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Day 1.5
Mexico

After we get settled, meaning we've been introduced to Marcus's wife and five kids and pitched our tents in their yard, Edward suggests we tour the boat we'll be calling home for the next few months. I give him a tiny smile of appreciation, because I know this request isn't for him. It's for me, so I can prepare for when we take off tomorrow morning.

Marcus agrees, and after he lets his wife, Carmen, know we'll be back before dinner, the three of us pile into his truck.

The drive isn't long, because it's fast. When the road winds left, Edward's shoulder presses against mine, and when it veers right, the entire side of my body molds into his.

Marcus doesn't seem to notice.

When we get to the marina, Edward jumps out first, holding the door open as I slide across the bench and hop out.

"His sailing isn't anything like his driving," he murmurs close to my ear, slamming the door shut.

I snort a laugh, and we follow Marcus across the dock, the wood shifting ever so slightly under our feet. We pass a dozen boats until we stop in front of one that has "The Geezer" branded on the side.

"She's an oldie but a goodie," Marcus says, admiring the sailboat. "Got her back in… when was it?" He looks to Edward for the answer, who only grins, shrugs.

"Where'd the name come from?" I ask.

"It was a friend's nickname," he says with a quick wink.

Marcus leads us onto the boat, holding out a hand for me and leading the way. We walk carefully along the side, to the back deck. He does his best to throw out a lot of terms, like bow and stern, starboard and port. The intent on his face as he explains it all to me is so endearing, I want to die.

We walk into a small room, one that's surrounded by windows. "This is the cockpit," he explains, hitting his fist on a large wheel.

"This area wasn't covered last time I was here," Edward notices, giving a small nod of approval. "Makes steering a little easier, huh?"

Marcus lets out a chuckle. "It's nice to get some reprieve from the elements. It's exhausting spending hours in the cockpit when there's bad weather."

"Bad weather?" I echo.

"Oh yeah. We'll hit some storms out there. Nothing too bad, I hope." He catches my scared shitless expression. "Don't worry too much. It won't do you any good." Without another word, he ducks down and disappears into the opening next to the wheel.

I look to Edward, trying to mask my concern. "Bad weather?"

"We'll hit some storms at some point. It's unavoidable."

"All I'm picturing is that movie The Perfect Storm. The giant wave… the boat like, vertical against the water." I blink. "Boats aren't supposed to be vertical."

He breathes out a laugh through his nose. "Bella."

"Yeah?"

"It's a movie."

"Right."

"Hey!" Marcus calls out. "Come check it out below."

I duck and take the few stairs that lead below the boat. Once I'm standing with Marcus, I glance around, pleased to see it's a little more spacious than I'd imagined.

"I won this thing in a bet, you know. From that one's dad," Marcus says, pointing toward Edward. "We were on a week-long bender, I believe. And poker was the game."

"Isn't it always?" Edward snarks, taking off his hat, releasing a head full of greasy hair.

"He bet his boat?" I ask in bewilderment and a tiny bit amusement. "Why would he do that?"

"People do crazy things. It's better not to ask," Marcus says breezily. "So, these here are the living quarters. Not much of a looker. This is the galley."

"Otherwise known as the kitchen," Edward pipes in.

Marcus points just past what is considered the kitchen, toward a table and two separate padded benches on either side of the walls. "That's the saloon."

Edward adds, "Or the living room."

"The door over there is the—"

"Bathroom."

Marcus scoffs. "Do you want to give her the tour instead, boy?"

Edward laughs, holding up his hands.

"There're two rooms," Marcus tells me as I follow him across the cabin. He opens the door to a room that's only big enough to be filled with a bed, a low ceiling, and two tiny windows on either side of the walls. "Not the most comfortable, but there's privacy. I don't sleep much, but Carmen'll want a room. You can take this one, we usually have the one by the stairs."

My gaze flicks toward Edward. "And everyone else?"

"The benches in the saloon pull out into makeshift beds, so the rest of the crew will find places to crash."

"How many people are coming with?"

"There'll be a total of six of us. One or two of us will need to be on night watch, so the lack of room for sleeping won't matter much."

"I can sleep wherever," I tell the both of them. "Honestly. I'm just grateful there's space for me to even tag along."

"Well, you'll have to help out, do your share. Edward can teach you about sailing, show you the ropes. But first," Marcus says with a grin, "we drink."

XXX

After dinner and a few too many shots of tequila, I grab my backpack and sneak outside. The sun is long gone, but the lights surrounding the porch create enough visibility for me to see my tent up ahead.

