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Saturday, July 1, 2017

The sequel of the book (Billionaire at Sea)

The sequel of the book (Billionaire at Sea)
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21
 Damian
 “What‟s up?” I asked Marissa, after dialing her back. “Why haven‟t you been answering me?” she shrieked. As usual, she was freaking out. “Calm down.” “Don‟t tell me what to do.” I rolled my eyes. “What‟s the problem?” “Is Jake with you?” “No. He‟s at home. Why?” “I‟d like to see him this weekend,” she replied. “I promised I‟d take him to Disney World.” I frowned. “You can do that next weekend. When you‟re actually scheduled to visit with him.” “What‟s the big deal? You‟re not going to be home anyway. You‟re hosting that bachelor party or something, aren‟t you?” “How do you know about that?” “You probably mentioned it. Or maybe it was Jake. I don‟t know. That‟s not the point, though. I‟m his mother and I‟d like to see him this weekend.” Billionaire at Sea “It‟s funny how when you had the opportunity to see him, at your convenience, you were always too busy. Especially on the weekends,” I said dryly. “I wouldn‟t talk. You were never around either.” I gritted my teeth. “I was working.” “Not off season,” she snapped. “Bullshit. I was there. You weren‟t. At least not mentally.” “Fuck you.” I tried to keep my cool, but she never made it easy. “Look, I‟m not going to fight with you and I‟m sorry, but Jake is busy this weekend.” “Doing what?” “My cousin is visiting from California. They‟re spending the weekend together.” Jake loved Kendall and she was so good with him. There was no way I‟d allow Marissa to interfere with their time together. “Kendall? I didn‟t know she was in town,” she said, suddenly sounding distracted. “And she‟s staying at your place?” “Yes, as usual. Now, I have to go. Take him to Disney World next weekend.” “Fine,” she huffed. Thankful that she was letting it go, I said „goodbye‟ and hung up.
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22 Mia Marshall showed us the galley, and as expected, it was expansive had everything we could possibly need. “Good. It looks like we have everything, except for tomorrow‟s shipment. Let‟s just hope that nothing goes wrong with that one,” said Ridley, as we sorted through the boxes in the walk-in refrigerator. “Don‟t jinx us,” I said, standing up straight. “Don‟t jinx us by saying „don‟t jinx us‟,” she countered. “Ha-ha,” I replied dryly as we walked out of the refrigerator. “Find what you needed?” asked Marshall, who was leaning against the stainless steel counter and drinking a cup of coffee. “Yes and more,” I said, thinking about the fifty cases of beer stacked in the corner of the cooler next to a slew of other cold alcoholic beverages. “Damian likes to be prepared for anything,” said Marshall. “Hopefully, he‟ll be prepared to deal with a lot of drunken guests,” said Ridley. “There‟s enough alcohol on board to last a year.” Billionaire at Sea “Not the way some men drink,” said Marshall. “Believe me, we‟ll probably run out before the weekend is over.” Lord, I hoped not. “Damian mentioned there‟d be security, right?” I asked. I knew I was probably being overly paranoid, but I remembered seeing how my father had gotten when he was rip-roaring drunk. These men wouldn‟t have anyone babysitting them this weekend. That was trouble waiting to happen. “Yes. There‟s us, the crew, and we‟ve hired a couple of security guards to also keep an eye on things. I‟m sure Ransom will also have a couple of his own as well. He never travels without bodyguards.” “I can‟t believe we get to meet him,” said Ridley, getting that starry look in her eyes again. “Just remember, he’s the one getting married,” I said. “Of course. It‟s not like I‟m going to hit on him or anything,” she said. “Do you have a boyfriend?” asked Marshall nonchalantly. “Or, significant other?” “It‟s complicated,” she said, frowning. “It‟s not complicated,” I said and turned to him. “No. She does not.” I didn‟t expect Ridley to jump back into the dating scene but she had to know that her life would go on and that there were a lot of other men attracted to her. And, even I had to admit – Marshall was good looking. With his blonde hair, light green eyes, and muscular frame, I could definitely see the two of them on a date. 
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Ridley gave me a dirty look. “But,” I continued, “she just got out of a sticky relationship. Which was complicated.” “Ah. Gotcha. Well, if any of the guys give you a hard time, let me know. I‟ll make sure they run into some of their own complications,” said Marshall. She smiled at him. “You‟re so sweet. Thank you.” “Great. You‟ve got them hoodwinked already, don‟t you?” said Damian, stepping into the galley. I stared in surprise as Marshall flipped him off. Instead of getting angry, Damian snorted. “Just because we‟re cousins, doesn‟t mean I can‟t fire your ass. Again.” “You wouldn‟t know what to do without me,” said Marshall, crossing his arms under his chest and smirking. “I‟d spend a lot less on migraine medicine,” he replied. “You two are really cousins?” said Ridley with an amused grin. “Yes. He‟s Kendall‟s brother. He‟s also my righthand guy,” admitted Damian. Marshall nodded. “Don‟t mind us. We give each other a lot of shit. It would be awkward if we didn‟t.” “He‟s right. It would be. So, I take it you didn‟t get to the bridge?” asked Damian. “No,” replied Marshall. “Not yet.” “We can wait until tomorrow,” said Ridley. “When the captain is here.” “Are you sure?” asked Damian. “Yes. I‟d like to meet him,” she said. Billionaire at Sea “Yeah, me too,” I said. “Okay. We‟ll plan on tomorrow then,” said Damian. “Sounds great.” Ridley looked at me. “So, what do you say? Should we get our suits on and go out by the pool?” “Sure,” I replied. “I‟ll walk you back to your rooms,” said Marshall. “It‟s okay. We can find our way back,” answered Ridley. “Very well,” he replied, looking disappointed. “Enjoy yourselves and if there‟s anything you need, let me know,” said Damian. “We will,” said Ridley. “Thanks again for everything.” “No, thank you for catering this weekend,” said Damian. “I‟m looking forward to tasting your wares.” Ridley chuckled. “You‟ve already sampled some of Mia‟s.” My face turned red. “What was that?” asked Marshall, his eyebrow cocked. “Nothing,” said Damian, smiling. “Private joke.” “Ah,” he replied. “No wonder nobody was laughing.” “By the way, what about dinner this evening?” I asked, changing the subject. “Would you like us to prepare it?” “Actually, I‟m having dinner brought in from Leonardo‟s,” he replied. “I hope you like Italian.” “Love it,” said Ridley
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“Me, too,” I replied. “Great. The owner owes me a favor so he‟s promised to send over a great spread. Enough for everyone, including the crew,” said Damian. “You know the owner?” asked Ridley, giving him a curious look. “A little,” he said. “Why? Do you know Anthony?” “Not personally,” she replied. “He‟s an interesting character. Anyway,” he looked at his watch. “I should probably give him a call to check on things.” “Okay. We‟ll see you later,” said Ridley, looping her arm through mine and dragging me away. “Have fun,” called Marshall. *** “What‟s wrong?” I asked, noticing that she was extremely quiet on the way back to our cabins. “Probably nothing.” “What do you mean by that?” She lowered her voice. “He knows Anthony Baldecci. The guy who owns Leonardo‟s.” “Yeah. So what?” “Rumor has it that Anthony is connected to the mob.” I stopped in my tracks. “Are you serious?” I asked, remembering Damian mention that Anthony owed him. For what? Billionaire at Sea “I‟m sure it‟s not a big deal. I just thought it was interesting, considering our conversation yesterday.” “It is,” I replied, biting my lower lip. “You know what, though? Who cares. Who cares if he knows some sketchy people, you know? We‟re here to cater his party and he‟s paying us very, very well. Besides, Damian Stryker is one of the nicest people I‟ve ever met.” I remembered saying that about Adam once. I‟d been wrong. Instead of reminding her about it, however, I decided to let it go. We were here to do a job and that was it. If I learned how to play a few chords on the piano in the meantime, even better. “You‟re right. Let‟s just forget about what John said and enjoy ourselves,” I told her. “Exactly. And Adam, too.” I agreed.
