The rain patters down on the metal roof, beating out an irregular rhythm. Fergus caresses Tasha's hair as she snuggles against his chest.
"I love the rain," she says sleepily, her foot sliding over his calf, tickling, "Everything seems to just slow down."
His phone, sitting on his bedside table for the night buzzes. Tasha rolls over to his other side as he leans over to pick it up. It's a text from Jillyan.
Fergus groans a little in dismay on reading his cousin's message, then puts the phone back down without responding. Tasha drapes herself over him as he lays back onto the bed, looking at him expectantly.
"Jillyan is taking off for Isla Paradiso," Fergus tells her, frowning his disapproval, "With Julian."
"Just like that?" Tasha asks. "She knows we have classes tomorrow, right?"
"I have a feeling that for Jilly, going to college was more of an excuse to get out of our home town. Now that she's here, she can't sit still long enough for classes. My guess is she'll drop out before the end of the second semester. If she lasts that long."
Tasha shrugs, laughing a little, "Well, I guess that's her choice, then. At least you all are rich enough that you don't have to worry about boring things like educations and careers. But that's not what's bothering you, is it?" she asks, noticing the frown playing on his lips.
"I don't like that she's taking off for a week with Julian Landgraab."
"Mmm, yeah, those Landgraabs," Tasha says, running her hand over his chest and smiling playfully, "He might abduct her and bring her to some secret MorcuCorp lab, where they'll clone her an make an army of perfect catalog models."
"How much do you know about MorcuCorp?" Fergus eyes her suspiciously.
Tasha shrugs, shaking her head, "I dabble in conspiracy theory," she says, "You wouldn't believe some of the stuff you can find on MorcuCorp on the internet. But, I've kind of had to back away from that hobby, since I'm pursing serious journalism when I grow up. Can't look too crazy, you know."
Tasha giggles, lifting herself to slide between his legs, "Now you've done it," she whispers, "Got me all hot and bothered with this talk of abductions and conspiracy theories," she whispers as she leans in to kiss him.
"You were the one that started talking about conspiracy theories," Fergus points out, grabbing her by the waist to tickle her.
"Guilty," she admits, laughing as she squirms out of his grasp, then falls back down on his chest, "Still, here I am, all turned on. It's raining outside and we're here in your nice, warm bed..."
After the long flight to Isla Paradiso, the first thing Jilly and Julian do on arrival is find a nice little restaurant to get something to eat.
"The brochure mentions an art gallery nearby," Julian says as they eat their meal.
"Maybe we'll check it out," Jilly answers noncommittally. he does love art, as much as to choose it for her major, but the enforced quiet of the museum puts her of from visiting the works of art they house.
Whether she wanted to see it or not, the art gallery is closed by the time they finish their dinner, so they check into the 5 star resort she booked them into, and relax in the poolside hottub while watching the sun set over the nearby shore.
"I could have walked in myself," Jilly whispers in his ear, giggling as Julian sweeps her up into his arms to carry her into their suite for the night.
"It's more romantic this way," Julian answers, helping her out of her swimsuit as he lays her down on their bed.
"I'm too excited to sleep," Jilly murmurs, nestling into Julian's arms after they've made love.
"We don't have to sleep," Julian suggests.
"The sunrise is gorgeous," Jill notes as they enjoy their poolside breakfast, "But this resort, it's a little too..." she fumbles for a word.
"Luxurious?" Julian laughs, knowing her.
"Yeah, I guess that's it," Jilly says, "I don't want to be where everything is right in front of me for the taking."
"You want to hunt and kill your own breakfast," Julian says, making her laugh.
"Well, maybe not, but I do want a little more adventure."
"I'll take care of it," he promises.
The couple split up for the day, Jilly taking her diving gear and finding adventure and treasure beneath the water.
While Julian stays on the surface, hunting for a good camping spot.
He finds a small island, pitches a tent and texts Jilly the GPS coordinates, so she can find him when she surfaces.
"You're missing a spectacular sunset," he says, looking down and noticing that she's looking at him rather than the purple clouds above.
