We walked up to Notre-Dame de la Garde to enjoy the view of Marseille, then worked our way down through the maze of twisting streets and back to the consulate. We were scheduled to have lunch with Will. He came out dressed in pale slacks, a loose white shirt and loafers, and led us immediately to his small Renault. He said, “I’ve been working extra this last month, helping out after hours with backed up paperwork so I could take some time off when Ian arrived. Do you have bathing suits on board the Wahini?”
I nodded and Raven giggled. Will didn’t get it; he would when he saw his gag-gift string bikini put to good use. Will double parked at the quai. Raven and I went below to change and get towels while Will inspected the Wahini.
Will took us south and east along the coast. It was a land of deep green dusty trees and bare red earth, twisted and hilly. The coast was indented with calanques with narrow strips of sand or gravel at their bases. Raven rode silently, curled up in the tiny back seat while Will and I talked about the Wahini and the crossing. She remained quiet while Will parked at the roadside, pulled a backpack out of the trunk, and took us on a narrow, dusty footpath that led by many twists and diversions down to a small, sandy beach. A dozen sunbathers were already there, scattered in twos and threes around the hidden cove, enjoying the sun without the crowds of tourists that flooded the more accessible beaches.
We spread our towels and Will opened the backpack. He spread a tablecloth on the sand and produced a bottle of Bandol, glasses, Perrier for me, cheese, bread rolls, half a dozen kinds of cold meats, melon slices, grapes, and chutneys. He split one of the rolls, made and handed Raven a sandwich. She said, “Yum.”
“Do I have to make my own,” I asked.
I did. Raven said, “You may put food before beauty, but I’m not going to waste any of this sun.” She reached up to unbutton her blouse. She had locked eyes with Will and he stopped chewing to watch her fingers flipping buttons with casual efficiency. She shed the blouse with a twist of her shoulders. As she folded it and set it aside, she asked Will, “Does anything look familiar?”
“My heart’s desire? All my dreams made flesh?”
Devil lights were in Raven’s eyes. She had Will in the palm of her hand, and she was enjoying it. “No, silly,” she giggled. “I meant the bra.”
Will looked blank. And smitten. The bikini top consisted of two spaghetti straps, one around her body and the other tied behind her neck, with minimal triangles of red nylon.
“He never saw it out of its egg,” I said. I tried to keep my voice light, but I didn’t like the way things were developing.
“Then I’ll have to show him.” She took the cuff of her jeans and pulled the little zipper that closed it tight around her ankle. It made a crisp rasping sound that send chills up my back. Again for the other cuff, then she stood up in one fluid motion. Her hair was a black mass, her skin was flawless, her waist was slender, and her navel played peek-a-boo above the waistband of her jeans. She untied the sash and pulled it through the belt loops in a smooth motion and dropped it to the sand. She turned away and again the rasp of a zipper sent chills. Swiveling her hips she forced the jeans down past her thighs. The string bikini left her buttocks quite bare, and in delicious motion.
When she bent over to recover her jeans, the illusion of nakedness was complete.
She stood facing us, folding the jeans, with her legs a little apart, and her eyes on Will. “Well,” she said, “what do you think?”
“Jesus Christ! more tomorrow