Keith doesn’t even deny it. His expression stays calm, even as he toys with his wine glass.
“You’re right. I have slept with quite a few female employees, and I didn’t really attempt to hide that. Most of those women are like my ex-stepmothers. They just want to be seen on Keith Commons’ arm. But you’re different, Kelsey. I didn’t want you to be fodder for the rumor mill. I don’t want you to feel judged or to feel used. Please forgive me for not telling you the truth from the beginning. I haven’t really dated anyone whom I’ve wanted to protect like I do you. Let’s take advantage of this time we have alone and get to know each other better. Do you forgive me? If anything, it’s a plus this virus has come around, isn’t it? I feel terrible for saying that, but at least we have our privacy.”
My anger subsides a little. Keith is right: he’s treating me differently from the rest of his floozies, but I remind myself to keep my head on straight. Keith Commons wants a fling, and he’s already gotten it. I already gave it up to him during the flight, and while I don’t regret that one bit, I can’t lose my heart to him because he’ll only shatter it into a million pieces.
“I see you trying to stay mad. Stand up and come kiss me if you forgive me. I want to see you bend over in that stunning dress,” he says persuasively, shooting me a charming smile.
Slowly, as if in a dream, I stand up, and walk around the table to bend down to place a small kiss of forgiveness on his lips. He pulls me into his lap and crushes his mouth to mine like he can’t get enough. It feels so good, but even as my heart soars, I remind myself to maintain boundaries. After all, Keith Commons has everything, and I have nothing. Once this trip is over, he’s not going to want me anymore, so I must protect my heart in the meantime.7KeithI reluctantly free Kelsey to sit back on her side of the table. The next course is arriving and I don’t want to get so caught up in the physical attraction that we miss out on the food, not to mention the conversation. I want to get to know this woman because she’s beautiful, intelligent, and intriguing, and I’m lucky to have her all to myself.
“How did you manage to never learn to swim?” I ask with a smile. “It’s like riding a bicycle. It’s a rite of passage every kid goes through, and really a basic survival skill.”
She smiles ruefully.
“Well, I can ride a bicycle but I haven’t done that since I was a kid. And it isn’t that I never wanted to learn to swim but the opportunity never really arose when I was growing up. We didn’t have access to a pool and any vacation we ever took was to visit family in Missouri, so there just weren’t many opportunities.”
I nod and she continues.
“I never went to the beach with my parents either because we’re not really beach people. I think we went to Coney Island once, and I rode the rides but my mom said that the water was dirty and you never knew what lurked under that murkiness. My seven year old imagination conjured sea monsters with scales and claws. I know how ridiculous that is as an adult, but I also know crabs and sharks are very real.”
“I think you’ve just created our itinerary for tomorrow. We’ll rent a couple of bikes to explore the island, and then hit the pool to cool off and I’ll give you a swimming lesson. What do you think?”
“I don’t know. Aren’t I a little old to learn to swim now? And are you really qualified to give lessons? Do you know CPR in case I drown?”
I chuckle a little.
“Sweetheart, you’re never too old to learn something new. And I’ll have you know that I actually spent a summer as a lifeguard on Coney Island. So yes, CPR is part of my repertoire.”
She throws me a curious look.
“But I thought you started selling shoes out of the trunk of your car in high school? You also lifeguarded?”
“I did, but in fact selling shoes wasn’t my first job. My first job was at fourteen and it was washing dishes in an Italian restaurant. I did that until I was sixteen, when there was a fire that shut down the restaurant. In hindsight, as an adult, I think it was some sort of mafia retaliation type thing. Then, lifeguarding was my second job. It was fun with lots of beautiful women in bikinis, but it was only for the summer. Dad and I were broke and when the beaches closed for the season, I had to figure something else out. I was a pretty good art student in high school and a girlfriend asked me to paint a pair of plain white canvas sneakers for her. From there it just took off. Boom! Sales started rolling in.”