Music from inside the house thumps, trailing behind me. It's accompanied by laughter and loud, excited conversation. I smile. It was a good night. Marcus and Carmen's hospitality, paired with their infectious attitude over the upcoming trip, was exactly what I needed.

Well, that and many, many drinks.

I think about falling into my tent, passing out until morning. But the urge to write down my thoughts wins, and I find a spot under a nearby tree.

I'm only a couple of incoherent sentences in when I hear the screen door slam shut. A shirtless, board-shorts-wearing Edward appears outside, and I watch him look around for a few seconds before he spots me.

"There you are," he says as he gets closer.

He sits ass-down on the ground, until we're facing each other, knees touching.

"Want one?" He holds out the extra beer in his hand and I take it.

"I was just writing," I murmur, taking a long sip, staring at his hard, broad chest. "Trying to get my thoughts in order before we leave tomorrow."

"I see."

"I figure if I'm going to try to submit anything I write on this trip, I might as well stay consistent. Write while it's happening."

"Good thinking. Need any help?"

I give him a smile, turn on the trusty recorder beside me.

"What about… I ask you some things?"

The way his eyes narrow is playful, as is the tone in his voice. "Can't say no to you."

"How do you usually prepare for a trip like this?"

He thinks, swigs his beer, smiles down at the ground. "I don't. I mean, other than doing necessary shit, like making sure I ultimately have a way to get where I'm going and haven't left my passport in a different city—because that's happened before—I don't really prepare. I just… go."

I sketch a bird on my notepad, the one he gave me. Trace it three times until the lines are thick and the bird's full of ink.

"So no overthinking," I say, paraphrasing what he's just said.

"Exactly. Reflection is also an important part of traveling. Or important for life, maybe. I didn't really figure that out until a few years ago."

I jot down reflect more, then scratch it out and just write reflect. Because that's not something I even do now.

Edward lies back on the ground, grabbing my backpack to prop up his head. I watch him for a minute until he speaks, eyes still on the night sky.

"When you go about your day doing the same shit, not really taking the time to reflect about what you're doing or what makes you happy… that's when you find yourself in a rut."

I nod, knowing this feeling exactly.

"I like talking to you," I say quietly, earnestly.

Edward turns on his side, focusing on my face, studying it. His lips twitch beneath his beard and I fight the urge to touch his face.

"We can just talk, you know." With his eyes still on me, he reaches over and carefully turns off the recorder with a click. "Without this." Pulls my notepad out of my hands. "And this."

"But I don't know how to talk to people without the pretense that they're being interviewed," I tease.

"Bullshit."

I laugh, lie back beside him, but not touching.

"Tell me about your family," he murmurs.

We talk for a while, with an ease I've never possessed with anyone else. I tell him about my parents, how they're still together, and he tells me about how his dad couldn't commit to his mom. That he wanted freedom and his mom needed security, so eventually they let each other go.

"Are you like your dad in that way?" I ask, already convinced he is. He doesn't strike me as the type to settle down.

"I like freedom. Who doesn't? But unlike my father, I work hard to keep my relationships."

"Like with the girls you meet on the islands?" I tease, only because Carmen mentioned someone earlier who Edward seemed less than enthused talking about.

"No. Like with my friends. My family. They're important to me. My dad was always off on adventures, and I admired him for that. But he didn't think twice about us. That's what I would do differently than him. If I met someone along the way who fit into my life, I would make it work."

His words hit me hard. It makes me feel guilty for being sucked into my own dramas all the time and not taking the time to be involved in what Jess or my family are dealing with.

The combination of alcohol and lack of sleep have me feeling a little emotional. So before I can dwell on it too much, I change the subject. "What time do we have to be up?"

"Six."

"Fuck."

He stands, reaching for my hands and pulling me up with him. "I'll see you in about… three hours."

I dust the dirt and leaves off my ass. "Bright and early."

Before I can walk away, he stops me.

"Hey. What were you writing about when I came out here?"

"Stupid, drunk thoughts," I chuckle, playing it off.

"Don't do that. Don't minimize what you do."

His words sober me. "You know Carmen and Marcus knew each other five days before he convinced her to leave Rapa Nui and start a life with him?"

"I did know that," he murmurs with a gentle smile.

"My thing, I guess, is like… how did I spend years with someone without it ever really feeling completely right… and they knew within five days?"

"Fate, maybe."

I give him a long look. "You believe in that?"

"Who knows," he says with an easy shrug. "But timing is always key. And that feeling in your gut? You should really listen to that more often."


Fist bumps to Kim, Vic, and Patrizia for being supportive and like, "cool dude" when I told them I somehow managed to write another chapter.

Thank YOU for waiting. It's appreciated more than y'all know.