is it to put distance between you and your father? You don't want to make him regret favoring Sydney?"

"No, I promise. It's not to punish them. I feel as though I need to do something of substance with my life. I feel it is my calling. And where I am going is not very dangerous at the moment. The aggressions have ended and they are eager to begin rebuilding."

 

"And the family business is not of substance, or is it the danger that you seek? You do realize that the last several years have been among the deadliest for Humanitarian Aid Workers around the world. World Neighbors has lost several lives just in the past two years."

"Not you too Grandfather," Ichabod ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "I know the danger, I'm prepared for it. In a way that's why I think I need to go. There are only two engineers signed up to cover dozens of cities and villages in need, all because of a few bad incidents. They are spread far too thin. They could truly use my help."

"You are so much like your mother, the way you want to help people," Geoge gave his grandson a warm hug.

"I believe that ma ma got that from you," Ichabod fell into the fatherly embrace.

"Very well, my boy. I will pray for your safety while you are away. But rest assured, you have my support."

 

~

Ichabod went to Africa for a month then spent four months in the Middle East. A year later he felt as if he'd truly been right about his calling, but he was getting lonely.

He wasn't big on sleeping around with random coworkers. There were very few women taking these sorts of jobs. A few of the young ladies who were in the field had offered themselves to him, to date or otherwise have some fun. He had a look about him they seemed to like and a personality that was equally a draw. A couple of times, due to his own loneliness and need for sexual release, he found their advances impossible to turn down. But both times he could sense the young women getting too attached, which was not good in his line of work. After that he thought it best to heed his Grandfather's advice; for a while he would try to abstain.

He'd laugh when he'd get a call from Abraham telling him to get laid or he would die of sexual frustration, before insurgents or disease.

It was at his sixth posting when he met and fell in love with Dr. Jules Marwood. She was a beautiful woman, with a soft mahogany complexion. Jules was 13 years his senior, smart as a whip, with a kind heart. She'd left her husband after he had an affair with a nurse at their hospital. Needing to get away from the embarrassment she felt around her colleagues, and the humiliation of his affair with a nurse, she quit her job. While her daughter was away at boarding school, she joined World Neighbors as a way to challenge herself and gain perspective; find a new direction for her life while helping others.

 

It happened by accident. While Ichabod was helping her build the medical facility at their duty station, and taking her instruction on how to best work the layout, a fondness grew between them. For Jules it was more than just helping in the abstract, she was truly passionate about the individual people she was helping. Her love for people, drew Ichabod to care for her in a way that he hadn't felt for anyone before. The two shared a tent on many an occasion, talking, getting closer until one night they got intimately close. A one night fling continued on to something more serious.

During a phone call to his sister Sydney, he accidentally let the news of the relationship slip.

"With the head doctor on the project!" Sydney gasped. "She's a married woman Ichabod. How could you sleep with her?"

"She's going through a separation, and getting a divorce. And it certainly is not as if I planned this. Things just happened. It gets lonely out here."

"Then come home, Ichabod. A year and a half is long enough of this, putting your life at risk. Mary will take you back..."

"Sydney stop. This is my job, my work. It's not a fleeting hobby that I can just cast away once I've tired of it. And you simply must dismiss any notion of Mary and I getting together. Our lives are on completely different paths. Jules and I are in love."

~

Jules and Ichabod did their next two postings together, which was three months in South East Asia after a tsunami. He loved that Jules was passionate about their work, and the two became known as quite a team. After they helped to restore two villages, their work at the posting was coming to an end. On what turned out to be their last night together they made love in the cramped bed of their tiny hut, not bothered by the heat of the night.

"Iche, I have to talk to you about something important," Jules had dreaded bringing up the subject as their last night was upon them. She laid in his arms post coital, trying to find a way to break the news to him.

"What's wrong Jules," Ichabod could sense the trepidation in her tone. "Are you worried about our next posting?"

"We won't have a next posting together. My husband has begged me to come back."

Ichabod sat up as if he hadn't heard her correctly. "What?"

"He wants me back."

"He carried on an affair behind your back. You can't seriously be considering reconciling with him..."

"It's been six months. And he says he regrets what he did to me."

"He regrets it because you told him last month that you and I are in love." Ichabod felt sick to his stomach. "Please tell me that is not why you told him about us."

"Of course it's not. My feelings for you are very real. I told him about us because I wanted him to sign the divorce and not contest it."

"Then what has happened, Jules?"

"He said some things that made a lot of sense, about mistakes and commitment, and what we want for our future... what you as a young man probably want for your future."

"He doesn't know me!" Ichabod’s voice oozed of a bitter snarkiness he didn’t often show.

"He knows that you are only twenty six, never married, no children..."

"So it's about the age difference? I told you, I don't care."

"But you will one day, when you want to have children of your own. And when you do have children my decision will be easier for you to look back on and understand. Robert and I have a daughter together and she’s miserable. She wants her parents back together… or at least for us to try. She returns from boarding school for the summer in a week, and wants us to be a family."

"And what do you want?"

"I want what's best for my daughter and that means trying to heal my family."

"So you don't want me?" Ichabod did not hide that he wasn't happy at all about this.

"Iche, I wish I could have you. You are incredible in so many ways. You are a beautiful young man, inside and out. And you are a magnificent lover. But you are young. You're going to want to get married one day and have children of your own. We both knew this probably wasn't going to last."

"Did we?” Ichabod was stunned and hurt. “I'm not ready to let you go. I've fallen in love with you."

 

"And I've fallen in love with you too. We made a mistake. I don't want to have any more children, and one day you will. Tomorrow I need to go home."

Ichabod felt the dry lump growing in his throat. He couldn't think of what to say to make her stay and chose him, and he felt awful that he desperately wanted her to.

"You're not going to change your mind are you?" He asked, humiliated and trying to fight back tears. He'd never felt anything like this before.

"No, this is for the best. It's what's best for both of us."

Ichabod felt his heart being broken for the first time. It was bound to happen he knew. Everyone has to experience that first heart break at some point. He knew never again would he allow himself to be the third person in a relationship. He knew Jules honestly believed she was getting a divorce and hadn't hurt him on purpose. But he was still hurt, and badly.

~

He did another year, more cautious this time about guarding his heart when in relationships. Nothing was guaranteed. A posting would last two or three months and then he'd be off to the next. It made it difficult to have a serious relationship, not that he really wanted another, after the devastating blow of his breakup with Dr. Marwood.

That's when Betsy came along. She was fun, a spitfire, and beauty all in one. She'd married young and lost her husband in a military accident. But after losing her husband, the love of her life, she was not looking for another love. She more or less wanted a friend who could be a lover when the needs came about. Like so many in this field, she was looking for a purpose, something to give meaning to her life. She made no qualms about having sexual desires. After being slightly annoyed by her loose ways, he found her energy and work ethic infectious. The two soon became friends as well as bed buddies, when certain needs arose.

They parted ways for a couple of postings but met up again in Syria almost a year later.

"Well well well, if it isn't Ichabod Crane. I heard you were going to be here."

"Betsy, I thought you were going back to South East Asia." Ichabod gave her a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek.

"I did but I missed you. My vibrator was getting way too much attention. Shall we share a tent?"

"We can," Ichabod half grinned at the frankness he'd come to expect from her. "I certainly don't mind. If you're the only girl at this post the fellas might get a little jealous. You can't put me out if you fancy another caller."

"Fancy another guy with you around? That is not possible. You're the only man I want putting his d..."

"Ichabod! Ichabod it's me!"

"What the bloody hell!" Ichabod gasped with disbelief when he heard Mary Wells' voice coming from behind him.

"Ichabod! I'm here." She gave him a massive hug, which he returned, still looking confused to see her.

"Yes I see. What on earth are you doing here?"

"I have my medical degree. I'm a doctor. I'm here to help, just like everyone else." She smiled.

"Hi, I'm Elizabeth Ross," Betsy held out her hand for Mary to shake.

"I'm Mary, Ichabod's girlfriend."

"Mary..."

"Ex-girlfriend. We broke things off when he joined World Neighbors. I was still in medical school. But now we can be together again."

"Um... Mary, you joined World Neighbors because of me?" Ichabod looked stunned as he questioned her motives.

"Why don't I give you two some privacy? I'll finish getting our tent set up." Betsy ducked into the tent quickly not wanting to be a part of a very awkward conversation.

"You're sharing a tent with her?" Mary asked.

"Yes... We're old friends. We worked together several months ago. It's nice to bunk with someone that your familiar with. It makes things easier. But… Mary, why are you here?"

"To be with you. You said we couldn't be together because our lives were on different paths. I'm here to show you that they are not. I want to be with you. I want to show you that I'm ardently passionate about this work and about you," she declared overly chipper.

"Mary, life here is hard, this work can be dangerous, we’ve had a few close calls..."

"And you've done it these past three and a half years, without a hair on your head being harmed. Please tell me you're happy to see me."

"Well, I mean of course, I'm most pleased to see you again..."

Mary hugged him before he could finish.

"I'm happy to see you as my dear friend. However I don't, that is to say, I am not inclined to revisit our previous relationship. I wasn't expecting this."

"I can see I've taken you by surprise. Ichabod, give it time. You'll see that you and I are perfectly suited for each other."

"Mary, if that is the only reason you've come then you should go home. I consider you a dear friend, but you working here isn't going to make me fall in love with you."

"I don't want to make you, Ichabod. I'm satisfied to begin as friends. The love will come in time."

"Dr. Mary Wells," the director called her.

"I have to go. I'll see you soon." Mary gave him a quick kiss before departing.

"Ichabod Crane," Betsy teased. "You must have laid the bomb D on that poor girl."

"Not funny," Ichabod was not amused.

~

It was fortunate for Ichabod that Mary worked mostly away from him and Betsy. She was with the medical team, while they worked with engineering, restoring infrastructure. He hardly had an opportunity to see her except in passing.

Two weeks into the posting, Mary came by to see Ichabod, and caught him in a compromising position with Betsy as they were having sex. She was devastated and stormed out. Ichabod threw on his pants and ran after her.

"Mary please, stop. Are you all right?"

"Am I all right?!" Of course not! You lied to me!"

"I never lied to you." Ichabod tried to keep his voice down and calm her.

"You said you two were only friends!"

"We are only friends!"

"You were fucking her!"

"Yes, sometimes that's what people do when they have needs."

"You could have come to me. Wasn't I good enough for you?" Her voice cracked as tears pooled in her eyes.

"Mary, I care about you as a friend. I didn't come to you because, I am not in love with you, and I know that is what you are hoping for. I just had a need and I didn't want to have it filled by a stranger. I needed a friend who is in the same place emotionally, as I am."

"I would have done it anyway. I would have given everything I have for you!" Mary poured out her heart as tears streamed from her yes.

"I didn't want to break your heart again."

"Well you have!"

"I told you not to stay here for me." He tried to reason sympathetically. He remembered what it had felt like when Jules broke things off with no hope for the relationship.

"Well I'm not staying here for you anymore, Ichabod Crane." Mary snatched away from him and ran off.

He felt terrible as he went back into the tent. His mind was a blur with worry for Mary as he laid on his cot without a word to Betsy.

"Was it that bad?"

"Worse," Ichabod grumbled. "Apologies, but I don't think I'll be able to finish."

"Don't give it a second thought," Betsy already knew they were done for the night.

At least he was skilled enough that she'd been thoroughly satisfied. She knew he felt badly though, and there was little she could do to help.

~

Ichabod thought for sure Mary would request to go home. But just the opposite happened. Over the next month Mary threw herself into her work, dedicating herself to her patients. He admired her fortitude, and her dedication. He was beginning to see her in a new light. She looked older, wiser, a maturity had come over her.

Soon they spoke again and before long they once again became friends. It was a bit sad to him that the blind adoring look that she once gazed upon him with was gone. But he knew it was a good thing. Young, naive Mary wells was gone. She was coming into her own.

"I saw you talking to Mary earlier. How is she?"

"She's doing very well, actually," Ichabod was almost proud to admit. "Her parents miss her, but she's thinking about taking another posting after this."

"Wow... I didn't even expect her to finish this one."

"Nor did I," Ichabod grinned as he gathered his toiletries to head to the showers and latrine.

"Before you go get cleaned up, how about a quick shag?"

"I suppose I have a minute."

"Only a minute," Betsy teased, then gasped when they felt the ground rumble, followed by an odd muffled thunder echo. "What was that?"

"Betsy come with me! I think that was a bomb!" Ichabod grabbed her hand.

"What!"

A wiring sound... A second rumble this time louder and the ground trembled again. They felt a panic rush through their bodies, their hearts racing frantically as they ran from their tent to the bomb shelter. In the distance they saw flashes of light, and heard gun fire. There was another bomb this one felt closer and knocked them both to the ground.

They hurried down into the shelter, barely able to catch their breath, both rocked with fear. There were a couple of injured workers and several of them were crying out of pure fear. Ichabod looked around quickly for Mary, but she wasn't there. A few of the medical team hadn't made it, but aid workers were still pouring in. He had to find her.

"Iche, where are you going?"

"I have to find Mary!"

Betsy clutched his hand not wanting him to go, but there was no stopping him. He pulled away and ran out.

Ichabod ducked and scurried his way across the massive compound, grateful that the sound of gunfire was in the distance. It was about a mile to the other side where the medical facility was located, and to his horror, it had taken a direct hit, likely the target of the attack. There were injured emerging, and he hurriedly directed them towards the shelter.

"Wells!" He called out. "Mary, are you in here?"

He had the horrific task now of checking bodies. Three dead, and no sign of Mary. He was about to leave when he saw her. Not her face just the shadowy silhouette of a body, but somehow he just knew. His heart sank heavy in his gut as he went to her, crouching down and cradling her in his arms. Her big brown eyes open, looking lifelessly up at him, right through him. He huddled up in a corner holding her through the night, as bombs and gunfire continued. He closed his eyes and waited for it to end.

~

He didn't return home without Mary, he couldn't bear to leave before she did. The hardest part was facing her parents. He felt it was unforgivable what he'd done, though his grandfather repeatedly told him it was not his fault.

"She was an adult, Ichabod. She knew the occupation was a dangerous one when she joined."

"And yet I cannot relieve myself of the knowledge that she went there because of me. I should have insisted she go back home."

"As if she were an adolescent child that you could order around like a parent," George shook his head. "It's been two months, my boy. What will you do? You cannot stay couped up in this house forever."

"I miss my job, but I cannot bear to go back into the field. At least not right now. I keep seeing her face, and I... I cannot bear it. And yet without my work, I feel so lost.

"You're going to drive yourself mad if you don't put that mind of yours to use. You should consider working on the building project with your father. The company is in need of an architect for the development in Saint Patricia."

"You want me to use my architect and engineering skills to make a bunch of rich people even richer?" Ichabod scoffed at the idea.

"I want you to use those skills of yours, to fill your mind and your time with something other than the memory of Mary Wells. I know what it is to be consumed by grief and guilt. If you're not ready to go back to your humanitarian work, you need to find something else to do."

"Saint Patricia?" Ichabod raised a brow.

"Yes. You remember the trips we used to take when you were younger?"

"I do," Ichabod nodded. "Mum loved it there."

"We should go again someday."

 

Ichabod had no idea then that someday would be three years later, and he would be alone. George became ill shortly after and Ichabod was inclined to stay close to him at all times. Now that he had passed Ichabod was visiting Saint Patricia for the first time in twenty years. He was without his Grandfather George, even though the trip was for the old man.

 

~

 

3~

 

"Hey, mate," Abraham had to jump into the pool and grab Ichabod to stop him. He'd been swimming back and forth for over half an hour, completely consumed with his thoughts.

"Are you all right?"

"Yes, of course," Ichabod huffed, breathlessly as he swam to the edge. She shook much of the water from his hair with a quick head toss before running his hands down his face. How long had he been at it?

"Let’s get ready for dinner. Perhaps you'll feel straight after you've something to eat." Abraham gave him a gentle pat on the shoulder. "Then we'll get you laid."

"I don't shag around anymore, Bram. You know that."

"But you're frustrated. You have got to give yourself permission to de-stress and get out some of that built up energy. It's not alright to keep punishing yourself when you know you have needs."

"I simply do not wish to hurt anyone like that again."

"That's why I'm telling you to keep things casual."

That was easier said than done it seemed to Ichabod. The truth was, he craved the closeness and intimacy that a real relationship provided.

 

~

 

Ichabod stood in the shower letting the hot water wash away the sweat and grime of the day, wishing that the water would wash away what truly troubled him. He had lost the one person that truly understood him, the one who didn't blame him for his life choices. He missed Grandpa George tremendously. Everything hurt.

"I’m Abbie Mills," His mind eased when he heard her voice and thought about Abbie's smile and her big bright brown eyes. She had the most divine voice, very sweet with a hint of a confident attitude behind it. "Crane..." He could hear her call his name and visualize her perfectly curved full lips. He could imagine how tender they would be to kiss.

Thinking about her easily got him aroused, as the hot water soothed his sore muscles. It was a byproduct of going so long without actual intercourse. He simply had to manage on his own. And he had little control over the thoughts or images that got him off.

He closed his eyes and allowed his thoughts to indulge on the vision of her perfectly curved ass and the way it felt pressed, and grinding against his cock. He let out a soft moan as he stroked himself to the vision of her smooth bare legs, lightly glistening brown skin... watching as they crossed and uncrossed, his eidetic memory replaying every detail of her tantalizing body.

He groaned as he imagined his large hands firmly gripping those soft silky legs and parting them. Oh the treasure he would indulge in between her thighs. What he wouldn't give to suck her clit, to feel it swell between his lips, to lick between her folds. He groaned heavy. He could almost taste her sweet come on his tongue as she purred and moaned his name, with that devilish voice of her. His hand was a poor substitute for what he desired, as he gripped and stroked, picturing her lush lips wrapped around his thick long...

"Abbie...” He groaned her name as his body tensed. The slightest daydream of tasting her pussy, and her tasting him made him come hard. It was a much needed release.

He thought it was absurd that he could be so completely consumed with a young woman he'd barely met. How had she made such an impression on him, he wonders. It could not have been riding on his lap. He almost laughed off the idea as he finished washing and got out of the shower. What would he do if she came by? He was only in town for a week, two at the most. He didn't know what he was thinking, but he could not get her out of his head.

 

~

 

4~

 

The two friends enjoyed dinner at one of the new tourist Restaurants on the Board Walk. Ichabod having designed the area felt it was important to not only fill she shops with local art and clothes, but the chefs and cooks hired should also be local. He was pleased with the meal of Pelau and black cake for desert.

The two men chatted up as they ate, with Abraham telling Ichabod all about his adventures the past few days while he was alone.

"And then last night the two girls from Canada... They blew my mind," Abraham had a distant smile on his face as he recalled his activities from last evening.

"You mean to say you've been here for five nights and had a different girl in your bed for each?" Ichabod shook his head. "Two, last night?"

"That's what I’ve been trying to tell you mate. This place is a gold mine if you're looking for love."

"That's sex, not love," Ichabod corrected.

"Well isn't that what you want? Someone to share your bed, but not become attached when you go back to Afghanistan or Syria? Unless you're really done with that insane occupation."

"I don't know if I'm done for good. I still feel called to go back and help. But I admit I am tired of being alone. However, I'm not looking for a quick rough in the sheets. I don't want a meaningless shag."

"You can't have it both ways."

"Clearly... That's why I'm not having any at all, unfortunately."

"You're thinking about it too deeply. Look, what happened to Mary was a shame, a tragedy. But it was not your fault. Not every girl is going to follow you into the trenches just to get on your dick. Maybe try not to be such a good fuck."

The two laughed quietly at Abraham’s crass honesty.

"It's getting late. I want to take you to this club near the resort. All the finest girls will be there."

"You're not going to give up are you?"

"As your best friend, I feel it's my duty to end your suffering, and get you properly laid. You can thank me later."

 

~

 

 

The young men parked their motorcycles at the Resort and meandered next door to the thumping rhythm of music at Club Rojo Vivo. Ichabod almost felt overdressed in his button-down shirt and slacks as they entered the club. All the guys had on pants and shirts, but were not so straight laced. The half the women however were in bikinis or the very skimpiest of outfits.

They barely got in the door before girls started throwing themselves at him, grinding up on him. One poor blond looked completely wasted, as Ichabod peeled her off of him and made his way to the bar.

"Didn't I tell you," Abraham bragged. "We are definitely getting laid tonight."

"Can that truly be all you think about Bram?" Ichabod laughed as he took his beer from the bartender.

"And you don't, Iche?" Abraham laughed, knowing his friend's history. "Did you not pick up a girl on your flight here?"

"I wasn't looking... That just happened. Like fate, or destiny," Ichabod mused with a smile as he remembered Abbie literally falling into his lap.

"This song goes out to a very special girl with the sexy as hell body and unbelievable dance moves," they heard the DJ announce.

Ichabod and Abraham looked up and to both of their surprise there she was. Abbie Mills, the young woman who held Ichabod completely captivated on the plane, now had him transfixed again.

"Whoa... She can move," Abraham's eyes nearly fell out from gawking. "I would let her ride my..."

"Bram!" Ichabod hushed him.

He stood up and walked towards her, drawn as if entranced by the movement of her body. He swallowed hard, desperate to quench the desire building in him as he watched her body move. The sultry look in her yes, the way her tongue danced across her plump lips as she popped then swayed her body. He could get lost just watching her.

Then as if being punched in the gut, the DJ got behind her, grinding his hips into her perfect round bottom. She didn't turn him away. Just the opposite. Their movements were close, and familiar. It wasn't like two random people dancing. She knew him, and he knew her. He anticipated her moves and moved his body in kind. Was this a boyfriend? Ichabod had to wonder. Either way, it was disappointing and disheartening. Any hopes of having a good time tonight were certainly dashed.

"I think I'm going to call it a night," Ichabod put down his barely touched beer.

"Come on Iche. It's just dancing. Around here dancing together like that means nothing."

"It's not the dancing... They are familiar. And besides, I don't know her. For all I know, he's the reason she's in Saint Patricia."

"Fine then let's find you another girl. They're practically throwing themselves at you. You can bang any one of them you want... Or two," Abraham eyed a group of local girls and waved them over. "You can have first pick."

"Honestly, I'm not in the mood. It was a long flight from England. I could use some air."

Abraham followed Ichabod out of the club with the three girls in tow. "Come on. We can go back to my suite and have some fun. Right girls."

"Oh we can have a lot of fun," the girl with mahogany completion and hair died purple and blond spoke up before tongue kissing Bram.

"Why don't you all go on and start without me," Ichabod offered. He really not feeling in the mood for whatever Abraham was thinking.
"Iche, come on. You need this more than I do."

"I'm just going to take a short walk and get some air. I won't be long."

Ichabod headed down to the beach, without a second thought to partying with Bram. What he needed was calm. A moment to clear his mind and release the tension in a different way than what his friend was suggesting.

He sent them on their way to the resort while he headed down to the beach. Seeing Abbie dancing with the DJ set him in a melancholy mood. He sat on the sandy coast watching the darkness where the water and the night sky blended into one, the low roar of the sea soothing his aching soul.

She'd been the one bright spot of this entire trip, and now that light had dimmed. Abbie Mills with that beautiful smile and those bright brown eyes. But he'd promised himself years ago, he would not let his heart get involved with a woman who was not completely available and free.

What would he do, try to wedge himself into her life for a week, two at the most, then they'd both part ways and he'd be heartbroken again, or he'd break her heart... No he simply couldn't let himself go there. That's what he kept telling himself. But his eidetic memory continually replayed her beautiful face, that smile, her eyes, her voice, over and over in his mind.

~

 

The drive back to the farm was familiar and nostalgic. How many times had they done this when they were younger? Abbie couldn't even count. The drive home, talking to each other, it was all to easy. And yet as Luke spoke about everything he'd been up to and Abbie talked about her life in New York, it was glaringly clear how different they were from the young adults who were each others first love. It was different with Luke than with Calvin, there was an immediate attraction when they met years ago. He was a charmer, handsome with his caramel skin, dark hair and eyes, athletic build and everyone liked him. He had pursued her and she fell for him. They were good for a quite a while, but as they grew older and with the long distance, they simply seemed to grow apart.

When they arrived, Luke parked, pausing as if something were on his mind that he was needing to articulate.

"Thanks for the ride home," Abbie said graciously as she helped herself out of the vehicle.

"Wait, let me walk you to the door." He was out of the car before Abbie could object. He walked beside her ready to shoot his shot.

"So how long are you going to be here?"

"I don't know yet. A couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months."

"Maybe permanently?" he asked.

"I don't know. I'm kinda use to the city now. I might start missing the smog and noise."

"You know, I was considering putting in for NYPD. I can apply to work with the Federal Government with a green card and once I get citizenship I can become an officer..."

"Luke do you really want to uproot your life to New York?"

"If it means I have a chance to be with you, yeah I do."

"Come on, we haven't dated in almost three years."

"But we didn't break up because we didn't love each other. We broke up because of the long distance and that monster of a job you were working. We can make this work."

"We aren't kids anymore, and I don't know yet what direction I want my life to take. That's why I'm here, to figure it out."

"Can I be honest? I never got over you Abs."

"I happen to know you've been dating plenty," Abbie tried to laugh off the seriousness of his tone.

"It's not the same thing."

"I'm not there Luke. I still care about you but I've changed."

"Then can we get to know each other again? Maybe go out for coffee?"

"As friends, yes," Abbie shook her head with a smile at his persistence.

"That's more like it," he gave her a charming side grin.

"Temper expectations," Abbie swatted him playfully before ducking into the house. "Good night Morales.

He would have liked a good night kiss but he knew Abbie was serious about taking things back to just being friends. "Night Abs."

 

~*~

PREVIEW Ch 3

 

"♪ ♫ Don't worry, about a thing..." Abbie sang along to the tune 'Three Little Birds' as she drove across the road of the narrow straight that lead to the East end of the Island. "♪ ♫ Every little thing, gonna be all right..."

Being back in the village of West Town and shopping on the local street markets had put her in a good mood. She found all the materials she needed for the Independence Festival Costumes, and got Lori the greens and peppers she needed for Pepper Pot Soup.

She had the hood of the jeep down and the Caribbean breeze blowing through her hair. She had no regrets about coming home. This was exactly what she needed.

As Abbie rounded the corner, two stray cows stepped out into the road. She was forced to swerve into the other lane.

"Oh damn!" In a split second she saw a black motorcycle come into view and accidentally ran it off the road, nicking the back tire. The rider rolled into a ditch with the bike laying on the side of the road.

"Oh my gosh!" Abbie immediately pulled her jeep over and ran to the grassy ditch to see if the driver was okay.

She heard a low groan as she made her way through the brush.

"Are you okay?" Abbie called out, as she approached the lean muscular legs sticking out from behind a bush.

"Yes, I'm... Oh... I think..." He groaned again.

Abbie gasped. She would never forget that voice. She hurried to the man’s side to aid him. Sure enough, it was Ichabod Crane.

"Iche? Are you alright?" She asked kneeling beside him.

"So beautiful..." he mumbled as he tried to clear his head and figure out what just happened. "Am I dreaming?"

"No, this is real. I accidentally ran you off the road."

"You're really here?" Ichabod thought he must be imagining this. What were the chances? "I must have hit my head."

TBC

 

 

~*~

Chapter Text

DBL CH 4

 

1~

Abbie groaned at the incessant blaring of her phone alarm screeching as it let her know it was 5:30am. She should just sleep in, the thought sounded like exactly what she needed. She laid slightly hung over from drinking, and exhausted from dancing. She barely had four hours of sleep. Reaching over and tapped the phone to snooze, closing her eyes. That's when she heard a steady creaking sound accompanied by slight knocking on the wall beneath her.

"No way," Abbie grumbled as she heard Grampa Jacob and Gra'ma Ellie's faint huffs and moans in the room just below her. That was her cue that she needed to get up and take her morning run.

Abbie donned her shorts, tank top and running shoes as quickly as she could. The sky was still dark. The early morning sun barely peeked over the horizon of the blue water on the Atlantic Ocean side to the East. Abbie made her way through a path of green plants and bright vivid blooming flowers. She continued down a small rocky path to the white sandy beach.

She took a deep breath and began running as her feet hit the sand. Her skin absorbed the warmth of the sun as it streaked the first streams of golden morning light across the water. It felt good to feel her muscles heat at the light work she put her body through, to breathe in the fresh foliage and the salty sea air. She was home.

As she finished her run and made her way back up to the house, her cell phone rang. "Good morning, Caroline," Abbie sounded slightly breathless, but chipper and refreshed.

"Save me, I'm in hell," Caroline groaned miserably.

"Oh come on. How bad can it be?" Abbie didn't envy Caroline being stuck at SHé Image.

"Says the woman who quit and never looked back," Caroline half joked. "Standra is on a tirade. Since the July issue was released two days ago, you've received nothing but rave reviews. The bosses are expecting a repeat if not better. Everything that Katrina and Diana have come up with for the August issue is complete trash. On top of it just being a complete nightmare here, I forgot to get the Marc Jacobs samples that Standra wanted. She's kept us so busy, it completely slipped my mind. Like I said, I'm in hell!"

"You don't know hell until you've heard Miss Eveline Delyse Roberts call out your grandpa's name in ecstasy," Abbie teased with a shiver.

Caroline let out a chuckle, feeling the first hint of stress relief in days. "I'll take that over this any day. At least Grandma is getting it in."

"She sure is," Abbie laughed. "Call Fidel over at VaLùre. He works in the closet, and if there is anything Marc Jacobs, he's got it. He owes me a favor. Tell him remember the Prada."

"Abbie Mills, I swear to god I love you!" Caroline let out a deep sigh of relief. Abbie heard Standra screeching in the back ground. "The witch is here. I gotta go."

"Good luck," Abbie chuckled as she hung up and made her way back to the house.

When she returned she heard her mom, cousin Roberto, and grandparents speaking in a low hush as Ellie and Lori cooked breakfast. Lori took care of the finances of the farm, while Tasha's older brother Roberto dealt with the farm hands and crops directly. He his wife and two boys lived in the big yellow house with Ellie, Jacob, Lori, and Leena. Abbie figured that morning breakfast was probably a common time for them to gather and talk about the family business. But something didn't feel right about the conversation. Abbie got pt the distinct feeling from the tone of their voice that something was wrong.

"Morning everyone," Abbie smiled as she walked into the kitchen.

Everyone perked up a bit and bid her good morning.

"Is everything okay with the farm?" Abbie asked. "I heard you mention the Mill."

"Oh, everything is fine baby," Lori smiled. "An old friend of your grandfather's passed last month is all. He happened to also own the Sugar Mill."

"Oh, I'm sorry about your friend grandpa," Abbie gave the old man a slight hug and kiss on the cheek.

"It's all right baby girl," he gave her a warm pat on the back.

"At our age, we are losing a lot of friends. It's the way life goes." Ellie added before changing the subject. "Now sit yourself down, so I can get a decent breakfast in you."

"It smells great. Please, nothing with meat or too much bread if you can?" Abbie hated to be picky, but she worked too damn hard to keep her fashionable figure.

"Leena is gathering plantains as we speak," Lori side eyed her daughter.

"Are you going to fry them?" Abbie gave her the side eye right back.

"You are a mess girlie," Lori shook her head. "I can put it in a fruit salad for you."

