A Sin Such as This
EVERY HONEYMOON COMES TO an end, romance segueing into marriage. I should know. This is my fourth. It wraps with the bellow of a horn and a barely discernable reverse braking motion as the Radiance of the Seas docks in Vancouver. I take a deep breath, exhale regret that we must now return to the day-to-day minutiae. Alas, I bore too easily.
It’s been a lovely two weeks, up to Seward and back again, a double cruise. Our stateroom suite was gorgeous. The food was amazing. And every excursion, from Skagway to Ketchikan, was a bold undertaking, though the cumulative effect was an uncomfortable reminder that my right knee hasn’t totally healed from last winter’s surgery.
Admittedly, small irritations marred the trip. Cavin’s onboard gambling became a distraction and, if not for a late almost-break-even win, might have made a substantial dent in his personal bank account. Discovering your new husband has quirks you didn’t know about is one thing. Finding out one of those idiosyncrasies could wipe out your assets is another. I spent the bulk of my lifetime building financial stability. Love will not ruin that. Whether or not games of chance will ruin love remains to be seen.
Having invested around twenty times as much into this trip as the average couple, Cavin and I are afforded Royal Caribbean’s Enhanced Program privileges, including priority departure ahead of the mass exodus. I reach for his hand. “Ready?”
He tugs me against his chest, rests his chin on top of my head. “Not really, but we don’t have a choice.” He tilts up my face, cool green marble eyes locking on mine, and his kiss swears he loves me. Love. Such a hard thing to accept when it takes forty-one years to find it. Love. Such a hard thing to give when you’re not sure how to define it, let alone how to translate whatever watery meaning you can dredge up into action. This is the closest I’ve ever come, however, and I’m determined to explore this novel territory.
Truthfully, I can’t believe I fell for him so hard, so fast, not to mention under such ridiculous circumstances. I mean, there I was, lying on a gurney in the ER after a serious fall skiing, when in saunters this doctor, going over my X-rays. My first impression was he was cute, in a careless way, his wheat-colored hair a bit too long and his scrubs slightly askew. But his bedside manner was marvelous—humor cloaked in physician talk that put me instantly at ease, despite the bad news he delivered about dual ligament tears and meniscus shredding.
Then he pulled back the sheet to examine my leg, and when his hand touched my knee, electric sparks danced from patella to groin. That was enough to make me ask for his number. Next day, we were dating. Six months later, we were married.
As we’re given the “all clear to disembark,” I slide his arm around my waist and press his hand in place.
He leans down, murmurs into my ear, “Afraid I’ll lose you?”
“Afraid you might wander off.”
“Never. At least, not permanently.”
That stops me, but only momentarily. “To be clear, I don’t give second chances.”
Wisely, he remains mute.
Our luggage was collected earlier and will be delivered to our hotel, which is directly across the street from the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal. We have to clear Canadian customs, so I’m glad our enhanced privileges allow us to leave the ship ahead of some two thousand unenhanced passengers. It’s a short wait, and Cavin has already filled out the necessary forms. We have nothing to declare, as the stuff we bought came from Alaska, so is considered US goods, simply passing through on its way back to the lower forty-eight.
Regardless, for some inexplicable reason, the customs agent decides to be a jerk. “What is your reason for entering Canada?” Do they just randomly decide to be shitty to some people?
“Uh . . . because the Radiance of the Seas dropped us off here?” offers Cavin.
Mr. Customs shifts in his seat. The last thing we need is a problem. I lean forward, allowing a tempting glance just beneath the scooped neckline of my sweater, and can’t help but smile when his eyes immediately drop.
“Unfortunately, we can only stay in your beautiful country overnight,” I say.
He never even looks up. “Shame. Hope you’ll visit us again.” Aaaaand . . . he passes us through.
Ten paces beyond, Cavin snorts laughter. “Wow. You really know how to use those things to your advantage.”