She reaches up, holding his face above hers. "The view from here is actually pretty good."
At his urging, she sits up to enjoy the view. "It is pretty," she admits, "You did find the perfect spot to camp."
"That's why you brought me along," Julian teases, "To be your personal vacation concierge."
"I have better uses for you," Jilly teases back, rolling on top of him.
The couple wakes to a misty sunrise.
"Are you going diving today?" Julian asks, after a long good morning kiss.
"Maybe later," she answers, "First, I want sketch that gorgeous body of yours while you still have that fabulous tan."
Julian strips down as she requests and poses."I don't see how my tan matters, if you're sketching with charcoal," he observes.
"It inspires me to make great art," she answers.
Jillyan does spend the rest of the afternoon diving again, and it's Julian's job to find better housing. Though they both enjoyed camping out for the night, having a bed, fridge and stove handy would be nice, too. So he finds a rental house right on the water, not too luxurious, with just the required amenities.
Julian welcoms her to their new place with a grilled cheese sandwich.
"Yum, I'm starving," she says, tucking in after a long day's diving.
"You got a tattoo?" Julian notices the new design on her calf, "I thought you were diving?"
"I was diving," Jilly explain, "I met this mermaid...merman? Mer-dude? Anyway, a guy with fishy parts. His name is Salty Seaworth."
"You're making things up," Julian accuses.
"No, it really happened," Jilly insists.
"Communication wasn't easy, because you have to use hand signs, right?" she continues her tale, "But if I understood him right, he recognized me. He said we were related somehow. That the merfolk descend from dragons."
"You've lost me," Julian says.
"Yeah, I guess that does kind of sound crazy," Jilly admits, "I'm supposedly descended from a dragon. That's what my mother told me. I was never sure I believed her. But this mer-guy or whatever seemed to think so."
"So, anyway, when I came to shore, I saw a tattoo parlor by the beach, and decided to get some ink. A dragon. Because."
"Because you're descended from a dragon and therefore related to the merfolk?" Julian raises an eyebrow.
"Well, when you go dissecting it like that..." Jilyy laughs, "I guess it was a crazy day. But, anyway, Salty told me about this great private island only the mer-people know about. He said we could stay there if we wanted."
"More camping?" Julian asks.
Jilly shrugs, "I think he said something about a house. Though I don't get how a guy with fishy parts needs a house...Anyway, we can check it out tomorrow. Tonight, we are sleeping in a bed."
"If you let me get any sleep," Julian comments wryly.
Jillyan is a light sleeper, and wakes easily to the slightest noise or disturbance. She and Julian had fallen asleep embraced together, but his side of the bed is now empty, and perfectly made, something she's noticed he does instinctively when he rises, the first thing when he gets out of bed.
"Julian?" she calls sleepily, following the light tapping noise out to the main room of their rented house. He's holding his phone, she notices, texting someone.
"Julian?" she calls again, getting no response, "Who are you texting in the middle of the night?"
He makes no answer, still tapping words out on the keypad.
"Hey," Jilly growls, becoming angry at being ignored, "You can at least acknowledge me."
His thumb keeps tapping, his eyes glued to the screen, like he isn't even aware of her.
"Julian!" she shakes him, but he's like stone, his eyes glassy, unseeing. Nothing she does or says gets through to him. "Julian! What's wrong with you?"
Finally, something flickers in his eyes, his hand drops at her and he looks at her, finally seeing her there.
"What?" he asks, bewildered, lost, "Why are we are out here? We were in bed..."
"Baby, I think you were sleepwalking," Jilly says, taking his face in her hands as he grips her arm for support.
"I...don't remember," he says with a deep sigh, "The last thing I remember was being with you, in bed."
"You wouldn't remember, if you were sleepwalking," she says, "Sleep texting, actually."
"You were texting someone, like you were in a trance," Jilly explains, "Give me your phone."
Julian looks down and is surprised to find that he's holding his phone. He hands it to Jilly like it was a loaded gun.
"It says the last number you texted was...mine. Earlier today."
"When I sent you the address of this house," Julian remembers.