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23
 Mia
 We went back to our cabins. I spent a few minutes unpacking and then slipped my new white and purple bikini on. Grabbing my flip-flops, some sunscreen, and a towel, I headed over to Ridley‟s cabin. “Nice,” she said, staring down at my bathing suit. “Damian is going to drool if he sees you in that.” “I wouldn‟t talk,” I said, feeling a little selfconscious now. “You‟re going to distract the crew if they see you in that tiny thing.” Which was true. Ridley had on a red bikini that left little to the imagination. She was much more voluptuous than I was and I knew if Marshall saw her, he‟d probably trip over his own tongue. She grabbed a cover-up and slipped it over her head. “I‟m not here to distract anyone. Let‟s go.” We left her cabin and made our way to the pool, where we hung out for the next couple of hours, mostly by ourselves. Once in a while, a crew member would stop by and ask if we needed anything. Other than that, it was a very relaxing afternoon. “I wonder where Marshall is?” murmured Ridley, who‟d just gotten out of the pool again. “He‟s the only Billionaire at Sea one who hasn‟t been over to offer us a refreshment or help applying sunscreen.” I chuckled. “Missing him already?” “No,” she said firmly. “I‟m just surprised he hasn‟t popped up recently.” “What do you think of Marshall?” I asked, watching as she began applying more sunscreen to her legs. She shrugged. “He‟s nice.” “He‟s cute, too.” Ridley looked over at me. “Yeah. So?” “I‟m just saying…” “You‟re getting as bad as me,” she said, smirking. I smiled. At around five o‟clock, just as we were getting ready to go back to our cabins, Damian made an appearance. “How was swimming?” he asked, staring at us behind his sunglasses. “Fabulous,” said Ridley, pulling on her cover-up. “We were just about to head back to our rooms.” “I‟m glad you‟re enjoying the pool. By the way, dinner will be here around seven. I hope that‟s not too late,” he said. “Not at all,” I replied. “It‟s perfect,” said Ridley. “Great. I‟ll see you then,” he said and then left us. Ridley and I went back to our rooms. I took a shower and then changed into a pair of white shorts, a dressy, black, silk tank top, and sandals. I put my hair up, applied a touch of makeup, and finished it off with 
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a spritz of perfume. With a final glance in the mirror, I picked up my cell phone and left the cabin. “I‟m so hungry I‟m not even going to care how many carbs he‟s feeding us tonight,” said Ridley, who had on a pair of blue cut-off shorts and a paisley printed peasant blouse. At the mention of food, my stomach growled. “I know what you mean,” I said, as we headed toward the dining room. When we arrived, it was just turning seven and the crew had set up the food, buffet style. “I hope you don‟t mind serving yourselves,” said Damian, walking toward us. “This way everyone can come and go as they please.” “Of course not,” I said, thinking that he looked very handsome in a light blue polo shirt, which set off both his eyes and tan. “I like it because we don‟t have to wait. I‟m starving,” said Ridley. “There‟s a lot of food,” he said as Marshall approached us. Damian noticed him coming and smirked. “You‟d better get some of it, however, before the „bottomless pit‟ makes it to the line. Let me tell you, he‟ll leave no crumb untouched.” “It‟s true,” admitted Marshall. “I‟ve got a hearty appetite but that‟s my only vice.” “Besides women,” added Damian. “How dare you give away my secrets,” Marshall joked. “Now they know all of my weaknesses.” “Oh, I don‟t think that‟s too hard to figure out,” Damian said, his lip twitching. Billionaire at Sea “You two,” said Ridley, sounding amused, “are obviously related.” Damian smiled. My stomach growled loud enough to make me blush. “Excuse me,” I said, embarrassed. “I guess I‟d better do something about that.” “We both should,” said Ridley. “The food smells wonderful. Thanks for ordering out.” “No problem. Like I said, Anthony owed me and it looks like he‟s done a great job of returning the favor. Go and help yourselves,” replied Damian. “Gladly. Let‟s go, Mia,” said Ridley, pulling me over toward the food. We got into the line, which was short, and filled our plates with pasta, salad, and fresh baked bread. We then went and sat down at one of the tables. A few minutes later, Marshall and Damian joined us. “You don‟t mind if we sit with you?” asked Damian, holding a heaping plate of food. “Of course not,” said Ridley. “Your company is always welcome,” I said between bites of food. Damian sat across from me. “Oh, I bet you‟ll be sick of me before the week is over.” “I‟m sure they are already but are too nice to say anything,” said Marshall. “They‟re probably sick of both of us,” said Damian. “No. Just you. Women love me,” he said and then looked behind us. “In fact, here‟s one reason why.”
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Aaron walked around and placed a bucket of ice containing two bottles of wine onto our table. “I hope this is the type of wine you were looking for,” he said to Marshall, handing him a bottle opener. “Yes. Thank you,” Marshall said, taking it. He pulled out a bottle of red wine. “A good year, too. Excellent.” “I‟ll go and grab some wine glasses,” said Aaron. “Thank you,” said Marshall. “Wait a minute. Did you just insinuate that women like you because of wine?” asked Ridley, looking amused. “I think it was more along the lines of – he has to get them drunk to like him,” said Damian. “Very funny. No, what I meant was that I‟m not one to forget the little things. Here, check this out,” he said, showing her the bottle. “A little birdie told me that you tried this once and loved it.” Ridley‟s eyes widened and she smiled. “Oh, my God, yes!” She looked at me. “This is that wine I was telling you about. The one my brother gave to me on my birthday. It‟s heavenly.” I remembered how she‟d been raving about it but because it was expensive, Ridley hadn‟t had it since. “That was very kind of you,” I said. “I think you‟ve won a friend for life.” “Oh, hell yes,” she said. “There is more of that in the wine cooler, by the way.” Marshall pulled out the other bottle, which was a light pink. “And, Mia, I heard you really enjoy Moscato, so I did a little research and purchased a few Billionaire at Sea different bottles. This one has actually won many awards. I hope you enjoy it.” “You are so sweet,” I replied, smiling at him. “Thank you.” “You‟re welcome. Anything for you two,” he said. “Oh, here we go,” said Damian dryly. “I can just see his head swelling by the second.” “We have to keep our chefs happy,” Marshall said. “After all… they are the ones feeding us this weekend.” “I couldn‟t agree more, which is why I hired each of them a personal masseuse. Jacque and Phillipe. They‟ll be here on Monday to work out any stress you might acquire over the weekend,” said Damian. “Oh, my God, really?” gasped Ridley. “Really,” he replied. I grinned. “Thank you. I haven‟t been to a masseuse in forever.” “No problem. I figured you‟d need some pampering after this busy weekend,” Damian said. “You just had to outdo me, didn‟t you?” said Marshall dryly. “Of course not. I want them happy. Just like you do,” he said, smiling. “You are both so… I could just kiss you,” Ridley said, standing up. She leaned over and gave both of them a kiss on the cheek. “Wow, if I would have seen that coming, I‟d have added chocolate and flowers,” said Marshall, looking pleased.
