Excerpt from

Island Affairs

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He anchors the boat near a wall of limestone rocks. Throwing some snacks and towels into a waterproof bag, Leo smiles at you mysteriously. “This is my favorite place on the planet,” he says. “Ready to see it?”

You nod, then take his hand as the two of you slip into the crystal blue water. You hadn’t noticed before, but a small opening peeks through from under one of the cliffs. Leo guides you as you swim closer, and you have to duck underwater to get through to whatever is hidden beyond.

When you surface, you’ve arrived in paradise. It’s a sheltered lagoon – behind you is a wall of cliffs, and in front of you is an impossibly white sand beach leading inland into lush greenery. The water is so clear you swear your feet can touch the sand at the bottom, but when you dive down, you realize it’s much further than you can reach.

You glance back from where you came. “The opening gets bigger at low tide and completely disappears at high tide,” Leo tells you. When you look nervously at the small sliver of sunlight peeking through, Leo laughs. “Don’t worry, we can still swim down and get through, even when it’s covered. And anyway, we can just wait until the tide goes out again.”

You trail your hand down his firm chest. “But then, what will we do while we wait?” you ask with a gleam in your eye.

Leo growls and pulls you into his embrace, kissing you. His firm body presses against yours, and his strong legs pump the water to keep you both afloat. He suddenly pulls away, putting distance between you.

“God. If I don’t stop, we’re both going to drown,” he says, slowly backing towards the shore. He swims lazily away, calling out, “Come on, I want to show you something.”

You can’t imagine anywhere better than the places you’ve already seen, but you follow, wondering what other treasures the island holds. When you get to shore, he drops the drybag on the sand and motions for you to follow. It seems like you’re walking towards a dead end when he takes your hand and leads you to a nondescript opening in the rocks on the right side of the beach.

You’re in a cavern shrouded in darkness, and Leo helps you maneuver across the fractured cobbles to get deeper inside. You fixate on your steps as you carefully pick your way across the jagged rocks, and your slow movements give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness. When you finally look up, you gasp in disbelief. The small grotto has opened up into an enormous cavern. Hundreds of sharp stalactites hang from the ceiling, dripping into small iridescent pools. The soft glow of sunlight seeping in from the grotto’s entrance bounces off the water and reflects onto the walls with an eerie glow. It’s absolutely magnificent.

“Isn’t this cool?” Leo asks as you wander in awe.

“It’s stunning,” you breathe. “It’s like a secret hideout.”

“Actually,” Leo says, “St. Serena does have its own pirate legend. They say the famous Captain Hidalgo hid his treasures somewhere around these islands. I imagine his hideout must have looked something like this.”

“So there might be treasures in here?” you ask with silly excitement.

“I’ve been here a millions times. If the story were true, I would have found it by now.” Leo replies.

“Oh. Well, it’s still amazing.” You’ve never seen anything so incredible. You feel his chuckle, and he softly kisses the top of your head.

“You are amazing,” he says. Wrapping his arms around you, he nuzzles you gently. You’re enjoying this quiet moment, admiring your surroundings when Leo releases you.

“Let’s keep exploring. There are other places I want to show you.” Leo leads you back out to the beach, where the two of you take in the scenery. He points out a small trailhead through the foliage that you would have never seen otherwise. “There’s a path that wanders around the island, if you want to explore a little more. But we can also stay here and swim in the lagoon.” He points across the water. “There’s a great coral reef right over there, with all kinds of different starfish. What do you want to do?”

Will you explore the island looking for a steamy adventure, or take a hot dip in the cool lagoon?…

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