The next day, Kale summoned me to the office – early again. He said he wanted to talk about something important. When I arrived, he was dressed in a button-down, light-blue, short-sleeved shirt that matched his eyes and jeans. He looked happy to see me. We seemed to be making progress – our relationship had mellowed into a comfortable ambiguity.
It felt so warm and nice to be around him that I thought I would take what time I could get alone with him and enjoy it. I also suspected he called me in early to ensure quality alone time before the staff arrived. It seemed like Monica had made it her habit lately to interrupt us. I didn’t know if Kale had noticed, but I sure had. I had completely avoided any discussion that would define their relationship because I held out hope that their intimate closeness was in my imagination. A California girl could hold out hope anyway.
Kale walked straight over to me and hugged me. To my utter shock, he leaned over and gave me a simple, but sweet kiss on the lips, not the cheek. I was completely blown away by the simplicity of what amounted to an intimate gesture. Yes, I knew our relationship had progressed well beyond kisses, but there was a familiar tenderness to it and certainly no seduction behind it.
“Hey,” I said as I pulled back with a surprised look on my face.
“Let’s do something fun,” he said.
“Fun?” I asked. “Not work? Why?”
Kale sat down on the edge of his desk, crossed his legs and shrugged. “We did a lot of things backward,” he admitted. “I thought about it. Who was I to assume I knew who was in your life?”
I stepped forward and said, “I didn’t exactly tell you.”
“True, sweetheart, you didn’t, but I don’t recall asking either,” he said. “My bad.”
“Are you forgiving me?” I asked as my heart started beating quickly.
Kale just stared at me with those strong, bottomless eyes I loved so much. “Not sure,” he said simply. “I do want to know you, though. I want to spend real time with you.”
I grinned and said, “Not just my body?” I moved forward a little closer and cocked my head in a flirtatious way.
“Brea, you are the most gorgeous woman I know. I also realize you can have any man you want when you want. Do I want your body? That’s not even a question,” he said with a quiver of a grin. “I could seduce you now – maybe not even regret it, but where did that get me last time? So no, not your body … for now.”
I reached out and lightly touched his bicep. His eyes drifted down to the touch and then back up. He stood up, which forced me to drop my touch. “What I want is your time.”
“To do what?” I asked.
“Just time, sweetheart,” he said. “I own a boat. We’re going out to catch fresh fish off the bow. I’m going to cook it for your dinner,” he said and started to walk toward the door where he stopped and waited.
“What if I said I get seasick?” I asked.
“Well, then, sweetheart, we’ll stop and get you Dramamine,” he said in his silky voice and opened the door. “After you.”
I hesitantly walked toward the door, stopped right in front of him, gazed into his eyes and smiled. What I saw was acceptance of some sort. This gesture, this quasi-date was a test of some kind – I felt it. Was he going to forgive me? He said he was uncertain. Would he ever forgive me? The answer was as vague as the gesture. I reached the quick conclusion that my lesson for the week was about staying in the moment and accepting it for what it was.
We strolled out into the hallway and ran smack into Curtis, who looked from Kale to me and asked, “Where are you two going?”
“Boating,” said Kale, unaffected by the question.
“With her?” he asked as if I was not standing there.
Kale’s eyes drifted to me and back to Curtis. “And your point?”
Curtis raised his hand with the coffee cup in it. “No, man; no point. Have fun.”
And as Curtis walked past me I felt his eyes shift down on me. I could sense jealousy and a hint of anger. It made me uncomfortable. Kale also looked from Curtis to me. We walked to the elevator and got in it.
Kale turned to me and said, “I’ve known him for years. Good guy. Does he bother you?”
“Um — no,” I said and deflected the truth.
“You have nothing to worry about with him. All bark, I promise,” he said. “Because you would tell me?”
“Tell you?” I asked flatly.
Kale eyed me suspiciously and then shrugged. “All right, sweetheart, you play it that way.”
Shit! Every time I came close to true intimacy, something ruined it. I wasn’t sure if Kale was upset, suspicious, frustrated or what. I saw his expression become more guarded again. I wanted to tell him the truth, but it seemed like a reckless choice – one that would ultimately shut down production on my first film. This industry was littered with films that almost were – and movie shutdowns were often instigated by far less trivial problems than a rivalry over the screenwriter. If I told Kale, he might protect me but at what cost? Could my career afford that kind of protection? And, with our romantic relationship still questionable, was now the right time? Maybe Kale would tire of the sexual drama that I seemed to invite.