“Add that next time, and I might even let you kiss me back,” joked Ridley. Marshall pulled out a small notebook and a pen. “I‟m adding that to my bucket list. Chocolate and flowers equal a kiss from Ridley,” he said out loud as he wrote it down. It was a joke but I could tell from the way Ridley was looking at Marshall, she was very flattered. “Speaking of a bucket, can I get one over here? I feel like I‟m going to throw up,” joked Damian. “You‟re just jealous because you‟ve done almost everything on your bucket list and now there aren‟t any challenges left for you to conquer,” said Marshall. Damian suddenly looked serious. “That‟s where you‟re wrong,” he said. “I find new ones every day.” Our eyes met and I instinctively knew that I was one of them.
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24
 Damian
 As we were eating dinner, I could barely keep my eyes off of Mia. She looked so beautiful, especially when she began talking about photography. The way her face lit up was extraordinary and it made me wonder what kind of a moron I‟d hired to handle my divorce. Anyone who let someone go like Mia was an idiot. “Did you bring your camera?” I asked. “Yes. Don‟t worry, I promise not to take any pictures of your guests,” she said. “I wasn‟t worried,” I replied. “I‟d keep it hidden until they‟re gone, however. Ransom‟s security guards might possibly confiscate it. I know he wanted to keep this party a secret.” “Of course. I‟d never invade his or your privacy,” she said. “So, what kind of pictures do you usually take?” asked Marshall. “Nature, mostly,” she replied. “Have you ever done weddings or parties?” I asked her. Billionaire at Sea She shook her head. “No. It‟s more of a hobby.” “I should have you take some pictures of me and my son together,” I told her. “I don‟t have that many. At least, not recent ones.” “I‟d love to,” she replied, smiling at me. I grinned back. “Good.” Ridley yawned. “I don‟t know about you guys, but I‟m tired. I think I‟m going to head back to my cabin.” “It‟s only eight-thirty,” said Marshall, looking disappointed. “I know but I‟m exhausted. Probably from swimming and all the excitement,” she said. “And the wine,” added Mia, smiling at her friend. She chuckled. “Oh, definitely. Anyway, thank you again for dinner and I guess I‟ll be seeing you all tomorrow morning?” “Sounds good. Let my crew know if you need anything,” I said. “I will. Thank you.” “I‟ll go with you,” Mia said, standing up. “No. You‟re supposed to get a piano lesson tonight, if I remember correctly,” she said, glancing at me. “That‟s right,” I said, looking at my watch. “In fact, let‟s go now before it gets too late.” “Are you sure you have time for this?” Mia asked. The thought of getting her alone made me more than sure. “Totally. Let‟s do it.” Marshall stood up. “I‟ll walk you to your cabin, Ridley.” “No, you don‟t have to,” she replied. “I can find my way.”
“Hey, it‟s no problem,” he said and then turned to us. “Have fun. Damian is a wonderful piano player and a good teacher. He even helped Kendall learn to play.” “Really?” I said. “Your sister has a wonderful voice. I heard her sing the other night.” “She certainly does,” he agreed. “Do you sing?” asked Ridley. He nodded. “Yes. Horribly. Unlike my sister, I‟m usually paid to keep my mouth shut.” We all laughed.
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25
 Mia
 I thought that we were going to the salon for lessons, but instead he directed me to the other side of the ship. “Where are we going?” I asked, confused. “My quarters.” At the mention of his own personal cabin, my stomach did a flip-flop. “Oh.” “I have a piano there as well,” he explained, a smile in his voice. “And we‟ll have less distractions.” “Okay.” When we arrived, I was startled at how big the master cabin actually was. It had its own galley, office, and sitting room. “Very nice,” I said, looking around. It was very masculine, compared to our rooms. “Thank you,” he replied. “Would you like a drink?” “I‟m okay,” I replied. “Are you sure? A glass of wine? I have some Moscato in my wine cabinet.” I smirked. “Really? In case you invite someone, who enjoys it, back to your room?” Billionaire at Sea “You must really consider me a scoundrel,” he said, laughing. “Are you?” “No. To be honest, I‟m not much of a wine drinker, but I do like a good Moscato, probably because it‟s sweeter,” he replied. “Which is the real reason that I have it stocked.” “Oh. Well, then only if you‟re going to have a glass.” “I was thinking more in the lines of rum and Coke,” he said, heading toward the galley. “I‟ll try one of those, too, actually,” I told him. “Your wish is my command,” he said over his shoulder. I walked over to the baby grand piano and sat down. I wasn‟t too familiar with them, but recognized the name Steinway. I could tell that it was an older model, but in beautiful condition. I tapped on a couple of the keys, imagining what kind of money it took to have not one but two pianos on a yacht like Damian‟s. And then, of course, the yachts weren‟t cheap either. “That was my grandfather‟s,” he said, coming up behind me a few minutes later. “Well, one of his. He used to keep this one in his office.” “It‟s beautiful,” I replied. “Do you use it a lot?” “Once in a while. My son likes to hear me play.” “Is he learning, too?” “Unfortunately, no.” He gave me rueful smile. “He has no interest in playing. He‟s taking saxophone lessons instead.”
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“That‟s wonderful. I love listening to the saxophone. Do you ever play together?” “No. He actually just started the lessons. I would love to play alongside him one day, though.” “I bet. You must be very proud of your son.” “More than anything.” Damian handed me my drink. “He‟s my world.” “Thank you.” I took a sip of it and shuddered. He grinned. “Sorry. Too strong?” “A little. Are you trying to get me drunk?” I joked. “Never.” “I‟m not sure what to believe,” I said, smiling. “After that kiss outside of the limo.” His lip twitched. “Sorry. I couldn‟t resist.” It suddenly felt very awkward between us. I took another drink and then set it down on a nearby coaster. “Okay, so about this lesson…” Smiling, he took a sip of his and set it down as well. “Okay, the first thing anyone needs to know is how to sit properly at the piano.” “Okay,” I replied, sitting up straight. “Very good.” Damian showed me how to hold my fingers and where to place them. “Now, think of each finger as having a number.” He then appointed numbers to each and had me practice using them. “Very good. I think you should try playing something very simple now. Let me go and see if I can find something,” he said before walking away. A few seconds later, he returned with a folder containing Billionaire at Sea several sheets of music. He pulled one out and set it in front of me. “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” I said out loud, smiling. “It‟s my son‟s. Anyway, we all have to start somewhere.” “I‟m not complaining,” I replied. For the next half hour, we practiced playing the song. “You‟re doing great,” he said. “You‟re already playing very smoothly.” “Thanks.” “No problem,” he said, our eyes meeting. “I think this is going to come easy to you. You have very good dexterity in your fingers.” I looked down at my hands. “I hope so. Listening to you play earlier reminded me of how desperately I wanted to learn when I was growing up.” “You obviously still have that same passion. You know, it‟s never too late to do what makes you happy,” he said softly. “Hell, you‟re barely old enough to get into a bar.” I laughed. “Right.” “I bet you get carded all the time.” “No. The fact is, I really don‟t hang out at bars,” I admitted. “Last week was the first time I‟d been out for a long time.” “I had a lot of fun that night,” he replied. I thought again about our last kiss outside of the limo, and what he‟d said afterward. I don‟t know if it was the alcohol or just the memory of that moment, Billionaire at Sea but I was suddenly warm all over. I quickly changed the subject. “I really loved listening to you play, earlier. Would you do another song for me? “Sure,” he answered. “Do you have any preferences?” “Not really. Just something that you enjoy,” I replied, getting up from the piano. He sat down on the bench. “There is another song that I‟ve always loved. It‟s by Liszt. Have you heard of him?” “Yes,” I replied. “Maybe you‟ll recognize it then,” he said softly and then began to play. As before, I became swept away by the piece. It was a slow, melodic song that was both beautiful and mysterious. I stared at him as he played, captivated by the music and even more fascinated by the man creating it. I could feel each note radiate through me and it was strangely… erotic. 