"But you're too thin child," Ellie just didn’t understand Abbie's need to keep up impossible standards. "A little meat on ya bones won't hurt."

"I have meat on my bones," Abbie patted her perfect round bottom.

"Stop bothering her about it mama," Lori agreed with Ellie, but respected Abbie enough to let it be. "I'll try to get into town to gay and get you some greens and peppers for your favorite."

"Pepper Pot Soup?" Abbie's face lit up. "I'm going to Victoria and West Town after breakfast to buy material. I can pick some greens up on the way back."

 

~~~

 

Leena had no plans to leave the farm for the day, and offered Abbie her jeep. It was perfect so that she could get around on her own, and rediscover her home. Abbie had the top completely down and cranked up the music as she began the forty-five minute drive from their farm on the Eastern tip to the Capitol, on the other end of the island.

Victoria, though small, was the largest city on the island. There were no high rise buildings or massive freeways. Instead, it was an eclectic mix of old world colonial styles, reflecting that it was first colonized by the Dutch, then Spanish, English, and briefly French, before the British Abolitionist armed the slaves and citizens to revolt against Napoleon, and the Island became independent. The city centered on a main square and Statue, then branched out into similar buildings with parks and statues for five miles around. Around every corner, there was a new adventure to discover, and history waiting to tell its story.

She then headed to the neighboring village of West Town were the best fabric shops were. The street markets and venders filled the small city. Abbie went into the city center for a short stroll just to look around and reacquaint herself before heading to the market. There was nothing like the hustle and bustle of the markets, the sound of music from the street entertainers, the thick Caribbean accents, and the alluring aroma of food grilling on every corner. Abbie breathed it all in, resisting the temptation to indulge in the street cuisine.

Instead, she went to a familiar shop and picked up the feathers and Material that Sophie ordered. She found several other materials to make dresses for the girls and other outfits that she could play around with while she figured out what exactly she was doing with her life. After picking out what she wanted, she meandered through the tent markets looking for beadings and gems that would suit the festival costumes well.

She was grateful that Sophie had a great eye for what Abbie would like as far as color and design, even though her dear friend was a terrible seamstress. Tasha on the other hand could sew like a dream, thanks to their Grandma Ellie, who taught them at a young age. However, if Tasha were helping with the designs, they would probably go out topless and in g-string thongs. Not that they probably wouldn't end up topless by the end of the festival.

By noon Abbie figured she'd better head back to the Angelina Township on the east side after hitting up the farmers market for fresh veggies before they closed up shop for the day. She enjoyed the ride across the island, turning up the music and letting the cool breeze tussle through her thick dark hair.

 

"♪ ♫ Don't worry, about a thing..." Abbie sang along to the tune 'Three Little Birds' as she drove across the road of the narrow straight that lead to the East end of the Island. "♪ ♫ Every little thing, gonna be all right..."

Being back in the village of West Town and shopping on the local street markets had put her in a good mood. She found all the materials she needed for the Independence Festival Costumes, and got Lori the greens and peppers she needed for Pepper Pot Soup.

She had the hood of the jeep down and the Caribbean breeze blowing through her hair. She had no regrets about coming home. This was exactly what she needed.

As Abbie rounded the corner, two stray cows stepped out into the road. She was forced to swerve into the other lane.

"Oh damn!" In a split second, she saw a black motorcycle come into view and accidentally ran it off the road, nicking the back tire. The rider rolled into a ditch with the bike laying on the side of the road.

"Oh my gosh!" Abbie immediately pulled her jeep over and ran to the grassy ditch to see if the driver was okay.

She heard a low groan as she made her way through the brush.

"Are you okay?" Abbie called out, as she approached the lean muscular legs sticking out from behind a bush.

"Yes, I'm... Oh... I think..." He groaned again.

Abbie gasped. She would never forget that voice. She hurried to the man's side to aid him. Sure enough, it was Ichabod Crane.

"Iche? Are you alright?" She asked kneeling beside him.

"So beautiful..." he mumbled as he tried to clear his head and figure out what just happened. "Am I dreaming?"

"No, this is real. I accidentally ran you off the road."

"You're really here?" Ichabod thought he must be imagining this. What were the chances? "I must have hit my head."

 

~~~

 

2~

 

Ichabod spent much of the night walking on the beach before he laid back in a lounge chair, unable to rest his mind under the star-filled sky. The Ocean breeze and calming rush of the waves lulled him but sleep eluded him.

At four in the morning, He staggered slowly into the resort, completely exhausted, and was stopped by the receptionist the moment he walked by.

"Excuse me, Mr. Crane," she called him over. "There was a message left for you."

"Thank you," Ichabod took the note with a polite smile and continued on his way. In the elevator alone, he opened the note and his heart merely stopped. It was Abbie, and she'd left her number.

Once again his thoughts turned to her, as a cocky grin graced his face. Perhaps he'd reacted too quickly to seeing her dancing with the DJ last night. What if she was single and available?

He wasn't normally the kind of guy to throw his hands up and walk away. Just the opposite. With work and his family, he had a steel determination to get what he wanted when it wasn't given to him. It's why against his families wished, he'd chosen the profession he wanted, danger and all. Sometimes what he wanted got him hurt, but he took those risks.

Could he take that risk with Abbie? Nothing had hurt him as badly as the way he'd been hurt when Jules Marwood walked out of his life. And the way he was already feeling for Abbie, he had a feeling she could do far worse. But he just could not shake her from his mind along with this intense need to see her again.

"Business first, then we shall see," he told himself, knowing that he had work and family business to attend to. It was imperative that he see the properties today and give Sydney his evaluation.

He used his key card and went into the suite he shared with Abraham, a large living room with to bedroom suites adjoining on either side. There were bottles of alcohol and glasses on the coffee table and articles of clothing strewn about. Two girls laid naked, asleep, entangled in each other’s arms as Ichabod made his way to the bedroom.

"Bram?" Ichabod whispered as he approached the bed. His friend didn't budge, so he gave him a little shake, trying not to wake the young woman beside him. "Abraham?"

"Hmm... Iche, what took you so long. Keisha and um... I think her name Cammie... Tammy, maybe," Bram groaned unsure rubbing his eyes. They got started without you."

"It's fine. I've just come to check on you, and ensure that you are well."

"Never better," Bram gave the sleepy girl beside him a smack on her round behind.

"Hey there handsome," the girl with the mahogany skin and purple hair stretched herself awake on the soft white covers then curled herself around Bram.

"Iche you remember Anna," Abraham gave the young lady a kiss.

"Yes... Um lovely to see you again," Ichabod stood awkwardly as she began aggressively kissing and rubbing Abrahams body.

"You can join us," Anna offered as she kissed her way down.

"No, I'm. Good, thank you," Ichabod quickly made his way out.

Ichabod went into his room plopped on the bed. It was impossible for him to keep his eyes open for another second. He tried not to dream about her sparkling golden brown eyes or her plump dark pink lips. But there she was, Abbie Mills, beautifully haunting his dreams. It was the rising sun peeking over the early morning horizon that finally woke him from his glorious slumber. This cock was rock hard, aching in his hand.

"Damn," he grumbled forcing himself up.

He shook his head as if attempting to shake Abbie from his thoughts. He then made a couple of calls as he stripped down for his morning shower. He wanted to make sure the manager would be there to open up the factory and Mill, along with the head of maintenance and the accountant to run the numbers.

After he showered, he donned a pair of slacks and a button down shirt, rolling his sleeves and leaving the top buttons undone. As soon as he stepped outside, he was struck by how hot it was. His London business casual attire was just all wrong for this Caribbean heat. At least he hoped the breeze from the motorcycle ride would keep him cool.

It was exactly what he needed, the force of the wind rushing through his short brown locks and cooling the heat from his now slightly tanned skin. He had his aviator glasses on she idling his eyes as he ducked low behind the small glass that protecting his face as he rode along the narrow highway from the resort area on the south central part of the island, to the factory and mill on the East side of the island in the town of Angelina.

"Mr. Crane, it's a pleasure to meet you," Mr. Cabrera greeted Ichabod with a firm handshake. This is the head of maintenance Mr. Jesus Lucas and our accountant Miguel Rios.

Ichabod shook hands, "I recognize you from last night."

"Ah yes," Miguel spoke up. "I bartend at Club Rojo Vivo on Friday nights."

"Excellent. Nothing wrong with being multifaceted and hard working," Ichabod nodded as the men showed him inside.

The old sewing factory was built in the seventies and was in need of quite a lot of work. They manufactured clothing nod apparel for tourists, with logos and symbols of the Caribbean. Much of it was shipped to other islands, but a good portion was used right here in Saint Patricia. It was putting out a small but steady profit, but as they went over the numbers Ichabod noticed a problem.

"A large portion of the profits are being averted. Why is that?"

"Your grandfather requested that we use the profits from the factory to keep the sugar Mill running." Mr. Cabrera answered.

"And why is that?"

"There are only two sugar farms on the island, and they need to utilize the Mill."

"Can they not use a mill from another island?"

"I'm certain they could but, sugar is a fickle crop. Once you cut it down, there is a short window of time to get it all processed through the mill. Shipping to a neighboring island will reduce the yield and quality. Not to mention, there will be increased taxes and tariffs on the farm owners."

"I see," Ichabod rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Though he felt for the farmers, he knew Sydney would never allow this to continue. She was strictly business minded. Not only could the factory products be produced cheaper in Asia, but the Mill was a lost course. Losing money and in need of an mechanical overhaul.

Ichabod took copious amounts of notes on every single detail of the factory and mill before calling it a quits.

"I know what you must be thinking, Mr. Crane," Mr. Cabrera said when he had a private moment with Ichabod. "This factory employs over 150 workers. Most being women, who don't have husbands to support them, young girls trying to put themselves through the local college, and women who are helping to care for elderly family members. This factory is important, as is the Sugar Mill. The two local sugar farms are among the best employment for agricultural workers."

I understand your concern, but the decision is not mine alone. I don't want to alarm anyone, so give me some time to speak with my sister on the matter. I promise no matter what our decision, we will give ample notice."

Ichabod hated it. The decision whether or not to keep his grandfathers businesses running would affect 150 employees at the factory and countless other farm workers. As he sat on the small motorcycle, he thought about turning west and heading back to the Resort, but he couldn't shake this feeling that he needed guidance from his grandfather.

Instead he headed another two miles west to his grandfathers old house on the south end of Angelina. He hadn't been in twenty years, not since he was ten years old. He walked around for a little while, remembering his mother's laughter, his grandfather's stories about pirates and treasures. A hint of a smile peeked on the corner of his lips as he heard his grandfather's voice, stirring up memories that Ichabod fought to keep locked away.

Perhaps it was time to let go of this old beach house, the mill, the factory, Saint Patricia. This was his grandfather's life not his own. Ichabod's life was on the front lines rebuilding communities torn apart by war and natural disaster. Surely someone else would buy the old place and make it something great for the people here, because if he was expecting a sign to tell him this was where he was meant to be, it didn't come.

He let out a heavy hearted sigh as he mounted back on the motorcycle and ran his hands through his hair. He took one last look back at the old beach house before starting up the engine with a small roar, and zooming off West bound down the road.

He didn't even get a half a mile down the road before he saw trouble close ahead. He slowed his speed just as two cows entered the road on the other lane as he rounded a curve. Almost as if anticipating certain misfortune he veered to the edge of the road just as a jeep swirled into his lane. It quickly swerved back but knocked his rear tire. Ichabod dove for a softer landing in the shrubbery filled ditch. He rolled a couple of times but still banged his head on a downed log.

He felt dazed for a moment as he laid stunned, but glad to be alive. He groaned heavy as he heard footsteps rush through the grass towards him.

"Are you okay?" The woman's nervous voice called out, as she approached the lean muscular legs sticking out from behind a bush.

"Yes, I'm... Oh... I think..." He groaned again.

How could he forget that voice?

He felt a bit dizzy as he tried to sit up and just laid flat for a moment. That's when she appeared by his side. Long, slender, dark legs extended from the little black skirt of her sun dress, that hugged around perfect curves and her petite frame. She was like a beautiful angel, as rays of sunlight beamed around her. It was Abbie, but how?

"Iche? Are you alright?" She asked.

"So beautiful..." he mumbled as he tried to clear his head and figure out what just happened. "Am I dreaming?"

"No, this is real. I accidentally ran you off the road."

"You're really here?" Ichabod thought he must be imagining this. What were the chances? "I must have hit my head."

 

"I am really here," Abbie blinked stunned at the odds that it was him that she'd run into quite literally.

His eyes were the most beautiful shade of light and dark blue she'd ever seen, like that of the sky light then darker at the horizon. They sparkled like sapphires with the sun glistening into them. She blinked again to stop herself from staring.

"But I think you did hit your head. It'll take a while for emergency services to get here from the other side of the island, but I'll call..."

"No please don't," Ichabod insisted. Her chestnut skin was so smooth and flawless radiant against the white of her sundress, that his hands ached to touch her. "Nothing is broken except my pride."

"Your pride?" Abbie nearly laughed. "You just saved yourself from being taken out by me, in a jeep, and two cows. You should be feeling pretty good about yourself."

"I'll take the compliment," Ichabod flashed her a smile. Was this a sign? Was this what had been waiting to know? He motioned to get up and Abbie lent him her arm to help him. Up right he towered over her. "Thank you kindly."

"It’s the very least I could do." Abbie still felt terrible. He held his breath as she reached up and gently touched his forehead. "I think I have a first aid kit in my jeep for that cut."

She let him lean on her as they walked back up towards her jeep. "I think there's some in the back compartment."

Abbie leaned into the jeep and was opening the small hatch when she heard a thump behind her.
She turned around to see Ichabod passed out in the grass behind her. "Oh damn! Iche! Crane!"

~

 

3~

 

It was the closest medical facility on the east side of the island. Probably not the place Ichabod would expect to go, but since he was out cold, he didn't get a say.

Abbie sat by his side as he laid peacefully on the medical table. It was the first time she'd really had a chance to look at him, and study his face. He had such a remarkably handsome face crowned with dark brown locks, messy on the top when not gelled back. His sexy high cheekbones led down to an adorably perfect chin, decorated with a close trimmed mustache and beard that surrounded dark pink lips.

She hated that there were no helmet laws for adults on the island. Even children only had to wear the small hard caps that only covered their head. Most people road around on motorcycles and scooters wearing shorts, t-shirts or swim suites. It was crazy. At least he'd had on slacks, not that it would have protected him against road burn had he landed on the pavement. She shuddered to think if him scraping up this gorgeous face of his.

Slowly he opened his eyes, dark brown lashes parted, as the blue light emerged from beneath.

"Doc, he's opening his eyes," Abbie backed away as Ichabod reached for her hand, and held it tight.

"Abbie..." Ichabod's vision was hazy as he smiled at her. He blinked slowly, and opened his eyes again, The smile turned to shock when he was suddenly face to face with an insanely ornamented mask. "dear god!" He nearly jumped up.

"Do you have an issue with being treated by a medicine man?"

"Oh, um... No..." Ichabod fumbled, trying to make sense of his surroundings. It was common that many on the island still believed in the old medical practices, and he didn't want to be offensive. "It is no problem at all."

"Good," Cisco took off the medicine man mask. "I'm just messing with ya dude. I'm not a medicine man in the old sense, like my grandfather was. Just a little shock to really wake you up is all."

 

Abbie had just mended the mask for the festival, and Cisco was trying it on while they waited for Ichabod to awaken. They both had a little chuckle at Ichabod's stunned awakening.

"Well I dare say it worked." Ichabod half smiled as he felt the sore spot on his head. "You're a doctor?" He looked around noticing a strange assortment of posters adorning the walls. Most were of animals.

"Yes, well I'm a registered nurse for humans and a veterinarian for the local animals.

"He was the closest one to help us, being on the East side. Otherwise we'd still be waiting for an ambulance," Abbie tried not to snicker. "So is he going to be okay?"

Cisco checked him over again. "Yup. Minor concussion. Coupled with lack of sleep. Keep a close eye on him for the next twenty four hours. But he should be fine."

"I'll take you back to the resort," Abbie was telling him, not just suggesting. "My grandpa is going to take a look at the motorcycle and make sure it's good before you ride it again."

"I appreciate that," Ichabod was pleased.

 

~~~

The two made small talk as they drove the short distance from Angelina to The Royal Palm in Bella View. They told each other where they were from, and a little about themselves.

"I have enjoyed the day however the heat and humidity will take some getting used to. I'm afraid my London attire isn't making the mark."

"The thick material must be making you sweat like crazy," Abbie eyed the designer clothes. "You actually have great taste. I feel terrible that I ripped your shirt."

"It's not your fault. I blame the cows," Ichabod joked and delighted in hearing her genuine laughter.

"Well, you have let me make you something. Something you'll be comfortable wearing while you're visiting," Abbie offered and could see Ichabod ready to object.

"I'll only be three more days..."

"At least to replace the one I've ruined. I can have them for you in a day or two." Abbie gave him a look letting him know she wasn't going to take no for an answer.

"If you insist, but honestly you don't have to. I don't want to put you through the trouble," Ichabod looked at her with kind blue eyes, as Abbie put the jeep in park.

She blushed grinning at the intensity of his eyes upon her. "I want to, and I insist on seeing you up to your room. I want to make sure your friend is there to keep an eye on you."

Ichabod quickly got out to get the door for her, before she could protest. He was the one injured and yet he was ever the gentleman. Abbie grinned and shook her head because it wasn't necessary, but felt her heart flutter at his chivalry.

"I'm not sure why Bram isn't answering his cell," Ichabod pondered, as he and Abbie locked arms and strolled into the resort. He didn't need her help, but he wasn't going to miss an opera unity to be this close to her.

The resort was stucco and stone, a modern twist on the traditional old world Caribbean style, but inside it was all modern elegance. It had a grand chandelier and massive windows that captured the outdoors for an open airy feel. A winding stairway led to a second level mezzanine area that boast of even more extraordinary views.

When they got to the room, the reason Abraham hadn't responded became obvious. Ichabod went red with embarrassment when a new pair of panties and a dress were strewn across the living area floor. There were very audible moans of pleasure coming from Abrahams room.

"I apologize," Ichabod went red cheeked, as he picked up the panties with a napkin and folded them into the dress, placing them by Abrahams bedroom. "You don't have to stay. I'm sure he won't be long."

Ichabod didn't want to be out of her company, but under the circumstances he didn't feel right keeping her in the room.

"You sure? It sounds like they might be a while." Abbie grinned, putting him at ease.

Abbie looked around the elegant penthouse suite, trying to ignore the mess of champagne gasses and sound of sex. Her eyes were drawn to the wall of windows led out to the balcony that overlooked the sea. It was picturesque, stunning to be honest.

"Such a beautiful view."

"It is. The most beautiful I've seen," Ichabod's voice was soft and deep.

Abbie was suddenly aware he was fixated on her, not the view out the window. Her insides fluttered, as his dark lashed eyes looked intensely at her. She nervously tried to deflect their intensity. "If you're hungry we could get a bite to eat."

"I'm famished," Ichabod smiled. "I'll just be one minute." He went to his room and changed shirts as quickly as he could, freshened up a bit and hurried back to her. "Shall we?"

 

~~~

 

4~

 

"So you're a genuine fashion designer," Ichabod mused as they enjoyed their appetizer. More like he enjoyed it while Abbie sipped her water. "A famous one at that."

"I am, I don't know about famous, though. I just left my job at SHé Image for greener pastures. I can't work with people who treat me badly and don't appreciate the work I do for the team. Call it self preservation." She felt completely at ease with him, and opened up without reservation.

"Well Saint Patricia is certainly a stunning place to sort things." Ichabod leaned in, giving her his undivided attention. He could listen to her talk all day.

"The perfect place. And I still get to be creative. I'll be busy making costumes for the Independence Festival next weekend. I'm looking forward to it. I've missed being here so much. Are you staying for the Festival?"

"I'm not sure. My business here was very brief. I'm anxious to get back to work. I've been gone for quite a while."

"And you're an Architect?" Abbie asked.

"I am... Well an architectural engineer."

"You know, I would have pegged you for military. Something about the way you carry yourself."

"Oh dear I hope I'm not too rigid." Ichabod laughed.

"No... Straight back, confident. It's nice."

"I was military... Well I was a Captain in the Royal Army reserves, while attending university. The training has served me well in my Career with World Neighbors."

"You're a humanitarian Aid worker with World Neighbors?" Abbie was aware of the nature of the job. "Isn't that job dangerous?"

"It can be, but I'm aware of the risks and dangers. People are in need of help and I've felt this is a calling upon me since I was very young."

"Wow, that isn't something anyone can do," Abbie was Impressed with his level of selflessness.

The servers brought their food and the two were ready to dig in. Abbie had a salad with mango salsa, while Ichabod ordered a virtual buffet of roast pork Pernil, Jamaican Curry and yellow rice.

"Please share with me, there is plenty," Ichabod offered.

"I can't... I'm on this vegetarian diet."

"But, you're positively tiny," Ichabod didn't want to seem judgy, but he was confused. She was more than perfect in his eyes.

"Have to maintain my image if I want to work for certain magazines."

"For the job you left because they didn't appreciate your hard work and dedication? And now you're telling me they don't appreciate what a beautiful woman you are?"

"I don't fit the look they want," Abbie shrugged a bit, stirring at her salad.

"You are incredibly beautiful. Naturally so," Ichabod continued. "I have been captivated by your eyes and smile from the moment we met."

Abbie was struck silent, her heart doing cartwheels in her chest. Was he really trying to charm her, when he was leaving in a couple of days? Worse, was she falling for it?

Ichabod smiled, realizing he had rendered her speechless, and decided to dial it back a bit. "Here, if you will try something for me, then I will do something for you. Anything you want."

The tantalizing aromas drifting from the feast before her was almost too much to resist. "You’ll do anything?" Abbie gave him a mischievous grin.

"Anything," Ichabod looked at her intently with those soft blue eyes of his.

"You might have to stay a while longer for what I have in mind... I don't know." Abbie not so subtly tested to see if he could stay in St. Patricia.

"I don't have any pressing engagements, and I haven't been called upon for a mission yet, so... I could arrange to stay another week or two. For you," Ichabod picked up a piece of roast pork with his fork and teased it her way.

"Wow that smells good," Abbie grinned and opened her mouth.

Ichabod felt the blood rush though his core straight to his loins as her full lips wrapped around the fork, taking the juicy meat in her mouth. He swallowed hard watching her, thinking thoughts he ought not.

 

Mmm..." she made the most intoxicating sound as her eyes shut softly. "So tender."

"You like that?" His voice went husky, far more provocative than he had intended and it sent a sensually warm sensation through Abbie's body. She had to squeeze her legs tight to quench the feeling.

"I did," Abbie licked her lips, not his situation at all.

"Then it’s settled we are sharing." Ichabod sat up straight and cleared his throat to think more clearly. Her phone buzzed a text message that she check quickly before putting away.

Ichabod couldn’t help but wonder who had been trying to reach her. Was it a friend, a lover perhaps. He had questions only she could answer. "So, you are staying with family here?"

"Yes, my mom, step-mom, and grandparents on the east end in Angelina."

"No boyfriend you've returned here for, or perhaps in New York waiting for you?" Ichabod was being very obvious with his query but he didn't care."

"Only ex-boyfriends, and no one I’m here for. The most recent, well we broke up almost two months before I left New York. Anyway it's so done, and I am not looking back. I am here to figure out what I want. Maybe find something new all together."

Ichabod perked up. She sounded a hundred percent sure that relationship was over and she was single. Maybe he had misjudged what he saw at the Club.

"How about you? Anyone waiting at home for you while you and your friend enjoy the island girls," Abbie teased. But deep down she needed to know if he was just looking to hook up before he split.

"I am not involved at the moment. Have not been for quite a while actually. I would like something more serious than what my friend Bram is looking for. My work makes it difficult to have a serious relationship. However, I've grown weary of casual flings."

"Yeah, casual flings aren't exactly my thing either," Abbie bit gently on her bottom lip. Her mind was thinking, wondering how she could make this work, because she wanted him bad.

But there it was. The facts. She was really feeling this guy. Hell, she'd be ready to take things back to his place right now if there was a chance it'd be more than a brief fling. But even if he stayed a few extra days, what could really come of this.

They chatted away with ease as they finished their meal, before Ichabod's phone buzzed.

"Hello, Bram," Ichabod answered as he studied Abbie's expression. God, he loved the way she bit down on her tender lips. He wanted to do the same to those luscious, full, sensual...

"Yes, I'm fine..." He snapped out of it quickly as Abraham waited impatiently for a response. "A minor concussion... Of course. I'm on the boardwalk dining with Miss Mills... Ah, bosh, you worry to much. I've had far worse." He hung up.

"We should probably get going," Abbie dabbed her mouth with the napkin. She had ignored her concerned friends text messages long enough.

Ichabod waved for the check, hating to end their time together, but he had kept her all afternoon.

The two drove a mile south down the board walk from Saint Fredrick's to the resort in Bella View. Thank you for keeping me company whilst my friend was otherwise occupied," Ichabod offered his gratitude as he got the door for Abbie.

"I had a great time. But if you do stick around, I want to take you into one of the Villages, West Town or Victoria."

"I'd like that. I haven't been to Victoria since I was nine."

"You know the board walk is beautiful and the design is really fitting for the island. But it's a shame tourists come here to get a taste of authentic Saint Patricia, but then mostly stay in this tourist area. They are missing out on the beauty and tradition of the villages."

Ichabod wasn't sure what to say, since he designed the boardwalk. It and the resort were his first projects after taking a break from World Neighbors. "You don't like it."

"I mean I do. The architect really took their time to research what would fit seamlessly. I just wish that people who visit, wouldn't forget about the real Saint Patricia."

"It's changed a lot since I was last here. I hope that the revitalization of the tourist area is a boost to the economy, and a job creator."

"Growth is good, and there is the needed employment. But the foreigners who are building up the place are giving the best jobs in management to other foreigners and expats. While the locals get the service work. And we have well-qualified people here. Our college is really good."

"But you were educated in the states," Ichabod gave her a side eye.

"Yes," Abbie swatted him. "I moved to the states to live with my dad, but he died and his friend August took me in so I could continue. Saint Patricia College is very good, but I was on track to Columbia University."

"You little genius," Ichabod beamed. "So I will take your wisdom under advisement and find time to visit the villages out west."

 

"Good. If I can find time between prepping for this Festival, I'll take you around. I need you to get some real island cuisine."

"Was the food not delicious at the Restaurant?"

"It was really good. But I can tell they tone down the spice to fit the pallet of the tourists here. You need to get a real taste of the island. It's the sweetest and spiciest you'll ever have the pleasure of indulging in."

"If I get to enjoy this pleasure with you, I don't see how I can say no," Ichabod licked his lips. It was her he wanted a taste of.

Abbie was having way too many feelings in that moment, as her heart began beating ferociously with wont. She couldn't properly register what her heart and her desire were telling her so that she could put them safely where they needed to be.

*Don't do it. Don't fall... Do not fall for this man...* she begged herself as she extended her hand to him to shake. "I guess I should go."

Ichabod extended his hands taking hers in both of his, but did not shake it. Instead, he stepped comfortably into her space, only a few inches separated them, as he brought her hand to his lips. He placed a long tender kiss there, his lips pressing gently as whiskers brushed her skin. Abbie literally swooned as moisture pooled in her loins. Slowly his eyes looked up to hers as he straightened. His hand trailed up her arm, and gently across her cheek, brushing back an errant lock of hair.

Abbie's bright brown eyes looked up into his soft blues as he held her there transfixed with his gaze. Her lips instinctively parted and her eyes slowly closed, as her body begged for him to give her what she was unwilling to ask for.

He was drawn to her, closing his eyes slightly as their lips met. Abbie's body softened as they leaned into each other, and he pressed against her. He pulled back slightly, as if searching for permission or a rejection of his affections. Abbie was in no position to deny him. He wanted nothing but to have more of the sweet taste of his mouth. She had no idea what she was thinking, as butterflies swirled in the pit of her belly sending heat to her chasm.

Ichabod captured her lips with his mouth again for another, more intimate, hot, wet wonton. His arms were now around her, his large hands pressed gently into the small of her back, their hearts pounding like drums. Abbie's lips parted inviting him to have a taste as her arms wrapped languidly around his shoulders. His warm moist tongue eagerly slid across her lips then into her mouth, tasting her as electricity sent blood rushing through his body. She sighed heavily as his tongue explored her, memorizing the feel and taste. He breathed in her sweet natural scent mixed with the light floral perfume.

Her scent was intoxicating and his body wanted more, He wondered if she could feel how he twitched as he pressed into her. She definitely could, and he felt so good grinding into her. Her leg parted slightly letting him wedge closer into her, giving herself away as to how much she wanted him.

*God she is amazing.* Ichabod could not get enough of her.

*Snap out of it Abbie this man is leaving in a matter of days,* she told herself, forcing herself to break from their kiss as he took her breath.

"That's one way to say goodbye," Abbie was struggling to keep it together. Everything in her wanted him to press her against the wall and fuck her until she was delirious with pleasure.

"Indeed," Ichabod gave her a cocky smile, sending heat through her body.

"Oh good, you're here," Abraham sounded worried as he opened the door to their suite. "I was about to go off looking for you."

"I am here and doing well, thanks to Abbie," he smiled at her. "Abbie, this is my oldest and dearest friend Bram."

"So we finally meet," Abraham smiled and took her hand into a polite kiss as well. These boys were charmers. "Would you like to stay for a drink?"

"No, I have to go. I have friends and family waiting on me. But, Iche... It's been amazing, aside from the part where I almost killed you."

"It was worth it," Ichabod smiled.

"I really want to treat you to some authentic delicacies from the island," Abbie grinned.

"I look forward to you expanding my horizons." Straightened up and folded into a perfect bow. Abbie blushed again as he rose back up and smiled at her.

"And I hope you expand mine as well," she gave him a coy wink before turning and walking away.

Both men tilted their head as they watched her perfect bottom, swishing side to side in the short sundress.

"Now, that right there is absolute perfection," Abraham nearly salivated.

"Don't get any ideas," Ichabod warned only half joking.

