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Happily Ever After

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Thank you for flying Royal Caribbean Airlines. We hope you enjoy your stay.”

Abbie jerks awake – she’d only meant to close her eyes briefly, but now the plane’s taxiing to a stop and there’s nothing between her and Jamaica save Customs.

The woman on her left at the window seat is already dressed for the beach, her ebony hair upswept in beautiful micro braids. She’s dancing a little in her seat and laughs when she catches Abbie staring.

“I haven’t been home in two years,” she says by way of explanation.

Abbie wonders if she would dance at the thought of coming home to Sleepy Hollow and catches a glimpse of the sunset in the small square window.

Probably if it looked like that, she thinks.

“Welcome home, then,” Abbie says, and shakes some feeling into her legs so she can grab her overhead luggage.

“First time?” the woman asks.

“How can you tell?” Abbie asks ruefully.

“One can always spot a tourist,” she says honestly. “But you also look a bit lost.”

Abbie huffs and tries not to let the strain show through her smile.

“I don’t know what I’m doing here,” she admits.

“Hopefully having a good time,” the woman says, holding out her hand. “I’m June.”

Abbie shakes it gratefully, moving back onto her seat as others are eager to disembark.

“Abbie,” she says.

“Well, Abbie, I hope you let yourself relax on this trip. Something tells me you need it.”

Abbie’s laugh bursts out of her without permission.

“I look tired?” she jokes, but it feels hollow in her head; the exhaustion in her bones rattles loudly--so loudly she’s sure June can hear it.

“Yeah, but I won’t say anything. A good night’s sleep on the island’ll fix that right up.”

Abbie nods, then moves so June can leave. Alone in their row, Abbie scoots closer to the window and peers out into the advancing night. From what little she can see, even the airport is gorgeous. She should be excited, knocking people over to get to the sand and surf.

So why isn’t she?

Let’s get this over with, Mills, she thinks, and stalks off the plane.

The airport teems with people but moves fast; it doesn’t take long to grab her lone suitcase and get through customs. It’s only when she reaches the line of taxis that it hits Abbie - she’s in Jamaica. She laughs in spite of herself and grabs the closest cab.

“Emerald Cove at St. James,” she says, and catches the impressed downturn of the cabbie’s mouth before they pull off. Abbie stares out the window, transfixed, wondering how anyone can get any work done with the proximity of such gorgeous scenery.

Reluctantly, Abbie is starting to soften up at the thought of this trip, but holds on to the last bit of grump just for Jenny’s sake. Or at least, that’s what she thinks until she pulls up to the resort. It looks like the Swiss Family Robinson’s wet dream, gorgeous marble and decorative thatching. It’s so entrancing Abbie doesn’t realize the cabbie’s holding open the car door until he clears his throat.

Face burning, Abbie pays him and gives him a really good tip before she changes her mind and asks to return to the airport.

It’s just a bungalow, Jenny had said.

Just a bungalow Abbie’s ass.

Her wedges are silent on the impressively polished floor; Abbie catches a hazy glimpse at her reflection and looks up in time to not make a fool of herself by running into the concierge desk.

The woman behind the desk looks like Serena Williams in a smart suit and Abbie inwardly cringes at the baseball cap on her head.

“Good evening, my name is Geneviève. Welcome to Emerald Cove at St. James. Do you have a reservation?”

“Um, yes. I think it’s under the name Jennifer Mills?” Abbie says as she pulls out her identification.

The woman starts, as if she knows the name.

“Jennifer Mills? No, nothing under that name; perhaps another?” Geneviève asks.

Abbie frowns – who else’s… She grits her teeth.

“Can you try Abigail or Grace Mills?” she asks tightly.

Geneviève checks her system and smiles tightly.

“Yes, we have a bungalow registered under that name.” She looks Abbie up and down. “Are you her…”

Abbie blinks.

“I’m her sister,” she says flatly.

Geneviève breaks into a relieved smile.

“Oh, sister – that’s wonderful. It’s wonderful to meet you,” she stammers.

Abbie nods slowly and pulls out her credit card.

“Oh no, ma’am. The entirety of your stay here has been paid for.”

Abbie blinks, glances down at her card and back up at the woman.

“Are you sure?” she asks.

“Absolutely. Were you not aware?” Geneviève’s smile is knowing. “Perhaps someone wanted to give you a surprise?”

Abbie clears her throat and nods.

“My sister,” she murmurs.