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26
 Damian
 The song was called “Dreams of Love.” Although I‟d probably played it hundreds of times, I‟d never done it with as much rapture. Maybe it was the way she was staring at me or the fact that I wanted to fuck her brains out. I don‟t know. Regardless of what it was, I played the hell out of the song and from the expression on her face, she was caught up in it as much as I was. “Recognize it?” I asked, staring up at her as I continued playing. She shook her head and took another drink of her cocktail. “Do you like the piece?” “I love it,” she said softly. I smiled and continued playing, willing her to feel everything that I was trying to convey to her through the song. Unfortunately, even if Mia understood the message, I knew that she wasn‟t one to make the first move. Or so I‟d thought.
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27
 Mia
 I don‟t know what came over me, but I suddenly had to touch him. I put my drink down and then came up behind Damian. Taking a deep breath, I placed my hands on his shoulders. He froze. “Keep playing,” I whispered. “Please.” Closing his eyes, his fingers began to move again. I slowly ran my hands over his back and shoulders, enjoying the way his muscles contracted as he played. Excited and feeling bold, I tugged his shirt out of his pants and slid my hands underneath, running them along his back. “Do you know how hard it is to play right now?” he whispered huskily. “I‟m sorry. Should I stop?” “Hell no.” I smiled. Damian stopped, pulled off his shirt and then began playing for me again. I slid my hands over his shoulders, this time running them over his chest and back up to his collar bone, giving him goosebumps. Touching him turned me on so much that when he stopped playing and Billionaire at Sea grabbed my wrists, I leaned down and nibbled on his earlobe. Groaning, Damian turned around and pulled me onto his lap, so that I was straddling him. I could feel his hardness and rocked against it, wanting him inside of me. Kissing me hungrily, Damian slid his hands over my back and then under my top. He cupped and massaged my breasts, his fingers rough and gentle at the same time. I moved my hand down to his zipper, felt the hard curve of his manhood, and knew there was no way I was leaving without feeling it between my legs. Breathing hard now, Damian pulled my tank top off and captured my right breast with his mouth. He teased my nipple and then moved to the other one, twirling his tongue around and sucking. I moaned as he rolled the nub between his teeth, sending shivers of pleasure straight to my pelvis. After a few more flicks of his tongue, he picked me up and brought me to his bed. He set me down and then crawled on top of me. 
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28
 Damian
 Once I had her down on the bed, I unbuttoned her shorts and pulled them off, exposing a pair of silky white panties. I could tell they were wet and I almost came when I slid my finger under the material and felt her slickened folds. “Yes,” she gasped, as I began rubbing her there. She pulled my face to hers and shoved her tongue down my throat, writhing against me in pleasure. I kissed her for a few more seconds on the lips and then moved to her nipples, enjoying the sounds she was making under my ministrations. When I began moving lower, past her ribcage, toward her pelvis, her body shook with anticipation. Wanting to drive her wild, I moved between her legs, tilted her hips, and began making love to her with my tongue. Mia gasped, grabbed the headboard, and moaned as I licked and teased her. Soon her hips were bucking and she was screaming out an orgasm that almost made me come. Grabbing a condom, I put it on quickly and then plunged inside of her. She was wet and tight, fitting me like a glove. It felt so good, that I knew I wouldn‟t last, so I moved my hips slowly. Billionaire at Sea Mia dug her nails into my back, urging me to go faster. I picked up my pace but it took everything I had not to come and she didn‟t make it any easier, either. Just staring down at her beautiful body, I could barely contain myself. “You‟re so sexy,” I said, thrusting into her harder. Moaning, she locked her legs around my waist and stared up at me. Gritting my teeth, I made love to her until I couldn‟t hold back anymore. Stiffening up, I gasped in pleasure as I came, the intensity of my orgasm more powerful than usual. Whether it was the fact that I hadn‟t had sex with a woman for several weeks or just her, I don‟t know. But, it was incredible. “I‟m sorry,” I whispered afterward, tracing her jaw with my finger. She looked beautiful, even with her mascara slightly smudged and her up-do a mess. She snorted. “For what?” “For coming before you had a chance to do it again.” Mia gave me a strange look. “Don‟t apologize. I‟ve never had two orgasms in the same round of sex.” Smiling wickedly. I moved my hand down her stomach and between her legs. “That‟s because the last person who tried must have been doing it wrong.”
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29 Mia A few minutes later, Damian proved his point. I came a second time and then, before I could fully recover, he was inside of me again. We made love onand-off all night, until both of us collapsed from exhaustion. The next morning, when I woke up, I found myself alone in his bed. I sat up and looked at the clock. It was just past eight a.m. Not sure of how I should be feeling, I slid out of bed and started putting my clothes back on. As I was buttoning up my shorts, Damian stepped out of his office, his hair damp from a shower. Today he had on a dark blue Hawaiian shirt and beige cargo shorts. “Uh, hi,” I said, wondering what it would be like between us now. Grinning, he walked right over, pulled me into his arms, and kissed me. “Good morning,” he murmured, after pulling away. “When did you wake up?” I asked, feeling a little less awkward. “About thirty minutes ago. Would you like some coffee?” he asked. “I was just about to make some.” “No. That‟s okay. I‟m going to head back to my room.” Billionaire at Sea He studied my face. “Are you okay?” I smiled weakly. “Yes. Maybe a little sore.” “Down below?” he asked with a small grin. “Yes.” “I can rub something on there to make it feel better,” he said, an evil glint in his eyes. “I bet you could but… no,” I said, amused. “Somehow I think I just need to soak in a tub for a while.” “Sounds great. I should join you.” “Maybe next time,” I replied, amused. “Listen,” he said, brushing a piece of hair away from my cheek. “Last night was incredible. I hope you don‟t regret what happened.” “No. Not at all.” He looked relieved. “Good.” I swallowed. “However, I don‟t think we should tell anyone about it. Not yet, anyway.” Especially Ridley. I knew she‟d want details and I wasn‟t ready to talk. I still wasn‟t even sure if what had happened was because we‟d been drinking. “I agree. In fact, I was going to mention the same to you,” he said. “I think we should keep it our little secret.” I don‟t know why, but hearing him say it that way bothered me. Our little secret. It sounded… dirty. “Sure. I won‟t say anything,” I said, a little more coolly than planned. He frowned. “What‟s wrong?” “Nothing,” I lied.