 

~*~

Chapter Text

Make Your Move

~~~

1~

 

"So no, uh uh! You can't just say he kissed me and think we aren't gonna want you to spill all the tea," stood right in front of her cousin blocking her from moving around the already overcrowded room.

"There's nothing to say," Abbie shrugged, her cousin interrupting her thoughts of Ichabod Crane.

The girls were hanging out in Abbie's very small room putting together their costumes for the festival. Cynthia sat at one of the sewing machines, stitching away while Sophie worked on the headdress. Abbie took the material she picked out for Ichabod's clothes and sat back at the other sewing machine. She'd already made him two shirts and short slacks. Now she wanted to make him some traditional linens for the Festival, since she'd convinced him to stay.

"It must have been one hell of a kiss if he's extending his visit to see you again." Cynthia looked over her shoulder at her cousin and smiled.

"I will literally pay you to stop talking," Abbie knew her cousins and best friend would not let up about this guy.

"Too bad you were so overcome that you forgot to leave him your cell phone number?" Tasha had her hands on her hips, as Abbie sashayed past her and sat at her other sewing machine.

"Don't worry. He's got your number," Cynthia assured her. "I made sure of that."

"Cynthia!" Tasha giggled.

"When did you do that?" Abbie pierced her eyes at her seriously.

"He showed up at the club while you were dancing with Luke and he left," Sophie blurted out. "Cynthia and I tried to catch him but he was gone."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Abbie gave her two friends a cross look.

"Because you were busy with Luke," Sophie shrugged. "We didn't know if you were feeling him again."

Then why did you leave my number with Iche?"

"That was all Cynthia," Sophie pointed and everyone looked accusingly at her.

"Look, Frank may have said something that let me know, maybe she should really consider this Ichabod Crane guy, that's all."

"What did he say?" Abbie stopped stitching and gave her undivided attention.

"Ask him yourself," Cynthia teased. "How are you planning to get these things to him? And how do you know his size for that matter?"

"I know his size because I'm a professional," Abbie inadvertently figured his size while he was unconscious and she had to aid him. "When I'm done, I was just going to take them to his suite at the Royal Palm."

"You're just gonna show up for a booty call?" Tasha gasped.

"No! I am not gonna be a booty call when he's leaving in a week or two. I was going to take them by his place before my coffee date with Luke."

All three women turned and gave her a hard stare.

"What?" Abbie already knew.

"You already know," Cynthia pinched her lips as she finished stitching the elastic band on the tiny bikini bottom. "If you're feeling Iche, why are you messing with Luke?"

"I'm not messing with Luke. We're going as friends for coffee. And as far as Iche goes, like I said before. He's leaving after his holiday."

"Well Cisco said he was really into you," Sophie added.

"He had a concussion."

"So, you kissed him while he had a concussion," Cynthia countered.

Abbie rolled her eyes.

"Okay, I can't work in here anymore," Sophie huffed. There wasn't an inch of room for them to move around. "We can take this back to my place. Cisco won't mind."

~~~

Cisco had returned home earlier and left them to the mayhem of putting together their costumes. Cynthia was the first to leave, needing to get back to Macey. It was almost eleven at night when Abbie and Tasha decided to call it a night. She said good night to her girls and bundled up a few things to work on through the night.

When she got back to the jeep she realized she'd left her cell phone in there for the past several hours. She picked it up checked the voicemail. She groaned when she heard Ichabod's voice leaving her a message.

'Good evening Miss Mills, pardon, Abbie. I hope this missive finds you well this eve. I thought you may want to know that I am feeling fit as a fiddle since our last run in, so worry not. I know that you will be quite busy with preparations for the Festival, but As my business here will conclude tomorrow, I do hope that we can get together at your earliest convenience. I... I have not been able to stop thinking about you. Our parting yesterday has replayed in my mind and I, well... I cannot wait until we see each other again. Have a good evening. Sleep well."

"Damn," she swore, mad at herself for missing his call. But at least now she had his number. Not only that but he was thinking about her, and the kiss they shared.

 

~

 

2~

 

Ichabod woke before his alarm went off, just as the sun was rising. He was face down on the bed, covers strewn everywhere and somehow out of his pajama pants. His hand was beneath him, firmly gripping his hard aching cock.

"Not again," Ichabod groaned and the desperate need to find relief. He felt like a teenager the way his hormones were reacting.

It was another night of his dreams being consumed by Abbie Mills, and the thoughts of burying himself deep inside her and making her call out his name. Okay, thinking about her now wasn't helping. He checked the time as he got up for a shower. It was almost noon in London. Sydney would be expecting to hear from him to go over the financials for their grandfather's properties. She would have to wait because he needed to take care of the situation in hand.

Ichabod pressed a palm against the shower wall letting the steamy hot water wash over his lean body. He stroked as visions of Abbie ran through his mind. The sound of her voice was like a soft siren song calling to him from across the sea, seducing him. Now that he'd tasted her sweet lips and wet tongue, he desired her even more, he ached for her. He remembered the way she felt in his arms. God he wanted her. The hot blood rushed through his body, as the steamy water soothed and relaxed him. He let himself go to the feelings that were elicited by the thoughts of making love to her, and real eased completely into the water pooling at his feet.

Ichabod washed quickly and hurried out of the shower. Just his luck he now missed a call from Abbie. He listened to the message as the dried off and dress.

"Hi, Iche. It's Abbie. Looks like we're playing phone tag. I’ve got a pretty busy morning, but I'm going to be that way at around noon. If you don't mind I'd love to come by for a minute and check on you, and bring the motorcycle. If you're out I'll drop the keys off with the concierge. Anyway, I'm glad you're doing okay. Hopefully I'll you later today."

That was five minutes ago. He picked up the phone to try and call her back, but was interrupted by his phone buzzing. It was his sister Sydney ready to conference call with his father.

He let out a sigh and answered, knowing he needed to get down to business. He hoped they'd be done before Abbie came by.

 

~

 

Despite staying up much of the night finishing the last details on the clothes she made for Ichabod, Abbie easily was up before dawn ready for her morning run on the beach. She received an early morning text from Luke confirming that they would meet at 12:30 for coffee and maybe a light lunch. He made the conscious decision not to call and confirm, to keep Abbie from backing out.

She ran hard, harder than she did most mornings! Anyway. The kiss she shared with Ichabod two days ago was still seared on her lips. The very thought of his lips on hers and his hands on her body sent a thrill through her body like nothing she'd felt before. Even now thinking of his thickness pressed against her petite frame made the hair on her neck rise. She felt flush with a rush of heat and lowed her pace to a stop. This man had her completely hot and bothered. She had to see him.

She pulled out her cell phone and nervously dialed, hoping he was awake. No such luck. Abbie let out a sigh as it went to voicemail. The corner of her lip curled into a smile when she heard his thick baritone asking to leave a message. She suddenly felt butterflies and took a nervous breath before leaving the brief message.

Her hands were still a bit jittery when she ended the call. She wondered if he would call or text her back.

She spent most of the morning working on the costumes, taking a break to sketch out a design for Cynthia, who wasn't really showing, but still had a little extra weight on her. Abbie honestly thought she looked beautiful with a slightly fuller figure. But she could understand wanting to have a dress that fit and complimented her curves.

When she was done, she went out to the garage to find her gramps Jacob who was working repairing on a piece of farm equipment.

"How's the bike, grandpa?" Abbie asked meandering into the large shed.

"Minor bend on the back tire, but it's good now, baby girl," Jacob handed Abbie the key, accepting a kiss on the cheek.

"Thank you."

"Helmet, ova there, young lady," Jacob pointed to some cap helmets hanging on the garage wall.

"Yes sir," Abbie wasn't going to defy her grandfather.

"You remember how to ride?" Jacob was a little skeptical seeing how tiny she was on the bike.

"Of course," Abbie revved it up. "You're the one that taught me."

The old man chuckled. She fastened on her helmet and blew Jacob a goodbye kiss.

 

~~~

 

3~

 

Ichabod meandered about the suite while still on the phone with his father, explaining why they needed to give the factory and Mill another chance to pull in a profit. He believed that it was worth it to save hundreds of jobs on the island, but William believed that as the tourist area increased, there would be more jobs for the locals.

"Father, the factory workers are seamstresses and agricultural work is a legitimate trade."

"Ichabod, this is life. Of they can't find work in their trade, then they need to change fields." William was very frank with his son. "And the fact of the matter is, you've expressed your desire to continue your work with World Neighbors. You intend to leave your sister with two failing businesses, while you gallivanting across the globe playing hero."

"That's not what I'm doing father. My work is important..."

"Your obligations to this family are important to. You cannot put this on Sydney in her condition," William was once again frustrated with his son. "We can talk about this when you return home tomorrow."

"Actually, I've extended my stay for another week or so," Ichabod was cut short when he heard the knock on the door.

"Ichabod..."

"Father, I have to go. Don't worry, I have it all in hand. I'll call you tomorrow." Ichabod hung up. "Just a moment," he called out as he gave the suite one swift look over. He quickly checked his hair before heading to the door. Finding out that Abbie was single and available, was a game changer for Ichabod, and the kiss they shared was unforgettable. He never had to try to attract women, and after that kiss he thought surely Abbie had to be into him. Now he just had to make sure she knew he was open to the possibilities.

When he opened the door, she took his breath away. There she was, those beautiful light brown eyes surrounded by thick dark lashes looking up at him. She had a smile that made the world light up around her.

Ichabod placed gentle hands on her shoulders as he leaned in to give her a welcoming kiss. Abbie tilted her head up and to the side ensuring his gentle affection landed on her cheek. It was still nice, warming her all over. He wanted more but he respected that she was trying to calm things down from yesterday.

She had to steal her resolve to keep things casual, and not get carried away as easily as she did yesterday. It would be too easy to fall for him. Hell she already was, but she didn't know where he would be a week from now.

"Hi," she said breathy, swallowing to hold in how badly she wanted more. "These are for you," Abbie handed him the neatly folded bundle in her arms.

"Oh, thank you," Ichabod took them from her hands. "Where are my manners? Please come in."

Ichabod held the door for her as she stepped into the suit. The picturesque view of the sea adorned the far wall. Everything was perfectly cleaned and in its place unlike two days earlier. A couple of neatly stacked books and light paperwork sat on the coffee table. And there was no sign of Abraham.

"Can I offer you a drink," Ichabod pointed to offer her a seat.

"No, I cant stay long. A friend is picking me up for coffee. I just wanted to bring those for you."

"Thank you, this was very kind," Ichabod ran his hand over the material. "The fabric is incredible."

"Yes, it's a silk cotton blend unique to Saint Patricia. Go try them on. Model for me," Abbie teased.

He obliged her and for the next few minutes he dressed in the shorts and button short sleeve shirts. Abbie loved his humor as he posed playfully letting her snap a few pics of him. Lastly he tried on the traditional linens.

"Since you're staying for the festival, I thought you might like to dress accordingly. I wasn’t sure you'd like briefs and a headdress."

"I have no problem wearing briefs," Ichabod raised his brow. "But I think this suits me much better."

Good. I hope you like them," Abbie gently smoothed her hands down his chest, innocently at first, until she became fully aware of their closeness.

"You made them. They're perfect," Ichabod put his arms around her.

Abbie looked up at his unabashed smile, and had to look back down immediately. Those blue eyes and brazen smile were a trap, and she was seconds away from falling right into it. Her phone buzzed as if saving her.

She eased out of his arms and checked. Luke was right on time. She handed Ichabod the key to the motorcycle. "That's my ride."

"I'd be happy to give you a ride," Ichabod gave her a cheeky smile.

"I bet you would," Abbie grinned turning away from his blue eyed gaze. "But I'm good. My friend is waiting so..."

"One of the lovely young ladies I met at the airport?" Ichabod was fishing as he walked Abbie to the door.

"No, an old friend. He's a cop and DJs on the side."

Ichabod immediately knew this was the DJ she was dancing with. "Well, enjoy your coffee. And thank you again for taking the time to make me such phenomenal Abbie Mills exclusive attire."

Ichabod leaned in for a hug and she let him wrap her up in his embrace. This time he kissed her purposely on the cheek, his hands pressed gently on her lower back. She breathed him in, his natural scent mixed with a light saddle wood musk sent a warm rush through her core.

*Damn he smells good* Abbie could stay there in his arms. *Don't fall for this man.* she told herself again, as she briefly let herself melt and be enveloped in the strong embrace.

He let her go, giving her a dashing smile and just looking at her with those dazzling blue eyes. She was a little weak in the knees, staring at him wistfully... until she realized, he did that on purpose. *Cocky bastard* Abbie internally smiled.

She quickly snapped out of it and straightened up. "I sure will, thanks."

Abbie threw a cute perky smile back at him before turning and walking away. She put a little extra swing in her hips, not that she needed it. She knew he'd be watching.

And he sure did. She gave a little show and he was happy so watch. "Such a minx," he grinned.

~

Abraham came in a few minutes later. He'd been relaxing by the pool while Ichabod conducted business. But when he saw Abbie leaving with the DJ from a few nights ago, he had to check in with his friend.

"I take it things didn't go well with Abbie," Bram asked as he walked in and saw his friend sitting quietly on the sofa pondering.

"No... Abbie and I got on quite smashing yesterday and our rapport was equally stimulating today. She beautiful, talented, very kind, but straight forward... She's amazing."

 

"I saw her walking somewhere with the DJ. He's wearing a badge."

"Really?" Ichabod furrowed his brow in thought. "She did say she was meeting a friend for coffee. I had a feeling it was him."

"Just coffee?"

"She said she is currently single."

"The way he was looking at her, she won't be single for long."

"You speak as if she as no say in the matter."

"Well, my friend, she may very well say yes to the matter." Bram shook his head. "Have you really never had to work to get a girl? I don't think she's going to just fall into your lap."

Ichabod grinned, remembering the flight. "She did once."

"We should all be so lucky. Look, my goal was to get you hooked up and out of this bazaar funk you've been in since... Well..."

"I thought you said not to get hung up on the first girl I meet."

"You've turned down everyone I've brought for you to entertain. If Abbie is the girl you want, do you really want to risk missing out on the possibility?

Ichabod furrowed his brow. Bram was right. Abbie just wasn't the kind of girl that was going grapes behind him, begging for attention, and offering herself up on a silver platter.

"You said they were walking?" Ichabod raised his left brow curiously.

"They were. There's a café just a block away."

"I believe I fancy a cup of joe." A fire lit up inside him.

"I could use an espresso myself," Bram grinned menacingly.

 

~~~

 

4~

 

"I thought he was going to sh*t his pants when Commissioner Reyes walked in," Luke laughed as he mentioned an incident that happened last week at work. "You're stepmother is a force to be reckoned with."

"She is something else," Abbie laughed softly. "I always said if I went into law I wanted to have her brass and Corbin's heart."

"You still can," Luke gave her a more serious concentrated look. "You know there is always a place here for you. Don't you think maybe it's a sign that you're back here now? Remember you said you'd have it all sorted out by the time you're thirty, then take a break and have a kid or two?"

"I was twenty when I made that plan," Abbie shrugged. "Real life doesn't go so smoothly."

"Well let's just say your twenties was the time to have your fun playing around with fashion, and now that you're heading into your thirties, it's time to get real..."

Let's just say... Fun playing around... Did Luke not know her at all. Sure she once thought she'd have a full blown career, be married, and planning to have kids by the time she turned thirty, before life hit her with reality. She loved fashion, this was her passion, not a childish hobby. He continued talking but her thoughts were drifting, waiting for the hour to be over and Luke to go back to work.

"Ah look, Iche it's our good friend Abbie," Abraham said out loud as he and Ichabod walked into the café.

Luke stopped talking, and looked up in the direction of the two men as Abbie was pulled back into the moment from her thoughts.

"Bram, Iche. What brings you two here?"

"Well, I have yet to find a good spot of tea but I am growing fond of the coffee here, as you assured me I would."

"Tea," Luke scoffed, making a note of the way Ichabod looked at Abbie. She had his complete focus, and his eyes never left her for a second. "With tiny cups and cookies."

"Yes, tea," Abbie was trying not to sound irritated with him. "This is my old friend Luke."

The men politely exchanged firm... Very firm handshakes, as they sized each other up.

"More than friends," Luke gave her a smile. "Abs and I go way back."

"Luke is the friend I mentioned," Abbie smiled, making sure Ichabod knew she was being very upfront. She was not dating.

"Of course," Ichabod smiled smugly. "I am truly looking forward to taking you up on the offer of reacquainting me with St. Patricia."

"Reacquaint?" Luke questioned.

"Yes. My grandfather was from here, so I spent the first ten summers of my life here. I've missed it."

"Oh... And here I thought you were just a regular tourist, shipping out in a few days."

"I actually have extended my stay at the recommendation of Miss Mills. I'm not sure how long I'll stay."

"You don't work?" Luke looked and sounded a bit annoyed.

"I'm an international Humanitarian Aid worker, in high threat regions. I take on missions as needed."

Well damn Luke was sorry he asked, because Abbie looked like she swooned right in front of him. She was big on that kind of stuff, helping others, sacrificing of one’s self for those in need.

"Abbie, we should probably get going. I have to get you home before I go back on duty."

"I could take you home if you want to stay longer," Ichabod offered with a gentlemanly kindness. "I feel that we were cut short back at the hotel suite."

"I'd love to, but I have so much to do before the festival," Abbie pouted. "But there is a party at the beach tonight at the North Beach Club in Kings Port. If you're free, I'll be there."

"Yeah, we'd love for you and your friend to come," Luke was cringing inside as he spoke. Why was she inviting this virtual stranger? She was making a date with another guy while on a date with him.

"Absolutely," Ichabod still had his soft gaze on Abbie.

"You'll need your swimsuit."

"Trunks or Speedos?" Ichabod asked.

"Speedos," Abbie gave him a coy smile.

"Luckily," Ichabod raised a brow

"Okay, I'll text you the details," Abbie was trying not to blush, but her grin even showed through her eyes, how excited she was to meet up with Ichabod again.

 

~~~

 

~5

 

String lights and torches lit up North Beach as the sunset. The sky was a brilliant mixture of strands of deep orange, pink, and purple that faded into light and midnight blue. Stars began to litter the darkening sky to the east, as the music echoed across the beach.

 

Abbie arrived in the Jeep, with Her cousin Tasha. Both Sophie and Caroline, made their excuses why they couldn't make it, both ladies wanting Abbie and Ichabod to have some time to themselves. Abbie had been through it and deserved to have some fun and be thoroughly shagged by a good looking guy. Tasha didn't quite get the message and needed a designated driver for when she got wasted.

She parked her jeep and hopped out ready to party, wearing a wrap mini dress and low heel sandals, her red bikini showing when the breeze whisked across the beach. The girls gave each other a quick check to make sure they were perfect, Tasha doing a little spin, showing off in her mini skirt and bikini top.

Ichabod and Abraham arrived on motorcycle, right on time, a couple minutes behind them.

"Damn," Abbie breathed as she watched him dismount the bike. She licked her upper lip, taking it in her mouth just a touch as she observed him walking her way. He was wearing designer jeans and boots with a button shirt that was half done. He looked fine as hell, and Abbie needed to keep it together.

Ichabod straightened up as he walked her way, taking long confident strides. His heart skipped a beat as he hid how nervous he was, walking towards this beautiful little goddess. His eyes took in every inch of her beautiful petite frame, and long dark bronze legs extending so intense, she could feel the heat of his gaze. The guys greeted the girls briefly before Ichabod turned his full attention back on Abbie.

"You look beautiful." Ichabod pulled her into a warm hug, his large hands

"Thanks handsome," Abbie gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.

"I thought we were here to party," Abraham interrupted the hug that was taking a bit to long.

"I hope you two brought your swimsuits," Tasha gave them both a look up and down. Abraham was not bad at all, and she could definitely get into that.

"We're ready for anything," Bram assured her, wondering what the two girls might be up for later in the night.

The club was a bar and dance floor in an open canopy hut right on the beach. Half the party goers were already in their swimsuits dancing on the beach or in the water, enjoying a little fun under the moonlight. The four grabbed a round of drinks before taking to the dance floor.

This was much preferred for Ichabod, as Abbie easily danced circles around him. He didn't care because it was his body that she was grinding and wining up against. She was a total boss on the dance floor, and Ichabod got the sense that this was how she took on all things in life. Fearless little powerhouse, wrapped in a gorgeous package. At some point they lost track of their friends, getting lost in their own little world.

Finally, a slow song played. Ichabod gave Abbie a come smile as he held his arms open for her to step into his embrace.

"Okay," Abbie crinkled her nose and gave him a teasing grin, as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders. She wanted to be closer to him, relaxing into his embrace. She rested her head against his partially bare chest, as he nuzzled his cheek into her thick dark locks. She rhythmically swayed hard into him, his touch sending tiny bursts of electricity through her body.

Work kept Luke late, a robbery just before he was supposed to get off, meant that Abbie and Ichabod would be at the party before him. It wasn't the scene he wanted to see when he walked up to the club. The music faded to silence when he saw Abbie snug and entwined in Ichabod's arms. Luke was seeing red, as he watched them dance drinking down a shot of vodka, then another before putting up two fingers for the bartender to keep them coming.

As the song ended Abbie looked up at Ichabod, not eager to move out of his arms. Luke could see Ichabod's eyes fixed on her like a vulture, and there was no way he was going to let the tall Brit his her. He hurried in their direction, ready stop what ever was about to happen.

"Hey, Abs... Can we talk real quick?"

"Oh... Hey Luke," Abbie's smile faded when she saw the serious look on Luke's face. "Everything okay?"

"That's what I'm trying to figure out."

Ichabod's jaw tightened as he took a protective stance by Abbie's side. "We're all here to have a good time."

"I didn't f*cking ask you..."

"Luke!" Abbie looked at him sternly. What the heck had gotten into him? "Give us just a minute Iche."

He didn't want to, but Ichabod respected Abbie's wishes and her ability to handle herself. He watched as they went to the side of the bar area furthest from the music, where they could have a bit of privacy. He was somewhat satisfied to watch from the bar when they were talking calmly, but when things seemed to get heated he walked a bit closer.

"I told you we could be friends, so I don't get the attitude!"

"Really Abbie? Maybe it's because I thought the friendship was a time for us to get to know each other again. We broke up because you didn't want to do the long distance thing any more. It wasn't because we didn't love each other. But now you're pushing us to the side so you can hook up with a guy who's gonna be gone in a week or two? I don't get you." Luke threw his hands up frustrated.

"I never said that we were going to get back together. We're different people than who we were four years ago."

"You know I've been wanting to get back with you. In fact, if this guy hadn't showed up, we'd probably be back together by now, and you know it."

If Abbie were being honest, yes, she was looking forward to seeing Luke, maybe for something more, but maybe nothing. "That's not fair. You know things were up in the air for me when I came back."

"If you're plan is to f*ck around with this colonizer while he's here then come back to me when he's gone, don't bother! Because he will leave, after using you. Never thought you would act like a dog in heat slut over some white boy.."

"Do not speak to her like that," Ichabod barged into the conversation, standing tall between them.

Ichabod was hot with anger, clenching his fists and jutting his jaw tight to keep his temper under control. It was one thing to have an argument with an ex, but hurling derogatory characterizations at Abbie was inexcusable.

"What are you going to do, huh?" Luke stepped towards him.

 

"Nothing, because I can handle this myself," Abbie went to Ichabod's side and stood face to face with Luke. "Whatever and whomever I decide to do is my business. Not yours. Long distance is not the only reason we didn't work out." Abbie turned to walk away. "I need some air."

Luke pushed Ichabod and grabbed Abbie's arm, spinning her around. Abbie had a split second to evaluate the situation. If he was drunk she could take him down, she knew how.

"Don't walk away from me, b*!" He hadn't meant to pull so hard or call her such a derogatory name, but a few shots in his system impaired his judgment.

Not impaired however was Ichabod's right jab that landed square on Luke's nose, and the left hook to the jaw, that sent him landing back onto the ground. Ichabod could care less about being shoved. But the second Luke put his hands on Abbie, and uttered that word... that was it.

Now the crowd that had been eavesdropping was quickly surrounding them, mostly locals ready to defend their own against the tourist causing trouble. Luke staggered to get back up, dizzy from the double blow, but adrenaline pumping and ready for a fight. Ichabod was ready too, as the men lunged for each other. They were both held back by a couple of patrons stepping out of the crowd to calm thing. Abraham and Tasha went to their friends’ aid just in case things escalated. Abraham internally smiled at his friend’s bravado, and was ready to join a potential brawl.

"Hey!" Abbie raised her voice sternly. "Knock it off both of you!"

"This ass hole just assaulted an officer of the law!" Luke spat.

"Luke, calm down," Miguel stepped in recognizing Ichabod immediately. "I don't think Commissioner Reyes would appreciate her officer getting drunk and starting a fight with someone like Mr. Crane. Mr. Crane are you alright?"

"It's just Iche," Ichabod corrected Miguel. He didn't want everyone knowing who he was, and bringing unwanted attention to himself or his business on the Lind. "And I'm fine."

"Right," Miguel remembered quickly. "I'm sure this has just been a misunderstanding."

"What the hell are you taking his side for?" Luke scoffed at Miguel.

"Because you're out of line putting your hands on Abbie in the first place," Miguel spoke calmly.

"Come on Crane," Abbie reached for his hand and it was there for her, instinctively as if he knew.

"You're going to throw away twenty years of friendship over this Abs!" Luke called after her.

Abbie looked back sorrowfully. Things would never be the same between the two of them after what he said to her. "I didn't do that, Luke. You did."

Later Luke would blame going down on the liqueur and being sucker punched.

 

~

 

6~

 

"I apologize," Ichabod said regretfully as he and Abbie sat in the back hatch of the jeep. His legs planted on the ground while hers swayed beside his. Abraham and Tasha were inside somewhere enjoying the party, no doubt flirting and doing god only knows what. But Abbie and Ichabod were content to have a moment alone, with the stars above and the music in the distance.

 

"It was not my intention to go all Neanderthal back there. It was quite impertinent of me." He added though he was relieved Abbie clearly made the choice to be with him. It could have gone the other way, with her going for the trusted old Bo over the guy who would be leaving in a couple of weeks.

"I do know self-defense. If I were in any real danger, I can handle myself," Abbie assured him.

"I bet you can," Ichabod raised a brow, intrigued by the beautiful little powerhouse by his side. He wanted her to smile again. She'd been a bit down since they'd come out. He hoped she didn't regret her decision. "In all seriousness, are you all right? If you want to go back and repair the friendship..."

"No," Abbie shook her head. "That would just muddy things further. It's hard because we have been friends since we were kids. And as much as I'm pissed that he called me out my name like that, I'm sad, because I didn't expect that from him, ya know."

"You're not those things he said," Ichabod soft gave was upon her again, with the utmost sincerity resonating through his deep voice. "You are nothing short of amazing, and beautiful."

Abbie blushed with a smile as she looked out into the night over the sea. This man beside her was amazing, charming, and handsome. She wanted to just be in this moment with him, and forget that she just lost a lifelong friend.

"Let's go for a walk and find a quiet spot down the beach," Ichabod offered, sensing that she needed to lighten the mood. "I haven't had a chance to show you my new Speedos."

"Okay!" Abbie let out a chuckle and grabbed a blanket and towel from the jeep.

The two found a cozy spot about a half a mile down from the party. They could still see the lights and hear the music in the distance. But this was much more both of their speed. Ichabod slowly of his shirt, as Abbie watched, biting her lip as her big brown eyes gazed up at him. There was nothing sexier than watching a good looking man undo his shirt right before you. She held her breath as he peeled it from his shoulders.

She was supposed to be undoing the wrap of her halter dress, but accidentally knotted it tighter as she watched him strip out of his jeans. Holy anaconda batman! Those snug fitting, thigh length Speedos were doing him all kinds of favors, she thought as her eyes grew wide. Her mind drifted back to the airplane ride and the turbulence on his lap. The visual imprint was matching what she'd felt rubbing up against her ass. His body was softly tanned, long, lean, slightly muscular, but not overly so. Perfect.

"What was that?" Abbie suddenly snapped out of a hazy daydream, by his deep voice.

"I asked if you needed any help with your dress," Ichabod pointed. She'd been standing there with her arms reaching up, to undo the tie behind her neck for a good minute.

"Oh... Yeah," Abbie grinned and shook her head as he walked over to her. "I think I worked it into a knot."

She turned sweeping her hair over her shoulder. She nearly melted when she felt his warm hands against her skin.

It was all he could do to concentrate on the tie around her neck, when he could feel her firm bottom against him. And her skin was so soft, bronze, almost glowing in the moonlight. He loved the dark natural curl at the nape of her long slender neck, almost teasing and taunting him to place a kiss there. Its perfection forever etched in his memory.

Likewise was the vision of her in the evening star and moon lit night, as she turned and let the dress fall at her feet. The red bikini perfectly hugged the curves of her body, accenting her radiant golden brown skin.

He swallowed hard against the dry thirst that quickly swelled in his mouth. His tongue darted just a tad, to moisten his lips and fight back the need. "Exquisite..." He breathed soft, and heavy as hooded eyes took in her perfection. He almost felt indecent as thoughts of caressing her voluptuous ass and full round breasts invaded his mind. He felt the blood rush right down to his loins, the warm tingling sensation causing an involuntary jolt.

Ichabod turned quickly away from her hoping she hadn't noticed in the dark. Those Speedos old hide nothing.

"Shall we walk?" he offered, pointing towards the water.

"I'd love to," Abbie took his hand, feeling how small hers were inside of his. Their fingers entwined together, and it was beginning to feel as though that is where they belonged. It was as if they were made for each other the way they fit together, so perfectly.

The two walked in the shallows where the water and sand met on the beach. The cool salt water periodically splashed at their toes and ankles as they chatted away, enjoying each other’s company. Abbie was relieved at how easily they got along, comforted that it wasn't just lust they were feeling. There was a genuine connection and desire between them, that went beyond the physical attraction.

They walked and talked for over an hour about her life in New York and his life in England. He made it very clear that he wasn't attached to living there. Yes it was home, and that was where his family was but he wasn't at all committed to putting down roots there himself.

Likewise, Abbie wasn't particularly attached to New York. It just happened to be where her father lived and then Columbia University, and of course New York was a hub for the fashion industry.

"St. Patricia will always be home to me, even if I end up back in New York. But if I could have my dream and live here, I would in a heartbeat."

Ichabod paused, and thought about her words. He'd heard those words before about this very same place.

"What is it?" Abbie asked, stepping in front of him and taking his other hand in hers.

The way she looked up at him with those dark doe eyes, and perfect heart-shaped lips, made his heart melt. "It's just that my mother used to say the same thing about this place. It's one of the reasons I loved it so much, and also why it was impossible to come back after she died. I thought it would be too painful and sad to be here again... That it would somehow taint all the wonderful memories I had of my summers here with her and grandfather."

"Has it been hard?"

"There have been moments that were difficult, but... No. It's been the most wonderful time I've had in a very long time." Ichabod released her hands cupping her chin and caressing her soft cheeks in his hand. It was Abbie that had made this all so wonderful.

He couldn't hold back the feeling any longer. He leaned down, bringing his lips to hers, tenderly, pressing his to hers. She leaned in, warm and wanting. Her hands pressed against his chest, slowly rising up and down the lean muscles as her lips parted. He slid his tongue into her mouth tasting, whirling playfully with hers. He slid one hand down her body, firmly pressing against her lower back, and pulling her into him, as her arms wrapped around his shoulders. The kiss didn't stop, only growing more intense as the two struggled for air, breathing each other in.

The setting, nighttime on the beach in the sea might seem romantic, but the reality of it could get messy and it was rather public. As much as they both wanted to take it further, this wasn't the place. There was no mistaking the throbbing bulge in Ichabod's shorts as their bodies pressed together, under the start night sky. She encouraged him for a moment before pulling away, leaving his lips and tongue wanting more. Abbie's mind tried to focus as his blue-eyed gaze hypnotized her. Her place… with Grandpa Jacob and Grandma Ellie's wakeup call? No way. His place... with Bram and a parade of other girls? She wasn't about to do a morning walk of shame with a bunch of one night stands.

"Abbie?" Miguel called as he approached them from the distance.

Ichabod and Abbie turned to him, noting a bit of concern in his voice. "Miguel, what is it?"

"It's Tasha. She's pretty wasted. You might want to get her before she leaves with someone."

"Damn it," Abbie grumbled.

"Tend to your cousin. Ill grab our things and meet you at the Jeep."

"Thanks," Abbie gave his hand a squeeze and hurried to see what was going on.

Ichabod walked with Miguel back to the blanket to get their belongings then headed back to Abbie's vehicle.

"I'm very sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Crane."

"Miguel, please. You'll have to stop calling me Mr. Crane. It's just Iche whilst I'm here," Ichabod reminded him as he put Abbie's things in the jeep, then got dressed.

"Very well, Iche. Can I ask have you made any decisions about the factory?" Miguel asked rather boldly.

"That's complicated. You’ve seen the numbers. I'm working on it to see if anything can be done. But the workers may simply have to be resolved to getting job training and changing professions. The tourist industry is on the rise..."

"I know it is just a building to you, but my mother has worked there for twenty-five years. She's a true seamstress, and depends on that job and the benefits. She's not a maid."

"They're housekeepers, and hospitality is a good profession as well."

"It is not as easy as you say, for people who have invested their lives doing what they love. And what about the Sugar Mill?"

"That, I'm afraid may be a loss," Ichabod let out a sigh. "But nothing is written in stone. I do expect you to keep this information private until I can sort things properly."

"Yes sir... I mean Iche. I just hope Abbie isn't hurt by any decisions you make." Miguel shrugged as he walked away.

Ichabod furrowed his brow. He couldn't imagine how Abbie might be concerned with his business.

"Hey, I hate to call it a night, but I need to get this one home," Abbie pouted as she walked her cousin to the Jeep. "She's got a shift at the Factory at 10am."

"I understand," Ichabod got the door and helped Tasha into the vehicle. Of course, his cousin working at the factory was likely what Miguel was referring to.

"I'ms nots even at drunk," Tasha slurred. "You two can stay I’ll just sleep right here..."

"I'm taking you home," Abbie shook her head. As she started the engine.

"When Can I see you again?" Ichabod asked leaning against the door resting his arms across the Jeeps driver side window.

"I'm going to be slammed for the rest of the week but maybe we can do lunch Thursday. I should be done by then."

"What about dinner?" Ichabod raised a brow. "Maybe desert and coffee after?"

Abbie looked over at Abraham making out with a stranger in the parking lot. "If you get a place of your own, maybe," Abbie grinned.

"Call me when you get home so I don't worry?"

"It'll be late."

"I don't mind. I'll wait for you."

Abbie was grinning like a love struck school girl, despite trying not too. Ichabod thought she just couldn't be any prettier. He reached up, brushing back a strand of dark hair then gave her a tender kiss goodnight. Abbie felt as if she were floating on air as her eyes closed and she breathed his soft woodsy musk one last time. The kiss was long slow and deep, neither wanted to stop.

"I have to go," Abbie pouted, her lips still gently brushing his.

"Very well," Ichabod backed away slowly, watching as Abbie licked her lips. "Don't forget."

"I'll call. I promise," Abbie waved.

 

 

~

It was almost two in the morning, and Jacob and Ellie would be up before six, but Abbie had been looking forward to one thing. She showered quickly then crawled into bed, before pressing his name and facetime on her cell phone.

"Hello, Abbie," his voice was deep, and soft. His hair was a bit messy and Abbie could see he'd already gotten into bed.

"Hey, did I wake you?" Abbie asked, looking back at his bare chest, blue eyes, and sly grin. He looked tired but happy to see her.

"Not at all," Ichabod laid back in the bed with a huge smiled. She looked like an angel, no makeup on and hair in a cute little scarf. He felt cocooned in warmth just hearing her voice, and seeing her smile. She actually called. "I told you I would wait."

 

~*~

Chapter Text

Designed By Love CH 6

Carnival Is For Lovers

1~ Waiting

It was almost two in the morning, and Jacob and Ellie would be up before six, but Abbie had been looking forward to one thing. She showered quickly then crawled into bed, before pressing his name and facetime on her cell phone.

"Hello, Abbie," his voice was deep, and soft. His hair was a bit messy and Abbie could see he'd already gotten into bed.

"Hey, did I wake you?"

"Not at all," Ichabod laid back in the bed with a huge smiled. She looked like an angel, no makeup hair in a cute little scarf. He felt cocooned in warmth just hearing her voice, and seeing her smile. She actually called. "I told you I would wait."

 

Getting to know her was better than any dream. Abbie and Ichabod shared common interests in government and cultural studies. The two missed the hustle and bustle of big city living, Abbie in New York and Ichabod in London, but both also shared an affinity for the quieter laid back lifestyle of the Caribbean. They shared stories of their youth, and time spent on the island. She grew up on the East side of the island in the middle of the farming community with spectacular views of the fields and the coastline.

"The townships and the resort areas are gorgeous but there is nothing like the views on the East End," Abbie admired the visual in her mind as she curled up under the duvet. Her voice was already hinting fatigue, but she was in no hurry to hang up.

"You'll have to show me around," Ichabod's drowsy, husky growl gave away how late the hour was.

"Thursday," Abbie smiled, excited that she would see him again in a few days. "I'll text you the address."

"Perfect. I look forward to you expanding my horizons."

Abbie smiled with a light chuckle, and he smiled pleased that he amused her. "I'm afraid I have to go. My grandparents will be up soon, and let's just say... You don't want to hear that."

Ichabod chuckled, before letting out a heavy sigh. He could easily listen to the sound of her voice all night. "If we must, then I bid you sweet dreams."

*Oh they will be sweet all right* Abbie thought to herself, her mind already imagining what was under those Speedos. "Thanks for waiting for me."

"I would wait for you forever."

Abbie's heart skipped at the soft sincere voice inflection in his voice. * I would wait for you too* she sat silently as the thought struck her immediately, but the words would not come out. Too soon, she thought, and yet here he was with his heart on his sleeve.

"Good night Crane."

"Good night Treasure."

At some point, one of them would have to hang up, but neither did. Instead, they were lulled to sleep by the soft, breaths of the other falling into sweet slumber.

 

~

2~ Something New

 

Ichabod woke startled by the blaring of his phone alarm directly in his ear. He smiled as he stretched his long lean body, then sprang out of bed.

 

Floating. That light as a feather feeling that begins deep within one's core and resonates through the body, propelling one effortlessly. That was Ichabod this morning. Though he'd barely gotten a couple of hours of sleep, he felt as if a light energy had miraculously rejuvenated him. That light was Abbie. The sound of her voice as they stayed up far too late talking, was even sly better than any actual sleep could have been.

~

 

"If anyone calls for me they can reach me on this number," Ichabod handed his business card to the receptionist at the front desk.

"We're certainly going to miss having you stay with us, Mr. Crane," she smiled, hoping to finally catch his eye before he checked out.

"It's been a pleasure. The service here is impeccable," Ichabod gave her a polite nod, nothing more. He never noticed her attention because his mind was elsewhere.

Abbie. She suggested he get his own place. A separate hotel room would have been easy enough. But for some reason, his grandfather's old house on the south coast seemed to call to him. As he opened the shutters allowing the sunlight to filter through the home, the memories of the old place, his mother and gramps were less haunting now. The long night's talking to Abbie and reminiscing had softened him.

Abbie was busy during the week getting ready for the Independence Day Carnival, so Ichabod had plenty of time on his hand to fix the place up. He called for a maintains service to handle the pool, but the rest he rented a truck and managed on his own. It wasn't too bad, just some worn and weathered decking, siding, shutters, and shingles. It only took a couple of days to get the house livable. He polished the outdoor bathroom until it was pristine, pulled all the white sheets uncovered the furnishings, and even managed to put a few things in the fridge. It felt good to get his hands dirty again, to rebuild something that had been broken. It's one of the things he missed about his job.

It was now Wednesday evening. Ichabod went out to the deck overlooking the Sea. He took a deep breath of the fresh salty air, satisfied and wishing that Abbie was there to enjoy the sunset with him. And just like that, she was at the forefront of his mind. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed her number. He couldn't help the giddy feeling that came over him as he looked at the selfie of the two of them from the party. Man, she looked stunning in that red bikini.

"Hi there," Abbie answered. Just seeing his number pop up on her cell erased the stress of her day.

"Hello, Treasure. How do you fair this eve?"

"Better now that I get to hear that sexy voice of yours."

Ichabod was glad for a split second that she couldn't see the sappy grin on his face. He quickly cleared his throat, "rough day?"

"Long, more than rough. I'm finishing up two dozen costumes for the children in the parade. I know this sounds crazy, but I like the rush I get from designing, creating, and having a deadline. I'm in no rush to get back to a high stress job, but this has been good. Probably sounds crazy."

"Not at all. I had a similar sentiment earlier."

"That's right. Are you done fixing up your grandpa's old place?"

"I am. I'm on the deck watching the sunset, sharing crackers with a monkey."

"You're not supposed to feed them, Abbie giggled. "He'll keep coming back."

"Yes, I'm afraid it's too late for that. This is the third night in a row. I'm going to have to give him a name. He's practically moved in."

They both had a laugh

"I wish you were here to enjoy the eve with me."

"I'm missing out," Abbie grinned.

"No... Just a lovely sunset, a glass of wine, back massage... You're not missing much."

"Stop, or I'm coming over."

"Please do. I'll even come get you."

"Tempting," Abbie laughed. "But I have a hard deadline for these costumes in the morning."

"Will you call me when you're done?"

"It might be one or two in the morning."

"Treasure, you know I don't mind."

 

~

 

3~Good Morning

 

It was the strangest thing for Abbie. As she took her morning run she began to reflect on how different she felt being home these past two weeks. She'd been busy from the moment she arrived on the island, working on costumes for the festival and dresses for her friends. But being on the island and with her friends and family, there was no stress in it. Just a peaceful joy that came with doing what you loved and being around people that loved you.

The sun was barely peeking over the Ocean to the east, when Abbie's morning run was abruptly interrupted. She stopped, taking a deep breath and a stretch as she pulled her cell phone from the small pocket of her fitted running pants.

"Hey, Soph. This is early for you to be calling."

"I just pulled an all nighter," Sophie grumbled.

"So did I. Crane and I talked till... I don't know how late."

"Again? you two are a mess. Please tell me you finished the costumes for the little kids."

"Of course. Took me till one in the morning... What's going on?"

"King's Port Primary school had a fire last night in the activity building."

"Oh that's terrible. Anyone hurt?"

 

"Nobody was hurt and the building will be repaired before school starts. But their float and costumes were ruined. The police officers are going to help them with the float..."

"And you're wondering if I can help with the costumes?" Abbie winced.

"It's for the kids?"

"Of course."

~

"Hold up young lady," Ellie waved a spatula at her GranDaughter.

After her run, Abbie took a quick shower, changed, and was attempting to rush off skipping breakfast. But Eveline was having none of that. Her cousin Corey and his wife Kyra were already at the table with Jacob and Lori, enjoying their meal.

"Gra'ma I have to go pick up more materials for the kids' costumes..."

"Sit ya self down and get one food in ya," her grandmother slyly swooped her into a chair at the table. ."I thought ya finished the festival dress for da kids yesterday."

"Got another group, last minute..."

"Oh, because of the fire at the school last night," Lori chimed in. "Leena still isn't home yet."

"Yeah. The kids look forward to the parade and putting on the play. I don't want them to miss out because of this."

"So are you picking up the materials and coming back here?" Lori asked. "We miss having you around."

"I wish, but there's not enough room for me to work. And I don't want to spread my mess all over the house. Sophie said I can use her place again."

"Oh..." Lori sounded disappointed as she looked at her dad. Jacob gave her the dad look, letting her know not to worry about it.

"Baby, we don't mind," Ellie put a full plate of plantains, mango, bacon, and eggs in front of Abbie. "You'll be home for lunch?"

"Actually... I have a lunch date," Abbie braced herself.

"Oh!" Lori and Ellie both perked up in unison.

"You should bring him here for lunch." Ellie grabbed the seat between her daughter and GranDaughter. "I'll make your favorites. He'll never want to leave..."

 

"I thought you done broke up with Luke?" Her mother pried.

"Luke and I weren't back together, we just went out to Lunch..."

"Ah, another local boy?" Ellie clapped with a giddy grin.

"Actually, he's British."

*crickets*

Ellie and Lori looked at each other, while Jacob and her cousin Corey continued eating, with a slight smirk on their faces.

"What? He's a really nice guy," Abbie protested against their silence.

"I didn't say anything," Lori shrugged, taking a bite of her breakfast.

"Bring him here for lunch so dat we can meet him," Ellie said in her most innocent voice. She was genuinely curious. "Is he good looking?"

"Very," Abbie grinned before taking a last bite and getting up. Gotta go. Love you."

 