Later that morning, we arrived at a dock in San Diego at the marina. We walked out on the long wooden planks that had boats moored on each side like parked cars. The gentle breeze blew cool air and pushed my hair back. I reached in my bag, pulled out a band and tied my hair back off of my face. It felt good. Kale came to a sudden stop in front of me, and I turned and looked. This was the “boat”? It was a yacht with wide-open windows on the upper deck. I looked up and stared, and I’m sure my surprise registered on my face.
Kale chuckled. “You weren’t expecting a rowboat were you?”
“No,” I replied with a smile, “but I wasn’t expecting a yacht either!”
One of the deckhands was waiting for us on the boat. Kale reached down and helped me up on the plank between the dock and the boat. I took his hand (it felt good) and allowed his assistance. He turned and whispered something to the deckhand, who disappeared and reappeared a few minutes later with a glass of water and two pills in an outstretched, white-gloved hand.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Dramamine,” he responded.
I took the water and tossed the pills in my mouth just as Kale turned to look at me. He had a weird expression on his face.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing.” He grinned. “I’ll meet you up on deck, all right?”
He headed off to the front of the boat with the deckhand and disappeared into a room. I looked around, spotted some stairs just inside the main cabin and made my way up them to the upper deck. As I emerged through the top, I saw the view of the open sea out off the stern. It was incredible – blue and clear. The water shimmered and rippled in the midday sun. The sea breeze blew and swirled through my hair. I heard the engine rumble and start. I looked over the edge and saw two more deckhands undoing the ropes and tossing them on board. I sat down in a plush, beige chair with a round table separating it from a matching chair. Just as I looked up, a steward appeared in front of me holding out a tray containing champagne, cheese and fruit.
“Miss,” he said quietly.
I grabbed the champagne by the stem, took a small plate of grapes and cheese and set both down on the small, round table next to my seat. My phone chirped to alert me of a text. I pulled it out of my purse and looked – it was Lance. He asked to see me later. I replied maybe and put the phone away. I wasn’t sure what time we would return. I was worried about Lance. He said the chemo was terrible, but he wouldn’t share much more than that. I suddenly felt guilty being so preoccupied with my own petty concerns when Lance was so sick. And I hadn’t been a good friend to him at all. I needed to step up.
Kale emerged from below and came to sit next to me. “Have you ever gone deep-sea fishing?”
“No, not really,” I said. “I fished for trout in a river with my sister when I was little.”
“Oh, you have a sister?” he asked.
“Her name is Lulu, and she lives in northern California. We’re not close.”
Kale nodded and smiled. “Maya loves you,” he said frankly. “She wants us back together – tells me every morning,” he said with a laugh.
I looked at him and leaned across the table. “So do I,” I said and popped a grape into my mouth.
Kale leaned in closer and looked at me. “You fucked us up,” he said briskly.
I sat up straight. “Yes, I did.”
Kale looked at me. “An honest answer. Now we’re getting somewhere.”
I looked down and then took another sip of champagne. “In my defense, it was just … I don’t know — unexplainable. Haven’t you done something like that before?”
Kale picked up a pair of binoculars and started looking at something off in the distance. “Two whales,” he said and handed the binoculars to me and pointed off to the south.
I took the binoculars and looked. Yes, two whales. They were merely ripples under the water, but I could see their spray from their blowholes sending up water like a fine mist in the air. I handed the binoculars back and sipped more champagne. He wasn’t going to answer that question.
“You don’t think I’m honest?” I suddenly asked.
Kale, who had returned to gazing through the binoculars, took them down from his eyes, raised an eyebrow and sort of smirked. “Do you think you’re honest, sweetheart?”
I shifted back into my seat and looked down at my hands. I considered that question very carefully. “I didn’t lie … exactly.”
“That’s not what I asked you.” He looked me right in the eyes.
“It’s not lying if I just didn’t mention what was going on. And I never said I loved you.” As I said those words, I could see pain cross Kale’s face. I suddenly wished I could grab the words and shove them back in the proverbial bottle. Wrong answer.
Kale got up, grabbed his champagne and finished it off in one full gulp. He wouldn’t look at me anymore. “I’m going fishing. You joining me?”
I stood up and said, “I’ll watch.”
Kale and I walked down to the bottom of the ship and to the back. A deckhand was waiting with a huge fishing rod. Kale immediately worked to put giant-sized fish chunks on it as bait. I found my way to a cushy bench nearby. As I sat in the warm light of day, rocking with the soft, gentle sway of the boat, my eyes grew heavier and heavier. I thought it was the champagne. Within minutes, I realized I could barely hold my eyes open. Kale was busily fishing. So, I thought I would lie down on the bench and just close them – that was the last thing I remembered.
The next thing I knew my eyes were open – and it was sunset. Kale was standing over me in all his tallness, nudging me awake and laughing. “Brea! Wake up. Dinner.”