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“No. For some reason you‟re upset because I said we should keep it a secret,” he said, studying my face. “Weren‟t you just requesting the same thing?” “Yes,” I said, forcing a smile. “And I‟m fine.” “Good. I mean, there‟s just so much going on, especially with the party this weekend. If anyone gets wind of the fact that we‟ve been intimate, especially one of the guys, they‟ll make a big deal out of it.” I just stared at him. He went on. “Normally, I wouldn‟t care that much. But, this was supposed to be a „no women‟ weekend.” “What about Ridley and me? We‟re women.” “You‟re the caterers. Not anyone‟s girlfriend,” he said. “Obviously,” I muttered. Seeing my expression, he swore. “That didn‟t come out right. You know what I mean, though, right?” I understood what he was saying, but I was still a little chafed. “Yes. I get it. Anyway, don‟t worry about it. So, we hooked up? It happens. That doesn‟t mean we have to start dating or anything.” He stared at me. “I‟m not trying to sound insensitive. Look, this thing that happened between us… it was special. Hell, you‟re special, Mia. I hope you know that I‟m not just saying that.” “Okay.” “As far as dating goes. I never claimed that I didn‟t want to take you out. I just want to keep our night a secret, at least until the weekend is over.” “I get it,” I said, relaxing. Billionaire at Sea “Good.” He kissed me again. “I tell you what, though,” Damian whispered. “It‟s going to take everything I have not to drag you back to my cabin and make love to you this weekend.” “I‟m sure you‟ll be so busy entertaining your friends that it will be easier than you think,” I told him. “I doubt it. I already want to fuck your brains out again and we haven‟t even made it out of my cabin yet.” Smiling, I backed away from him, toward his doorway. “That sounds like a problem. One that I can‟t help you with right now, Mr. Stryker. Like I said, I‟m sore… so, I‟m going back to my cabin where I‟m going to get naked, climb into the tub, and turn on the spa. Hopefully, it will help soothe my lady-parts.” At the mention of my lady-parts, his eyes began to smolder. Smiling, I waved goodbye and took off.
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30
 Mia
 A half hour later, I was relaxing in the tub and daydreaming about Damian. I thought about the things he‟d done to my body and couldn‟t help but smile. The man knew how to please a woman, unlike anyone I‟d ever been with. I wasn‟t sure what would happen between us in the future but knew that if we only had last night, I wouldn‟t regret it. After I was finished soaking, I left the tub and got into my uniform, which consisted of a black chef coat and a pair of gray cotton pants. I put my hair up, slipped on a pair of clogs, and then sent Ridley a message to let her know that I was ready to get started whenever she was. A few seconds later, she appeared at my door, also wearing her uniform. “How was last night?” she asked as we headed toward the galley. “Good,” I said, leaving it at that. “So, are you a skilled piano player now?” she asked, a smile in her voice. “Hardly,” I replied and then went over what I‟d learned, leaving out the sex part. Ridley laughed. “So, you can play Twinkle, Twinkle now?” Billionaire at Sea “Kind of. I need to practice. So, enough about my night. How was yours?” “Fine. I went back to my cabin, read for a while, and then fell asleep.” “You didn‟t invite Marshall in for a night-cap?” She looked at me like I was on drugs. “No. Of course not.” “Okay. I was just asking,” I said. “I know he‟s cute and everything but I‟m just not interested in hooking up with him. Mostly because we‟ll be on the ship for the next few days and I don‟t want things to get awkward.” “Understandable.” “What about you?” She smiled. “Did Damian make a move on you?” “No,” I replied, not exactly lying. I‟d made the move on him. “Seriously?” “You sound disappointed,” I said, amused. “Of course I am. I was hoping you‟d get laid. It‟s been months and if anyone needs non-mechanical sex, it‟s you.” I laughed. “That‟s true.” As we walked through the dining room, Ridley and I noticed several boxes of freshly made bagels and muffins. “Good morning,” said Marshall, who was seated at one of the tables and reading the newspaper. “Good morning,” I replied. “How are you?” “Great,” he replied. “If either of you are hungry, help yourselves.”
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“Perfect. Thank you.” Ridley grabbed a wholewheat muffin and began spreading cream cheese on it. “So, when are the guests supposed to be arriving?” “Sometime this afternoon,” he replied. “I can‟t believe we get to meet Ransom,” she said, her eyes sparkling. “This is so exciting.” I stole a glance at Marshall, who didn‟t look half as impressed as Ridley. In fact, he looked more irritated than anything. “Not a big fan?” I said. “Eh. He‟s not bad,” replied Marshall. “Are you kidding? His voice is phenomenal,” said Ridley. Just then, Damian entered the dining room. “Marshall, there you are. I need you to go to a nearby airport and pickup Ransom.” “Me? Why? Isn‟t he arriving with his entourage?” asked Marshall. “No. He had a friend fly him in on a private jet. Apparently, the media caught wind that Ransom was coming out here, so they‟re going to be looking for him at the Orlando International Airport.” “What about the other guests?” Marshall asked. “They‟ll be arriving later,” he explained. “In Orlando, I‟m sure.” Marshall stood up. “Okay. Which airport?” “Nelson‟s,” he said. “The one we usually use.” “Okay. Let him know I‟m on my way,” he replied. “I already did,” said Damian. “Can I come with you?” asked Ridley. Billionaire at Sea “Not a good idea. He probably doesn‟t want to be bombarded with a bunch of questions from a zealous fan,” said Marshall. “I am not zealous,” she said, pouting. “I‟m not saying that there‟s anything wrong with being excited about a rock and roll celebrity,” said Marshall, noticing that he‟d hurt her feelings. “It‟s just that this weekend, Ransom is here to relax and forget about life on stage for a while.” “I understand,” she said, looking irritated. “I would never antagonize him. I‟m not stupid.” “I never said you were,” replied Marshall defensively. “You‟d better get going,” said Damian, who‟d been listening silently. He turned to us. “I‟m sure you two have a lot of work to do in the kitchen.” His tone was almost condescending and I gave him a dirty look. “Let‟s go, Ridley. We‟ve been banished,” I said, touching her arm. “I didn‟t mean it that way,” said Damian, his eyes wide. “Then you should work on your communication skills because you‟re confusing the hell out of people, today,” I said as we headed toward the doorway. He didn‟t say anything. “I can‟t believe you just said that to him,” said Ridley, when we were out of his earshot. “What if Damian fires us?” “Relax. he‟s not going to fire us,” I said, still irritated with him.