~~~

 

4~ Change of Plans

 

"You're canceling on me," Ichabod was disappointed, but found it impossible to be upset with her. He was in the garden off the deck of his grandfather's beach house, trimming hedges. His little monkey pal sat in tree nibbling the sandwich he'd snagged while Ichabod had his back turned.

"I know," Abbie pouted, as she ran the material under the sewing machine. "I feel terrible. You've stayed longer and we haven't even had a chance to see each other."

"No need to feel bad. Honestly, being here has been good for me. Of course, seeing you would be even better," he teased.

"After the parade Saturday, I'm all yours. I promise," Abbie promised.

Sophie looked up from her sewing machine giving her friend a saucy look.

"I bet you will be," Tasha added in a sultry voice.

"Shh..."Abbie shot her friends a look covering the phone.

"All mine," Ichabod grinned. His mind went exactly were Sophie and Tasha's had gone.

Abbie shook her head and stifled a laugh, "for the rest of the festival."

"I'll gladly take whatever time you have to give."

"After the festival, I hope I can get the tour of your place."

"Of course. It might be late," Ichabod took a deep breath before boldly continuing. "You're welcome to stay here. There's plenty of room."

Abbie was beaming but tried to keep her voice steady. "We'll see how the tour goes."

After Abbie hung up she stopped her machine and looked at her phone, deep in thought.

"You okay, Abs?" Sophie asked.

"Yeah... Well," Abbie paused. "It's just been a while since I was with someone new is all... Not that we're going to have sex, but I guess it's time to start thinking about things possibly going there."

"I'm sure you haven't forgotten how sex works," Tasha teased. "Girl, you'll be fine."

"It's not that. With Calvin, we went to get checked at the clinic when things got serious. But we knew each other for a long time."

"You don't like using condoms?"

"I don't mind using condoms at all, but they aren't the best for everything... You know, other things."

"Oh," Tasha nodded. "You want him to go down and eat that..."

"Tash!" Abbie and Sophie both gasped at her friend's frankness.

"What?" Tasha shrugged. "I'm just sayin'. You need to ask him straight up if he's clean. If you don't ask, you have three choices. Skip it, risk it all, or eat rubber. I got some flavored condoms and dams if you want to try them."

"Oh my god," Sophie shook her head.

"She's right though," Abbie let out a sigh. "I just don't want to seem too forward or presumptuous. What if he's not even thinking about sex yet?"

"Oh, he's thinking about it," Sophie laughed. "Every guy is thinking about it."

"Mmm hmm... And clearly, you are. Look we all saw what was happening in those speedos, and I get the temptation. I love me some D. But I'm not here for risking it all, no matter how good the DSF looks. You gotta find out or wrap it up. I recommend the chocolate flavor."

"Tasha!" Sophie tossed a piece of material at her friend.

"What did I do?" Tasha asked innocently as the girls laughed.

~

The conversation ended up happening easily enough on its own the following night. Abbie and Ichabod seemed to look forward to their late-night chats together more than anything. It was the wee hours of the morning again, but he always waited up for her call.

"Are you terribly exhausted?" Ichabod asked noting the groggy tone of her voice.

"Yeah... We finished up the children costumes," Abbie managed between a huge yawn.

"I am certain the kids will be thrilled."

"I hope so. It wasn't all work today though. Afterwards, all of us girls had a mini spa afternoon. And pampered ourselves a bit before the festival tomorrow. And I made dresses for them and some of the other girls from the factory, so we had a mini photoshoot while we were all done up. It was fun."

"You deserved it." Ichabod chimed, impressed. "I don't know how you do it."

"I love it. It's not the work that's worn me out. It's the driving back and forth that's exhausting. I miss having my own space to create. I haven't really had that since I moved in with my ex. When we broke up, I stayed with my best friend, before coming here."

"You gave up your creative space for a man and he was foolish enough to lose you."

"Lesson learned," Abbie chuckled. "Next time, I think I'll wait until I'm really in love before making a drastic move like that."

"I can certainly understand that. Sometimes we hope the love will come after and it doesn't."

"I have no regrets about the breakup. I did lose my trust in him. He was sleeping with someone else, which hurt a lot. And getting tested after was necessary. I got lucky there that he didn't give me anything."

"Indeed."

"I'm better off without him. Happier even. What about you? Any regrets?"

"I've had my heart broken once, badly I am not ashamed to admit. But it was a rather long time ago. I haven't been deeply enough involved with anyone to act without precautions, since then."

"No baby mamas?" Abbie joked.

"None," Ichabod chuckled at the term. "And clean as a whistle." He added fairly sure that was what she wanted to know.

Noted, Abbie thought to herself. "I should be sleeping but I'm too excited about the festival."

"I am really looking forward to the festival. I haven't been to one since I was quite young."But most of all, I cannot wait to see you tomorrow."

"Have you had enough of these late-night phone calls?" Abbie teased.

"Never."

Abbie was grinning like a love-struck school girl. "You always wait up for me."

"Anything to hear your sweet voice, Treasure."

She couldn't believe this amazing guy was completely single. This almost seemed too good to be true. Ichabod couldn't believe it either. A chance meeting at an airport, and he was head over heels in love with the woman of his dreams.

 

 

~

 

5~ Carnival

Abbie was always a light sleeper, but this was crazy. Another early morning wake up call via the vibration of the bedpost hitting the wall along with the muffled voices of grandpa Jacob and Grandma Ellie saying things no grandchild wants to hear.

"Ugh... Not again," Abbie grumbled, slowly opening her eyes to the darkness. She lifted her head and peeled her cell phone from where it was stuck to the side of her face. A soft groggy chuckle escaped when she heard the soft hum of Ichabod deep in slumber on the other line. Four hours and seventeen minutes. It had been after one thirty when she called and she could tell he'd been nodding off, but determined to stay awake.

"Anything to hear your sweet voice, Treasure."

Abbie felt her heart swoon remembering his words, and the deepest sincerity in his voice. Abbie thought it was a good thing she wasn't with him, because the panties would have come off for sure.

"Sweet dreams, Crane," she whispered. She listened to his soft steady murmur of is breath in slumber for a moment longer before hanging up with a smile. She had a long day ahead of her, and she was looking forward to it.

~

 

Abbie wasn't the only one excited about the weekend Independence Festival. This was only the beginning of a month-long series of events that would begin with the True Independence and end at the Harvest Carnival. Excitement was in the air across entire Island. The East End parade started at the Fredrick's Sugar Mill on the east side of St. Patricia. Crowds gathered along the main road as the delightful intonation of steel drums filtered through the air.

The Masqueraders tossed out candies, beads, and tiny trinkets to the children as the bands played. Masqueraders danced about in elaborate traditional costumes that told the story of their island along with the shared history of the Caribbean.

Caravans of Carnival goers paraded from various areas of St. Patricia to the center of the Island in Saint Fredrick where the main festivities would be held for Saturday. The Parade stopped along the boardwalk, and revelers to watch as the dancers celebrated to Calypso and Soca music.

 

Living her life. Abbie was running on pure adrenaline and excitement. It had been too long since she'd participated in a Carnival, and she hadn't realized truly until now, just how much she missed being immersed in her culture. She was already having an amazing time surrounded by her friends and seeing the elated and jovial faces of everyone around her.

As the parade made its stop on the boardwalk of Saint Fredrick, Abbie couldn't help but glance through the crowds looking for Ichabod.

"Don't worry," Cynthia gave her arm a gentle rub. "I'm sure he's here."

"I know," Abbie took a deep breath as she anxiously took one more quick look. "What if he thinks this is too much?"

"Girl, when he sees you in this, that is not what he's going to be thinking," Tasha laughed.

 

"He sure is. you look incredible." Luke said from behind them.

"Luke," Abbie's jaw tightened. She was still pissed, despite how good he looked shirtless in his traditional Mas costume. "I don't have time for this..."

"For an apology?" Luke asked. "I just wanted to say how sorry I am for being such an asshole last weekend. When you came back I got ideas in my head and when it didn't happen with us. It hurt. I got drunk and I should never have said those things to you."

"You're right you shouldn't have said that. You're lucky I didn't knock you the hell out myself."

"I wouldn't blame you if you had. And you could have told Leena and really fucked up my career, but you didn't."

"Only because Sophie and Miguel said you'd never acted like that before. If I thought for a second you treated women like that..."

"I swear I don't... Or I never did before that night. I really don't know what came over me. I don't know if it was the alcohol, jealousy, or both... But. I thought about what you said, and we've been close since we were kids. I don't want to lose that. I hope you can forgive me and we can be friends again."

"Look, I can forgive you as long as you don't pull that crap with anyone else... But I don't know if I'm ready to be friends... I have to go."

"I understand," Luke let out a regretful sigh. "Just think about it please."

Abbie nodded and turned away, leaving Luke to watch as the girls took to the boardwalk and began their dance.

 

~

Ichabod and Bram were among the crowds that had gathered in great anticipation. As a child, his favorite Mas Characters had always been the Moko Jumbie dancing on high stilts. All of the dancers looked amazing, from the older dancers, women in long flowing skirts that spun in the air as they twirled, the little children in bright colorful attire, to the young men and women in elaborate shimmering costumes with feathers beads and headdresses. It was a nostalgic feeling for him as he watched all the dancers, but there was one dancer, in particular, he was looking for today.

"Slow down, mate," Bram hurried behind Ichabod trying to take it all in. "There is a lot of beauty to be celebrated."

"Apologies my friend. I don't mean to rush, you but it's been a week since..." Ichabod's voice trailed away to a soft gasp when he saw her unmistakable figure dancing amongst a small group of women. It was as if the crowds parted and the music faded to a soft distant echo, and there she was.

Stunning. Abbie wore a dark emerald green one-piece Mas dancer costume split down the midriff almost to her belly, accentuating her curves perfectly. It was ornately trimmed in deep pink and golden beads, with matching deep pink and turquoise feathers on her arm and headdress. Not only did she look amazing but she danced beautifully.

 

Ichabod stood in complete awe as Abraham attempted twice to get his attention. But there was no snapping him out of his Abbie induced trance.

The girls finished two dances and then were bombarded by crowds of people anxious to take pictures with them. Ichabod waited patiently as she took one last picture with two younger girls, before approaching.

Abbie stood straight with a coy smile, as he tried to compose himself. "Wow, Abbie... You look, absolutely stunning."

"Thank you," Abbie warmly opened her arms welcoming a hug from him. "You look very handsome."

"You should meet my designer. She's incredible."

He wrapped her up in his embrace before leaning in to give her a warm tender kiss. Abbie breathed in his familiar sandalwood musk and just let herself be wrapped up in him for a moment. After all those long nights talking and wishing they were in each other’s arms, she wanted to enjoy him. He hardly wanted to let her go, but he kept it modest in the midst of the crowd. The two only pulled away after noticing the "awes" coming from Abbie's friends.

Abbie blushed a little as Sophie waved them to face her. "Let’s get a quick picture of you two."

They snapped a few before Cisco and Frank came to snag their significant others.

~

Her hand was in his... That's all Ichabod could think about as they made their way through the crowds. Char and Bram followed delighting in the sights and missing no opportunities to grind and whine when they passed by the bands.

Everywhere they turned, the aroma of delicious Caribbean food delighted their senses. The colorful costumes and confetti flittering through the air, was like being in the center of a work of art. No matter how loud and wonderful the music was, the sound of her laughter delighted his ears.

His sweet tooth was infectious as he had her taste every puffy pastry he could get his hands on. Every bite was followed by a sweet kiss.

"Oh...” He delved into the first hot coconut bake closing his eyes and waving his hand as if he'd tasted a little piece of heaven. “Oh, dear mercy these are…. Mmm..."

"That good?" Abbie giggled as he popped the rest in his mouth. She took a small bite herself of her own. "Mmm... Okay, that is really good."

"See," Ichabod raised a brow, eyeing the remainder of her treat. "Are you going too..."

"You want it," Abbie teased. She fed him the bite then playfully wiped a crumb from his beard.

"Okay, you two are too much." Tasha shook her head watching the two lost in their own little world.

"They're so sappy," Abraham agreed.

"For Real," Tasha laughed. "I'm gonna catch the concert and get my whine on."

"Take me with you" Bram begged.

"You feel like dancing?" Tasha looked him over. He had some pretty decent moves last week at the beach party.

"Always," Abraham held out his arm for her and the two hurried off in the opposite direction of Ichabod and Abbie.

"Huh... Is it something we said," Abbie teased, calling after them.

"Get a room!" Tasha called back giving her friend a wink.

Truth be told, Ichabod and Abbie were glad to be alone.

"Ah, there's the Moko Jumbie!" Ichabod's eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store.

"Oh, they're my favorite!" Abbie grabbed his hand as they hurried to watch the performance.

They had a wonderful time watching the stilted dancers and even danced with the Fancy Natives. Abbie was easily convinced to participate in a little skit where the Midnight Robber tried to steal her away. Everywhere they went people wanted to take their picture with her in her Carnival attire. Ichabod couldn't fault anyone. She looked stunning.

 

The girls performed one last time in the early afternoon. Afterward, Abbie slipped away to change. When Abbie stepped out into the lobby, she saw Ichabod huddled in a corner on his cell phone. He seemed slightly agitated with his brow heavily furrowed.

"Crane?" Abbie called out his name as she walked towards him. He barely looked up as he was deep in conversation.

"Betsy, I understand my responsibility in this, but how can you just drop this on me today, out of the blue and expect… I’m sorry but we’ll have to discuss this later. I must go... No, I’m not putting you off. I know this is serious… Yes, I promise." He hurriedly said his goodbyes and hung up as Abbie approached.

He was in awe of how lovely she looked, even in a simple sundress. "Wow, once again you look stunning."

"Thank you. I think wearing this I'll attract less attention and we can have the rest of the evening to ourselves."

Abbie took a deep breath trying to assess his demeanor. She could tell something was on his mind but he was trying to hide his concern.

"Everything okay?" She pointed to his cell.

"Oh, yes of course. Just a bit of, um... well... someone I work with, we have a matter that can wait a day or two." Ichabod quickly put the phone away and held his hands out for her. "Where are we off to now?"

"I was thinking we could grab a drink and do some salsa dancing."

"Perfect."

 

6~ Dancing In The Rain

They quickly put Abbie's bags in the truck, then hit the boardwalk again. There were plenty of bands playing up and down the seafront. From Dancehall to Calypso, music resonated throughout the entire Carnival. On the northern end of the boardwalk, there was a club playing fast-paced salsa music right on the water. The couple ordered a local rum and talked for over an hour as the sunset.

And then, they danced.

There was something almost magical about being in his arms under the moon and stars, with the swift cooling bursts of sea breeze rushing over them.

As the midnight hour grew closer, the music slowed. He held her close, his large strong hand gentle but firm on the small of her back. Their bodies swayed in perfect harmony. Ichabod almost never took his eyes off of her, getting lost in the twinkling brown gems, surrounded by thick dark lashes.

She had to blush and look away, almost as if fighting against what was happening. She was feeling too much too soon. Ichabod was feeling it too, but he liked the feeling. Despite having his heart crushed once before, he was open to being in love again. Not with just anyone though. The only person he could see himself opening up to was Abbie.

"Last weekend, on the beach, I felt that we were getting pretty..."

"Intense?"

"I was going to say close," Ichabod, smiled with a slight chuckle. "But yes, intense is more accurate."

"I think I was definitely getting a bit carried away."

Ichabod raised a brow curiously, "Is that a bad thing?"

"I... I don't know. I knew I didn't want a one night stand. And I thought I'd be okay with a quick summer fling. You know a short romance that I'd remember fondly when you were gone, but..." Abbie paused, uncertain if she was about to be too open and honest too soon.

"Please, go on, Treasure. You can tell me anything."

"I worry about getting too attached."

Ichabod listened and just tried to really understand where she was coming from.

"I didn't let myself fall 'in love' with the guy I was living with because I was afraid of how I would feel when it ended and I still got hurt..." Abbie shook her head with a slight chuckle. How she was supposed to tell this guy she was afraid of falling in love only to have it end abruptly. "You probably think I'm rambling."

"No, not at all. I want to know how you feel about us. Because if I'm being honest... The more I get to know you, the more I know a summer fling would never do. I already care too much for that to be all we are. I want more."

Abbie felt her heart flutter in her chest as he leaned into her, their eyes slowly closed and their sway was barely a movement as he kissed her.

A crackle of distant thunder rumbled in the air startling her just a bit.

"Should we go," she asked. "I think it's going to rain."

"Just one more dance," Ichabod spun her and pulled her close again. This time her cheek rested perfectly against his chest.

Ichabod felt one drop then another cold wet droplet on his arm and forehead, as they swayed with her cradled in his arm.

"Abbie," he whispered.

His intention was to tell her the rain was coming. But when she looked up at him with those beautiful doe eyes, he was drawn in. Her eyes went from his soft blues to his lips, almost begging him to give her what she wanted. Everything faded away as their lips met. Soft and tender, Abbie melted in his arms.

Neither noticed the music stop. They were in their own little world again.

 

Another ripple of thunder and the rain began to pour. Abbie let out a laugh as they were almost instantly drenched. Ichabod spun her around and leaned her back into a low dip. Slowly he pulled her up into another warm kiss. His tongue ever so slightly tasting her lips, she wrapped her arms around him as he held her close. She shivered a bit and he realized, the sundress was no protection.

"You're chilled to the bone," Ichabod gave her a gentle squeeze.

"I didn't notice," Abbie smiled as he tucked her under his arm and the two hurried off to his vehicle.

He opened the door for her and helped her in before rushing in on the driver’s side. The two were laughing in hysterics. Her voice, her laugh, Ichabod could not help staring again.

"I know, I'm a mess," Abbie pulled at her wet strands of hair that were rapidly curling in a crown around her head.

"You're absolutely beautiful," Ichabod said honestly, heart eyes fixed on her.

There was that feeling again, it resonated through her core. It was terrifying and yet made her feel light, exciting thrills... Those beautiful blue eyes of his... She looked away.

"What is it, Treasure?" He cupped her chin, his thumb gently stroked her cheek, drawing her eyes back to his.

"Sometimes..." Abbie let out a shy laugh as a long wet curl bobbed down across her face. "The way you look at me..."

*Like you are my world*. Ichabod knew what he was feeling, but it was too soon. "I cannot help it. May I," he motioned his hand to the curly lock that was dangling across her cheek.

She only nodded slightly, cautiously. He could see that bit of in trepidation in her eyes. The last man she was with betrayed her trust. He tucked the curl behind her ear and smiled.

"By the way, did I tell you how absolutely beautiful you are?"

"Only a couple of times," Abbie grinned, feeling a bit of the nervousness ease.