“What a wonderful and thoughtful gift.” Geneviève flips her hair self-consciously. “Is… Jenny coming?” she asks, trying for nonchalant.

“Uh, no. Sorry. But that’s why I’m going to kill her,” Abbie promises.

Geneviève chuckles and beckons to someone Abbie can’t see. A smart looking young man appears immediately, in the same blue, green and white as Geneviève.

“See Miss Mills to Bungalow three, please,” she says.

The young man nods and turns to Abbie.

“My name is Miles; may I take your bag?”

Abbie looks down at her lone suitcase and shrugs her shoulder.

“Sure, why not,” she says.

“Right this way, ma’am,” Miles says, and offers his arm.

Abbie throws Geneviève an impressed glance as she accepts his arm and allows herself to be led out of the lobby and down a beautifully lit path that runs straight by the ocean. Overwhelmed, she silently takes in her surroundings until she realizes they’ve stopped before a gorgeous white clapboard house with a number three by the door.

“Welcome to Bungalow Three,” Miles says, and produces a gorgeous, antique looking key with a tag that has the corresponding number in a swirling script. Once inside, he begins turning on the lights and opening the French doors that overlook the beach.

“You share the beach with two other bungalows, but you’re the only one here right now.”

Abbie wanders out onto the balcony and laughs at the beauty in front of her. She can’t figure out why she didn’t want to come, now that she’s standing before the gently lapping ocean. Miles is still talking behind her and she rushes back to catch the tail end of what he’s saying.

“You can order your meals here,” he gestures at the tablet in a stand on the end table next to the couch. “You can also call the concierge for anything you need. During the day you’ll reach Martina and during the night you’ll reach Geneviève. Is there anything else I can assist you with?”

Abbie shakes her head and pulls out the last of her cash, a ten-dollar bill, and hands it over gratefully.

“Thanks, Miles, you’ve been great.”

“My pleasure,” he says. “I hope you enjoy your stay here; have a good night.”

Abbie’s left alone in her luxurious, one-bedroom bungalow and all she can do is sit on the overly plush white couch and dial her sister’s number.

It goes straight to voicemail.

Abbie bounces her foot in self-righteous anger as she listens to her sister’s voice disinterestedly request that the caller leave a message.

“You deceitful bitch,” she says cheerfully. “Of course you’re not picking up your phone because you’re a phony and devious ho and… I could strangle you,” Abbie says, blinking back tears.

“The place is a’ight,” she sniffles. “And you’re wrong for making me think I had to save up for this just to find out it’s already been paid for. I will get you back, know this.”

Abbie ends the call and throws her phone on the empty cushion beside her with a nod.

That’ll show her.

Abbie’s stomach growls and out of habit, she goes to see what’s in the fridge. Every fruit known to man seems to be crammed inside, along with a few selections of wine and a bottle of champagne.

Why not, she thinks, and opens the champagne.

Dinner consists of champagne and some of the biggest, sweetest strawberries Abbie’s ever had in her life. She turns off all the lights in the bungalow and lights a few of the candles on the balcony before settling in a luxurious lounge chair. There’s nothing but the sounds of nature and the bright starry sky above the immensity of the ocean, and little by little Abbie lets everything go and enjoys the moment.

~*~

Abbie cracks open an eye at the insistent buzzing of her phone and realizes she’s still on the balcony. She goes to sit up and realizes that the cushions on the lounge chair are better than her mattress at home. Blearily, Abbie reaches for her phone before it shakes itself off the chair arm.

“Yes?”

New phone, who this?

Abbie shakes her head.

“Jenny, you called me,” she reminds her.

Oh, yeah. Why are you calling me when you should be relaxing on the beach?”

At the word Abbie’s gaze flickers to the amazing landscape before her.

“Again, you called me,” she mutters.

Isn’t it amazing?”

“Gorgeous,” Abbie says truthfully.

I knew you’d like it. The last time I was there it was hard for me to come home.

“Was it because of Geneviève?” Abbie asks mockingly.

“…You spoke to Geneviève?”

“Sure did. She’s the one who checked me in. So… whatever went on between the two of you really has her reminiscing, baby sister.”

“I gotta go, you’re breaking up.”

“Funny, I can hear your fake ass loud and clear,” Abbie cackles, and hangs up. She takes a deep breath and doesn’t restrain her gleeful grin. She’s here on one of the most gorgeous islands in the world, by herself, with unexpected spending money.