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“Wait a second.” She grabbed my arm and I turned around. “You two had sex, didn‟t you?” I stared at her innocently. “Why do you say that?” “Because it‟s pretty obvious that there‟s something going on between the two of you.” I sighed. She wagged her finger at me. “Don‟t even think about lying to me. I‟m your best friend and your business partner. I deserve better,” she said sternly. “Okay. Fine. It happened.” “Sex?” “Yes.” She waved her hand and smiled. “I knew it! Why didn‟t you tell me earlier?” “Because we promised to keep it a secret. At least for now.” Her eyebrows drew together. “Why? It‟s not like either of you are in relationships.” “Damian said that it would be awkward if the guys at the bachelor party knew about us.” We started walking toward the galley again. “Why should it matter to them?” she asked. “Because it‟s a non-couple‟s weekend.” She snorted. “What‟s the big deal? You had sex. Period. It‟s not like you two are dating or anything.” “I know,” I said, ignoring how her words stung. I‟d never slept with anyone so quickly and I was beginning to feel a little sleazy. “It‟s fine, though.” “As long as you‟re okay with it. I wouldn‟t let him touch you until after he breaks his silence, however.” “Don‟t worry. I‟m not going to.” Billionaire at Sea *** An hour later, as we were preparing some of the meals for later that evening, Damian stopped into the galley. “Are you busy?” he asked me. I‟d just gotten done rolling pizza dough and there was flour all over me. “Yeah,” I said, wiping my forehead with the back of my hand. “I can take over,” said Ridley. “If you two need to talk.” “I forgot to give her some sheet music,” he explained. “To practice with, until our next music lesson.” “It can wait until later,” I said. “Besides, I doubt I‟ll have time to practice.” “Sure you will. Anyway, I‟d like to give it to you now. Before I get too busy with the guests.” Ridley snorted. “Oh hell. You may as well let him give it to you.” I shot her a dirty look. She turned away and I could tell she was trying not to laugh. “I guess if it can‟t wait,” I said, wondering what he really wanted. It didn‟t take me too long to find out, however. After I followed him out of the galley, he pulled me into one of the supply closets and began kissing me. I pushed him away. “What are you doing?”
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“I can‟t stop thinking about you,” he whispered, pulling me back into his arms. Caught up in the moment, I closed my eyes and gave in to his kisses. Eventually, his pants were down and I was clinging to one of the shelves in the supply room as he thrust into me from behind. “Yes,” I moaned as he discovered my G-spot, eventually bringing me to another earth-shattering orgasm. “Do you think anyone heard us?” I whispered before we slipped out of the room. “No. Yes. Probably. Fuck it. I don‟t care,” he said, kissing me hard again. “I thought we were going to wait?” I whispered afterward. “I meant that we should wait on telling anyone.” “Oh,” I replied, thinking that he‟d changed the story but really not caring. Then we were going our separate ways and I had to face Ridley again. The moment I walked back into the galley, she went into a fit of laughter. “What?” I asked, trying to keep a straight face. “You look like you just got laid. Let me guess – the moment he had you alone, it was all over but the screwing?” “I don‟t know what you‟re talking about,” I said, smiling. She motioned toward her head. “If I were you, I‟d fix myself up.” I touched my hair. “That bad?” “Uh, yeah. You should really look in a mirror.” Billionaire at Sea I found a nearby bathroom and found that my mascara had run, my hair was in disarray, and my lips were swollen from his kisses. I quickly did what I could to remedy the situation and then returned to the galley. “Better,” she said when I walked back in. “Thanks.” “Seriously, though, I thought you were going to keep him at bay?” “He took me by surprise.” Ridley grunted. “I bet he did. Where? In his office?” I shook my head. “No. The supply room. We didn‟t make it much further than that.” “It just goes to show – all men, no matter rich or poor, will take it where they can get it. Even in the closet. By the way, did you happen to see if there were any paper towels in there? We‟re running low.” I chuckled. “No. Should I go back and look?” “No. I‟ll do it. With my luck, you‟ll meet Damian in the hallway again and end up screwing in the engine room. Stay here,” she said, heading toward the doorway. Smiling, I went back to work on my pizza dough, wondering if anyone had actually ever done it in an engine room.
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31
 Damian
 What in the hell is happening to me? Here I was, getting ready to host a wild weekend of drunkenness, debauchery, and sin… and all I could think about was Mia. She‟d managed to get under my skin in less than a week and I‟d barely finalized my divorce with Marissa. As much as I wanted to believe that it was mostly about sex, I knew that we‟d connected on a level that was much more than that. Everything about her fascinated me, and the truth was that I‟d have much rather spent the next couple of days getting to know her better, instead of entertaining Ransom‟s bachelor party. At least there was next week. I only hoped that my son liked her. It was important to me that they got along. Sighing, I headed to the bridge to see if the captain had arrived. I found him going over the itinerary with Jeff. “Mr. Stryker,” he said, holding out his hand. I shook it. “Welcome aboard, Charles. Great to see you again.” “You as well,” he replied. “Are you excited about the trip?” “Yes. Looking forward to it,” I replied. Billionaire at Sea “So, we‟re setting sail around midnight, correct?” he asked, running a finger over his white moustache. “Yes. After we kick the strippers off. You‟re welcome to stop by and see some of the entertainment before setting sail.” “Strippers? Hell, I‟d love to, but I don‟t know if my heart can take it,” he said, smiling. Charles was in his sixties and had lost his wife within the last year to cancer. I knew he was lonely and missed her dearly. “At least you‟ll have a smile on your face if it gives out,” I said. “I most certainly would indeed,” he replied. “Haven‟t seen a stripper in many years.” Neither had I, but after being with Mia, I didn‟t care one way or another. We talked more about the trip and then I left the bridge to wait for Marshall and Ransom. *** “Ransom, it‟s been too long.” He shook my hand. “No shit. Thanks again for hosting this party. You didn‟t have to do that.” “It‟s my pleasure. And I know I didn‟t, but I wanted to.” “You‟re a good friend,” he answered. “And those are hard to come by these days.” “I hear you,” I said. “Speaking of friends, do you know when the rest of the party is set to arrive?”
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“Everyone should be here by five,” he said, looking around. “Man, I‟ve forgotten how large your yacht is.” He‟d been on it once before with his fiancée. “I purchased it when I was still with Marissa, about the time when I couldn‟t stand being around her. I needed something that would put some distance between us,” I said, smiling. He chuckled. “I don‟t blame you. Well, still, it‟s an amazing ship.” “Thank you.” Marshall, who‟d been talking to one of Ransom‟s security guards, walked over to us. “Where are the girls? I figured they‟d be throwing rose petals at his feet the moment he boarded.” “Girls?” Ransom asked. “Our caterers. Don‟t worry. They won‟t be bothering you,” I said. “They‟re fans but also professionals and will be staying out of everyone‟s way.” “Hell, I‟m not worried,” he replied. “Unless one of them is named Lola Flannigan.” “Who‟s Lola Flannigan?” I asked. “A psychotic, middle-aged loony who‟s been stalking me. I had her arrested last month for trespassing. She somehow got into our home and scared the hell out of Tiffany. The woman is bat-shit crazy.” “She made it into your home?” I asked, surprised. “Actually, Tiffany let her in. She thought Lola was there to adopt one of the stray animals she‟d found. It didn‟t take long before she realized that the woman Billionaire at Sea was a nut-job. Then, when she tried kicking her out, Lola wouldn‟t budge. She claimed that I was supposed to meet her there. Tiffany had to call the police.” “I assume you‟re pressing charges against this Lola person?” said Marshall. “I was going to but Tiffany talked me out of it.” He ran a hand over his face. “She feels sorry for her.” “Even after all of that?” I asked. “Yeah. Lola has mental problems and Tiffany thinks it‟s wrong to punish her for something that she can‟t control.” “Your wife-to-be is a saint,” I replied, already knowing Tiffany was a bleeding heart. Ransom had told me before that she was into taking in stray animals. “Speaking of which – how big is your farm now?” He sighed. “Let‟s see, we‟ve got eight stray animals we‟re trying to find homes for. Four dogs, two cats, a ferret, and a snake.” Marshall grimaced. “Snake?” “A boa. Don‟t ask me where she found it. All I know is that Tiffany promised to get rid of the damn thing before I returned home on Monday.” I knew Ransom hated snakes and the idea that he allowed Tiffany to care for one, even for just a little while, meant it really was true love. “Well, you‟re safe here. No snakes, stray animals, or fanatics named Lola,” Marshall replied. “I‟ll see it when I believe it. The woman turns up in the craziest places,” he replied. 
