Trading Hearts is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons in coincidental. Photo courtesy of www.islandhideaways.com.
Natasha pressed her forehead against the tiled wall of her shower stall, letting the warm water cascade down her body. Her tears of humiliation had long dried, to be replaced with acute self-loathing. She couldn’t believe she had been stupid enough to let her emotions run away with her, to make love to someone she barely knew, that she more or less worked with, and in such an open setting!
Michael. Despite her anger, she still became aroused when she remembered their passionate lovemaking. His skillful tongue, pliant lips, talented hands…. She pounded the tiles in anger. The sooner she forgot about that damn construction man, the better. Once she cut ties with King Properties she would no longer have a reason to see him.
Fifteen minutes later, she was drying her hair when the telephone rang. Her heart sank when she recognised the number on the caller id. She cleared her throat and picked up the receiver.
“I hope I haven’t caught you at a bad time,” Brian Goddard started.
Not as bad as earlier today, Natasha thought, responding in the negative.
He paused before continuing. “I…um, wanted to let you know I don’t hold what happened today against you. It hasn’t changed my opinion of you.”
Unconvinced, Natasha interrupted. “That’s very kind of you, Mr. Goddard, but my behaviour was unacceptable. I don’t see any alternative but to resign.”
Brian rolled his eyes. Natasha and Alan really were two of the most stubborn people he had ever met; you tried to throw them a lifeline and they tossed it right back at you.
“I don’t want your resignation, Natasha. You’ve been doing an excellent job so far. Please, let’s put this incident behind us and move on.”
Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Does your benevolence have anything to do with the land deal?”
“No,” he replied bluntly, “I’m just too lazy to look for another property manager.”
Natasha couldn’t help but laugh, and Brian joined in. “I’m so sorry,” she added, “I should never have let things go so far.”
The developer chuckled. “Well, I guess I can see the how the ambience at Emerald Bay could affect a young couple like you two,” he replied.
Natasha blushed. “What about Michael? Did you…?”
He knew what she was asking. “No, I didn’t fire him. I just let him off with a warning.”
Relieved, she thanked Brian and replaced the receiver. She was about to turn away when the telephone rang again. She almost picked it up when she saw it was a call from Emerald Bay House.
The sooner I put some distance between us the better, she thought. With a heavy heart, she pulled out the phone’s jack and headed to bed.
Michael must have left 20 messages on her answering machine, but a week later Natasha still had not responded. She hadn’t told Kim about the way her surprise birthday lunch turned out either; instead she had simply said it was nice and avoided all further conversation about it.
Although she knew that Michael didn’t deserve to be frozen out of her life, it was the only way she could avoid the temptation of falling into his arms again. She easily lost her head when she was around him, and she didn’t like it one bit.
Inevitably, she had to pay a visit to the west coast property, this time to show it to the manager of a Hollywood actress who wanted to spend the winter in Barbados with her large family. Tense, she guided the woman through the house and out into the garden. Michael was nowhere to be seen. As the client basked in the late afternoon sunshine and excitedly inspected the gazebo and finished playpark, Natasha gazed around, wondering where he had gone.
Maybe his work here is finished, she thought. So why did she feel so disappointed?
Half-an-hour later, Natasha finally managed to drag the visitor away from the beach and back to the house to sign the lease agreement. She was in the process of locking up when she heard a piercing scream coming from the back of the house. She bolted through the French doors and out on to the ground floor terrace, and was terrified to see three small children struggling to stay afloat in the deep end of the pool.
Not wanting to waste time unlocking the terrace gate, she climbed over the balcony, dropping three feet to the crazy-paved area near the pool. Ignoring the scratches she received to her palms and knees, she kicked off her shoes and dove into the pool.
“I have you, sweetheart,” she reassured the scared little girl whom she reached first. “Hold on to me.”
The girl, who looked around seven, clung to Natasha’s neck for dear life, sobbing.
The woman made it back to the side of the pool and deposited the girl safely on dry ground before swimming quickly back to the two boys. Fear overcame Natasha when she didn’t see them, and she dove underwater. She spotted their flailing arms a few feet away, and gripped them both by the waist.
Once they burst to the surface, the two boys clung to Natasha like limpets, and their combined weight almost sent her back down to the bottom of the pool. She struggled to keep herself afloat, treading water furiously. Just as she was afraid she would go under again, she heard Michael yelling her name, followed by a splash.
A few seconds later, Michael was at her side, coaxing one of the boys to hold on to him. Relieved of the additional weight, she placed the other child in the rescue position and towed him safely to the side of the pool. Michael lifted his charge out of the pool before taking the other boy. He then turned back to Natasha and assisted her out of the water.
Coughing and her eyes irritated from the chlorine, Natasha moved to check on the children, who were coughing up water but were otherwise alright. Saying a silent prayer, she sank to her knees, trembling. She looked around for Michael, and looked up to see him racing back with a cordless phone in hand and several blankets.
She grabbed them and started to wrap the soaked children, while Michael called a nearby hospital for assistance. The children taken care of, she lifted a blanket around her shoulders, exhausted.
“Let me help you.” Michael gently folded the blanket around her, hugging her close. She rested her head on his shoulder, her body racking with sobs.
“They could have died,” she cried, looking at the three youngsters lying nearby.
“But they didn’t. You saved them, baby,” Michael whispered, pushing her wet hair away from her face. He kissed her forehead tenderly, rocking her from side to side. She relaxed, feeling warm and safe in his arms.
The next hour was a blur: wailing sirens, the cries of concerned parents, police questioning her about the incident, an EMT crew checking her over. Natasha vaguely remembered seeing a television camera crew poolside before they were escorted to the gate by the Police.
Realising that she was not in a frame of mind to handle the ordeal, Michael scooped her up into his arms and carried her to the guest cottage. She was too tired to protest as he stripped the wet clothes from her body and wrapped her in a terry-cloth robe. She murmured her thanks, and as soon as her head hit the pillow, she went out like a light.
More next week, si dieu veux. Take care until then.