Maybe she won’t kill her sister, after all.

Giddy, Abbie grabs her suitcase and changes into her running gear and takes a nice, leisurely run on the beach. Running on sand gives her that delicious ache in her muscles faster than at home and instead of her normal five miles she does only four instead.

Hell, it’s supposed to be her vacation.

Abbie looks down the beach and as far as she can see she’s the only one here. She lets out a laugh and a loud whoop and immediately feels embarrassed before the feeling burns away.

“Alright, maybe I deserve this,” she murmurs, and begins her run back to the bungalow.

~*~

By late afternoon Abbie’s back to wanting to kill Jenny.

When Abbie packed her bag, she’d included a flattering black one-piece bathing suit with a daring cut out over her navel. It was cute and most importantly, Abbie felt completely comfortable in it.

The mound of bright yellow and orange straps she pulls out of her suitcase is not the bathing suit Abbie packed. She digs through the rest of her outfits and finds no hint of her bathing suit.

Sucking her teeth, Abbie whips herself up a daiquiri with a little too much alcohol in it and stares at the offending garment while drinking.

It’s not like she can’t rock the thing. It’s just a bathing suit. When she went to lunch at one of the restaurants in the main area of the resort she saw people wearing less. The rum emboldens her and before Abbie can change her mind she refills her drink and puts on the bathing suit.

It’s not like anyone else is going to see.

~*~

Ichabod loosens his tie as he stares out over the bright blue water.

It’s good to be back. The bungalow is exactly how he likes it – empty and fully stocked. Absently, he keys in his desire for dinner and decides to go for a quick jog to stir his appetite. After changing into a tee shirt and a pair of running shorts he straps his mp3 player to his hip and puts his headphones in, blasting Bach’s Cello Suite No.1.

As he runs, Ichabod imagines himself floating across the beach on the notes of the cello – soaring high into the sky where the only thing he has to worry about is being a note, being heard. The rose gold of the sunset fills his view and with his mind full of music and his eyes full of light, he crests a dune and jumps down halfway, only then able to see someone at the bottom.

Ichabod windmills his arms but the sand shifts and pitches him down and forward, onto the small form. They collide with a grunt, arms and legs tangling as his momentum rolls them until he’s sprawled on top.

“Oh! I beg your pardon,” he says quickly, trying to remove his foot from the sucking sand and disengage himself from the body beneath his. Ichabod looks down and freezes.

It’s a woman, he realizes as other parts of his body do as well. He takes in a pouty mouth with full, parted lips as she gasps in shock. Large, dark brown eyes blinking rapidly at him. Her hair is splayed out around her in a halo of dark curls – Ichabod imagines this is how she looks when she wakes with her lover, soft and sated.

“I, uh…”

Ichabod yelps as the woman’s legs tighten around his abdomen to flip them both over. This time the woman is on top and Ichabod’s eyes widen when her lovely, full breasts are presented to him, unrestrained. His hands settle into the dip of her waist, just above the swell of her hips.

“Why don’t you watch where you’re going?” she demands breathlessly.

Ichabod shakes his head.

“I was distracted, I do apologize,” he says, glancing down and away--anywhere but at the woman’s chest.

“Are you hurt?” he asks, trying to force his body to remain calm.

The woman seems to realize the position they’re in and she yelps, immediately scrambling off of Ichabod and into the sand for her top.

“No,” she snaps, wrestling herself into material woefully inadequate for hiding her charms. “Are you?”

Ichabod forces himself to look away, glancing down at the burgeoning problem in his shorts and attempting to will it away as he turns over and jumps to his feet.

“I’m fine, thank you,” he murmurs, climbing to his feet. The music blaring in one ear makes him swear and crouch back in the sand, turning off his player.

“What’s wrong?” she asks, giving up on the last tie between her breasts. From Ichabod’s height it gives him a very promising view, which does not help his problem downstairs.

“My headphones are wireless. I think I just lost an earbud,” he says mournfully, digging around in the sand.

The woman winces, and after a second falls to her knees and begins redistributing sand to help him look. After about a minute digging, Ichabod gives up.

“I think it’s a lost cause,” he says with a shrug.

“But thank you,” he says sincerely. “My name is Ichabod Crane.”

He holds out his hand.

The woman glances down at it before cautiously slipping her hand in his.

“Abbie Mills,” she says, with a firm handshake.

Ichabod turns her hand over, marveling at how small it is compared to his own.

