In honor Wanda, one of Iceman's admirers and long-time reader of Cat's JAFF from the early days of forum posting, I'm posting the first scene from Chapter 24 in Without a Conscience. Wanda is traveling to Santorini, Greece. Perhaps she'll run into Mr. & Mrs. Darcy (or maybe Darcy all by himself!) Happy travels, Wanda. We hope you make many beautiful and exciting memories.
To you all, I hope you get the summer feels. Happy reading!
Two jet skis sped across the deep blue waters off the volcanic Greek island of Santorini, leaving a misting wake and a trail of white foam behind them. Power and exhilaration coursed through Liz’s suntanned body as she raced Darcy toward the clear waters of Amoudi Bay and its stunning cliffs.
The Mediterranean sun beat down on them from a cloudless azure sky, but she didn’t feel the heat at all. In fact, she felt cool and refreshed, though her cheeks and arms might tell a different story at the end of the day. No doubt the sunburn she acquired three days ago would renew, but it was worth it.
“You won’t win!” she shouted into the wind, her spirit unfettered and carefree.
“Bulldinky!” he laughed back, teasing her with her own silly swearword as he opened the throttle, pushing the watercraft to go faster.
His laughter carried back to her when he turned, a torrent of spray hitting her face. She wasn’t angry; she was having the time of her life. Even at that speed, she couldn’t help admiring his backside squatted over the seat, rising up and down with each thump of the watercraft meeting the chop.
She, too, took it up a notch, her blood racing, closing in on her husband, careful to keep her focus ahead 50 meters (and away from his backside). “Winner gets to jump the cliff first!”
Neck and neck the jet skis competed. Both she and Darcy leaned forward, every once and again looking to the other for a millisecond and grinning.
“Are you having fun?” he shouted.
And with that he leaned, turned, and sprayed her with his wake again.
“You’ll pay for that!” She, too, turned her jet ski, breaking the surf in a 360-degree turn and showering him with a steady wave of seawater.
“Ha!” she shouted, gunning the watercraft, the two of them neck and neck toward the small island.
Their crafts tripped the chop until finally the winner was declared when Darcy threw up both arms in victory when they entered the rocky inlet near the cliffside village of Oia. Both slowed, exhilarated and panting with smiles plastered across their faces. Her heart pounded against the watersports life vest she wore.
“You cheated,” she said petulantly.
“I didn’t; you’re just a sore loser. What happened to my hell-on-wheels girl? I thought you said you were going to kick my ass?”
“She was bested by a former Frogman.”
“Yes she was,” he teased, climbing off the jet ski at the landing jetty on the small triangular-shaped, mountainous island of St. Nicholas where he tethered them.
Standing on the ancient stone, he gazed down at her still seated on the watercraft. She was spellbound by his beauty and watched as he removed his life vest, baring his tanned, broad chest. His muscular arms and tight abs held her fascination with each movement of his upper body. A little contented sigh left her lips—the events of last week almost forgotten; the uncertain future yet to be written. The present was now her focus. Damn, they only had a few days left to this heaven before they had to go back to Virginia.
“You’re staring,” he teased again.
“How can I not? You’re so damned sexy.”
She thought she’d die when he playfully flexed his bicep followed by the outstretch of his arm in invitation. “Let’s go, gorgeous. Are you ready to climb then jump?”
With a supportive tug and lift, she ended up in his embrace surrounded by his strong arms. “Yes. Sort of.”
“Sort of. I’ve never done anything like this.”
“I’ll be right there when you bullet in. Nothing will happen to you.”
“What about the cliff?”
“Nothing will happen to it either. I promise.”
He kissed her, warm lips surrounding hers with delicious wetness. God, she could definitely die in his arms—just like this—with that twinkle of mischief in his eyes and soft lips consuming hers. Ever attentive, he unhooked her life vest then placed it upon his on the jetty. Now bikini bare, she clasped his hand, threading her fingers with his as they climbed the stone steps toward the platform overlooking the bay, the sun beating on their damp backs. At the top of the staircase, they turned, taking in the panoramic vista of the caldera, the snow-colored village of Oia atop the red cliffs, and the colorful fishing harbor of Amoudi at the shoreline. Several boats and swimmers dotted the iridescent combination of aqua blues and greens sun kissed in shimmering gold.
