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2% Forbidden Depths / Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Takeoff
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Forbidden Depths


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Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Takeoff

“Please fasten your seatbelts, as we will be taking off shortly for Greater Tucunia Island, and thank you for flying Air Pacifica,” the plane’s intercom announced.

Lucille DeMarco sighed happily and leaned back in her oversized first-class seat, which was more like a space pod. Despite being in first-class luxury for the first time, and comfortable with flying, her pulse was a racing drumbeat in her tight chest.

Her left hand, which she hoped would soon adorn a ring, tipped her champagne flute to her lips, downing a long sip to calm her nerves. When she landed in the tropical paradise of Tucunia, her fairy-tale new life would begin.

Even after selling her beater car and most of her things, she still couldn’t believe that in less than twelve hours she’d be meeting her billionaire boyfriend and they’d be trailblazing a tropical paradise together.

Partners in crime, and partners in life.

Lucille brushed her freshly highlighted hair behind her ear, and gazed out the window, her light brown eyes looking back at her in the worn plastic of the airplane window.

The bottle-blonde never thought she’d be so lucky, having a mega-wealthy boyfriend who paid for her first-ever first-class ticket, yet it happened. Some days she felt like she had won the lottery, having someone with status and looks like Colton Wooten pay attention to her, think she was exceptional, and treat her like she lit the stars in the sky.

But it was like after he heard her name for the first time, he thought he was the lucky one to have the opportunity to pluck her from her hum-drum life like a rare red rose and whisk her halfway across the world to live in the lap of luxury.

With white sand beaches, turquoise blue ocean, and pink dolphins no less!

She had watched videos of travel influencers, like the infamous and mysterious UndercoverGarden, and watersports influencers doing reviews on what it was like to live or stay in places like Tucunia to prepare, but she still felt like she’d be like a total tourist when she landed.

Lucille checked her phone again for a text, or anything from Colton, but nothing. He did seem stressed with the launch of the new resort, which is why she changed her flight to a day earlier to surprise him and help with the preparations.

The only text she had was a DM from her younger sister, Kristi, saying, ‘Must be nice to have such a rich boyfriend…not that he actually exists’.

The toffee-eyed woman’s gut soured. Her younger sister didn’t believe that Colton existed because she hadn’t met him yet, which made sense. After all, they lived in different cities but also because of how high-profile Colton was. The tall blonde billionaire wanted to wait to send photos or do any social media until she was safe in Tucunia, away from crazy paparazzi and stalkers.

“Hey, so, even though I fly a lot, I still get a little nervous during take-off. Do you mind if we talk some? My name is P-Mandi.” A shaky, soprano voice caught the freckle-cheeked woman’s attention from across the aisle of the plane.

A woman with long espresso-brown hair and wire-frame glasses smiled at her like she was afraid the plane might hit turbulence on the tarmac.

“Sure! I’m…” For a moment, she almost introduced herself as Seeley, the childhood nickname her best friend, Brittany, called her, and instead opted for her more ‘professional’ name.

She was in first class after all.

“Lucy! Nice to meet you, Mandi.” Lucy put away her phone and tipped her champagne flute at Mandi with a smile, who repeated the gesture.

“Why are you headed to Tucunia?” Lucy asked, happy to have a distraction too.

“Oh, it’s a business trip. Well, sort of business and pleasure…think digital nomad.” Mandi smiled and for a moment, Lucy swore she looked familiar, but in her white button-up shirt and business pants, she probably looked like most corporate stock images she’d gone through at her old marketing job.

Thank God she quit.

“Your job must be pretty cool to have you work in such gorgeous locations! I can’t wait to scuba and go boating in Tucunia. Actually, my grandmother went there decades ago. She was an oceanographer, so I’m excited to sort of trace her steps in a way.” Lucy lit up talking about her grandmother who had gone on so many exciting adventures.

“That’s really cool. I once went on a dive boat, but just stayed on the boat. My goal is to dive this time. Do you dive a lot?” The geeky digital nomad admits, and Lucy nods emphatically.

“Yeah, my grandmother Lucille, whom I’m named after, would tell me and my younger sister stories of her time at sea and how she’d been in love with the ocean. I saved up for classes and even a few local trips. I was instantly hooked,” Lucy explained, smoothing out her super comfortable black maxi dress, remembering how Kristi told her to wear a sequined mini dress on the flight to impress her ‘imaginary boyfriend’.

Sequins on a long-haul flight? Yeah right, but Kristi said that beauty was suffering.

“Are you going to Tucunia just for diving and your grandmother?” the brunette asked as the plane turned smoothly onto the runway.

“I’m going to meet my boyfriend, Colton, and start our life together.” A smile blossomed like a pink rose across Lucy’s face. “He’s deviating from the family business and just opened the newest, biggest resort in Tucunia.”

Mandi’s eyes sharpened with interest. “Oh, wow. How did you guys meet?” she asked, leaning forward.