“Huh,” I whispered and forced my eyes open. “What?”
I pulled myself up, and Kale reached out and grabbed my hand to steady me. “You all right?”
“I couldn’t keep my eyes open,” I explained.
Kale softly laughed and looked out on the horizon and then back. “Dramamine, sweetheart. I tried to warn you, but you just took both pills at once.”
“Oh, what? I don’t understand,” I replied.
“It causes drowsiness,” he replied, and we started up the staircase back to the top and the dining area.
When we got to the deck, I noticed the table was perfectly set with every piece of silverware and glassware in its proper place. The deckhand pulled out my chair for me. Kale sat across from me. His cheeks were a nice shade of rosy red from being in the sun, which made his eyes look even bluer than usual. He looked so relaxed and satisfied. He told me he caught white sea bass, which we were having for dinner. It sounded so succulent and fresh. The deckhand poured another glass of champagne as we spoke of the afternoon that I had managed to miss in my sleep. Kale was deliriously happy about the adventure. He said he saw so many whales it was unreal and even a breech. I’d never seen a man so happy to describe a breech in my life. He said it was a huge tail that came up vertically and than flat down with an amazing splash. He ate his fish with contentment, and you would think he was angler of the year.
“Do you really think I’m a liar?” I asked quietly, eating my fish.
Kale took a bite, chewed and considered his answer. “No, I think you’re young,” he admitted.
“Immature?” I asked and dreaded the answer.
“You’re extremely focused, talented, kind and, of course, easy on the eyes,” he said and smiled at me. “I never once thought you intended to hurt me.”
“I’m immature then?”
Kale’s expression softened into a sweet, paternal look. “You’re weak. I don’t dislike that about you exactly. But you’re also vulnerable – and that is a beautiful thing, especially here in La La Land,” he said mockingly. “The first time we met, and I offered to put you in the movie and you instantly declined, I knew you were well beyond anyone in that room.”
I grabbed my champagne glass and took a swig. I felt really bad. The subtext of this conversation was creating a pit in my stomach. I could hear the imaginary “but” without him actually saying it. All I wanted to do was reach across the table, clear the plates and dishes and have fantastic out-to-sea sex; but I could see by his tender expression and the subtext that it was not going to happen – not tonight.
“By the way, who’s Ryan?” he asked.
“What?” I asked, surprised he knew about Ryan.
“He texted you 10 times. I looked,” he admitted.
I was uncomfortable. I didn’t know if I liked his snooping on my iPhone. “I’m seeing him,” I said frankly. After all, I was certain Kale was involved with Monica. Why would I not be seeing someone else? We weren’t together anymore.
“I see,” he said. “And what about Johnny? Aren’t those two friends?”
“I was never involved with Johnny,” I said and thought at least this answer might make him happy.
“Hmm … ” he said and looked me straight in the eyes. “Are you fucking Ryan?” he asked with this unsettling intensity.
“Yes,” I replied bluntly.
“Honesty … twice in one afternoon. Impressive.”
“Ryan is fun. He’s not you. I would be with you if you wanted me,” I said.
Kale looked up, set down his fork and moved closer to me. He leaned in very close to my face so that I could smell his scent – fish, peppermint and just Kale. It was a mixture that was not displeasing. Nothing about Kale was disappointing. He grabbed my hand and gently placed it on his substantial and familiar manhood and smiled.
“I never said I didn’t want you,” he whispered.
I felt a surge of heat well up into my thighs. I met his gaze with the same intensity, but right then he pulled away and out of my space. I felt a jolt of shock mixed with intense lust and longing. Kale gripped the champagne bottle chilling on ice and poured my glass back full to the top and topped his own off. He smiled his captivating grin, reached out with his glass to suggest cheers and took a brisk drink. I sat back in my seat, stared at him and took my own sip. I was completely enthralled with him.
“We’ll be back at dock by 8:00 p.m. Your friend Lance wants you to come by at 8:30. I texted him and said I would have you back in time.”
What? Now I was reeling in shock. I looked down. What was he doing? Messing with me? I didn’t really know. “I’m — I’m not sure you should have done that,” I said quietly.
Kale stiffened a bit. “I want to trust you again.”
“But that’s my private phone,” I replied.
“Well, then I’ll try not to look at it from now on,” he replied and looked me straight in the eyes.
“You have no idea how much I want you,” I suddenly blurted out and admitted.
Kale sweetly smiled out of nowhere and said, “Good.”
I kept staring at him, but he made no move toward me. I backed down and concentrated on my food for the rest of the evening. He wasn’t going to make this easy.