“Are you a pint-sized goddess?” he asks, and immediately winces.

Abbie presses her mouth together as her shoulder shakes silently.

“Thanks, but no,” she says, and tugs on her hand gently.

“Oh, apologies. Again,” he mutters, rising to his feet as she does. “That’s not what I meant to say,” he says as he squints down at the sand in embarrassment.

“Your face and neck are completely red,” Abbie says with a laugh.

“That’s kind of adorable,” she says.

“I will take it,” he says, and chances another look at her.

Everywhere he looks there’s toned muscles and warm brown skin encased in the most provocative and tiny bikini he has had the pleasure of seeing so close. Abbie shifts her weight from one foot to the other and Ichabod watches the muscles of her abs flex. He wonders if she’s ticklish.

If she will like it when he dips his tongue into her navel.

They both realize they’re kind of standing around staring at each other and Ichabod shoves his remaining earbud into his shorts.

“I’m in Bungalow One, just down the beach. I didn’t think anyone else was here.”

“I’m in Bungalow Three, and when I got in last night I was told I was the only one here,” she says. “But it shouldn’t be a problem for us to stay out of each other’s way. Nice to meet you, Ichabod Crane.”

She plucks her sunglasses from the sand and Ichabod has to swallow as she walks away, lifting her hair and shaking it free from sand.

Lust has him bounding over the sand to catch up with her.

“Miss Mills, I feel horrible for tripping over you. I could have hurt you,” he says, catching up and walking backward beside her, careful not to stand in her way.

“You’ve already apologized,” she reminds him. “Twice.”

“And I feel it isn’t enough. Will you have dinner with me?” he asks.

She looks at him briefly.

“What if I say no?” she asks.

Ichabod swallows.

“I will suffer my disappointment like a man, and leave you to your vacation.”

Abbie stops and takes a deep breath before glancing out over the ocean.

“Just dinner?” she verifies.

“Just the pleasure of your company while we consume a meal together. That is all,” he promises.

Her beautiful mouth twitches with the barest hint of amusement.

“Sorry, I’ll pass. We’re good; I know you’ll watch where you’re going next time. Goodbye, Crane.”

Ichabod’s mouth drops open as Abbie steps around him and continues up the beach.

~*~

Why are you calling me?”

Abbie sighs and briefly wonders the same thing.

“Maybe I just wanted to talk,” she mutters.

Maybe you should be trying to make friends with someone on the island. A guy, a girl. Someone to loosen you up.”

“Jenny, I am plenty loose,” Abbie says as she sits cross-legged on the bed, facing the open French doors. “I ran into someone today.”

Someone you know?”

“No. Never met him before. He literally ran into me while I was sunbathing today.”

“Is he cute?” Jenny asks.

Abbie closes her eyes; piercing blue eyes and an expressive brow. Light brown hair just the right length for his face. Nice broad shoulders she admired and a surprisingly defined chest from what she could feel with him beneath her for such a short time.

“Yeah, kinda,” she admits.

“Did he ask you out?”

“Stop being nosy,” Abbie grumbles.

“That’s code for ‘He did, but I’m uptight and turned him down because he could be a serial killer’,” Jenny deadpans.

Abbie’s jaw drops and she buries her face in her hand. That was something along the lines she was thinking when she talked herself out of it.

“Am I that predictable?”

They call you ‘Old Faithful,’ Abbie. What’s wrong with having a little fun?” Jenny asks. “If you don’t deserve it then no one does.

Abbie nods, unable to speak around the lump in her throat momentarily.

“It’s just been so much easier to turn off that part of my life since Daniel,” she whispers.

“I know, sis. But it’s been almost a year and a half and you’re holding on tight to what? Nothing, Abs. It’s not even anger.”

Abbie says nothing.

“He sure as hell can’t be mad at you for moving on.

Abbie sighs and bobs her head back and forth.

“Yeah, I know. Well, I blew it this time.”

Nothing to blow. Next time you’ll be ready. Just think of reasons to do it rather than reasons you shouldn’t.

“I’m supposed to be the big sister, not you,” Abbie gripes. “Don’t you have work to do?”

“Yep, and they just announced my flight. Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Abs? Give yourself permission to be happy, okay?

Abbie ends the call and puts her phone on the nightstand and like clockwork, the last good memory she has of her and Daniel winds up like an old projector. She lays on her side and remembers the time at the lake and what he said and drifts into sleep to the comforting lie of his dark smile.