“We met at a billiards tournament. Funny, I know. I’m not a professional, but I taught myself young, and I enter a lot of tournaments for extra money. I ended up beating Colton in the finals, and while he was not the most gracious of losers, he did make it up to me by taking me on a surprise trip to Hawaii. The rest is history!” Lucy’s cheeks were starting to hurt from smiling as she went through her phone, ignoring her sister.

She showed Mandi the official photo from the World Billiard Association of herself with her copper hair, freckles, and caramel-colored eyes, holding the gold trophy, and Colton with gelled blond hair, tan with ice blue eyes holding a second-place medal.

She hadn’t shown this photo to Kristi, because when she had shown her medals and trophies before to her family, they usually just said something like, ‘That’s nice’ and then Kristi would have to one-up her with something else even more impressive. By all measures, she was so much more successful, and most would say prettier than her, so why did Kristi have to be like this?

She shook the dark thoughts from her head. Soon that wouldn’t matter, and she and Colton would finally make things official.

“Wait, that’s Colton Wooten, the billionaire who just opened the Wooten Tucunia? That’s where I’m inv—staying!” Mandi blurts out then covers her mouth when the plane accelerates down the runway.

Lucy couldn’t tell if she put her hand over her mouth because of the take-off, or because she just let slip to a stranger where she was staying. Their conversation paused for a moment as Mandi death-gripped her armrest with one hand and downed her entire champagne flute with the other.

“Yeah, I’m going a day early to surprise him. I’m taking a few weeks off, at his request, to get used to island life, and then I’ll figure it out from there. I’ve always felt that as long as you’re with your life partner, then you can weather any storm,” Lucy continued.

It felt good to tell someone about how well her life was going. She finally felt like she was making something of herself, finding a path that people would respect and find successful. Up until now, she had fought and struggled, and the sibling rivalry with her sister didn’t help.

While Lucy’s parents urged Lucy to be more outgoing when she struggled with making friends, they praised Kristi’s ability to get everyone magnetized to her. When Lucy worked herself to the bone to get a scholarship to an in-state university, her parents networked and schmoozed to get Kristi a full ride to a prestigious one when her grades dipped. Even at twenty-four, her boring career in marketing paled in comparison to her sister as an interior designer to the wealthy.

Lucy frowned, toying with her heirloom locket, thinking of how her parents still gush at every new account Kristi won, while sending Lucy ‘Happy Birthday’ texts two days late.

Her grandmother never forgot, and always sent her chocolates and flowers.

“That’s a pretty necklace, it looks vintage,” Mandi commented, seeming calm.

“It was my grandmother’s. I got it with a few of her journals when she passed a year or so ago,” Lucy smiled, bittersweet.

“You must’ve been very important to her.” Mandi yawned as the plane finally leveled at cruising altitude, and the simple statement made Lucy smile.

“Yeah, she and I had a special connection, which sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s true. Out of everyone in my family, she supported me the most,” the freckled woman reminisced.

“I’m going to nap now…but thanks for talking to me. You have a way of really making people feel at ease.” Mandi reclined her chair into a bed, covered up with her plush blanket, and donned her sleep mask.

“Same.” Lucy soon did the same, wondering how she could ever go back to flying economy, but with Colton by her side, she’d never have to.

She awoke to the flight attendant asking her nicely to put her seat up for landing. She felt mildly annoyed she had slept through the meal that was supposed to taste good. However, she felt moderately rested.

She opened her window to see brilliant cerulean water and cobalt blue sky. The toffee-eyed twenty-four-year-old literally pinched herself just so she knew she wasn’t dreaming.

Soon, the emerald island in the distance was going to be her new home, at least for the next few years until the resort was running smoothly. Lucy began to gather all her things, silently thanking her boyfriend for helping her ship most of her things ahead of time to the resort so she only had two carry-ons.

Even after getting rid of most of her things, she still had four boxes of her favorite summer clothes, shoes, heirlooms, and some other important things like her scuba gear, and billiards cue, to ship to the Wooten Tucunia resort.

“Did you sleep well?” the bottle-blonde asked the sepia-haired passenger and she nodded blearily, her dark hair looking too good for an 11-hour flight.

The plane landed without a bounce, and Lucy’s pulse began to race again at the excitement of being in Colton’s arms again.

Lucy got through immigration on autopilot, filtering through the crowd to get to the bathroom to brush her teeth and wash her face. Colton had insisted on having her be picked up right away in a limo, but since she was surprising him a day early, she could take her time and get a taxi.

As she was turning on international roaming on her phone, she noticed Mandi running to get a taxi, and something fell out of her purse.

Oh no, was that her passport?

“Mandi, wait!” Lucy called out, hustling to pick up the passport before someone else snagged it off the floor.

“Lucy? Oh my…is that my passport!” Mandi raced back, reaching for it before Lucy could open it to show her the picture page.

“Yeah, don’t worry, it's fine!” Lucy replied.

“Thank you so much, Lucy. I owe you. I hope we see each other and become resort pals!” Mandi called out and Lucy smiled big.

“Totally!” Lucy replied emphatically, hyped that perhaps she just met her first new friend in ages.

She couldn’t wait to see the love of her life and to start her whole life anew in a place that already seemed to be going her way.

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