"Not nearly enough," Ichabod leaned in giving her another kiss. Her full soft lips tasted sweet causing his heart to flip in her chest. As their kiss grew deeper, he leaned into her. Her mouth opened wide eagerly inviting his tongue inside. She leaned back, letting her chest rise into him as her hands ran across his lean chest. Her nipples were firm practically showing beneath the thin material of her dress, and Ichabod could feel his manhood jerk as her breasts pressed against him. A soft moan escaped as his hand caressed her thigh.

He felt her shiver.

Ichabod slowly pulled away uncertain if was their cool wet bodies, or his hand on her thigh. But she didn't pull him back to her, only looked up at him with hooded eyes.

"You're soaked to the bone. I should get you home." Ichabod almost regretted how late it was. He'd had an amazing time, but had they left earlier, they could have gone to his place for a nightcap.

"Too bad. You said you'd show me your place." Abbie hid the slight nervousness she felt.

"You could dry off and change there." Ichabod offered, pleased that she was still very open to coming over. "And of course you're more than welcome to stay... since it is terribly late."

"Abbie nodded with a smile. "Okay."

~

7~ Night Cap

The rain stopped and the clouds had parted by the time they made it to the driveway and parked. Ichabod hurried to get the door for her, which Abbie knew to just let him. They were both aware that she was perfectly capable of getting her own door, but there was something nice to Abbie that he simply wanted to.

"This is gorgeous," Abbie mused as she walked huddled up under Ichabod's arm.

There was a long stone walk down from the driveway, to where the house was situated on the cliff. The foliage was beautiful, the garden lanterns lighting the path.

"Wait until you see the view." Ichabod only let her go to unlock the double front doors. The space opened up immediately to a living room with an entire wall view of the sea. The moon and stars were bright enough to illuminate it until it faded into darkness. To the left was an open concept kitchen and dining room and Abbie could see there was a pool on the lower level. And one side was an outdoor living space. The house was not big but it was very nice and well appointed.

"There are two guest bedrooms to the right," Ichabod pointed. "And the master suite is downstairs. There's a better view of the pool and an outdoor bath."

"Lead the way," Abbie smiled, turning her back on the guest rooms.

Ichabod perked right up. This was going smoothly. He led her down the stairs and another set of doors opened up to the master suite. The view was equally phenomenal, another two walls of windows and French doors brought the outdoors inside. A sofa with throw pillows was along one wall and a large dresser with a mirror was along another. The bed was in the center of the room, nicely furnished, not over the top at all, but still quite stunning.

He opened the doors to the deck and the sound of the sea crashing against the rocks down on the beach. "What do you think?"

"This place is amazing. You fixed it up yourself?" Abbie asked stifling a yawn. She was exhausted, but the last thing she wanted was for him to think she was bored.

"I had a bit of help. I hired a Gardner and a housekeeper. But most of the repairs were easy enough." Ichabod showed her to the covered outdoor bath and lit the citronella candles. "You can use this one, the toilet is right behind there, or one upstairs if you prefer an indoor loo upstairs."

"This one will be perfect," Abbie couldn't help but run her hand across the claw foot tub. "If you don't mind sharing."

"What's mine is yours," he assured her. "What can I get you to drink? Wine, coffee?"

"Mmm... Coffee, please. I haven't had a night with more than three hours of sleep all week."

"I'm partly to blame for that," Ichabod chuckled.

"I'm not complaining," Abbie laughed.

"Glad of it," Ichabod was trying to remain calm. She was here in his room and he honestly could not be happier. He pulled out a robe and towel for her so that she could change out of her wet clothes. "Make yourself at home, please. I shall return momentarily."

"Great," Abbie grinned.

 

As soon as he left her in the bathroom, she could hear the soft jazz music playing.

"Nice," she nodded and went to her bag. She pulled out a little silk and lace lingerie, then ran a quick shower. She got in a good yawn and stretch as the water ran over her body. This would wake her up.

Her hair was already wet and curling so she did a quick wash with conditioner and decided to just go with it. He didn't seem to mind... In fact, he said she was beautiful. She'd already let him touch it, which was kind of a big deal to her, and she was pleased that he didn't make a thing of it. She smiled as she looked in the mirror and remembered the way he touched her cheek and tucked the curl behind her ear.

She quickly lotioned down and dressed, wanting to be ready and perfect before he got back. The little silk and lace negligee barely covered her delicate areas, and she hoped he would appreciate it. She slipped on the robe then laid on the bottom of the bed, where they could enjoy the view. She tried a few positions, checking herself from the large dresser mirror, before deciding to go open robe, fully exposed leg.

~

Ichabod quickly put on a pot of coffee. He then prepped a tray with sugar and creamer, before going to the bathroom to freshen up. A quick wash and change out of his wet clothes into his cotton pajama pants and a short back and forth on whether or not to wear the t-shirt.

"God Ichabod, you don't want to seem too presumptuous or anxious," he muttered, choosing to put the t-shirt on.

He was nervous and excited, his heart palpitating with anticipation as he gave himself a quick check over in the mirror.

"Coffee breath," he muttered. "Don't want that..." He went back into the kitchen and found some mints to put on the tray.

"I wasn't sure how you wanted your coffee, so I took the liberty of..."

Full stop

"Wow... So exquisite..." Ichabod felt his heart flip in his chest as he sighed. She was so beautiful and precious. "Abbie?" But she was also asleep.

"Treasure?" Ichabod called one last time as he placed the tray on the dresser.

Out like a light.

He and let down the bed covers. Then carefully picked her up and tucked her in. All that hard work and lack of sleep finally caught up to her, and he wasn't about to try and wake her.

"Good night, Treasure," He gave her a kiss on the forehead. "I love you."

The words almost shocked him how easily they slipped from his mouth. He was glad she was asleep and wouldn't remember it. He knew it was way too soon. He grabbed a blanket from the end of the bed and curled his long lean body up on the sofa. He watched her sleeping peacefully until he soon drifted off himself.

 

~*~

Chapter Text

DBL CH 7

1~ Rest

 

“Go to sleep,” Ichabod tried telling himself, as he turned for the umpteenth time, situating himself on the sofa.

If he didn’t get some rest he’d be exhausted in the morning when Abbie was wide awake. But as he lay there on the sofa awkwardly stretched out, limbs hanging over the edge, all he could do was watch her, snuggled up under the soft white duvet. She looked so peaceful, beautiful, calm, as if she’d been in genuine need of a solid night slumber.

The pale moonlight danced across the outline of her face. Her long thick lashes cast a shadow on her cheeks. But what was most striking to him, as she lay in slumber, were her full sensual lips. They were the most beautiful he’d ever laid eyes on, much less had the pleasure to kiss.

“So soft… sweet,” he hummed forcing his eyes shut. He could remember exactly how they felt, how they tasted.

He was finally drifting off to sleep now to the thought of holding her in his arms, her perfect body in the lacy black lingerie… his mind was going places.

 

~

 

Abbie wasn't sure if it was the sweet aroma of coffee and muffins that woke her it the sound of running water. She had a huge smile on her face after dreams of dancing in the rain, his body pressed close to hers as they kissed. She stretched and peeked her eyes open at the bright morning sunlight that filled the room.

"What..." She mumbled realizing where she was and what had happened. "You've got to be kidding me." She couldn't believe after finally getting up the nerve, and having the perfect opportunity, she'd fallen asleep.

She rubbed her eyes and looked over to the obviously slept on sofa and let out a soft chuckle. She could immediately tell he hadn't laid a finger on her, she had no doubts he would be a perfect gentleman. She, on the other hand, looked out of the French doors and gasped with a grin. There he was in the claw foot tub washing down with the handheld shower head.

"Mmm so fine... Okay, Abbie stop staring," She fanned herself. Even without an eidetic memory, she was not going to forget that image.

She reached intoned bag and found a scarf to cutely wrap her hair, letting the tight curls hang in the back. It would do in a pinch.

When she looked back up, Ichabod had a long thick towel wrapped low around his waist as he dried his hair. He looked like a god entering the room with the sunlight beaming around behind his silhouette.

"Good morrow," he beamed taking a deep breath.

He could not get over how good she looked in his bed. His as eyes glanced over her curves highlighted by the morning sun. "You were sleeping so peacefully, I didn't want to wake you."

"I am so sorry about last night..."

"Oh, bosh," Ichabod waved off any apology. "There's no need to be sorry. You were exhausted."

"I took over your bed."

He refrained from commenting what he was thinking. His bed is exactly where he wanted her to be and she looked damned amazing in it. He leaned over and gave her a quick kiss. "I was happy to have you here."

"Thank you," Abbie smiled. "I'm going to freshen up."

"Good. Breakfast is ready. I'll bring it down. We can eat on the deck."

"That sounds perfect."

~

 

2 ~ Need

Abbie was still in the bathroom when Ichabod returned. He went onto the deck and sat the tray down. His phone buzzed and he immediately sent the call to voicemail when he saw it was Betsy. He'd been looking forward to his time with Abbie, and was not going to be disturbed.

"We have Banana muffins or scones with marmalade or blackberry preserves... and coffee."

"Mmm..." Abbie hummed as she walked up behind him. "Smells amazing."

"I hope you like it. Have a seat," Ichabod pulled the chair out for her. "I'm just going to put something on and I'll join you."

"Actually," Abbie stood in the doorway, "there's something I wanted to show you first."

Ichabod looked up, then stood at full attention as Abbie lowered her robe, letting it fall to her feet. He swallowed hard against the dry wanting that struck him hard. The small glimpse from the night before was a mere tease compared to the full view of thin black lace hugging her petite figure tiny black panties were clear through the sheerness of the material. His cock jolted in reaction as lust and love melded together, culminating in pure desire.

"Oh , Treasure... "

"You like?" Abbie did a slow turn showing off her apple bottom shaped by the fine lace thong.

Ichabod thought he’d died and was on his way to heaven.

 

Last night may not have gone the way either of them expected, but this morning was a different story.

 

He was pressed upon her before she turned. The warmth of his breath on her neck sent a thrill through her body as he ran the back his hand slowly down her arms. His breath caught as he admired how her bronze skin radiated in the sunlight.

"You're too beautiful for words," he moaned between tender kisses, lightly brushed across her neck and shoulder.
He snaked his arms around her waist, his hands running up and down her belly as he pressed into her.

The hint of brown sugar and vanilla mixed with her natural scent was driving him mad with desire. He wanted her to feel how hard he was for her. "I want you."

"Mmm... I want you too," Abbie leaned back into him as he stiffened against her back. She let out a soft moan as his hands cradled her breast through the silk and lace. Her nipples hardened at the thrill of his touch.

"I know we've both been tested but I have prophylactics in the room if you prefer..."

"I'm on the pill, so we're good" Abbie smiled, rocking back into him, enjoying the way his lips and whiskers brushed gently against her skin.

"Are you sure?" He turned her in his arms, his sparkling blues intense as he looked deep into her brown eyes.

"I trust you," Abbie admitted nervously biting her bottom lip. She'd never trusted any man this much.

Her eyes studied his as a delighted mischievous spark lit within him. He leaned in slowly until she felt his breath on her face, his lips began to gently bear down upon hers. His hands grabbed fists full of her voluptuous ass, bringing her into him, as he bucked up into her.

Her arms ran up his lean bare chest, wrapping languidly his shoulders, her fingers dragging through his thick brown hair. She moaned as she breathed him in, wetness pooled in her loins at his masculine scent.

Abbie pulled away teasing him, as she slowly backed up. Her eyes like a minx drifted from his lips down his body. She needed him to know how sexy he was and how much she was filled with want for him.

"You are a gorgeous man, Ichabod Crane." Abbie coyly bit her lip as she looked him over

He smiled, heart palpitating at her words and her voice, as she leisurely began sliding the thin lace negligee straps from her shoulder. He could hardly breathe, watching her open up completely, revealing herself to him. The slinky soft material began to glide down her body, exposing full pert breast heaving with each breath, deep brown nipples like perfect peeks, her slender form, caramel curves, and deep navel.

“My god…” he gasped, eyes hooded and filled with need, as she slipped out of her panties. The thin dark strip that led to her sweet pleasure revealed. The lace dropped down her long slim legs, giving him the view he'd been dreaming of.

He swallowed hard against the dry lust, his eyes fixed on the beautiful, bewildering, Venus before him. His tongue darted quickly across his lips desperate to quench the thirst.

"Damn baby, I cannot wait to taste inside you."

"Really," Abbie looked almost surprised as her heart raced in her chest.

"Yes, I want all of you." He wanted to. It wasn't a chore or just something he would do because it was expected.

It was his turn now to disrobe and he hoped he didn't disappoint. He looked her in the eyes as he untied the towel from his waist and tossed it to the side. Her eyes gazed down his chest to the thick dark trail, as he sprung thick, hard and erect from the confines. The way her eyes widened Ichabod could tell she was quite pleased with what she was about to receive.

No way could her eyes hide her very pleasant surprise. She had suspected he had plenty going on, and there, erect before her was the proof. She was completely unaware that she was licking her lips as she crawled up on the bed on all fours.

Ichabod nearly fainted, seeing her perfectly perched like a cat, luring him to her. He boldly strode over to her ready to take the lead, but Abbie clearly wanted to be in control, for now. She was on her knees as he stood by the edge of the bed and enveloped her in his arms. She kissed him hard, passionately, letting her hands slide down his body, until his cock was in her hand. Slow firm strokes drove him mad as their tongues collided in hard wet play.

His hands grasped her bare breast, finally, thumbing her nipples, caressing, and cupping. He could hardly contain the exhilaration he felt having her naked body against his, his manhood pressed hard against her.

"I'm going to taste you first," Abbie purred in his ear.

A heated thrill shot so fast through Ichabod, that the hairs on his arm stood on end. With every warm wet kiss she trailed down his chest, he felt twinges of electricity strike through his body. Her tongue licked firmly around his small hard nipples on her way down. But there was nothing like the sensation of pure elation when her tongue swirled around the head of his cock, playing at the underside and slit, still stroking the hard vein throbbing member, painfully slow. She licked down the length and up again, enjoying every long thick inch of him.

His legs trembled as he fought to keep his composure. He let out a low husky groan when she looked up at him and took the head into her mouth. Those big beautiful eyes looking up at him could end him.

Ichabod felt as if he were floating away, and could hardly keep his mind right as her gorgeous full lips worked up and down his cock, her fingers on his shaft and balls. He did not deserve her, it was almost too good to be real, and yet here she was.

"So good Abbie... Fuck you feel so good..." He managed between quick heavy breaths.

He massaged and caressed her shoulders and cheeks, encouraging her as he gently bucked and moaned.

He wasn't going to be able to contain himself much longer, and he knew the first time he came he wanted to be fully inside her.

"Treasure... I need to taste you..." He groaned caressing her cheek and chin. "To be inside you."

Slowly she withdrew him, licking intently at the beads of precum that escaped as she stroked.

"You mean to have me completely undone," Ichabod moaned before leaning down to kiss her hard wet, open mouth. Their tongues collided; hands explored each other’s bodies, as he maneuvered her onto her back.

Abbie moaned heavy in his ear as he began massaging her pussy, her slip was soaking wet, causing his cock to throb hard in anticipation. Abbie's breath caught as he slid his finger inside.

"Mm... You're so wet," he seemed thrilled as he slid another finger inside her and stroked.

"For you," Abbie moaned, her hips rising into his hands.

His mouth kissed over her body, sucking her breasts, one then the other. Taking his time to explore and play with each nipple as his fingers massaged the pleasure center inside. His thumb was firm on her clit, rubbing slow circles, as the multiple sensations sent blissful thrills through her body. He went harder, faster inside her with his hand as he tended to her body. Ichabod kissed down her body, his tongue licking her slit and her clit. The taste of honey and bitter made his cock ache as he lapped at her folds.

Abbie was in heaven, moaning and purring at his kisses and touches. Not only did he know where her clit and g-spot were, but he knew what to do with them. It was as if her body only existed where he kissed and touched. Her fingers rummaged through his hair as her hips bore her chasm into his mouth. He moaned his delight at the taste of her nectar.

"Oh my god...fu..." Abbie didn't know how she was coming already.

That never happened. She trembled as pleasure overcame her and he indulged in every sweet wet drop. When he'd had his fill he pulled away, and let her come down from the high of her climax. He loved watching her, beautiful, splayed bare and open before him, her face glistening from the pleasure he was happy to give her. He stroked himself, waiting patiently as he prepared to enter in.

Abbie looked up at him with hooded eyes, as he towered over her like an Adonis. She spread her legs wider for him to see her.

"Beautiful..." Was all he could manage as his tall lean form mounted between her thighs.

It was as if the heavens had parted and he was enveloped in euphoria when he pressed inside her. He wanted to take his time, feeling inside of her for the first time, memorizing every detail of the sensation of her chasm engulfing his cock as he stretched her walls around him. He didn't even recognize the sound that escaped him

"Oh Crane...." Abbie moaned as he filled her for the first time. His body laid warm against her, blanketing her completely.

She moaned as he grunted softly, swaying with angled thrusts, hitting her spot, touching deep inside. Her hips began to thrust up to match his, undulating beneath him, as he rhythmically stroked.

Abbie couldn't even fathom how sex could feel like this. Every sensation felt new as if she were coming alive. Never had she felt so connected to a man. Her hands raked down his back and she could feel the muscles in his cheeks, tightly gripping with each stroke.

It was so good, and then he took it up a notch.

He went faster, grunting, hooking her leg around his lean muscular forearm. She was panting moaning enjoying every sensation that swept over her body. She swore it felt as if that long cock was hitting the very end of her.

"Oh... Godddd... Yes, Craaaaneee..... Mmm, Fuuuuu...." Abbie was already tendering into oblivion as the wave of bliss began to build inside her.

She gripped his body, then the bed covers, then his body again. The way he was fucking her was overwhelming in the absolute best way. She couldn't get enough. Their bodies glistened, damp and hot, as sweat dripped from his brow.

 

"Oh god, Abbie... It feels so good inside you," Ichabod groaned, feeling her walls tighten around his throbbing manhood. “I want to give you everything…”

“Ooh.. yes, mmmm I want…” Abbie could hardly form words.

Her words and moaning teetered off into blissful babble. He kissed her hard, swallowing her moans as she came... The wave struck her hard. She was trembling beneath him as he drove into her faster, harder, until he too went over the edge into bliss. He came hard and deep inside her, his tight body straining with his final thrust, filling her completely.

He wanted to say things that it was far too soon to say. She wanted to hear things that she knew were too soon to hear. But they both still felt it. They were already falling in love and falling hard.

 

They breathed heavy through tender wet kisses, tasting each other, not wanting the moment to end. He stroked slow, staying inside her as they kissed, until he was hard again.

"Abbie..." It was on the tip of his tongue but he refrained, even though the words, I love you were ringing through his head.

"I need you." He whispered husky and low his kisses firm on the flesh of her neck.

"Then don't stop," Abbie hummed in his ear as he began to slowly thrust inside her. Her body joined his in perfect rhythm, giving in to what they both needed, wanted, could not get enough of. "Oh god Crane, I need you too."

 

~*~

Chapter Text

CH 8 ~ Privacy

 

It was the second day of the Independence Festival. The plan had been for Ichabod and Abbie to meet up with their friends in Victoria, where day two of the festivities were being held. But Ichabod and Abbie were MIA.

"I thought you two would be the no-shows," Sophie pointed to Bram and Tasha as she checked her phone again.

"Us?" Tasha looked innocent.

"Oh please, we all saw you two sneak away last night too," Cynthia gave them a side eye. "It's not like Abbie to not check in. Last message I got was last night at 1 am that she and Iche were at his beach house."

"I'm sure they’re both fine," Bram shrugged.

"Oh? And how do we know you're not just covering for your friend who's a serial killer?" Sophie put her hands on her hips.

"Iche is harmless," Bran assured them. "What's happened is two severely sexually depraved people have finally shagged. Now they can't stop getting their rock off on their own, is all."

"Yup," Tasha nodded. "They’re just fucking."

"Naw..." Sophie shook her head. "Abbie isn't like that. She's way to responsible to skip out without a good reason."

Tasha looked at her like she was crazy. "Abbie's got a good reason. They fucking."

 

~

 

"Oh Crane yesssss!!!!!" Abbie moaned.

"Dear god, Abbie.... Fuck.... I'm gonna cum...." Ichabod had Abbie's hips gripped tight as she straddled him.

Breakfast had once again gone to the wayside as the two ended up all over each other. She was riding him hard and fast, arching her body back enjoying how thick he was inside her. Her breasts bobbed before him, teasing him as he caressed them. Pinching her nipples between his fingers as the sensation of her walls sent rushing thrills through his body. He rose up, kissing her lips, neck, breasts, everywhere his mouth and tongue could reach set her on fire as she undulated on top of him. The sweet taste of berry was still on her lips and breasts from where they had attempted to eat breakfast, but indulged in each other instead.

Her nails were digging in his chest and he was loving it. She was coming too hard and too fast. Her legs began to quiver as she tossed her head back and enjoyed the wave of bliss. Ichabod held her tight driving up into her until he was completely spent.

The two collapsed on the bed, breathing heavy, shaking, as they recovered.

"You are a goddess," Ichabod smiled still panting and holding his chest. "I don't think I’ve ever had sex this many times in one day, and back to back."

"I haven't either," Abbie laughed. "I can't feel my legs."

"Oh dear. Perhaps I can help with that," Ichabod began slowly kissing and massaging her legs...
And getting hard again.

It was the fifth time today. In fact, they'd spent the entire morning in bed, barely touched their breakfast and now it was well after lunch. Their cell phones had been buzzing and ringing all day from their friends wondering what had happened to them.

His lips were just kissing up Abbie's inner thigh when her phone rang again.

"I have to get that," Abbie grumbled disappointedly. "The girls are going to worry something's happened to me."

"Something is about to happen to you," Ichabod raised a brow as he looked up mischievously from between her thigh.

"Staap," Abbie squealed out a laugh and managed to get her legs out of his grip. She picked up her cell and was a bit surprised. "It's actually Caroline back in New York. I haven't talked to her in a while."

"Very well," Ichabod pouted. "I'll be in the loo."

"Hi, Caroline. I know it's been a minute, but it's been crazy busy here."

"I know. I got the pictures you e-mailed me. Abbie, your work is amazing." Caroline gushed.

"Thanks, sweetie. I've been working night and day between the costumes and the dresses for my friends here. Last night was my first good night’s sleep."

“Just sleep,” Caroline teased.

“And sex,” Abbie grinned.

"Well, freedom to create your own stuff, and this new guy are agreeing with you, because the dresses are phenomenal. You have to let me show them to the owners at SHé Image. Maybe they'll hire you back and give them the editor position you deserve. It's obvious to everyone that you were doing the bulk of the work here. It's been a disaster here since you left. Next months issue is complete trash."

"I'm not going back there. I just can't. Nobody stood up for me or fought for me. Not even the ones that hired me in the first place... Except for you, and I can't stay for you, Caroline. As much as I love you."

"I understand. What about doing costume design for a play? I've heard there's a Broadway show looking for a designer. I'm sure if they see what you've done with the Carnival Costumes, they'll hire you on."

"I don't know Caroline. I might not go back to New York. I had so much fun working on my own designs since I've been back home, and photographing my own work... I just don't know."

"Well, at least Calvin was good for something. Your photography is every bit as good as his."

"That's probably because I feel so passionate about what I’ve created," Abbie was about to say something else when Ichabod's buzzing i-phone caught her attention.
"Caroline, I'm at a friends... I'll call you tomorrow."

"You mean your new guy's house,” Caroline chuckled. “Okay. Miss ya."

"I miss you too," Abbie hung up and looked at Ichabod's I-phone.

She thought it was Abraham, but when she peeked she saw four missed calls from Elizabeth and Jules along with a slew of texts. Only the beginning of the text messages showed and she didn't have his password to read the whole thing. Not that she would check through his phone, but the number of calls and the little bit that she did see, seemed odd.

PHONE
Jules Marwood
-1 Missed Call

Elizabeth G Ross
-2 Missed Calls

MESSAGES
Elizabeth G Ross
- Call me when you get this...

MESSAGES
Jules Marwood
- We need to talk. I miss...

That quick glance was enough to raise a bit of concern. She was certain he said he worked with a woman named Betsy doing humanitarian aid work and Dr. Marwood as well... Jules was his ex, the one that broke his heart, so now she knew Jules and Dr. Marwood were the same people. And she was fairly sure Betsy was the woman who was his “friend with Benefits”.

None of this had bothered her during their late-night chats. She also told Crane that she had been in love with Luke and shared what happened with Calvin. It was part of getting to know each other. But that was a lot of odd messages on his phone… which is why she told herself not to read into things or snoop through other people's phones.

"Damn," she swore as she sat up in the bed. She didn't like the feeling of not knowing. It left her with a knot in her stomach. Abbie picked up her own phone and scrolled through the messages. Just as she thought they were worried. Well, not Tasha. Abbie chuckled at the text.

MESSAGES
Tasha Char the Star
-I know you’re just fucking. But these bitches are buggin. Do your thing. Have all the fun. Let us know later if the D was good! *eggplant emoji* *bomb emoji*

Abbie couldn't help but let out a laugh.

"Everything alright with your friend in New York?"

"Yeah, Caroline’s just hoping that I’ll come back."

"Ah, yes I have a few friends that are trying to pull me back into work. All in due time, I say." Ichabod gave Abbie a kiss as he sat beside her. "I'm running a bath. I thought we might take our time together today..."

"Actually, we should probably start getting ready to go. It's the last day of the Festival and Victoria City always does something spectacular."

"As you wish." Ichabod agreed.

"Oh, your phone was ringing while you were in the loo." Abbie got a kick out of calling it a loo.

"Ah," Ichabod took a quick look and furrowed his brow. He expected Betsy, maybe Arthur… But Jules? His heart stopped for a moment. He hadn’t heard from her in months and now she calls. He was taken aback for a second wondering why.

"Anything important or is it just Bram looking for you?" Abbie asked, knowing full well it wasn't Abraham.

"No, not Bram. He knows exactly where I am and that we don’t want to be disturbed. It's just a couple of work colleagues... Elizabeth and Dr. Marwood. However, I am on an extended holiday, so they shall have to wait."

Abbie smiled. She seemed relieved he told the truth that they’re just calling about work. She once dated a work colleague so no big deal. "So, is that bath ready?"

"It will be momentarily."

"You're joining me right?"

Ichabod raised a brow giving her a sly smile. "Absolutely."

Abbie grinned and hurried to the bath with Ichabod quickly behind her

The handheld wand hooked onto the wall was showering the water down in the clawfoot tub. The two entered the tub with him still directly behind her. Ichabod turned her around admiring her beautiful wet curves, as his hands begin to worship her body. She sways eagerly at his touch.

"You're so beautiful, he whispers low and husky, and she is quite beautiful. Water dripped from her plump round breasts, her waist was slim leading to nicely curved hip, his eye drifts down to the thin strip of dark hair between her legs. He stepped behind her in the shower, worshiping her glorious round bottom. He nestles his thick throbbing cock between the meeting of her buttocks, aching to go inside, deep inside, but he's unable to move, entranced in the sensation of just being with her.

Abbie rocked back into him, awakening him. He reaches around her body and begins to soap her breasts as they glisten, wet, dripping under the flowing water. He washes her back, Between the shoulder blades the skin so soft he can't get enough of just touching her. She moans softly as he takes a wet cloth across her shoulders and neck, around to the front again. She so wet inside now that she can't take it anymore.

"Crane, if you don't fuck me right now..." She moaned painfully reaching forward to grip the wall.

Without haste he gripped his hard manhood and guided it inside her, groaning heavy at how gratifying it felt to enter inside her sopping wet hole. She moaned her pleasure as he gripped both hips and began to deliver to her what she so greatly desired.

 

~

 

"So this is the beach house," Bram welcomed the ladies to the property.

"This is nice," Sophie admitted. "Doesn't look like a serial killer place."

"I told you," Tasha laughed.

"Hey do you hear that?" Cynthia paused to listen.

"Yeah it's coming from the lower deck," Sophie was in total cop mode. "Sounds like moaning! Come on!"

They hurried to the lower deck and around to the side of the house, where the loud moaning was evidently not anyone struggling in pain. More like panting and grunting with the frequent...

"Oh Crane... Don't stop..."

"God treasure... You feel so good!"

"Ha! Told you," Tasha laughed as they headed back to the upper level. "That Hoffa has the nerve to complain about her Gram and Papa when she just as loud. At least we know where she gets it."

"Stop!" Sophie grinned, but knew it was true. Abbie was loud as hell.

~

 

"I'm just going to text them and let them know we're on our way," Abbie had her phone out as she and Ichabod hurried up the stairs. They were dressed, but still having a hard time keeping their hands off of each other.

"Maybe we can put them off for another half hour," Ichabod teased Abbie pinning her to the wall as they reached the top of the stairs. He was just about to kiss her.

"We aren't waiting another half hour," Sophie called from the living room.

"What the devil!" Ichabod let Abbie go and peeked around the corner.

Abbie gasped when she saw Bram and her girlfriends. "What are you guys doing here?"

"We were worried. You missed all the morning festivities." Sophie folded her arms.

"I let them in," Bram confessed. "Had to prove you weren't a serial killer."

"Sophie," Abbie gave her friend a side eye.

"Girl, you just don't know. Stuff happens."

"Okay. We are fine. How long have you been waiting here."

"Since you two were in the bath," Tasha grinned. "I don't want to hear nothing else about Gra'ma Ellie. Now are we going to the festival or what?"

~*~

Chapter Text

CH 9 Meet The Roberts

 

image

1~ When I’m With You

Abbie couldn't remember the last time it felt this good to wake up in the arms of a man. She breathed in Ichabod’s soft natural musk and sandalwood scent as she slowly opened her eyes. The sun was rising and filtering through the windows, as the calm sea waves crashed ashore.

"Good morrow, Treasure," Ichabod gave her a tender kiss. He’d been awake for a while just watching her sleep so peacefully. He swore she had the prettiest lips he’d ever laid eyes on, much less had the pleasure to kiss. "How did you sleep?"

"Perfectly," Abbie stretched then curled back into his arms. "And you?"

"Never better," Ichabod said honestly. "I wish it could be like that every night."

"What? Sex till two in the morning?" Abbie grinned.

"Yes. And then waking up with the woman of my dreams in my arms. Sounds perfect to me." Ichabod kissed her tenderly. "What do you say we spend the day together again, and I'll fix you a proper dinner?"

"I would love to, but I have to help in town with some cleanup, and then get my sewing machine and materials from Sophie's... Ugh, I left my step-mom's jeep there. She's going to need it back." Abbie sat up. "Damn, I actually have a lot to do today. I'm not sure when I'll get to see you."

"I'm still on holiday. Let me help." Ichabod offered.

"Um..." Abbie thought for a minute. "If you really don't mind, could drop me off at Sophie's and grab my things? I just need you to take them to my Grandparents place. When I finish, we can have dinner tonight."

"Dinner sounds splendid, but I don't want to wait all day... How about lunch too?"

"I am going to be cleaning, then having a late lunch with my grandparents. They haven't seen me all weekend."

"Very well. I will gather your things and drop them off there..."

"Thanks... and you can just leave them on the porch. No need to take them in or anything."

Ichabod furrowed his brow. "Do you not want me to meet your family? I mean I suppose it's fine if you don't, but..."