Awestruck by the picturesque view, she reveled in the tranquility and squeezed Darcy’s hand. “I have no words. I can’t describe just how breathtaking it is,” her eyes finally gazing up to meeting his.
He wasn’t looking at the sea when he said that.
“You’re such a mush.”
Behind them, neatly tucked into a dugout within the rock was a centuries old white chapel. Unlike the blue-domed churches indicative of Santorini, this simple Cycladic cubic building spoke to her. She wasn’t religious and hadn’t been inside a house of worship in two decades, but to enter didn’t require religiosity, just respect.
“Can we go in before I jump to my death?” she half-jokingly asked, met by her husband’s unexpected smile of agreement. She wondered if he had considered the same before she suggested it.
He led the way, pushing open the weather-beaten wood door, and her eyes adjusted to the dimness within, having just come from the brilliance outside. Several silver icons adorned the simple plaster walls. There was no altar, just a few wooden pews that faced a wall of colorful icons. To the right, beside an elderly woman dressed in all black, was a table on which to place lit candles. It seemed a natural thing to do when Liz fingered a white taper, lit it from someone’s already burning prayerful petition then stuck it into the sand. From the corner of her eye, she witnessed Darcy do the same. Neither spoke or made eye contact until they left the silence of the chapel.
“What was your prayer?” she asked, shielding her eyes from the sun as she looked up at her husband.
“That you don’t chicken out in cliff jumping.”
He examined her face. “What was yours, babe?”
She shrugged. That was one secret she would keep to herself. “The same.”
Laughing, he took her hand again to follow the footpath leading to the side of the mountain, a sort of patio made of ancient stone and shells that overlooked the bay—a popular place for jumping.
“This is it. Do you want to go first?” he asked.
“No. I’m sure I can do this. Tell me again that it’s safe.”
“It is. Trust me and more importantly, trust yourself.”
She peered down at the clear water, eyes settling on the boulders deep within on the right. “Are you sure I won’t hit the rocks?”
“Yes, I’m sure. It’s deeper than it looks. Just propel yourself with your knees, body perpendicular, arms above your head and keep straight. Don’t free form it like some of these kids do.”
“Sounds complicated.” Her fingers tapped her thigh, unsure where the fear was coming from.
“Okay then, we can do this together. I can hold your hand and we’ll jump at the same time.”
“No! I do want to do this by myself and besides you won fair and square. You jump first.”
“Just remember what I have always said about fear and danger—it’s the Ferrari in Monaco all over again—enjoy the experience, just like you’ve enjoyed all the daring adventures you’ve taken this year. This is nothing in comparison.” He smoothed a finger down her cheek before depositing a peck to her lips. Then, as if an eager child, he rubbed his hands together, stepping backward, back against the rocky mountain. His eyes locked with hers and he grinned before he ran to the cliff’s edge then catapulted himself off without a modicum of fear.
His powerful body, straight like a bullet, hit the water seamlessly, disappearing below. Seconds later, he came up with a huge smile and a wave.
Clammy palms and a thundering heart almost made her bolt back down the stairs, but his shout of encouragement bolstered her resolve.
“Do it, Liz! You’re gonna love it! There is no counter steering involved!”
Stepping back to the rock wall just as he had, she whispered, “Yeah. Trust him. No fear. You ride a SuperLow for Christ sake.” She could do this. This was nothing compared to the motorcycle shoot out in Moscow. Besides, Darcy was just below. He wouldn’t let anything happen to her. Ever. He was right, she had to trust in herself in yet another new adventure and push the fear aside.
And with that thought, she ran, amazed when her body leapt from the cliff and, a second later, dropped into the bay. Down she went into the sudden enveloping refreshment, her water shoes touching the bottom, and before she could even get her bearings to swim to the top, she felt Darcy’s hand on her wrist, tugging her upward into his arms.
She panted, clinging to him, their wet faces only inches apart as they both tread water. “I did it! It was so easy. Let’s do it again.”
“You got it, babe. This time, can we jump together?”
* * *