Authors: Nancy Loyan
by Nancy Schuemann
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, organizations, events or locales are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any characters to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
o my husband, Bill Schuemann, whose architectural photography assignment took us to the exotic Seychelles Islands for three weeks and is the reason for the existence of this novel.
Paradise Helicopters, the telephone book’s advertisement read. The Seychelles Islands were the closest Victoria had ever come to being in Paradise. They were also her home. Yet, she knew it was only a matter of time before the Islands would be overrun with swanky resorts and tourists. Paradise lost was more like it.
So far, the government protected the natural resources as a priority rather than exploiting them. Tourism was limited. Only those with money, reserved accommodations, and a return ticket home were allowed to visit. This wasn’t Hawaii … yet. When the time came for the islands off the coast of Africa to give in to commercialism, Victoria would be prepared. She had returned home with an education, a world of financial expertise, money, and a plan. Instead of being an exploited native, she was going to be in control. Of that she was certain.
As the local taxi driver wove erratically across the zigzagging San Souci toward downtown Victoria and the International Airport, she gripped the dashboard with white knuckles. The driver laughed and shook his head. Victoria had forgotten the Seychellois love for speed and the dangerous roadway curves. Her new Volvo was being shipped over from Sweden within a month and she realized she would have to hone her driving skills like driving on the left. Yet another thing to relearn. Everything in her youth had been stored away in the back of a mental closet only to be rediscovered and brought out.
the driver said as he pulled into the entrance drive of Paradise Helicopters.
Victoria looked out at the nondescript mortar and stone building and adjoining metal hanger. A heli-pad stood empty in the foreground.
She drew a deep breath and sighed as she exited the car. Swiping a hand across her brow to swish away the perspiration, she had almost forgotten how hot and humid the Seychelles were. Nowhere else had she felt such intense moist heat except in a greenhouse. Even the slight breeze had done little to lower the temperature. She paid the driver, jotted his car phone number and said she’d summon him from her cell phone for pick-up.
She sashayed up the gravel walk. The whirling of a helicopter overhead made her pause. The noise grew louder and grinding upon approach. The wind seemed to vibrate as the yellow Jet Ranger dropped from the sky, hovering before landing on the concrete pad. The wind churned from the velocity of the rotor blades, blowing her hair and billowing out the skirt of her cotton halter sundress. Victoria stood still and watched the blades slow from their circular motion.
The pilot’s door popped open and a man leapt out of the cockpit. He ducked to avoid the rotating blades and walked away from the craft.
The man was tall compared to most men, sturdily built, and well proportioned. The navy cotton shorts and yellow knit polo shirt, the same bright hue as the helicopter, accented his broad chest and shoulders, slim waist and lean legs. He raked his hands through his thick sandy hair as he approached her. He walked self-assured, straight and steady. Victoria eyed him with intrigue and curiosity.
“You must be Miss Montcherry. We talked on the phone. I’m Daemon Wells,” he introduced with a brilliant smile and a firm handshake.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Wells.” She met the intense gaze of his hazel eyes and tingled at his electric grip, a reaction she hadn’t expected.
“Shall we go inside to discuss a flight plan? You wanted to view some island property?” he asked as he steered her toward the building’s entrance.
“Yes, I’m looking at some land to purchase and need to see the topography before signing an agreement.”
“Can’t say that I blame you.”
“You’re from the United States?” she asked. His voice was devoid of any discernable accent.
“Originally from Michigan. And you? Your accent’s interesting.”
She sent him one of her wide, dimpled and disarming smiles. “I’m from many places, Mr. Wells. Perhaps we can discuss the flight plan so we can move along.”
Opening the glass front door, Daemon motioned with his arm. “After you,
She swooshed past him and into the building.
The view from the front window of the helicopter was breathtaking; tree-covered granite boulders jutted up toward the sky, a film of foggy mist hanging over them like an opaque halo, tin roofed shacks dotting the emerald hills of Mah’e. The Jet Ranger skimmed over them in search of the flats where Victoria’s list of properties lay.
“Down there,” she said through her headset, pointing to a flat, palm tree shaded plot.
“Okay,” Daemon responded, lowering the craft and hovering.
“Can you keep this thing steady?” Victoria protested, pulling a digital camera out of her purse.
“Any steadier and we’ll be in the trees.” He chuckled.
Victoria realized her hands were shaking and she had to level the camera before snapping a few photos. “Move on. Every minute costs me money.”
“I charge by the hour, remember?”
She shook her head. Figures, the pilot had to be American. She had encountered enough American pretty boys during her time in the States. Dated a few. Almost married one. Almost.
She drew a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves over the pending land acquisitions and painful memories of the not-so-distant past.
As they flew over another site, he hovered and she photographed. The air was getting a bit turbulent over the mountains and her stomach lurched into her throat. She swallowed the bitter feeling.
“Are you okay?” Daemon asked, hand on the throttle, as he glanced her way.
She just waved him off, afraid to open her mouth in fear of the contents of her breakfast coming out instead of words.
“Better get you down,” he said.