"No, it's not that. It's just… if I introduce you, they're going to make it a big deal. And we don't even know if we are a big deal yet. I don't know if I'm going back to New York. You're might be going back to England in a few days..." she was babbling nervously, but she couldn't help how she was feeling. "I don't want them making a fuss or getting invested if we aren't, you know."

"Of course. I understand," Ichabod breathed in a deep sigh. Just hearing her mention it made him feel really sad. "I'm not in any hurry to leave. Just so you know. I already feel that what’s between us is too important to let it go. I want to give us more time to sort things out."

 

Abbie nodded as he wrapped his arms around her. "So are we good with a late dinner tonight?"

"I'd love that. And I'd certainly be obliged to you staying the night here again if you like." Ichabod gave her a mischievous grin.

"We'll see how dinner goes," Abbie teased as he kissed her.

"If dinner goes well, would you consider going sailing with me later this week." Ichabod asked.

"Sailing?"

"Yes. Can you picture us on the open sea? We could sail to Saint Andrews Island, and see the nature reserve."

"That sounds really nice. I bet the girls would love this..."

"Oh..." Ichabod went wide-eyed with disappointment. "I was hoping it would be a venture for just the two of us.."

"I'm kidding," Abbie let out a playful laugh.

"You are such a minx!" Ichabod playfully grabbed her and kissed her. He loved her laugh and the way she smiled.

The words were right there again as he looked into her eyes. I love you. He wanted to say it. He wondered if she could feel it.

~

 

2 ~ She Works Hard For The Money

 

"Hello, you've reached SHé Image, this is Caroline Ford. How can I help you?" Caroline tried not to sound as bored and miserable as she was.

Working at SHé Image was a drag after Abbie left. The place was overwrought with bickering, backstabbing and complaining. Not to mention everything the designers and editors were coming up with were a mess. The publication was going down fast.

"Caroline honey, this is Fidel over at VaLùre."

"Hi Fidel, what's can I do for you?"

"I need your help. Did you hear the news about Penny Shway?"

"Yeah, it's all the fashion media buzz! He's being sued for stealing designs directly from another designer."

"Girl yes. It's a disaster!"

"Wait, what's going on?"

"Shway was our feature for next month’s issue. The Book was already submitted and approved. We've already had the photoshoot. We have no cover, no centerfold, and need to fill about 10 pages, everything is part of the lawsuit now. We've got one day to come up with something to go to print. Honey, it is a madhouse over here."

"I don't know how I can help."

"You owe me one, girl. You’re my new Abbie. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. I need you to check the closet at SHé for anything you can find and spare. We are trying to throw together a concept last minute, with no time to make anything, much less have a photoshoot." Fidel sounded panicked.

“Hmm…” The wheels were turning in Caroline’s mind. "You need an entire concept with already created designs, models and have them photographed... by tomorrow?"

"Yes. I know that's not possible..."

"Fidel... Check your e-mail," Caroline grinned as she sent him a file. “You owe me big time for this.”

 

 

~

 

3~ Family Affair

 

As Ichabod drove to the furthest end of the island he came upon Roberts’s farm area. It'd been ages since he'd been here. He always remembered it as one of the most scenic farms he'd ever seen. It was predominantly sugar fields, but they also grew cocoa, vanilla, and coffee, and had several cows, goats, and chickens. He could understand why Abbie enjoyed staying with her grandparents if they lived out in this area. Rural island life had it all.

He passed several homes and wondered which one might be where Abbie was staying. From their talks, he knew she had a view of the sea from the porch, but none of these housing areas had a good view.

Yolanda - in a quarter kilometer, turn right.

"Huh," Ichabod thought curiously as he approached the turn. It was The Robert's Estate. He didn't know there were other homes on the estate. As he drove down the long winding drive he got a sinking feeling. He had made the assumption that Abbie's family were the Mills, and hadn't thought they were actually the Roberts.

Yolanda- your destination is ahead.

"What?" Ichabod's heart dropped.

As he saw the large yellow house in the distance. It had the traditional wrap-around Caribbean porches with a perfect view out to the sea. His heart was pounding and he had to pull over.

"Can I help ya?" an elderly man called from a small yellow chattel house a few yards away.

"Yes, sir," Ichabod got out of the truck and approached, the two men meeting in the middle. I'm looking for 105 Este View."

"Ya found it, son. This da right place," Jacob pointed down the road to his home.

"I'm sorry... Perhaps she gave me the wrong address. I'm looking for my um... friend, Miss Abbie Mills."

"Ah, yes, dats my grand baby," the older man held out his hand. "I'm Jacob Roberts. Ya must be her British friend she mentioned."

"Yes sir," Ichabod shook his hand. The tall older man had a strong firm grip. "Iche Crane."

"Well young man, Abbie is not here. She won't be back till around three."

"I know. I... She asked me to drop off her things."

"Oh ya can bring dem down to da house or leave dem with me."

"Thank you. I'll take them and leave you to your business."

"It was nice to meet ya son."

"Pleasure," Ichabod nodded. He watched as the elderly man picked up a ten-foot long 2x4 from a pile to carry into the little chattel house.

"Can I give you a hand with those?" Ichabod offered.

"Sure, if ya don't mind," Jacob smiled. "I'm not quite as spry as I used to be ya know."

Once inside Ichabod saw that Jacob was in the midst of a remodel. The 18x18 house had new walls and floors. Jacob was in the process of building a wall-length custom wardrobe. He'd already done all the cutting and fittings, and was ready to assemble.

"Did you do all this yourself?" Ichabod could tell the cabinetry was a custom build, but surely he'd hired out the interior work. It was professional grade.

"Sure did. I might be a farmer, but I love woodworking, ya know. It's for my Abbie. I want to give her dat space she needs to work and do her sewing and drawing. And maybe she'll stay a little longer if she can do her work here."

"I can't blame you for wanting her to stay close. She's pretty amazing."

"I just hope she likes it. From dis little house you can see the water from that window and the farm on the other side. She likes a nice relaxing view."

"I think she'll be quite taken with the view. And your craftsmanship on these cabinet doors is impeccable," Ichabod admired. He could see creativity ran in the family.

"Too bad my plumbing and roofing skills are not so good," Jacob laughed.

"I can give you a hand with both, if you don't mind the company. I haven't got anything to do today."

"Ya a plumber or a roofer?"

"Only by default, both," Ichabod chuckled. "I'm a structural and Architectural engineer. But I've had to do plenty of plumbing and roofing with my line of work."

"Are you sure ya don't mind son? The septic in here is pretty old." Ichabod looked the tall lean man over. He was old enough to know not to turn down good help when it was offered.

"I can guarantee you I've dealt with far worse. I don't mind in the least," Ichabod answered honestly. He didn't mind the dirty work, and he'd do anything for Abbie. He was a little worried, since she didn't want her family to know too much about their relationship, but he could hardly stand by and not offer to help when he had the time and inclination to do so. It just wasn't in his nature.

Ichabod and Jacob worked and talked for the entire morning, Jacob telling many stories about growing up on the farm, his youth spent having fun at the beach, and settling down with Ellie. She was a true partner as well as a wife and took to farm life.

"Do you ever think about retiring?" Ichabod was curious.

"Oh no... Dat is not my way," Jacob laughed. "I have taken a step back and let the younger generation take da reigns. but I will always work dis land. We aren't rich by any means but we do well. We employ more agricultural workers than any other farm. This community means everything to us."

As Jacob spoke, Ichabod thought about what would happen if his family shut down the Sugar Mill. He hadn't been able to convince them yet, though his sister and father promised to reevaluate the numbers. But the fact was Ichabod would be going back to his job as an Aid worker and Sydney would be left to deal with both struggling businesses, long distance, while caring for her family.

"Well plumbing is all done," Ichabod turned the sink faucet on and off. "Toilet flushes without issue, and the roof structure looks good. Do you need a hand with the wardrobe before I go?"

"No, thank you kindly, young man. I'm fastening the last door as we speak."

Ichabod looked over the cabinetry and admired the older man’s craft. “Do you ever regret not taking up carpentry?”

“No, no regrets. Life took me down a different path. Here on the farm, I created a family. That, my son, is more important than anything I can design with my hands. My family was designed by love.”
Ichabod nodded silent as he thought on Jacob’s words.

 

"Jacob, my love, get ya self cleaned up and come eat..." Ellie entered the chattel house to retrieve her husband, not expecting to see Ichabod. "Oh, who is dis ya got here?"

"Iche Crane ma'am," Ichabod gave her a polite head bow.

"Dis Abbie's Bo," Jacob added.

"Friend... We are just friends," Ichabod added nervously. Abbie had warned her family would make a thing out of meeting him.

"Friend eh," Ellie grinned. She wasn't buying it. "Last male friend I spent da weekend with, I married."
Ichabod turned beet red, causing both Ellie and Jacob to chuckle.

"Oh come on Ellie, ya know how these young ones are nowadays. Taking things slow and all. He's a fine young man tho. Got the plumbing fixed up right."

"It really was no bother," Ichabod brushed off the compliment.

"Well, you two get cleaned up so ya can get something to eat. I made plenty."

"I really must be going," Ichabod insisted. "I had not intended to stay so long and I couldn't possibly intrude on your family meal."

"No intrusion. Ya staying for supper," Ellie insisted. "Ya help out my husband, work ya fingers to the bone. It's only right we break bread. I'd be put off if ya didn't join us."

"She's a fine cook," Jacob added.

"Well, then," Ichabod smiled realizing he was not getting out of this without offending Miss Ellie. "I'd be much obliged, thank you."

~

 

"What's going on out here?"

Abbie was a little bit later than expected getting back to the house. As she drove up she could swear she passed by Ichabod's rented truck parked at the little chattel house. So she wasn't completely surprised to see him sitting on the back patio with her Grandparents, Lena, Lori, and her cousins.

"It's about time," Lori gave her daughter a hug and ushered her to a seat next to Ichabod. "We expected you an hour ago."

"I see you've all met my friend, Iche Crane."

"Very nice young man," Jacob smiled.

"You're too kind," Ichabod was turning red-cheeked. Her family had been very welcoming, but he had not meant to intrude.

*So sorry* Ichabod mouthed to Abbie as she sat down next to him.

"I got caught up and then found it impossible to refuse the invitation without seeming impertinent," Ichabod whispered.

"It's okay," Abbie pursed her lips with a grin. She knew how hard it was to refuse her grandparents. "I figured as much."

Before she knew it, Ellie had a full plate set in front of her. She looked over to see Ichabod had a full plate himself.

"You don't have to eat if you don't want to," Abbie worried maybe the home cooking was a bit too spicy. He'd enjoyed the village and Restaurant food, but it was a bit milder than this scrumptious home-cooked meal.

"Actually, I'm on my second plate," Ichabod dug right in.

"Oh," Abbie smiled.

"Mmm... You're Gram's Chicken Roti and Pastelillos are the best I've ever had," Ichabod admitted.

He smiled when she took his hand in hers. Thankfully she wasn't upset that he was there.

Everyone was buzzing and chatting around them. It was nothing like the quiet mundane dinners Ichabod shared with his father and Sydney's family, on the rare occasion they shared dinners. They were always quiet, no fussing about, with generic questions like "how was your day?" and "how is the soup?" But no one ever really answered in any kind of detail. The only thing that was discussed was business in an attempt to convince Ichabod his humanitarian aid work was futile or an act of rebellion.

It was nice to see how a normal family interacted and to so cordially be included. At the same time, he could see why Abbie didn't want to rush things. Already they'd invited him to have dinner with them again and it was almost just expected he would join them.

On top of that, there was the issue of Fredrick's Mill and Fredrick's Mercantile Factory. He couldn't quite find the right time to mention he and his sister had inherited it, or that his sister who would be in charge of the business interests, was considering selling or closing down both.

 

~

 

4 ~ True

 

A couple of hours later, Abbie sat on the deck of Ichabod's small beach house, by the pool, overlooking the sunset over the sea to the west. It was so relaxing, but she could tell from the moment they left her grandparent's house, that something was on his mind.

"Here we are," Ichabod handed her a glass of Pinot Noir, and sat beside her.

"Thank you," Abbie smiled and took a sip.

Ichabod quickly downed his glass then leaned forward looking out into the purple and orange-hued sky over the dark water.

"I know my family can be a bit overwhelming. I hope you weren't put off..."

"By your family? No. They were wonderful. I had a really nice time with them today."

"Well, that's good."

"I was worried you might be upset that I inadvertently managed to get myself invited to dinner."

"No. I was worried about them getting too attached, but... We'll just have to deal with things as they come." Abbie sat her glass down and straddled up on Ichabod's lap. "There's something I would like to deal with right now."

"Oh, is that so?" Ichabod was easily aroused as she slowly undulated into him.

He wrapped his arms around her as she leaned in to kiss him. Her lips, her tongue were sweet like wine and curves felt so good... too good. He could get lost in her and forget... Damn, he couldn't forget. His conscience wouldn't let him continue without telling her what he knew of their unexpected connection.

He lowered his head pulling slightly from the warmth of her kiss. Worry was evident in his blue eyes as he looked down.

"Hey, what is it?" Abbie asked, drawing his eyes back up to hers. "And don't say nothing, because I can tell something is weighing on your mind."

"I um... There is something, but..."

"You can tell me anything, ask me anything." Abbie got off of his lap and sat beside him, thinking it might help him talk if she wasn't getting him hard.

Ichabod ran his hands through his hair and took a deep breath, clearing his mind. "I had no idea that your Grandparents were the owners of Robert's Farm."

"Yeah. I never make a thing of it. They are pretty big in the farming community, but to me, they're just my grandparents." Abbie looked at him curiously. "Is it a bad thing that they're farmers?"

"No. It's a respectable industry and you're grandparents seem to run a fine business and are very well respected."

"Okay, I don't understand. Something is going on with you. Something has changed since you met my family and I just want to know what it is." Abbie was starting to worry that perhaps they were more black and Afro-Latino than he expected. Perhaps he thought he'd see more people who resembled Luke, Sophie, or Cisco. "I hope it's not because of our color..."

"Oh heavens no, Treasure," Ichabod went wide-eyed. It hadn't even crossed his mind she would think that. And now he realized that his reluctance to explain was causing her concern, making her mind wonder what had happened. "Abbie... I have to tell you something, but I worry that it might affect things between us."

"Like I said, you can tell me anything, Crane."

"You know that when I came here a couple weeks ago, it wasn't really for holiday. It was to finalize things with my grandfather’s estate after his passing."

"Yeah," Abbie nodded. "Family business… I get that."

"Yes, well, that family business has to do with the new boardwalk that was erected a couple of years ago. I was actually the architect who designed it, and my father owns one of the resorts and a Restaurant. He is a shareholder in quite a bit of the businesses there and he's been wanting me to become more involved in developing Fredericktown and Bella View."

"Oh... Oh my gosh," Abbie was a bit stunned. "I didn't think you were interested in doing that as a career. I thought your focus was humanitarian work with World Neighbors."

"It is. I have every intention of returning soon. My grandfather's illness was why I hadn't gone back. Since I was staying in London to be close to him, I worked on these projects with my father to keep myself occupied. But now that he's passed, it's time to go back to work. But there is something else. I told you that my Grandfather was born here."

"Yeah. That you used to come here with him and your mom when you were little. And this was his house."

"Yes. But this home wasn't the only property he had that he left to my sister and myself... His name was George Fredrick."

"Wait, as in Fredrick's Fabrics and Fredrick's Mill," Abbie sat wide-eyed as Ichabod nodded. "Okay, so are you saying you inherited them?"

"Yes. My sister and I together. However, being older and the one running the businesses, she has the primary say in what happens. And... Well, I'm just going to be frank. The fabric and sewing factory is barely pulling a profit, and is in need of repairs. The profits from the factory have been used to keep the sugar mill running."

"Wait a minute," Abbie sat back with a cross look on her face. "You're not thinking about shutting them down, are you? Because a lot of people are dependent on them for jobs... For their livelihood!"

"Believe me, I am aware," Ichabod sighed.

Abbie stood up and began pacing. "Without the sugar mill, Roberts farm will have to take on the burden of shipping the cut sugar to another island. The time alone would result in a loss of yield which would eat away at the profits. Not to mention additional taxes and tariffs..."

"Yes, I know," now Ichabod was standing and pacing along with her. "Trust I have told my sister and father all of this as reasons why it is imperative to keep the Sugar Mill running. But the factory is in need of its own repairs. I've submitted the most cost-effective ways to keep them both running, but it did not look good. It is still quite a burden unless we can increase the output and the profits coming in."

"Cynthia and Tasha depend on their jobs at the factory, not to mention over a hundred other's employed there."

"I know. But Sydney and father have both promised not to rush the decision. And I'm not giving up. Even before I knew of your friends and family, I could see how important the businesses are to the island. I am so sorry I didn't tell you about this before, but I didn't realize your deep connection, other than Cynthia and Tasha working at the factory."

"No I get it," Abbie sighed.

She wrapped her arms around herself, as she went into her own thoughts on this. She couldn't imagine what her family and friends would think when they found out and it was stressing her out.

"I think I should probably go," Abbie finally managed and attempted to walk past him.

"Abbie wait," Ichabod pleaded, stepping in front of her. He gently put his hands on her shoulders, crouching slightly so that she would look up into his eyes. "I don't want you to go, but if it is really what you want, I won't stop you. But there's something else I need for you to know before you go."

"Crane, I don't think I can take anymore surprise reveals tonight..." Abbie let out a heavy sigh and started to move away.

"Abbie, I love you."

"What..." It was almost a whisper of uncertainty.

"I am in love with you. You have captivated me from the moment we met, and my feelings only grow strong with each passing day. The more I know you deeper my feelings grow. Treasure, you have my heart."

"Crane..." Abbie was at a loss. Her heart was racing her mind was all over the place.

"I don't know what will happen between us, but I need you to know this much is true. I love you. And I needed you to know everything before you decide to go or stay. I just hope you don't walk away from us without giving us a chance to sort this out. I don't expect you to feel the same or to say..."

"Fuck it," Abbie pulled him to her and kissed him, simply giving in, at least for tonight.

Ichabod was in no way prepared to stop her or question if they were acting in haste. He loved her and had to believe she wanted this as much as he did.

His firm, insistent lips were on hers, tongue thrusting into her open mouth. For a moment he was unsure, she was unsure, but it was happening. She kissed him passionately, open-mouthed, as he backed her against the wall. His hands raised her skirt just enough for him to wedge between her legs and rub, putting lustful pressure on her clit through her thin lace panties.

Abbie moaned at the sensation.

Their hands were all over each other’s bodies pulling away at their clothes. She ran her fingers through his hair and tugged playfully, eliciting in a sexy growl from him. She then ran her hands and nails lightly under his shirt, feeling smooth skin and firm slender abs. She gripped his arse with her petite hands, pulling him more firmly into her and began grinding her hips.

"You know I have to taste you," he growled into her ear. His husky words made her pool wet inside soaking her panties with her essence.

He was on his knees in a moment, lifting her skirt, drawing her panties down her legs and off. He spread her thighs wide, parted her folds with his thumb then licked a single slow stroke from the back to her clit.

Oh, fuck," Abbie started to quiver.

It was a most pleasurable torture as he let his tongue play with her clit, sucking and licking. He indulged himself, unable to get enough.

 

She moaned heavy as he slid one finger inside her pussy, then another. Slow moans turned to swift panting, as he began quick thrusts with his long fingers. Rhythmically with his tongue on her clit, his digits were hitting her spot inside. She panted, as he moaned his delight. Her hips rocked into him as she pulled the top of her dress down. She grasped at her breasts and nipples as he sucked her making her need to come.

"Ohh... Fu...." her voice trembled, her legs quivered as she came.

It was wonderful and intense, and he kept sucking, letting her pleasure grow until she was weak and spent trying to stay upright on shaky legs.

He held her up against the wall with his long lean body, as he unfastened his pants. His long thick cock sprang free and already erect. Abbie licked her lips in anticipation and he couldn't resist kissing those perfect full lips. She could taste herself all over him, her scent in his beard. It was intoxicating.

As they kissed he positioned the head at her soaking pussy and buried himself in one hard stroke. Abbie moaned heavy in his mouth as he reveled in the sensation of her walls engulfing him. His thrusts were fast and hard, as Abbie’s back pressed against the wall. She haphazardly wrapped her legs around his hips and bore down on him. Her clit was so sensitive, she moans with pleasure and the need for release again.

Ichabod had his hands on her breasts and pinched her nipples, rolling the firm dark buds between his fingers, as she ran her fingers through his hair. Her kisses went from his lips to his neck as she clung to him, feeling him trembling against her, his thrusting getting faster, rougher, more desperate. He was moaning hard and fast with each forceful thrust up inside her.

"Oh, god.... Cra.... yes.... Craneeee..." she was screaming his name. She was coming as well, great big pleasurable spasms that left her gasping for air.

With a throaty groan, he came too, his body tight and strained as he slowed his movement. He stayed the inside her, kissing her as he carried her to bed.

She couldn't believe how she loved him, though she was still not ready to say the words. This was not just a moment of weakness. It's what she wanted. And yet she still felt a pang of fear for what their future would hold.

 

~*~

Chapter Text

Ch 10: Two If By Sea

 

1~Stay Or Go

It was well after eight in the morning. Crane was on the sail boat unloading supplies for the next couple of days. It was hot as hell already, not unusual for a summer morning in the Caribbean, but he was a Londoner, so he felt every single degree of heat. The breeze was nice, so he did away with his shirt before checking the ropes and the mast every two minutes he glanced up the dock for any sign of Abbie.

Yeah, he was stalling. He had intended to head out to sea by nine, but she wasn’t here yet. Truth be told, he knew he wasn’t going to leave without her. The entire trip, two days of sailing was just his way of getting two days with her, alone and uninterrupted.

But there was the small complication. He very well might be putting her family out of business.

The night he confessed his interest in the Sugar Mill, she was willing to throw caution to the wind. The morning after, however, in the clarity of a night to sleep on it, the path to happily ever after was revealed to be far from clear.

Ichabod Crane was a man of his word, and when he drove Abbie home the next morning, he asked to speak with Jacob in private.

*

“Son, I appreciate da predicament ya be in, but this island depends on da mill. We cannot afford ta take our harvest to another island... the losses would be catastrophic.”

“I understand, sir... but perhaps you and the other sugar farmers could create a conglomerate and purchase the Mill.”

“We would have to place leans against our farms to get da money needed to purchase and make da repairs. One bad harvest and we’d lose everything.”

“Sir, we simply cannot continue to throw good money after bad. I am only a part owner, the burden of managing the factory and the Mill is my sister’s. It’s not fair for me to ask her to continue running a business that is costing us financially.”

“I was worried this would happen after Fredrick passed. I had hoped his heirs would understand what he did, that dis island needs da Mill and da factory.”

“I’ve already offered to help pay for the necessary maintenance to get the Mill through next months harvest,” Crane explained. “But, I need a real solution to keep the Mill open, or we’ll have to shut it down.”

“What if we do it... Myself and some of da other retired farmers? We have skills in carpentry and mechanics. If you purchase the supplies, we can do da labor. That's gotta cut costs, no?”

“I could never ask that you volunteer your time and labor...”

“We’re saving our livelihood, son. We’re saving the inheritance that we want to leave our children and grandchildren.”

“That would cut costs significantly. If they agree, I’ll stay on and help as well.” Isaac knew he was needed back at work, but this was important. “I’ll draw up a proposal.”

~

 

It was rather unusual for Abbie to be awakened for her morning run by her alarm. Usually, it would be the rousing rumblings of Ellie and Jacob’s morning escapades that would conjure her from her sleep.

But Jacob had been quiet after his talk with Crane. He went off quietly for a walk on his own.

Ellie had insisted he would be fine, “This is what he does when he needed a moment to think and plan. Don’t ya worry none child.”

Her morning run as the sun was rising, fresh air filling her lungs and the slow burn, were her therapy.

She tried not to worry, but she did, as she was sure everyone else did as well. She had packed, then unpacked, unable to decide whether or not she should go with Ichabod on his planned sailing venture. Two days around the island, would be a dream. As much as her heart was pulling her to go, how could she? How could she be with him until this matter was settled with her family.

The memory of his kiss, was imprinted on her lips, as was the way his body felt against hers, the earnest fervency when he was inside of hers. God, she wanted him.

Abbie finished her run, dabbing at her forehead and chin as she meandered into the kitchen through the side door. “Breakfast smells good, Grandma. Hey granddad.”

“Hey, Baby,” Jacob seemed to be in a better mood.

She gave her moms Lori and Leena kisses on the cheek. “I’m gonna get a quick shower and I’ll be back down for breakfast.”

“I thought you’d be going sailing with your friend Iche.” Lori holds her daughters glance awaiting a response.

“I’m not going. I think it’ll be best if we just cool things off until they get everything figured out with the Mill.”

“Oh that’s too bad, baby. I know you really like him.”

“I do, but...” Abbie quirks with a shrugged. She wanted to get Crane off the brain, but it didn’t seem possible.

“Come take a walk wid us,” Jacob waved her to join him and Ellie.

Ellie handed her apron and spatula to Lori to take over the cooking, “we’ll be right back.”

They walked down the road for a bit, the freshness of the farm in the morning lingered through the air. Abbie was kind of feeling like a third wheel, watching her grandparents holding hands and canoodling as they walked.

“Are you two sure you don’t want some privacy?” She teased.

“Actually, we thought you might want some privacy.” Jacob reached in his pocket and handed her a key.

“What’s this for?”

“For you,” Jacob pointed to the little yellow chattel house.

“Your granddaddy thought you might like to have your own private space to spread out and be creative.”

“Really?” Abbie’s eye’s widened and she hurried to the house.

She opened the door and found a perfectly appointed workspace with all the room she would need to spread out. Her sewing machine was there as well as her old mannequins. And the wardrobes were beautiful.

“Granddad did you do this?”

“I did. I hope ya like it, baby.”

“I love it,” she hugged him so hard he had to catch his breath.

“But I thought this old place had a leaky roof and... what about the toilet.”

“Your gentleman friend fixed them right up. Everything works just fine.”

“He did,” Abbie softened, feeling the flittering swoon rush through her belly.

“Baby, why aren’t you goin on dat trip wid him?” Ellie asked. “We can all see how much ya like the boy.”

“Grandma, I really do like him. Part of me just wants to believe it won’t matter. But I can’t help but think how awkward and awful it’ll be if Roberts Farm suffers because of his decisions.”

“He’s strong-willed and determined. I feel confident he’ll find a way to work wid us. But I don’t hold none of it against him,” Jacob assured her. “The boys passion is not wid ruining a business. And he’s not too keen on laying a failing business at his sister’s feet ya deal wid. I cannot blame the man for dat.”

“I know... he wants to save the world,” Abbie chuckled softly as she shook her head. “And for publicity, or to make a name for himself. And he thinks he’s in love with me.”

“He don’t seem like a double-minded man. If the man says he loves ya den he loves ya,” Grandma grinned giving her hand a squeeze. Don’t ya let the worries of the world get in da way of love. You don’t want ta grow old wid regrets, wondering what if.

“But what about the farm,” Abbie asks in complete earnest.

Grandpa hugged both his little women in his rather large embrace. “It will either work out or it won’t, but I won’t give up trying. And you shouldn’t give up on what ya want if it’s worth fighting for.”

“Are you saying...”

“You should go, Abbie,” Ellie gave her a cheeky grin.

“He’s probably already left.”

“Baby, that man ain’t going nowhere wid’ out ya. Don’t be a fool, now, go on get ya’Self to dat man.”

 

~

 

2~ A Little Time

 

“Hey there.”

“Bloody hell,” Crane mumbled under his breath, barely looked up as the secured the fastens of the spare anchor. “Good morrow, ladies.”

The blond and redhead had walked up and down the dock twice already, trying to get his attention. This time they ditched their sundresses for bikinis. He made the mistake of glancing in their direction at the sound of footsteps, hoping it was Abbie.

“Your boat is hot,” the blond licked her slender pink glossed lips, as she glanced down his bare chest.

“So hot,” the redhead eyed him like she was a dog and he was raw meat. “I’m Becca, and this is Mandy. How about we keep you company.”

“Sorry, I’m not interested,” he tried to be polite.

“Are you sure,” Mandy turned running her hands over her tiny behind.

“Quite,” Crane crinkled his nose up at her flat ass. It was nothing to boast about. “If you don’t mind I’m rather busy...”

He looked up and there she was, her petite figure and gorgeous chestnut skin, we’re unmistakable even from the distance.

“If you’ll excuse me...” he hopped off the boat and rushed by the girls.

“Ugh...” Mandy scoffed, folding her arms as they watched him rush down the dock.

He practically ran to Abbie, sweeping her up in his arms and kissing her. She wrapped her arms around his bare shoulders, so easily cohering into the warmth of his embrace and the soft affection of his lips upon hers. Several boaters and yachters looked on with cheers and whistles.

“I was beginning to worry you wouldn’t come,” he breathed softly between kisses, hooded blue eyes gazing hastily into hers.

“I was afraid you’d left without me.”

“No way... I had no intentions of leaving without you Treasure.”

Abbie grinned. Grandma Ellie had said as much.

“So, are we invited to tag along?” Bram asked. He and Tasha were there having given Abbie a ride, and Ichabod hadn’t even noticed.

“Absolutely not,” Crane laughed.

“We brought our swimsuits and lots of liquor,” Tasha waved her bag in an attempt to persuade.

“Nope,” Abbie shook her head as the pair waved goodbye to their friends. “But go forth. I’m sure you two will put it to good use.”

“Indeed, just not with us.” Ichabod added as he and Abbie walked away together hand in hand with their arms snuggle entwined.

~

Ichabod stood snug behind Abbie as he helped her guide the sailboat out of the harbor, and set a slow course for Sant Andreas Island’s nature reserve. She hums wistfully, a beautiful sound that cheers his soul, as she skillfully takes his direction.

“How was that Captain,” Abbie smiled triumphantly.

“Most excellent Left’enant. Are you sure this is your first time on a sailboat?”

“I’ve been boating a few times, but this is my first time handling a sailboat.”

“We should arrive at our destination in an hour.”

Mmm... whatever will we do until then?” Abbie teased, turning into his embrace.

He melted into those golden eyes, glistening by the sunlight. “I really didn’t think you were going to come.”

“Honestly,” Abbie winced a bit snuggling close looking straight up into his blue eyes. “I almost didn’t. I kinda thought maybe we needed a little time for things to work themselves through.”

“What changed your mind?”

“My grandparents told me to, go for it,” she grinned. “And you kinda said you’re madly in love with me so...”

“Oh, I said I’m madly in love did I?”

“Yeah... Yeah... that’s pretty much what you said,” she giggled wildly as he placed playful kisses on her neck and cheek.

“It’s true,” he held her now, as they slowly rocked to the swaying of the water, stilling his gaze upon her. “I love you.”

Abbie gently cupped his cheeks pulling him into her tender kiss. He wanted so badly to hear the words from her. He could feel it, feel her love. It was strong, tender, true. He knew in time, the words would follow. Little by little her guard was coming down, and when she was ready, she would say the words.

Their first destination was sightseeing around the small reserve Island. They lounged on the deck of the boat, binoculars in hand, observing the wild parrots and cranes, monkeys, and horses. St. Andreas was one of the untouched splendors of the Caribbean, and a jewel of St. Patricia.