Narrowing her eyes, Jilly searches again, through his call list, and still comes up with no calls or texts since the message he sent her that afternoon. "You must have some kind of password protection on this thing," she surmises, "Some way to hide who you sent that last text to."
"I'm not hiding anything," Julian protests, but his voice is soft and strained, almost not believing himself.
"I know, baby," Jilly lays a comforting hand on him, "But maybe Fergus is right. MorcuCorp might be using you or something. Maybe that would explain your memory gaps and your migraines. I'm going to keep this, okay?" she waves the phone at him.
"Keep it," he nods, "Jilly, I would never..." he pleads, not even sure what it is something like MorcuCorp would be using him for. To spy on a college girl and her cousin? It makes no sense.
"I know," she assures him, taking his arm, "Let's go back to bed, okay?"
"We're going to take care of this," Jill promises as they get back into bed.
"If they're using me, to get to you...maybe I should go," Julian says, "I couldn't live with myself if I thought I was putting you in any danger."
"I'm more worried about you than I am about me," Jilly answers, "And there's no way I'm letting you out of my sight, understand? When this vacation is over, you and me and Fergus are going to figure out what's going on with you. And we're going to kick MorcuCorp in the balls if they've fucked with you in any way. I promise."
The private island Salty told Jilly about does indeed have a solitary house on it, as well as a hot tub and a swimming pool. Julian and Jilly settle into their new vacation home nicely.
Neither one of them brings up the strange incident from the night before, like they have a silent pact to pretend it never happened, at least until their vacation is over and they are back home where they can do something about it.
They find the small kitchen well stocked, so Julian whips up some goopy carbonara for dinner.
"Do mermaids even eat pasta?" he wonders out loud.
"Maybe they keep this place for their dragon friends?" Jilly suggests.
"Because dragons eat pasta? And need toilets?"
"Well, my mom said they have human forms, as well as what we think of as dragons." Jilly looks up him, pointing her fork in his direction, "Your ancestors were dragonslayers, you know. Fergus told me that."
"I always thought that was just stories," Julian shrugs.
"Well, it's kind of funny, if you think about. You being a descendant of dragonslayers, and me a descendant of dragons. And now we're lovers. You know, finally making peace between our people."
Julian laughs. "I hardly speak for the Landgraabs as a 'people'. And I don't think the dragons have elected you as their representative."
"I hope not!" Jilly exclaims, laughing, "Politics, ugh."
The next morning they awake to the patter of rain.
"It looks like we're stuck indoors," Jilly says.
"You don't want to take off somewhere else?" Julian teases, remembering why they took this trip in the first place, so she could get away from the rain.
"Actually, I'm pretty good just staying here with you," she answers.
"I'm sure you can keep me busy," she murmurs as she pulls him back down into bed.
The rain continues all day, so the couple find ways to entertain themselves indoor. Jilly works on her sketches of Julian.
"That's a little exaggerated," Julian comments on her finished efforts, "Just a little."
"What are you doing?" Jilly looks up quizzically over her sketchbook. She gave Julian a break from posing and has been working on drawings of the coral reefs and sunken ships she's seen while diving.
"Attacking the city I built with UFOs."
"You and Fergus really need to be besties, you know that?"
The rain persists through the evening. Julian and Jilly end their dinner with a slow dance.
"This has actually been a really great day," Jilly comments, "I didn't think it was possible to have so much fun while stuck in one room."
"Well, when you're with someone you love..."
"I suppose that's it," Jill smiles.
Despite the rain, the couple ends the day, their last in Isla Paradiso, in the hot tub.
"We never did visit that art gallery," Julian mentions.
"Maybe next time."
Jilly unlocked three hidden islands on this trip. The first two got used on their trip (the one they camped on and Mermaid Island), the third she picked up on the last day, when I figured out I had to assemble the map pieces, but there wasn't any point to using it then. Maybe when she goes back for another visit. As it was, fitting that many moves into one chapter was more than enough.
A couple of fun vacation shots. I added the surf station thinger to one of the beach lots.