The helicopter made a gentle curve and descent as it followed the sandy shoreline and curling waves toward his headquarters.
Upon landing, Victoria raced from the helicopter and into the ladies’ restroom. When she came out, Daemon stood waiting with a bamboo tray of saltines and a plastic tumbler of ginger ale.
With splayed fingers, she pulled back her long, wavy hair and drew a deep breath trying to compose herself. She still felt like hell.
“Maybe this will help,” Daemon said with a smile as he set the tray on a wicker coffee table.
“I should have taken some Dramamine,” she said, remembering uneventful
sightseeing flights in other countries. Being home had an unsettling effect.
“Here, take a seat.” He pointed to the wicker settee.
Without hesitation, she sat.
Daemon handed her a cracker.
“Thanks.” She took the square wafer, avoiding his gaze.
She nibbled at the cracker, swallowing crumbs, unsure of what her stomach could handle. Always used to putting on a strong front, she shrunk back in her seat defeated, as
Daemon Wells stood nearby watching her with a wrinkle in his tanned brow.
She cracked a faint smile as she continued to nibble on the cracker. Like a damned parrot, she thought. If only that Wells fellow would stop staring at her. He was putting her on edge. Having eyes focused on her always made her feel different when all she ever strove for was to fit in.
Setting down the cracker, she sighed. Being back home on the island of Mah’e, she would fit in. She hoped.
“Are you feeling better?” Daemon asked. “Your color’s coming back.”
She smirked at his mention of “color.” Of course he’d assume she was white. Everyone had. Being Seychellois, she was an amalgam of many races. “A little better.”
“Try some ginger ale. It’s calming,” he prompted.
She grasped the tumbler of ginger ale and sipped. The fizzing bubbles and ginger taste did seem to have a settling effect. She drank more.
“You were able to view the properties and get photographs,” Daemon said, easing into a chair across from her.
“At least some good came out of this,” she said.
“More than just some good. We were able to meet. I like to talk to tourists.”
She cracked a smile and mumbled, “I’ve been away far too long.”
“You … you’re from here?” he asked, arching his brows.
“Yes, I’m Seychellois,” she admitted for the first time in years.
She was unusual for a Seychellois, Daemon thought. Blonde and fair skinned in a society of shades of chocolate and caramel, she looked more like a tourist than a native. Even her features were more European than African; delicate and finely chiseled. Her brown eyes, though, were so dark they were almost black and as intense as any charcoal fire. The stubborn determination they possessed made him want to learn more about the mysterious woman.
Lakord Ki anmar bef nwar I osi bon kari
,” he said in fluent Kreol. If she were a native, she would understand
She laughed. “You know the old island slang, “The rope that ties the black cow, also ties the brown cow?” Meaning that what happens to the poor can also happen to the rich. She didn’t believe in old wives’ tales or island sayings. “You speak Kreol?”
I studied French in college and it made learning all the easier.”
“Most people from the States don’t understand a thing we’re saying.”
“I guess I’ve also been away too long,” he said, his eyes with a wistful, faraway look.
“How long?” she asked.
“Let’s see.” He pondered, stroking his square chin.” I left the States twenty years ago. I’ve been in the Seychelles … let’s see … off and on … twelve years.” And, turning toward her, he asked, “How long have you been away from the Islands?”
Longer than she wanted to admit. He was staring again. “Fifteen years.”
“I bet Mah’e hasn’t changed a bit since you left.”
“No, but the people have.” Thinking of her mother, she stood before sentimentality took hold. “How much do I owe you for the flight? I know we didn’t stay up the entire hour but I’ll pay nonetheless since it is your scale.”
“Since you’re Seychellois and my craft did make you ill, you owe me nothing.”
His generosity caught her off guard. “You don’t have to do any favors for me, Mr. Wells, just because I’m from the Islands. I may have experienced the world but I am still fair.” She opened the flap on her Gucci handbag and removed her checkbook. Great help it would be as she realized it was from her closed-out account at a New Jersey bank.
“Put that away. I’ll have none of your money, Miss Montcherry.” He waved his hand. “Island courtesy.”
She tossed the checkbook in her purse, admitting defeat once more. She put out her hand to shake his.
He grasped her fingers in a manner that was more like a gentle caress. He held on a little too long which became more unsettling than the ride in the helicopter.
“Thank you, Mr. Wells,” she said, slipping her hand from his grasp. She backed away and turned to leave.
“Perhaps, Miss Montcherry, I can interest you in dinner one of these evenings. I feel I owe you something for all the discomfort I caused.”
She waved him away. “Mr. Wells, that isn’t necessary. Your hospitality here has been more than adequate. Thank you.”
He rubbed his chin. “This is a small island. I look forward to running into you again. I don’t suppose you’ll be requesting a helicopter anytime soon.”
She tossed back her head and laughed. Bidding him adieu with a wave of her hand, she pushed open the glass door to exit.
The sauna-like heat of the outdoors enveloped her, though she didn’t feel the shock of the temperature change. She’d felt hotter in Mr. Well’s air-conditioned presence. She shook her head.
Please, it had to have been the rocky
. She didn’t need further complications in her life.