He loved the way her face lit up, and her laugh. He watched her more than the sights on the island.

It was the little moments that Abbie loved the most. The way he gently brushed her shoulder, and when he held her hand, the way he hung on her every word, she never felt so connected to a man before.

After a beautiful day together, they set anchor close to the shore with a view of the main island to the East and the sunset to the west. Ichabod prepared a light dinner with wine. They made love under the stars.

 

~

 

3~ Clear Waters

 

The next day they did a bit of snorkeling in the morning. The turtles were out and they could get close and take pictures in the crystal clear waters.

was a lazy day in the sun, Abbie donned a large hat, sunglasses, and another tiny bikini, that Ichabod repeatedly managed to get her out of. He couldn’t get enough of her.

As he did his routine check of the sails, Abbie, feeling waves of inspiration, thought she’d get a bit of her creativity out. As she sketched, she struggled to ignore the buzzing of Crane’s phone. Every time they were in service range, his phone buzzed. And every time it was Betsy. This time a text message

Betsy: Please call me. We need to talk ab...

She averted her eyes back to her work as she laid stretched out on the boat deck. She was certain Betsy was just calling about work, since Crane seemed bent on ignoring the calls.

“You’re doing it again,” Abbie peeked up from sketching on her iPad with a coy grin.

“How can I not,” Crane gave her a sly half-cocked grin, raising a brow as his eyes glance over her curves and back up to her smile. “You’re beautiful.”

He finished checking the sails then laid beside her. “What are you working on?”

“Nothing special... just sketching a few designs for Cynthia. She can be sexy and pregnant.”

 

“I must say, this would look stunning on you,” he admired.

“Are you saying I’m fat?” Abbie gave him a playful nudge.

“Not in the slightest,” he went wide-eyed. “I only meant that if you were... well, you know.”

Abbie scoffed out a laugh, “What? If I were pregnant? Not happening.”

“You don’t want to have children?” Ichabod gave her an inquisitive glance as he traced his fingers down the delicate curve of her back.

“I used to... Maybe one day, if I can get my life and career sorted out. How about you?”

“I do. One or two... it’s expected.” He looked over her sketch carefully, eager to change the subject, “You are undoubtedly quite the talent, Treasure,” He pecked a kiss on her cheek.

“Thank you. Being out here, I’m feeling inspired. Thank you for inviting me.”

“Oh, please, it is I who am most grateful that you came. I only hope that you don’t find me to be an absolute bore.”

“God, no. You are amazing, Crane. And I wanted to say thanks for helping granddad with my studio.”

“T’was nothing, honestly...”

“It’s something to me. It’s been a long time since I had a space of my own. I can’t wait to get in there and really try to make something out of my mess of a life.”

“It’s not a mess,” he looked into her eyes, caressing her cheek. “Not everyone is brave enough to follow their passion and live in their truth as you have.”

“Me? Is it ironic that I admire that in you? You can do anything in the world, and yet you choose to work with World Neighbors.”

“You’re the first person in my life that I love, to say anything so supportive about what I do.”

Abbie could see the sadness behind his pale blue eyes, and it sent an ache through her heart.

“It’s because they love you. It’s got to be scary for them never knowing if you're safe.”

“I know. I suppose I only wish they would try to at least understand.”

“Have you tried to explain? I cannot imagine how hard it is to watch and feel powerless as someone you love suffers.”

Ichabod looked away. It was scary how she could read him, and a blessing that finally someone understood him.

“How is it that you understand better than they, when they were there, Abbie. They were there and they watched helplessly as my mum died, and they went right back to life as usual. Completely unchanged. Stiff upper lip and all.”

Abbie, put her iPad away and snuggled up in his embrace, slowly stroking his arm.

“I couldn’t help her, but if I can help others, I feel that I must.”

“When are you going back to World Neighbors?”

“Not until after things are settled here. I’ve made the proposal to father and Sydney, and if your grandfather’s plan works, I’ll stay here for a month to see to the restoration of the Mill.”

Abbie smiled relieved that he would be staying a while longer, but she worried. What if they really made a go of this? How would she handle him leaving to work in a war-torn country?

They were caught off guard by a splashing sound off the starboard bow.

“Would you look at that,” Ichabod pointed to a small school of dolphins giving them an impromptu show.

“Amazing,” Abbie gushed holding her hand over her mouth in pure delight. The show was short lasting just a few minutes but it was truly a treat. Abbie kind of felt like it was a sign that somehow St. Patricia approved of the two of them.

It was late in the afternoon when they finished the trek around the main island. Abbie took the wheel steered into the bay, but decided to drop anchor and spend the night on the water instead of at the dock.

“You handle her with such mastery, Left’enant.” He complimented as he lowered the anchor

“You’re an excellent teacher, Captain.” Abbie into his arms, looking out across the bay as the moon shone high in the early evening sky.

“There’s so much more I’m rather inclined to teach you, if you’re amiable,” he hummed in her ear. His palms were warm against her belly.

“Oh, I’m amiable,” Abbie turned in his arms, running her fingers gingerly down his smooth bare chest, teasingly pursing her lips. “Amiable and flexible.”

His hands easily undo the ties of her bikini, as his lips passionately descend upon hers. His hands caressed her neck and cheeks seducing her to think things, want to do things to him, for him. His tongue reached so deep inside her, as their mouths gaped, breaths heavy and desperate.

He ground his body against her, cock lurching beneath the confines of his trousers. She whimpers.

“Is this what you want?” He growls nipping at her ear.

 

“Stop fucking teasing me...” she breathed, undulating against him.

He lifted her, letting her legs wrap tight around his waist before taking her to the cabin below deck. Her lips were plump and wet against his, her ass soft and full in large firm grip.

He was thick and throbbing against her body, making her wet. She slid down on her knees, unfastening his pants. She wasn’t even embarrassed at how badly she wanted him in her mouth. She drove him mad, and he loved every second.

And when he laid her down, went down, kissing soft brown nipples, tasting her down until he was delighting in all her sensual places, she came alive. He spread her wide, dipping his tongue deep inside her chasm igniting her desire. She glazed his fingers with her essence and he savored every drop.

He mounted himself between her thighs, moaning deep at the sensation as he pressed inside her.

“Mmm fu... yessss...” she purred as he stretched her.

Her nails raked down back side, feeling the flex of his muscles, with every thrust. She didn’t lie about flexibility, letting him raise her leg high over her shoulder as he went deeper harder.

They naturally found their rhythm, sometimes playful, always ethereal. Nothing felt as good as their bodies coming together like a sea of continuous waves, ebbing and flowing until they found their release in each other.

After, he held her, held her as if he never wanted to let her go.

She closed her eyes as the sound of his heartbeat resonated through her soul.

“Crane, I love you,” she sighed a calming release washed over her as she finally admitted what she’d felt for a while now.

“I love you, Treasure. You will always have my heart.”

 

~

 

4~ Unexpected

 

“Good morrow, Treasure.”

Abbie woke to the tickle of whiskers and and soft lips kissing her cheeks.

“Morning, handsome.” Abbie stretched with a smile and pulled him into her. She could barely move after the way he made love to her all night.

“Are you all right? Last night was...”

“Last night was amazing,” she pursed her lips feeling light, swooning, as she gazed hazily up into his eyes. “And yeah... I’m fine. Just a little worn out.”

He kissed her tenderly; firm strong hands caressed her bare soft skin, before he laid her back down.

 

“I need to do a quick check on deck and get us set for the morning.”

“Mmm... give me a second and I’ll help you.” Abbie yawned, hardly ready to get up, but watching his fine ass as he slipped on a pair of shorts.

 

“Rest up whilst I raise the anchor. I’ll return momentarily.” He gave her a swift kiss, then grabbed his phone and hurried out to go above deck.

She was about to get up and take a shower when her own cell phone rang. She had a minute so she figured she might as well answer.

“Hey, Caroline. What’s up?”

“Guess who is going to be featured in VaLùre Magazine!”

“Who?” Abbie sits up very curious.

“You! Delyse Designs.”

“What?” Abbie furrowed her brow confused. She always said she’d name her brand after her grandmother Ellie Delyse, but what was Caroline trying to say.

“You Abbie! You’re dress designs, your photographs... just like you sent them... I mean there was a little air brushing but...”

“Caroline, What are you talking about?”

“Did you hear about Shway?”

“That he stole from another designer... yeah. I always knew he was shady.”

“Right! Anyway, Fidel called me the other day from VaLùre and told me that they already had their book approved to feature none other than Shway. So in the spot they needed everything, finished designs, photographed... it was a mess. So I sent him your photos and... they loved them. You’re getting the cover, centerfold and feature.

 

“Oh my God,” It was finally hitting her. “Oh my god! Are you sure! Is this really for real?”

“Yes. Delyse Designs is happening. I sent you an e-mail. I just need you to get your models to sign a release and they are gonna get paid. So I need them today, because they are ready to go to print.”

Abbie couldn’t believe it, as she hung up, she took a moment to let it sink in. She wrapped the bed sheet around herself and went up above to the main deck.

She didn’t see Ichabod right away, but heard his voice on the other side of the boat cabin.

“Betsy how did this happen?”

“And So now I’m on the hook?”

“I’m sorry. I’m not trying to blame you for this, and I know you need me.”

 

“I can’t come back just yet.”

“I have no intentions of neglecting my responsibilities, but you cannot spring this on me and expect me to drop everything...”

 

“Betsy... I’ll be back as soon as I can, I promise. I’m sorry.”
Ichabod hung up. “Fuck!”

“Hey, is everything okay?” Abbie asked as she approached him and saw the frustration written all over his face.

“Yes, of course, it’s just work... nothing of consequence.” He looked at her and could see the glimmer in her eyes. “What about you?”

“I just got off the phone with Caroline... my designs... my photographs... Delyse Designs is going to be featured in VaLùre.”

“What? That’s amazing!” He swooped her up in a massive hug and spun her around, kissing her in congratulatory celebration. “Your work is stunning, so I am hardly surprised that they’ve chosen you designs. But how did you manage it from here?”

“It was Caroline. She saw an opportunity and she sent them the photos of my work. I just need you and the girls to sign the consent forms and... I hope you don’t mind?”

“Oh my pictures too?”

“Yes... is that okay?”

“Anything for you Treasure. I’m so happy for you. In fact I want a copy of the issue for all the resorts.”

“I hate to cut our morning short, but I really need to get everything signed... they’re going to print tomorrow.”

“Of course,” Isaac cupped her cheeks in his hands and kissed her full on the lips, every bit as excited as she was.

 

~

 

After docking Ichabod and Abbie hopped on his motorcycle so that he could take her home. She held her arms around him, petite hands cupped his chest as she leaned into him. They were only halfway there when he stopped and pulled over on the side of the road. It was a nice position on the side of the quiet highway with a scenic view overlong the coast And the sea.

He was quiet, taking her hand in his, his adoring gaze went from her eyes to the view across the island. She could see he had something on his mind.

“What is it Crane?”

“Thank you for the last two days. It was amazing.”

“Thank you for inviting me. It’s like seeing Saint Patricia for the first. You’ve made me fall in love with this place all over again.”

“I feel the same way,” his eyes dart down and back up, his face softening as he gazes into her eyes. “Abbie, I have to leave for a few days.”

“Oh,” she hadn’t expected that. “Is everything okay?”

“I had initially thought to avoid returning home, but it seems that it would be best if I went back to take care of a few things.” He could see the concern growing on her face and sought to calm her. He released her hands, and wrapped his arms around her.

“It’s nothing that you need worry about. And I promise, I will return in a few days and we can celebrated your well deserved success, proper.”

“Okay,” she languidly wrapped her arms over his shoulders, almost on her tippy toes, giving him the cutest curled lip smile.

His heart did flips in his chest and he knew he was completely hers. “God, I love you.”

“I love you too, Crane.”

 

 

 

 

~*~

Chapter Text

Ch 11 ~ VaLúre

 

1~ The Issue

“Buenos Dias, Señors,” Marta entered the room bright and early, with a pot of coffee and two mugs on a silver tray. She set the tray down and drew the curtains open to let the early morning sunlight beam into the master suite.

“Five more minutes, Marta,” Danny almost pleaded with her as he stretched.

“No, señor. You know what today is?”

“She’s right,” Orion yawned as he sat up in the bed. “The next issue of VaLùre comes out today.”

Orion leaned over to give his husband and lover, Danny a sweet good morning kiss.

“Mmm... that’s nice,” Danny kisses him again, more intimate this time, leaning him back down onto the bed.”

“No, no no,” Marta scolded, tossing the gentlemen their robes. “No time for that. Olivia is already up. I managed to stall her with toast and jam, but she will be in here any minute with her copy of VaLùre.”

The men barely had their robes donned and tied when their ten-year-old daughter came bursting into the room. Olivia was absolutely giddy, clinging to her copy of the magazine as she hopped on the bed with her dads. Unlike last week, when SHé Image released their August Issue and the girl came in completely disgusted with their lack of imagination, style, and taste; today she was gushing about everything from the designs to the models.

“I mean just look at the cover dads!” Olivia’s face lit up seeing a dark sepia brown skin woman that looked like her. “Do you know her dad?” She asked Orion.

“No, I’ve never seen her. She’s stunning though. And she looks absolutely smashing in this yellow dress.”

“Looks like they used actual Caribbean models,” Danny was impressed, that the typical pale underfed waif, was not the centerfold. Even the centerfold with her long silky dark locks and freckles, had a rich yellowish-brown tawny complication. Each vibrantly colored dress suited them perfectly.

“Who is this hotness right here?” Danny took the magazine holding it up to admire the tall brunette man in shorts. “His calves are to die for.”

“Oh, he is delicious,” Orion agreed.

“Dads!” Olivia pulled them men from whatever daydream they were about to have.

“Right,” Danny shook his head slowly biting his lips. “I must have this outfit. Look at how the shorts shape the ass.”

“These dresses are incredible too. Who is the designer?” Olivia asked.

Orion was stupefied, usually knowing all the designers, even the up-and-comers. “Delyse Designs? I’ve not heard of them.”

“I can’t believe this was VaLùres’s back up after the disaster with Shway... This designer should have their own show.”

“Indeed,” Orion studied the designs more closely.

He had admired similar work done by a young up and comer at SHè Image not too long ago. Abbie Mills, he was certain her name was. Could she have found work with another designer after leaving SHè?

 

~

 

“What the actual hell!” Standra Raven had been on a tirade all morning, calling everyone in early. “How did VaLùre pull an issue like this when we’ve been producing pure shit!”

“I don’t know?” Kim her assistant was shocked going through the VaLùre issue. “I thought for sure they’d be buried after the disaster with Shway, and our issue would top it.”

“So you were counting on them fucking up in order for us to look good!” Standra threw her copy of VaLùre at Kim’s face. “We lost another advertiser! That’s one last week and three today!”

“Over one slightly underperforming issue?” Katrina tried to sugar coat it.

“One!” Standra scoffed, shooting daggers at her. “It was shit! The only good part of July’s issue was from Abbie Mills Paradise Lost designs,” Standra’s voice sheathed with disgust just saying her name. “And we had to give her credit for it! Everything else was shit. The August issue is shit! And the pitch for September was absolute shiiiittt!”

“We’re trying...” Diana started to defend herself but Standra cut her off.

“We are being eaten alive in the reviews! Washed up, uninspired, Lazy! That’s what they are saying about SHè Image!”

Standra Raven pointed at Katrina and Diana, knowing that these are the women she picked over Abbie, and now they were failing miserably to perform even marginally as well as Abbie had.

“Our spot at Fashion week has been moved to a smaller venue and our time reduced! Because you all are producing shit! Do you two have any idea how humiliating this is for me?!”

Standra stormed into her office and slammed the door. Through the glass everyone watched her tear around her room having a tantrum.

She then slung the door open, “I want a meeting with every executive editor on staff and the entire closet team in five, Fucking minutes!”

AirlCaroline had never seen Standra Raven so red or so pissed, so pissed that she would admonish her precious Katrina in front of everyone.

Katrina looked as if she’d been knifed in the gut. Absolutely betrayed by the one who had placed her on the pedestal. Diana, walked around indignant, determined to let everybody know that it wasn’t her fault.

“I don’t see how she can blame me! I came in when the ship was already sinking. She asked me to replace Abbie not the other way around. I’m doing my best.”

“Clearly, you are no Abbie Mills, honey,” one of the closet stylists rolled his eyes at her.

Caroline, being the receptionist, sat back watching the spectacle and doing her best to contain her laughter. This was her career after all, but it’s not like she was in any danger of SHé Image folding. At least not any time soon. She was just a receptionist with hopes of moving up into management, but she wasn’t even sure SHé was the place she wanted to settle her career. For now, she was more than happy to set back and watch as Standra and her talented faves flopped.

~

 

2~ Guys and Secrets

 

“Good morning gorgeous,” Bram woke well after the sun was up and beaming through the large windows of his resort suite.

Tasha was already up, rushing after a quick shower to get dressed. “Good morning,” she crinkled her nose with a grin.

“Come back to bed, we can sleep in...”

“I can’t. Some of us have to work.”

“Oh bullocks,” he pouted his disappointment.

The two had been going out partying most nights, enjoying each other’s company as they went on the prowl. But many times they ended up leaving the club or party with each other. Last night was no different. Fortunately for Tasha, she could handle late nights, drinking and partying, then turning around and putting in a hard days work.

“Do you want to hang out again tonight?” Bram asked.

“Sure. None of the girls can hang with me on weeknights so, I could use the company.”

Bram’s phone rang, and he was quick to answer. “Hello mate! When did you get back?... Oh... right got it. Tomorrow... Really? That’s curious... That I understand... Okay mate, I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

Abraham hung up and Saw Tasha giving him a curious look. “I suppose you won’t be needing me when he gets back.”

“Bullocks. I rather enjoy your companionship, lovey. In fact, we should head over to Jamaica for a couple of days.”

“You’re serious,” Tasha gave him a quirky side-eye. “I thought we were just having fun.”

“We are... you could come back to bed and we could have some more fun.”

“Hmm... tempting,” Tasha leaned across the bed and gave his bare ass a little smack. “I’ll think about Jamaica. But for right now... I have to get to work.”

“Can I give you a lift?”

“I’ve got a ride,” Tasha looked at her phone. “And their here.”

“Oh,” Bram rolled on his side arching up on one elbow. “Should I be jealous?”

“Maybe,” she teased with a peck.

Bram pulled her in for another, more intense kiss to show his appreciation, before letting her go.

~

Sophie was waiting out from a little impatient, not wanting to be late for their 10am shift. “That’s two nights in a row chica. What’s going on?”

“Nothing serious. We’re just having a good time.” Tasha grinned.

“One guy for more than a week. That’s a record for you.” Sophie teased as they drove to the factory.

Tasha pulled out her cell phone. “We should check on Abbie. She’s been a hermit the past three days.

Abbie was liking her new routine. Up early for her run, breakfast, then straight to the chattel house so she could work. Finding out that VaLúre was featuring her designs and her photographs, lit a fire of inspiration within her.

She had been upset when Crane first said he was leaving, but she’d been Okay the last three days. She missed him, but at least she had time to be focused.

And his messages were cute. Missives, he called them. Sweet little text messages decreeing how much he loved her and missed her. He hadn’t actually called her however and she thought he must have been really busy.

 

“Hey, girl. Where have you been?” Sophie asked as Tasha put the phone on speaker.

“Working,” Abbie laughed. I do at some point have to get my career back on track. And I have the time now.”

“Oh, so in other words, Iche is still gone?”

“Yeah,” Abbie let out a sigh. “He did say it would be a few days, so...”

“Where did he go and did he say why he had to leave?”

“He said it was business, but... it was kinda weird.”

“Uh oh, how so?”

“Well,” Abbie tells her, “he got several calls from Betsy, his coworker and then an hour later he said he has to go.”

“Betsy, huh?” Tasha attempts to stalk his social media which he has none. Abbie already knew because she looked.

“Who the f*ck doesn’t have social media?” Sophie grumbled.

Tasha looks at his father’s company website with his family picture. Isaac’s father, him and his sister. “Oh his sister is pretty with short redhair... and Zaddy is hot too.”

“Stap!” Abbie laughs it off.

“Oh, this is interesting,” Tasha pauses as she scrolls through Abraham’s social media. “I think I found her on Bram’s Insta.”

“Who?”

“Betsy... wow she’s gorgeous. Long dark hair and she is all over Iche in these picture from Bram’s birthday five months ago.”

“Really?” Abbie furrows her brow.

“Yeah... I can tell they were definitely a thing.”

“Really?” Abbie was tempted to scroll through, but stopped herself. “Go to work, girl.”

Abbie hung up, and as tempting as it was to check Abraham’s social she decided to call Ichabod instead. She thought it was about to go to voicemail but at the last second he picks up.

“Treasure, hello.”

“Hi, I was just thinking of you, so I thought I’d call.”

“I have really missed you,” he kept his voice low.

“When are you getting back? I can’t wait to see you.”

“Well... l’ll be back in time for a late lunch tomorrow if you’re amiable?”

“I am definitely amiable to that...”

“Wonderful, Treasure. I must go... I’m in the middle of a business meeting. I’ll see you soon.”

“O... Kay?” Abbie crinkled her face as she looked at her phone. Did he just hang up on her?

 

~

3~ Nice Surprise

 

When Sophie and Tasha arrived it was a strange sightseeing several young women gathered outside, absolutely giddy.

As Sophie and Tasha walked up to them they started cheering, running up and hugging them.

“What’s going on?”

“You’re in VaLúre!” one of them handed Sophie a copy of the magazine opened to a page with Tasha on it.

“Oh shit, are you kidding me?” Tasha was stunned seeing her image on both pages. She turned to the center and there was Sophie. “Look!”

“Ahh!” Sophie squealed jumping up and down. “Ay Dios mío!”

“This is why she had us sign this damn wavers to use our images in her photographs. That sneaky Mamacita!”

~

Abbie was really making some headway on the design of a dress when there was a knock at the door.

“Delivery for Abigail Mills.”

Abbie got up and took the package, reading that it was from Caroline. She hurriedly tore into the package and pulled out one of the four copies of VaLùre.

“Ahh!” She practically squealed when she saw the cover with Cynthia looking absolutely stunning. Inside pictures of herself (fortunately with a hat pulled over her face), Tasha, Sophie and a couple of the other girls from the factory.

She hadn’t even made it all the way through when she had to call Caroline.

“I’ve been waiting for your call!” Caroline quickly snuck into the bathroom.

“Oh my god! It’s even better than I imagined!”

“I know! It’s amazing.” Caroline gushed. “Standra is losing her shit over here.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Nope,” Caroline ran down every detail of gossip about the morning at the office. She was delighted to give Abbie more good news. “SHé just lost Orion Angelo as an investor. And he wants to sponsor Delyse Designs for New York and London fashion week.”

“Caroline, don’t play with me. Are you for real right now?” Abbie has to sit down before she passed out.

“I am so serious. I’m just waiting on the details and then I’ll email everything to you. Abbie, you are about to blow up!”

“I can’t do this on my own... Caroline, I have to get a manager.”

“Oh...” Caroline felt her heart sink a little. “yeah, I guess you do need to find someone.”

“Caroline, I need you, girl.”

“You mean it?”

He’ll yeah!” Abbie was tickled by the joy in Caroline’s voice. “I mean unless you’re beholden to SHé and Standra.”

Caroline let out a chuckle, “Oh hell no.”

They talked for a while before Caroline had to go. A few minutes later she got a call from Sophie, Tasha, and Cynthia at the factory, ecstatic over the surprise of being in the magazine.

“We have to go out and celebrate tonight!” Tasha was ecstatic.

“Some of us have a family, and can’t party like that,” Cynthia bemoaned.

“Oh come on,” Sophie prided. “Frank will not mind watching Macey and letting have this. How often does his wife grace the cover of a fashion magazine.”

“You’re right,” she agreed. “Let’s Do it! Abbie are you in?”

“Hell yeah! I’ll meet you guys at Tasha’s place at eight!”

~

Now Abbie was too excited to work. She hurried to the main house to share the good news. She gave one copy to Her mom Lori and one to Ellie.

Everyone was excited about the girls being in the magazine and Abbie’s designs being featured. But also every photograph beautifully portrayed the island, from scenic beaches, and lush foliage, to the beautiful buildings both old and new.

 

Grandma Ellie was truly honored that Abbie named her budding business after her, and decided that they must commemorate with a feast. Jacob fired up the grill. Even Leena came home to join them in the celebratory lunch.

 

It reminded Abbie of the old days, when every little achieve the was cause for the family to gather, cook a huge meal and break bread together.

Jacob looked on at his women. Three generations sharing that big bright smile, and adorable laugh. What a beautiful life that had truly been designed by love.

 

~

 

4~ Red Handed

 

It was a little after seven. Abbie was dressed to the nines, hair and makeup on point. She gave herself one last check in the mirror. She loved the cute mini shorts and blouse, with high stiletto heels.
She grabbed the spare copy of VaLúre Magazine, to drop off at the door of Crane’s beach house on her way to Tasha’s place.

 

Abbie was a little surprised to see the motorcycle and a rental car in the driveway, but didn’t think too much of it. But when she walked down the stone path to the front door, she heard music coming from the back side of the house by the pool.

Curious, she walked around and stops on the path when she hears Ichabod’s voice and sees him walk out to the pool with a woman. She’s in a large sun hat and wearing a wrap dress. Abbie can’t see her face but she can see her long dark hair, spans she wondered if this was Betsy. It’s when the woman remove the wrap dress to reveal a bikini and a very pregnant belly that Abbie is completely thrown for a loop.

“I’m as big as a house.”

“No, you look absolutely lovely,” Crane took her hand. “Come get in the pool. I fancy a quick swim.”

“No... I’m going to relax right here. I would care for one of your marvelous foot massages.”

“It would be my pleasure,” Crane takes her hand and helps her into the lounge chair.

“Oh, god that feels amazing. You have magic hands, love.”

“Oh bosh,” he laughed as he tended to her slightly swollen feet.

“Come home Iche, we need you... And I miss you dreadfully.”

“I miss you too, love, but I need to stay a bit longer.

“It’s not enough. You’re always gone and you have no idea how difficult it is for me when you’re away.”

Ichabod places her feet down gently and moved to sit beside her on the lounge chair.

“I’m sorry. I know I haven’t been there for you as I should and especially now. I promise you, I will do better. You know I love you.”

He leaned in to hug her and kiss her cheek.

“I know... and I love you too.” She hugged him back and gently patted his cheek.

“I’m very glad you’ve come.”

 

“You were right. This place is incredibly special. I wish I could stay for more than two days.”

“Then we’ll have to come back after the baby is born. We could have a proper family holiday.”

“Yes, let’s,” she agreed hugging him again.”

Abbie felt her heart drop into her gut, a sinking nauseous feeling that created a dull ache in her chest. She hurried back up the path to the front of the house and tossed the magazine at the front door.

Abbie got back in the Jeep and drove, her mind buzzing with questions. Not to mention she was pissed. She had to wonder, since he was lying about being back, was he was lying the whole time. Had he even left at all? Did he bring this woman back or did she come because he wouldn’t go back to her. Her? Was this Betsy?

When she got to the end of the road she had to decide. Left would take her into town where Tasha and the girls were waiting for her, ready to get their party on. Right, she could go back home, where she wanted to go. Curl up in bed and just have a good old cry about her fucked up love life.

She was just about to turn right when her phone buzzed. She put in on speaker ready to tell the girls she wasn’t coming.

“Girl where are you?” Tasha asked.

“I was just thinking you guys should go ahead without me. I’m kinda tired.”

“Oh hell no, Abs! You’re coming out with us,”Sophie insisted. “This is for you, just as much as it is for us.”

“I’m not feelin’ it tonight...”

“Girl, if you don’t get your ass here, we’re coming to get you,” Tasha meant every word, and Abbie knew it.

“What the hell,” she shrugged. Why should she let another lying man hold her back from enjoying her life. She took the left turn and stepped on the gas. “I’m on my way.”

~

By nine thirty Abbie and the girls were lit. Everyone was excited that they were in a popular magazine, and that St. Patricia was the backdrop.

After a few shots they hit the dance floor, and were surrounded by guys when Abraham showed up. He smiled when he saw Tasha. She was such a flirt and he didn’t mind one bit. He was there if she wanted to go home with him tonight, and if not, no hard feelings. Hell, maybe she’d be inclined to let him join in.

But what struck him as odd was Abbie’s behavior. He knew Crane well enough to know that his friend never used the L word lightly. The last time he was in love with a woman he was very serious and was devastated when he lost her. He wouldn’t be so loosely telling his friends and family that he was in love with a young woman who was not at least serious about him as well. He didn’t get the details, but Crane did tell him that Abbie’s feelings on the subject were mutual after their sailing trip.

So it didn’t make sense to him that Abbie would be letting a guy dance all up on her. Okay, maybe a little, but this guy was grabbing and kissing all over her.

“Hey, you Okay Abbie?” Sophie asked. She and Cynthia noticed Abbie was acting out of sorts tonight. “This guy bothering you?”

“I’m good,” Abbie grinned and slurred a little. “This is my friend Trevor...”

“Travis,” he corrected her. He was behind her now with his hands firmly around her waist.

“Right, Travis from California,” Abbie grinned as he kissed her cheek. “Isn’t he cute?”

“He is cute but you’re drunk, sis.”

“I am not drunk enough,” Abbie corrected her. “In fact I’m ready for another round.”

~

He downed a shot of vodka and picked up his phone. “Hey mate.”

“Bram, Hey... where are you? I can barely hear you.”

“I’m at Club Limbo... Tasha invited me. Seems the girls are famous now.”

“Yes, I just got a copy of VaLúre delivered to me. I tried to call Abbie a short while ago, but there was no answer.”

That’s because she’s here at the club. Mate, You should come.”

“I haven’t told Abbie I’m back as of yet.”

“I can’t tell you what to do, and maybe she’s just had a bit much to drink... but I think you should get here sooner rather than later.” Bram was telling him, not making a mere suggestion.

 

 

~*~

Chapter Text

CH 12 Down At Club Limbo

 

1~ Your Friend

Iche Crane had already had an exhaustively long day, flying in from London and touring Fredrick’s Mill. He was jet-lagged and ready for a good night sleep when he received a rather peculiar call from Bram at well after ten in the evening.

 

“Hey mate.”

“Bram, Hey... where are you? I can barely hear you.”

“I’m at Club Limbo... Tasha invited me. Seems the girls are famous now.”

“Yes, I just got a copy of VaLúre delivered to me. I tried to call Abbie a short while ago, but there was no answer.”

That’s because she’s here at the club. Mate, I think you might want to get down here.”

“I haven’t told Abbie I’m back as of yet.”

“I can’t tell you what to do, and maybe she’s just had a bit much to drink... but I think you should get here sooner rather than later.” Bram was telling him, not making a mere suggestion.

“I don’t understand. I trust Abbie. If she wants to have a good time and celebrate her success, she’s well to do so.”

“So things are going well with you two, then?”

Very well,” Iche furrowed his brow. “Is there something you’re trying to tell me, old boy?”

“Maybe she’s had a bit much to drink, but... I don’t know,” Bram took a deep breath. He didn’t want to be a snitch, but Crane was his best mate and he couldn’t bear the thought of him getting hurt again. “There’s a guy all over her, and she isn’t exactly discouraging the attention.”