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“She shows up here and we‟ll toss her overboard,” I said. He grunted. “No shit.” I patted him on the back. “Sounds like you could use a beer. Let me show you to your cabin and then we‟ll grab a couple.” “Sounds good,” he replied. “I‟ll watch for the other guests,” said Marshall. “I also requested extra security,” I said. “They should be here any minute.” “Extra security?” repeated Ransom. “You just never know when you‟re going to need it,” I replied. “Besides, you‟re on board. If Lola finds out, she might really try hijacking the yacht.” “I wouldn‟t put it past her,” he replied dryly. “Hell, we‟d better screen each and every stripper who boards the ship this weekend,” said Marshall, with a devilish grin. “I‟ll let you do the honors,” I told him. “Strippers?” said Ransom. “He meant paint strippers,” I said innocently. “Right. As long as there aren‟t prostitutes,” reminded Ransom. “Relax. I heard you the first time. There will not be any hookers onboard,” I said. “No stress, no worries, and no surprises this weekend. At least not the bad kind.” Ransom smiled. “Sounds like the perfect weekend.” Those words couldn’t have been farther from the truth…
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32
 Mia
Ridley and I worked all afternoon to create mouthwatering dishes for the stag party weekend. Besides prepping for the main courses, we made an array of appetizers, including several different types of wings, which Damian had insisted upon. We also planned on making jalapeno poppers, a couple of hearty dips, steak and chicken kabobs, and a cheesy beer bread that had been a hit at a previous party. “For tonight‟s dinner, we‟re still serving walleye and crab, correct?” asked Ridley, going through our list of menu items. “Yes,” I replied. “And barbeque ribs, for those who aren‟t fish or seafood fans.” Also Damian‟s recommendation. “Gotcha.” As we were discussing the side dishes, the door opened and in walked Damian and Mr. Rock Star himself, Ransom. When Ridley noticed, she looked like she was about ready to faint. Thankfully, she kept her cool and was very calm when Damian introduced us. Billionaire at Sea “It‟s very nice to meet you,” I said, staring at him. He was definitely a good looking man. Tall, broad shoulders, medium length jet-black hair, and eyes that were a silvery color. “You, too,” he replied, smiling, which made him even more handsome. “I‟m looking forward to eating this weekend. Damian‟s been raving about the two of you.” Ridley laughed nervously. “Did he also tell you that he hasn‟t tried any of our food yet?” “Hey, I‟m not worried. I‟ve heard nothing but good things about their cooking,” Damian said to Ransom. “And from the way everything smells in here, I think I‟ve made an excellent choice.” “I think you‟re right,” he replied. “I thought I‟d died and went to Heaven when we walked in. What are you making?” “A bunch of different things,” I replied. “By the way, we should probably ask right now if you have any food allergies.” “Hell, no. I‟ll usually eat whatever‟s in front of me as long as it‟s not made out of tofu, goat cheese, or squid,” he replied. “Damn, there goes to tonight‟s menu,” I joked. “Way to go,” Ridley said to me. “Now we‟ll have to resort to Alaskan King crab and pecan-crusted walleye.” “You two are killing me,” said Ransom. “Now my stomach is making noises that I‟ve never heard before. When do we eat, exactly?”
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“We‟re going to be putting out some appetizers very soon,” I said. Damian had mentioned that dinner should be served around eight, but to have snacks available beforehand. “Yes, and if you‟re really hungry, we‟re also making a couple of flatbread pizzas, an Italian chopped salad, and portabella mushroom and steak sliders,” added Ridley. “And that‟s not even dinner? Wow, it sounds amazing. Just send all of it directly to my cabin,” said Ransom. “And give everyone else the tofu and squid shit. Believe me, once they start drinking, they won‟t care one way or another.” Ridley and I chuckled. “Hey, you‟re the guest of honor,” said Damian, amused. “Whatever you want, you get.” Ransom chuckled. “Words I‟ll probably never hear again after this weekend. I might have to take advantage of it.” “Oh, hell yeah,” said Damian. “It‟s your last hurrah before being tied down for the rest of your life. Take full advantage of it. No offense, ladies.” “None taken,” said Ridley. “You know, marriage goes both ways,” I replied. “Women are tied down, too.” “Which can sometimes be a good thing,” said Ransom, lightening the mood. “Depending on what room you‟re in.” We laughed. Billionaire at Sea “So, when are you getting married, by the way?” I asked him. “In three weeks,” he replied. “How exciting. How long have you known each other?” I asked. “She was my sister‟s best friend growing up. I‟ve known her for many years,” he replied. “It‟s Tiffany, right?” asked Ridley. “The one who was on American Icon awhile back? With you as the judge?” “Yeah,” he said with a sheepish grin. “You watched those episodes, huh?” “Oh yeah. You were hard on her,” said Ridley. “Yeah, I was,” he admitted. “But, I thought I was looking out for her best interests. Fortunately, it all worked out in the end.” “She‟s beautiful,” replied Ridley. “And what a voice.” “I think so, too,” he replied. “I‟m a lucky man.” Damian‟s phone went off. He checked his messages. “Marshall is wondering if the others have arrived at the airport yet?” “Actually, their plane just landed a few minutes ago,” said Ransom, pulling out his phone. “I received a text from my buddy, Reed. They should be arriving within the hour.” “Great. I‟ll let my crew know so they can watch for them,” said Damian. “Sounds great. It was nice meeting the both of you,” Ransom said, before heading toward the doorway with Damian.
“You as well,” I replied. “Enjoy yourself this weekend,” said Ridley. Damian put a hand on his shoulder. “Oh, he will. I‟m going to make sure of it.”