“Of the ability? Yes. Am I worried about losing you to an overzealous Mountie? Hardly.”
“I wouldn’t be overconfident. Dumpy, bald customs agents are no competition for a gorgeous surgeon. But if there’s one thing hotter in the saddle than a doctor, it’s most definitely a cop, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police are the hottest cops of all.”
“I suppose I’ll have to apply for a position, then. I’ve heard it’s
very competitive. Do you think a medical degree will give me an advantage?”
“Probably not, but your bedside manner might provide a leg up, at least if the commissioner happens to be a woman.”
We reach the hotel lobby, which will fill in behind us very soon. When we booked the room, the desk clerk made it clear that this property is particularly popular with the cruise ship crowd, both coming and going, a fact that’s confirmed by the unavailability of our room for at least three hours while housekeeping tries to catch up.
“We’ll keep your luggage safe until check-in is possible,” says the annoyingly dimpled girl behind the counter. “Meanwhile, enjoy some sightseeing. City tour buses leave every half hour, right across the street. Or, if you’re so inclined, you could rent bicycles and ride over to Stanley Park. It’s a must-see.”
Stuffing ourselves into a packed tour bus does not sound appealing, so we opt for the bike rental shop. The place is busy, and we occupy our wait time touching each other in ways inappropriate for a public venue.
When it’s finally our turn, the geeky clerk (Tristan, according to his name badge) grins. “Newlyweds?” he guesses.
I smile. “What gave us away?”
“You’re too comfortable with each other to be dating. But you’re too, uh . . . interested in each other to have been married very long.”
Cavin glances around surreptitiously, lowers his voice. “Sounds like our Witness Protection Program disguises are working perfectly.”
We all laugh as Tristan hands Cavin a form to fill out and takes his driver’s license and credit card. Once the paperwork is handled, he offers directions to Stanley Park. “The main bike path is along the seawall,” he says. “It’s one-way, counterclockwise, flat. But if you want more difficult and less crowded
terrain, I’d try the interior trails through the big trees. Here, I’ll give you a map.”
He unfolds it, marking trailheads with asterisks and restaurants with arrows. When he hands it to me, there are a couple of circled areas.
“What are these?” I ask.
Tristan winks. “Less frequented areas of the park. In case you’d like a few private moments, if you get my gist. Your bikes are in stalls thirty-four and thirty-five. Oh, and the helmets are over there. They’re mandatory in British Columbia.”
As we start toward the protective headgear, Cavin whispers, “Better check the visors for hidden cameras. I think ol’ Tristan is a little too helpful, if you get my gist.”
Cavin might have been kidding, but as improbable as the idea might seem, I go ahead and give the helmet a thorough once-over.
As we reach the bikes, my cell buzzes. It’s a text from my niece Kayla. Who’s Sophia?
My jaw drops. The very mention of that name is like a slap in the face. How would Kayla know anything about Sophia?
Cavin’s ex-fiancée is producing a show in Reno, only an hour from our Glenbrook home. He swears I’ve got nothing to worry about, but her proximity displeases me, despite the ugly reasons for which he broke up with her.
If I thought she was a knockout in the old pictures Cavin still kept in his office over a year after they split (the ones I pouted about until he put them away), I couldn’t help but be impressed by her in the flesh—tall, with coltish dancer’s legs and dark spikes of hair, tipped silver, that make her look even younger than her thirty-one years. That she’s a decade younger than I is only one reason I hate her.
The fact that I ran into her in my house, after she’d just screwed Cavin’s teenage son (again!), proves the woman owns no moral compass whatsoever. Eli is clearly smitten, and she’s
obviously happy to use him. But for what purpose? Is the boy really that great in bed, or is it just an excuse for her to stay near my husband?
Cavin notices my consternation. “What is it?”
I show him Kayla’s message.
“Don’t look at me,” he says. “Eli must’ve said something. Stirring shit, as usual.”
Eli is a champion shit stirrer. The question is, why this shit?