“That doesn’t sound like Abbie,” Iche felt a pang in his gut. No he and Abbie hadn’t known each other for very long, but they’d gotten so close and the feelings between them were very much real. He was in love and he truly thought she meant those words this past weekend. “I’m on my way.”

When he left Monday, she did seem a bit sad, but was she angry at him for leaving?

~

 

When Crane saw her through the crowd, sitting at the bar alone, long bronzed legs delicately crossed, she took his breath away. Her hair was out in thick waves and a soft gloss graced those beautiful. She should be happily commemorating her achievement, but even from the distance as he slowly waded through the crowd, he could see a sense of sadness behind her eyes, even though she tried to smile.

And then he saw who she was directing the half-hearted smile at. Some guy just placed his hand on her thigh, as he leaned in to whisper something in her ear, kissed her cheek and neck. The guy was a good 6’3” and all muscle. He was okay in the looks department, but he was looking at Abbie as if she were a whole snack and he just left the gym starving.

Ichabod could not let this happen to him again. Not after the way Jules Marwood had crushed him years ago. It took him a long time to get over that relationship. But Abbie, he reckoned he may never get over her. He was too far gone in love. But cheating behind his back, that is something he would not accept, even if it devastated him to walk away.

“Hello, Abbie.”

“Oh” Abbie’s heart thumped hard in her chest when she heard Crane’s voice. For a moment she felt caught, but then she remembered he was the one caught with a pregnant baby momma held up at his beach house. “Well hey, stranger.”

“You know this guy?” Travis asked.

“I thought I did,” Abbie attempted to introduce them. “Trenton this is Iche...”

“It’s Travis,” the young man with long dusky hair held his thick hand out to Crane.

Ichabod only looked him up and down, then turned back to Abbie. “Abraham called to tell me you were out celebrating your success.”

“And you made it all the way back to St. Patricia, from London in an hour? That’s impressive,” her voice oozed with sarcasm.

“Well, I got in a short bit ago, and, well...”

Abbie turned to him giving him a stern look. “Think very carefully about the next words about to come out your mouth.”

“You want to dance, baby?” Travis asked.

“I sure do.”

~

2 ~ Your Friend

All Tasha and Bram wanted to do was have a good time. But clearly, Abbie and Ichabod were a mess and we're not going to let them have this.

“You should go talk to him,” Tasha suggested.

“I’m actually feeling bad that I asked him to come. I honestly thought your friend would snap out of it once he showed up.”

“Well, my friend is clearly upset about something. Betsy Maybe?”

“Betsy? No, she’s a non-factor. Why don’t you go ask her what’s going on.”

“I tried, Sophie tried... I don’t know. Every time we ask her what’s going on, she grabs another drink. I’m afraid to say anything else.” Tasha took Bram’s hand. “Let’s go see your friend.”

Ichabod was watching dumbfounded as Abbie and Travis danced.

“Mate you doing alright?” Bram asked

Ichabod stood clueless looking like someone just kicked him in the gut, “I don’t know. I know she was sad when I left, but, Mate, I don’t know why she’s being like this.”

They turned to Tasha.

“Don’t look at me.” All I know is that she was excited about going out and then she just did t want to come out. We had to convince her to celebrate her own success, but she’s just been off all night. Then this guy Tyrone came along...”

Another dance, this one was slow and she was right on him. Ichabod put both hands atop his head in pure frustration. “What the...” And then Travis grabbed both of her butt cheeks. “I’m leaving... that’s... I’m done.”

“Don’t go,” Tasha stopped him. Look I don’t know what’s going on. I do know that she’s in love with you, so if you love her, don’t just walk away.”

~

 

Ichabod took a deep breath. When the song ended, Abbie stumbled and Travis caught her. Clearly, she was drunk. Ichabod tried to convince himself that’s what it is. She’s had too much to drink and this dude was taking advantage of that. But he knew Tasha was right either way. He had to talk to Abbie and at least try to figure out where they went wrong and see if they could work it out.

Abbie and Travis went back to the bar. She was almost in his lap.

 

Ichabod blinked, a bit taken aback. “Abbie if we could please step outside for a moment...”

“She’s with me tonight,” Travis reached to grab her ass.

Ichabod shoved him back. “Keep your hands off of her, Taylor.”

That snapped Abbie out of her drunken haze.

“It’s Travis,” the beefy young man moved towards Crane, chest puffed.

Crane’s jaw tightened also pissed that Abbie would pick a freaking muscle head who would probably knock him out in one punch. He didn’t care. This dude had to get his hands off Abbie or Crane was going to lose it.

He stuck his hand out, pointing a long finger indignantly at his nemesis, “I don’t give a fuck who you think you are, if you touch her again...”

“What you gonna do about it slim!”

“Hey! Stop” Abbie held her arms out, putting some space between the two men before they came to blows. She thought Iche must have lost his mind, because Travis was huge. “Crane, outside!”

Abbie stormed off with Crane right behind her, he only looked back to roll his eyes at Travis who looked devastated that he wasn’t chosen.

 

~

“Looks like your friend took my advice,” Tasha sipped her drink as they watched the two leave the club.

“I suppose it’s good that they’re leaving together. I was afraid for a minute I was going to have to step in and get my ass kicked along with him. Why did your friend have to pick such a massive dude to fool around with.”

“I don’t know. He’s kind of cute though.”

“Hmmm... he is,” Bram raised a brow.

“Nice and juicy,” Tasha licked her lips. "We could have a lot of fun with him.”

“Indeed" Bram too was enticed by the prospect. "And the poor guy looks devastated. Let’s invite him back to mines, and cheer him up.”

“Good idea,” Tasha gave Bram a wicked grin. “Let’s make sure our dear friends Iche and Abbie are off okay before we leave.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Bram winked.

 

3 ~ The Truth

She was fast for a little lady, and he struggled to meander through the crowd to keep up.

She was some distance from the entrance, down the walkway lined with trees, before she stopped. When she turned she had intended to lay into him for lying, but the look on his face was sad and frustrated, catching her off guard.

“Don’t you dare look at me like that.”

“Like what Abbie? I leave for three days and this is what I come back to? Are you trying to get me killed?”

“No. You didn’t have to pick a fight. You could have just walked away.”

“Is that what you wanted. You want me to walk away so you can go fuck Thomas?”

“No way...” Abbie closed her eyes for a second and tried to think clearly, but the liqueur was hitting her hard. “You do not get to turn this on me like it’s my fault! This is on you.”

“Are you actually pissed that I left? So much so that you are ready to do god knows what with that.... that...” He shook his head flabbergasted.

Abbie’s jaw dropped. He had a whole pregnant woman at his house, and he was mad that she was flirting with another man. “Oh, you really think that I’m that flaky? I wasn’t going to go home with him not that you would actually care.”

“Of course I care, I’m in love with you. I wish you would have been honest about how my leaving would affect things between us.”

“I’m not mad about you leaving, Crane.”

“Then what?”

“Where were you when we spoke on the phone earlier?”

*record scratch

“Damned,” Crane swore under his breath. “Okay, look... Yes, I happened to have arrived in St. Patricia earlier. But I had my hands full...”

“I bet you did!” Abbie folded her arms. Now she was drunk and mad all over again.

“Abbie, I had an incredibly long day. I had business to tend to pertaining to the Mill, I’m terribly jet-lagged and tired...” Crane ran his hands through his hair frustrated, but hoping she would be understanding. “I am very sorry I didn’t tell you I was back on the island. You have to know there is no one I’d rather be with than you.”

Her lip began to quiver and she wanted to kick herself, but the ugly drunk cry was welling up and she felt powerless to stop it. “That’s not true!”

“Of course it is. I wouldn’t lie to you about how much you mean to me.”

“Crane, I know about Betsy. The phone calls and messages... I know what it’s all about.”

Ichabod went ghost white. “Abbie... I can explain.”

Ichabod directed her to sit on a nearby bench. He sat close beside her, taking her hand in his.

“I get it, you know...” Abbie went first. “I just wish you would have been upfront with me about all of this.”

“I tried to be. You know I take my responsibilities very seriously. I can’t just walk away when I’m needed, and honestly, this is what I want.”

“I know. And I wouldn’t want you to walk away. I respect a man who is responsible... I just don’t know where that leaves us... where it leaves me.”

“I still love you. That doesn’t change. And I have four to five months before I have to leave. Until then, I will have to make the occasional trip back to London, but I can live here and be with you.”

“And after you leave, what happens to us?”

“Well, I suppose that will depend on you, and how much of my life you can handle. I can’t imagine it would be easy being left behind, but If we love each other.”

“And what about Betsy? Do you love her?”

“Love Betsy? Heavens no.”

“Won’t you be living together?”

“I don’t have to live with her. If you prefer I not live with her, then I won’t.”

“Of course I don’t want you two living together. But don’t you want the convenience of living together to take care of her.”

“No. I have you. Just because I’ll be away doesn’t mean I’ll be with Betsy. What she and I had was not serious. We were coworker turned friends, and well, we each were satisfying a need we had at the time. Nothing more. We are not nor were we ever, in love.”

“But a Baby complicates things. It can bring two people together.”

“A what now?” Ichabod blinked.

“A baby. Now that she’s pregnant, I’m sure things are different.”

Ichabod blinked shaking his head slightly confused.

“Isn’t that why she’s here?”

“Betsy?” Ichabod looked like he was going to be sick. But then he realized if Betsy was pregnant, it couldn’t be his. “What do you mean?”

“Crane, I saw you two together by the pool when I dropped off the magazine. That’s how I know she’s pregnant.”

“Oh? Ohhhh...” Crane went wide eyes. “I see. Abbie, please let me explain.”

 

~*~

Chapter Text

CH 13

 

1~

 

“There is my son,” William Crane greeted Ichabod with a hug and a pat on the back.

“I’ve only been gone three weeks, father,” Ichabod smiled happy to see him.

Next was Sydney with a massive squeeze. “Oh it’s so good to have you back home.”

“I don’t even get this warm of a greeting when I return from work,” Crane joked as he stepped back. “Look at you.”

Sydney blushed rubbing her baby bump. “I am really getting quite enormous already.”

“You look wonderful, love. Where is Isabelle?”

“She’s at school, but Michael is picking her up to join us for dinner.”

It was such a warm welcome home, after almost four weeks away. He took some time to get settled in, not too comfortable since he planned to go back to St. Patricia in a couple of days, but still, he strolled through the old London house, taking it all in.

It was still strange to Ichabod, not being met by his elderly grandfather George. He missed him, even more so when he was in their family home. And of course thinking of George made Ichabod think about his mother. Oh, how he missed the sound of their voices echoing through the halls.

He and Sydney had such fun as children. She was only eleven months his senior and people often thought they were twins. His eidetic memory rolled through visions of he and Sydney dashing down the stairs.

*
His mother would call after them, “careful loves!”

“Oh let the children play, Anne,” Grandpa George would smile calmly at his daughter. “This is their time to be carefree.”

*

“A lot of memories in this old place,” Sydney crept up on him and snuggled up against his arm.

“Indeed,” Ichabod let out a sigh.

“I’m so glad you’re back.”

“Only for a day or two, and really to see you.” Ichabod directed her to the parlor. “Can we talk?”

~

 

2~

“You can’t be serious, Ichabod. You can’t drag your sister half way around the world in her condition.”

The family sat gathered at the dining room table for a family dinner. With Isabelle away at school during the week, and Ichabod gone all the time, their family dinners were rare. And ever getting smaller it seemed. Well that would change in a few months when Sydney gave birth to baby number two.

“Father, I’m pregnant not deathly ill. And it’s only across the Atlantic. Besides spending couple of days in paradise sounds wonderful actually.”

“Can I go Mummy?” Isabelle chimed.

“No, dear, you have school. Perhaps next summer we can all go.”

“Michael?” William turned to Sydney’s husband for assistance. “You’re fine with Sydney leaving.”

“Don’t look at me. I learned a long time ago, I can’t tell Sydney what to do.”

“That’s right, darling,” Sydney gave her husband a quick kiss. “And it’s two days, father.”

“Well I certainly appreciate you coming back to St. Patricia, love.” Iche was grateful that Sydney would take such consideration before closing down the Mill.

“I’m happy to go. Honestly, it’s been too long since I’ve to the island. And you’re right. Saint Patricia, the Mill, the factory... they meant a lot to mummy and grandfather. I should go, and see them in person before making any decision.”

“Thank you,” Ichabod reached across the table and gave his sister’s hand a gentle squeeze.

“Well, if you should happen to meet the young lady he’s seeing, do report back to me. I’m quite curious about who has kept our boy away from us.”

“Father really,” Ichabod went red cheeked.

“Oh, is that why he’s been all giddy and glowing since he’s returned?” Michael teased. “I thought it was just all the sun.”

“Michael Hugh Bristol, need I tell the story about how you literally fell down the stairs the first time you saw Sydney?” Crane teased his brother-in-law.

Now it was Michael who went turned three shades of red, “ I admit, I fell hard for Sydney.”

Isabelle snickered at her dad, then turned to her uncle. “What’s she like?”

“Abbie? Oh she’s beautiful. She’s smart, an incredibly talented designer, she sings like an angel, and she has the loveliest eyes and smile I’ve ever seen.”

“Do you have a picture?” Isabelle was grinning ear to ear hearing her uncle Gus over his new girl friend.

“I do,” Ichabod eagerly pulled out his cell phone which was usually banned at the dinner table. “If you don’t mind father?”

“No, lets see the girl,” William too was curious.

Ichabod quickly moved some of the racier photos to a private folder, then leaned over to Isabelle. “That’s my Abbie.”

“Oh she is very pretty!” Isabelle’s face lit up when he scrolled to a picture from Carnival. “Her outfit is amazing!”

“She made that. In fact she designed these herself.”

“May I?” Sydney reached her hand for the phone, and Crane gave it to her. She moved closer to her dad at the head of the table so he could see.

“She is beautiful. I can’t wait to meet her. But not until after I make my decision.”

“Why after?” Michael asked curiously.

“Abbie’s family owns the largest farm on the island," Sydney posed her glance at her brother. "They grow cocoa, coffee, and a few other things, but their largest crop is sugar.”

Iche nodded, “Abbie and her family are incredibly kind and gracious. I know they won’t hold it against us personally if Sydney closes the Mill. But it would be difficult for our relationship if my family closed the only Mill on the island. It would mean loss of yield, and injuring international fees. Their profits would be cut in half or worse. And not just for the Robert’s but for every sugar farm on the island.”

“But no pressure, right love,” Sydney gave her brother a side-eye.

“Enough, business talk at the table,” William handed the phone back to his son. “I’d rather have you in St. Patricia, than God knows where, risking life and limb in the middle of some war. If Abbie keeps you safe, then I’m happy.”

“I’m only in St. Patricia temporarily.” Ichabod took the phone and let out a heavy sigh. It always came back to this. Williams disapproval of his occupation. “I’m going back to World Neighbors.”

Sydney dropped her fork, her hand trembling nervously. “When?” Her voice was a bit shaky.

“I’m in the process of locking on another engineer for the current assignment...”

“Oh thank heavens,” William was afraid Ichabod was going to say in a day or two as he usually did when these missions popped up.

“But... I’ve agreed to take the next assignment. It could be in two or three months, maybe five months at the most.”

“You’re going back, after everything...” Sydney looked at her brother full of bewilderment.

“It’s my job, love. They need me.”

“And we don’t,” Sydney was getting visibly upset prompting Michael put his hand on hers to help settle her nerves.

“And Abbie is okay with you being bombed and shot at?” William asked flatly.

“Really, Father,” Sydney pulled her napkin from her lap and tossed it on her plate.

Ichabod raised a brow at his father, then turned his attention to Sydney, “Love, I’m sorry. I just don’t want you making a decision about the Mill, and thinking that it’s going to alter my convictions about my job with World Neighbors.”

Ichabod hated feeling as though he had to apologize for loving his job. It he did try to understand how it affected his family.

“You really won’t be happy until you’ve returned to us in a body bag,” William spat, more hurt than angry.

“Excuse me,” Sydney could not take anymore. She stood up and briskly walked out of the dining room.

Never had Ichabod missed George more. His grandfather was masterful at defusing these situations, before they got this far. And he always supported Ichabod. Nobody understood him the way Grandfather George did.

Michael got up to check on his wife, but Crane stopped him. “I’ll go.”

 

~

Ichabod knew exactly where to find her, tucked on the leather sofa in the library. George was always there to talk her down whenever she was upset. Now he would have to find a way to help her.

“It’s the place I go to as well, when I need Grandfather’s sage advice,” Ichabod sat beside her.

Sydney leaned in resting her head on his shoulder. “Do you know how many times grandfather sat right here with me, and explained to me that it’s part of who you are, that we should all be so fortunate to find something we are passionate about. I’m trying to hear his words, love, I really am.”

“I wish I knew what to say, to help you understand how important the work we do really is. We save lives.”

“While risking your own,” Sydney whipped a tear from her cheek.

“Mary was a very dear friend. I can’t help but imagine, what if it had been you. And it quite nearly was. Our family has already lost so much. We can’t lose you too.”

“Well, I love you all. And nothing motivates me more to return home, than knowing I have a family that loves me and is awaiting my safe return. That and the fact that if I do get myself killed I’ll be hearing father say ‘I told you so’ from the grave.”

“Not funny!” Sydney swatted him hard, but did smile a little. At least Ichabod never dismissed their feelings and anxieties over his occupation.

~

 

3~

Bright and Early Thursday morning, Sydney and Ichabod arrived in St. Patricia. It was luckily Frank’s day off, so Abbie and her family wouldn’t know he was back in town just yet. He was hoping his sister would have the day to make an unbiased decision before meeting Abbie.

They quickly picked up a rental car then headed to the beach house to get settled in. There was something magical and nostalgic to Sydney as they drove from the airport to the beach house. Sitting beside Ichabod, with the wind blowing through her hair. She could almost picture Grandfather and her mum, drink get in the front while she and Ichabod sat in the back seats, giddy and excited for the island adventure ahead.

Stepping out of the car and approaching the house, with its lush foliage and the sea in the background, was like stepping back into their childhood.

Ichabod took her bags to her room while she looked around. He returned finding her staring out the window.

“I’ve forgotten how much I love this place. It’s been too long,” Sydney mused. Running her hands along the table as she looked out the window across the garden and sea view. “Looks like you’ve made yourself at home.”

“I have,” Ichabod nodded. “You should do the same, love. I’m just going to make a phone call.

“Go ahead. I’m just going get a quick shower and rest before we go to the Mill.”

Ichabod pulled out his phone and dialed his best mate.

 

“Hello mate! When did you get back? Bram was happy to have his friend back in town, even though he was enjoying Tasha’s company and some pretty amazing sex.

“I got back an hour ago, however I’m not inclined to let anyone know I’m back until tomorrow.”

“Oh... right got it. Tomorrow.”

“Do you have company? Abbie’s friend Tasha?” Crane grinned.

“Indeed mate.” Bram was watching her get dressed for work.

Ichabod sat on the sofa and leaned back, resting a bit by closing his eyes, “Well, it’s imperative you not say anything. I brought Sydney back to take a look at the Mill.”

“Really? That’s curious.”

“I know that being here and seeing this place again will help her make up her mind. But I don’t want her to have the added pressure of meeting Abbie and her family until after she decides.”

“That I understand.”

“I must go,” Ichabod yawned and stretched. “Sydney and I have a long day and we’re terribly jet lagged.”

“Okay mate, I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

His eyes were already closed, and he thought he’d just relax for a few minutes. His mind and thoughts quickly drifted to Abbie. He couldn’t wait to see her again.

Almost an hour passed and he was startled awake by his cell phone ringing. It was Abbie. He contemplated not answering, not wanting to tell her he was back yet and certainly not wanting to lie to her if she asked. But damned if he could not resist hearing her voice.

He had to answer. “Treasure, hello.”

“Hi, I was just thinking of you, so I thought I’d call.”

“I have really missed you,” he kept his voice low.

“When are you getting back? I can’t wait to see you.”

“Well... I’ll be back in time for lunch tomorrow if you’re amiable.”

“I am definitely amiable to that...”

“Wonderful, Treasure,” Sydney came out of her room, waking from her nap having heard his phone ring.

“I must go... I’m in the middle of a business meeting. I’ll see you soon.”

“Is that Abbie?” Sydney teased.

Ichabod hung up quickly. “Yes, and she doesn’t know I’m back yet.”

“Oh right,” Sydney grinned at how blushed her brother got when he was talking to Abbie. “I’ve never seen you like this.”

“Oh, stop,” he brushed it off still smiling. Something about hearing Abbie’s voice seemed to brighten everything for him and put a pep in his step. “If you’re rested, we should get down to the Mill.”

~

 

5~

 

The tour of the Mill had the effect that Ichabod was hoping. They drove through some of the farm country and saw many workers, putting their hard labor into the fields, all smiling, some singing, proud of their hard day’s work.

But the Mill had barely made it through last spring’s harvest, and would not make it through the upcoming autumn harvest at summers end without extensive repairs.

“What do you think, honestly?” Ichabod asked.

“I think it’d be foolish to put in a quarter of a million pounds to rebuild the Mill when it will not even break even financially. We could sell it, but any buyer is going to run into the same problem we have. They just won’t make their money back. At best they might break even, but what will they do when it’s time to make repairs again, and pay a staff... even if someone built a new Mill, it would cost a million easily and they still wouldn’t make a profit. The island just isn’t big enough, and doesn’t have enough sugar farms to make up the cost.”

“I know but...”

“Let me finish,” Sydney stopped her brother from protesting. “That being said… I know that if we close the Mill, we are essentially ending sugar farming on St. Patricia, and that would be a tragedy. I know this islands history, and how the Africans, Natives and Europeans came together after slavery ended. And that it was sugar that sustained this island and made it what it is today. Trust that I don’t want our family to be the one that lutes an end to a true staple of the Island.”

“Then what say you sister?”

“I’m not inclined to bleed money... let me think it over this evening... make a few calls and I’ll have a decision, hopefully a solution, for you at breakfast.”

“Thank you, love. Now get changed and let’s go for a swim to relax. We’ve had quite the day.”

“Relaxing by the pool sounds glorious.”

Sydney quickly changed then came down in a lovely wrap and massive sun hat. She was a bit more fair skinned than her brother and tended to burn if not careful, unlike Ichabod who took a tan with ease.

Ichabod was in his thigh length speedos, feet dangling in the water ready to enjoy the pool and the sunset.

“I’m as big as a house,” she mumbled as she stepped out onto the patio.

“No, you look absolutely lovely. Come get in the pool. I fancy a quick swim.”

“No... I’m going to relax right here. I do fancy one of your marvelous foot massages.”

“It would be my pleasure,” Ich hopped up and took her hand, helping her into the lounge chair. He slowly began kneeling into the sensitive flesh and bones.

“Oh, god that feels amazing. You have magic hands, love,” Sydney praised.

“Oh bosh,” he laughed as he tended to her slightly swollen feet.

“Come home Iche, we need you... And I miss you dreadfully.”

“I miss you too, love, but I need to stay a bit longer.

“It’s not enough. You’re always gone and you have no idea how difficult it is for me when you’re away.”

Ichabod places her feet down gently and moved to sit beside her on the lounge chair.

“I’m sorry. I know I haven’t been there for you as I should and especially now. I promise you, I will do better. You know I love you.”

He leans in to hug her and kiss her cheek.

“I know... and I love you too.” She hugged him back and gently patted his cheek.

“I’m very glad you’ve come.”

 

“You were right. This place is incredibly special. I wish I could stay for more than two days.”

“Then we’ll have to come back after the baby is born. We could have a proper family holiday.”

“Yes, let’s,” she agreed hugging him again.”

After the sun went down the two headed inside. Ichabod was in the kitchen cooking up a feast for his big sister when walked in.

“Look what I found at the front door,” Sydney waved the copy of VaLùre magazine. “I didn’t know you subscribed.”

“I don’t... but this must be the issue that Abbie is in! I did tell her I wanted a copy. She must have had one delivered.”

“These designers are breathtaking... oh my god, Love, you’re in it!”

“I know,” Ichabod smiled. “Quite scandalous.”

Ichabod and Sydney stood at the counter musing over every page. “Did I not tell you she is talented?” He was so proud of her.

 

After dinner, Sydney went straight to bed. Ichabod did attempt to call Abbie, but his calls went straight to voicemail. He figured she was likely celebrating. He was cleaning the kitchen, trying no finish before he fell asleep, when he got a peculiar call from Abraham.

“Hey mate.”

“Bram, Hey... where are you? I can barely hear you.”

“I’m at Club Limbo... Tasha invited me. Seems the girls are famous now.”

“Yes, I just got a copy of VaLúre delivered to me. I tried to call Abbie a short while ago, but there was no answer.”

That’s because she’s here at the club. Mate, I think you might want to get down here.”

“I haven’t told Abbie I’m back as of yet.”

“I can’t tell you what to do, and maybe she’s just had a bit much to drink... but I think you should get here sooner rather than later.” Bram was telling him, not making a mere suggestion.

“I don’t understand. I trust Abbie. If she wants to have a good time and celebrate her success, she’s well to do so.”

“So things are going well with you two, then?”

Very well,” Iche furrowed his brow. “Is there something you’re trying to tell me, old boy?”

“Maybe she’s had a bit much to drink, but... I don’t know,” Bram took a deep breath. He didn’t want to be a snitch, but Crane was his best mate and he couldn’t bear the thought of him getting hurt again. “There’s a guy all over her, and she isn’t exactly discouraging the attention.”

“That doesn’t sound like Abbie,” Iche felt a pang in his gut. No he and Abbie hadn’t known each other for very long, but they’d gotten so close and the feelings between them were very much real. He was in love and he truly thought she meant those words this past weekend. “I’m on my way.”

~

 

6~

 

“Well damn it, Crane... So it was Sydney I saw you with when I dropped off the magazine.”

“So that’s when you saw her... But why in heavens would you think it was Betsy?”

“Because Betsy keeps texting you and calling you, ugh...” Abbie moaned feeling sick. All the alcohol was starting to get to her.

“Betsy was calling about work. She’s one of the coordinators, and we are short on engineers. I’m sorry about the confusion.”

“I get why you didn’t want me to meet Sydney yet or know that she was here... I just wish you would have told me you were here.”

“But then I thought you’d want to come by the house or want to see me... I just thought it would be easier. I must say, I’m rather disappointed that you blobbed on to that brute at the first sign of trouble between us.”

“Nothing was going to happen.”

“He kissed you, Abbie. You let him put his hands all over you...”

“I came out because the girls wanted to party. We’re in one of the top fashion magazines. I am the featured fucking designer! I should have been able to enjoy the day! But nooo!” Abbie was slurring and mumbling now as the liqueur was matching her emotions.

I didn’t even want to go out tonight. When I saw you were home and didn’t tell me... and then you weren’t alone, I felt like, like you ripped my heart out and stomped on it Okay. I just wanted to go home and be miserable by my damned self. Does that make you happy?”

“No of course not,” Ichabod threw his hands up. “But neither does seeing another man all over the woman that I love.”

“I wasn’t going to do anything with that guy... Tony or whatever his name is. I’m not like that, but now that’s just what you think of me.”

Abbie plopped her face in both hands on the verge of breaking down, which is not what Ichabod wanted at all.

“No, I don’t... and I think you’ve had a bit too much to drink. Just please next time you have a problem with me, come to me. Don’t keep your feelings from me, please.”
Abbie nodded as his king fingers tenderly rudder up and down her shoulders.

“Congratulations, Treasure,” Ichabod knew he would truly be remiss not to tell her. “You are so talented and deserving of being featured. This issue of VaLùre is going to be a smashing hit because of you.”

“Thanks,” Abbie sniffed and whipped her eyes. “You call your sister love...”

Crane grinned, she was so drunk and tired, and he just had to chuckle. “Yes. Our mother used to call us love. And after she died, we naturally adopted the nicknames. It was nice to hear, and it reminded us of her.”

“That’s so sweet and sad,” Abbie slurred and started sobbing. “I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Treasure.”

“I love you and you’re the best boyfriend I ever had and I love your eyes...”

Crane hugged her and could tell any minute now she would probably pass out. “Okay, I think I should take you home.”

~

 

 

“I thought we had something special,” Trevor was drowning his sorrows after Abbie left with Ichabod and clearly was not coming back to him. “I thought she was the one.”

“Naw, mate. You see Iche and Abbie are the real deal,” Bram patted him on the back of the shoulder and waved the bartender to get them another round. He gave a nod to Tasha as he felt the muscular shoulders.

“You can’t fight fate, and those two are kismet.”

“I know you’re right,” Travis took a drink. “At least I met you two. I guess it was meant to be.”

Tasha gave Bram a thumbs up when she saw Iche and Abbie heading towards the parking lot. It looked like things were all better.

“Hey, why don’t you come back to mines with Tasha and me? I have a great suite and a pool, if you fancy a dip.”

“Yeah, That sounds great.” Travis was on board.

 

~

 

7~

 

It was after one in the morning. Ichabod hated to wake up the house so it was a quick call to Abbie’s mother and she readily met him at the door.

“Where’s Abbie?” Lori asked.

“I’m afraid she’s in the car passed out. I can carry her inside.”

“No, her grandparents will be up before five, and she probably should sleep in. Take her to the chattel house. It’s the yellow key.”

“Have you been drinking,” Leena gave him a stern look, noticing the tired stress lines under his eyes.

“Oh no ma’am. I’m just jet-lagged. I’ve been to London and back just since Monday.”

“Well, you shouldn’t be driving. Stay at the chattel house. The daybed has a trundle that pops up. I mean it. Stay off the road for your own safety and the safety of others.” From Leena That was an order that Ichabod was not about to disobey.

“Yes, ma’am.”

~

Ichabod pulled his car up close to the small yellow cottage, got out and unlocked the door. It was beautiful out. The sounds of little critters making their night calls, and the puppy dog song of a Cuban Pygmy owl in a nearby tree, echoed through the night sky.

The trundle was easy enough to manage but even up in a full-size bed, he knew he’d barely fit.

He went back to the car, and delicately picked Abbie up. She didn’t even budge. Thankfully she was a tiny thing and not heavy, because it was truly like carrying dead weight.

“You’re soo shrrong...” she mumbled and then was out again.

“Okay, here we go,” he eased carefully through the door and laid her down, removed her shoes, and tucked her in.

 

As he took off his shoes and shirt, it dawned on him that she was pretty drunk and might not remember that they made up. He decided he'd brace himself to wake up to an ass-kicking if she woke up and forgot that he had returned to the island with Sydney, not Betsy.

In the minute he had his back turned to get undressed, Abbie had managed to un-tuck herself and sprawl her petite body across the entire bed.

“How the devil?” Iche shook his head.

He took a moment to tuck her back in and laid beside her on top of the covers.

“Goodnight Treasure. I love you.” Ichabod closed his eyes... and was met by the back of Abbie’s arm smacking him in the face.

He made a feeble attempt at removing her arm from smothering him, but Abbie simply un-tucked herself, rolled over and slumped herself across his body. Her leg had a death grip around his narrow hips.

Crane put his arm around her and gave up with a smile, closed his eyes, and knew he would sleep well tonight.

 

~*~