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33
 Mia
 It was just turning five when the servers helped us put out the last of the appetizers in the dining room. There were two tables filled with everything from artichoke dip to bacon wrapped scallops. We‟d also included the two flatbread pizzas – one a BBQ chicken and the other a pineapple and Canadian bacon recipe we‟d never tried before. Fortunately, it turned out great. “Wow, this looks amazing,” said Marshall, who‟d stopped in to see how we were doing. He‟d changed out of his uniform and was now wearing Bermuda shorts and a dressy black and crème colored Tommy Bahama shirt. “What‟s in the sliders?” “Portabella mushrooms and sirloin steak with horseradish and provolone cheese,” said Ridley. “How in the hell is it that you two aren‟t married?” asked Marshall. “Not only are you both beautiful but you can create these fabulous meals?” “Maybe we just haven‟t found men that are worthy of our talents,” Ridley replied in a faux haughty voice. “And I don‟t know about Mia, but I have some hidden ones that some men just can‟t handle.” “Really?” he asked, looking intrigued. “Are we talking about what I think we‟re talking about?” Billionaire at Sea “I don‟t know? What are you talking about?” she asked, her eyes full of mischief. “I‟d better keep my mouth shut so I don‟t get sued for sexual harassment,” he said, smiling slowly. Ridley opened her mouth to say something, but then changed her mind. I could tell by her expression that she liked the way he was flirting with her but was struggling with inner emotions. “Could you let everyone know that the food is ready?” I said to Marshall. “Of course,” he replied. “Everyone is on board now and I‟m sure they‟re hungry.” “Good. We have some extra platters of food in the galley, too,” I said. “Great. I bet you two are exhausted from working in the kitchen all day. I‟m sure the servers can handle replenishing anything that runs out. Why don‟t you go and take a break?” he suggested. “I think we will,” I said, knowing that in another couple of hours, we‟d be back in the galley preparing dinner. “Thanks, Marshall,” said Ridley. “Just let us know if anything tastes horrible.” “Will do, but I highly doubt anyone will find fault with what you‟ve made. If they do, I‟ll knock them on their asses myself,” he replied. She grinned. “As much as I‟d like to see that, I hope it doesn‟t come down to it.” “Anything to protect the honor of our two lovely chefs,” he said before leaving. “Just think of me as your 
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own personal bodyguard. Anyone does anything offensive, you let me know.” “Will do,” said Ridley. When he was gone, she looked at me. “He‟s kind of a ham but even I have to admit, he grows on people.” I laughed. “Come on. Let‟s get out of here,” she said, wiping her forehead. “Before someone sees me looking like a sweaty pig.” I felt the same way. Although, the galley had airconditioning, the ovens had been on all day, making it warmer than we‟d liked. “Good idea. I‟m going to take a shower.” “Me, too,” she said as we stepped out of the dining room. “Oh, crap,” she whispered, as Damian, Marshall, and Ransom approached, followed by a group of men. They were all holding beers and talking amongst themselves. “And so it begins,” I said under my breath, remembering again that we were catering a three-day bachelor party. “Talk about a hot looking group of men,” she murmured quickly. Ridley had a point. Most of them were pretty handsome. For me, Damian still stood out the most, though. Especially, when our eyes met and he gave me one of his dazzling smiles. “And here they are,” said Damian as they approached.” My new best kept secrets.” A couple of the guys laughed wickedly. Billionaire at Sea “Pull your heads out of the gutter,” said Ransom, smirking back at his friends. “These women are gourmet chefs. They deserve the utmost respect and you‟ll soon find out why when you taste their cooking.” Pasting a smile to my face, I greeted them warmly, as did Ridley. “Are you joining us?” asked one of the guys, staring at Ridley with interest. He had a was tall, with long, blonde hair tied back into a ponytail. She laughed nervously. “Uh, no. We‟re going to take a break and then head back to the kitchen to prepare dinner.” He held out his hand. “I look forward to trying your food. My name is Simon,” he said, his accent British. She shook it. “It‟s very nice to meet you.” Simon brought her hand to his lips and kissed Ridley‟s knuckles. “And very nice to meet you.” Ridley blushed. Most of the others walked around us and into the dining room, including Damian. Not Marshall, however. He stayed back and I could tell that he wasn‟t thrilled with the way that Simon was flirting with Ridley. “Okay, Romeo. Don‟t go making things awkward between us and the chefs,” said Ransom, also still standing with us and looking amused. Simon let her hand go. “Are you feeling awkward?”
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“No. Not at all,” she said, staring at him with a dreamy expression. He grinned. “See? No harm done,” Simon said to Ransom. “Not yet, anyway,” he replied and then looked at Ridley. “Watch out for this guy. When he‟s not playing the drums, he doesn‟t know how to control his hands.” It was then that I recognized Simon. He was the drummer for Ransom‟s band. “On the contrary. I‟m very good with my hands,” said Simon, smiling wickedly. “That‟s what they tell me, at least.” “The food is going to go quickly, so if you‟re hungry, I‟d grab a plate,” said Marshall. “These two spent all day cooking and you don‟t want to miss out on the goodies they‟ve created.” “Ah… the goodies,” said Simon, smiling at Ridley again. “I‟d definitely hate to miss out on your goodies.” Her cheeks turned bright red. Ransom patted him on the back. “Okay, now it‟s getting awkward, even for me,” he joked. “Let‟s go eat.” Simon chuckled. “Fine. Nice meeting the two of you. I‟m sure we‟ll run into each other again.” “I‟m sure,” said Ridley. “See you,” I said as Ransom pulled him away. “Sorry about him,” said Marshall in a low voice. “He wasn‟t feeling good when he arrived.” “Really?” said Ridley. “I wouldn‟t have known.” Billionaire at Sea “Ransom already warned us about Simon. He‟s a horny bastard and will probably continue to flirt with you every chance he gets. So, you should probably just try to stay out of his path,” said Marshall. “There‟s nothing wrong with a little innocent flirting,” she replied. “And, I‟m a grown woman. I can handle it.” “Fine,” he said tightly. “Just don‟t say I didn‟t warn you.” “I do appreciate your concern,” she said. He gave her a curt nod and then walked into the dining room. “Man, what‟s wrong with him?” she said, as we turned and headed back toward our cabins. I snorted. “Really? You seriously don‟t know?” “What? Are you saying that he‟s jealous?” “Of course. Marshall has the hots for you. You should have seen his face when Simon was flirting with you.” “Really?” she said. “He was angry?” “Yeah. I‟d say.” “Well… that‟s his problem. He‟s not my boyfriend and I‟m tired of jealous men trying to interfere with my life. So what if Simon flirts with me? It‟s all in fun anyway.” “You‟re only saying that because you‟re starstruck,” I said. “Don‟t even deny it.” She didn‟t reply. “If you want my opinion, I think Marshall beats Simon in looks, hands down,” I said.
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“They‟re both cute. But, again, I‟m not here to hook-up with anyone. If either of them wants to flirt with me, I‟m fine with that. Hell, if any of the others want to, besides Damian, of course, I don‟t see anything wrong with it.” I agreed. “Speaking of sex,” she said, lowering her voice. “How is it with Damian? Are billionaires different?” I smiled but didn‟t say anything. “Come on,” she pouted. “Tell me something. Is it true about the size of a man‟s feet in relation to… his… you know?” “I‟m only going to say that he is bigger and better than John. In every way.” She grinned. “Are you happy now?” I asked, smiling back at her in amusement. “Very. Simon‟s hands were huge. Did you notice that?” I rolled my eyes. “So is his ego, I‟m sure.” “So is something else, I’m sure.” “But, you‟re never going to know, right?” I said dryly. “You‟ve made it abundantly clear that you‟re not hooking up with anyone.” Ridley bit her lower lip. “It would be a once-in-alifetime shot.” I stared at her in shock. She‟d just talked about not having sex and now she was doing a one-eighty on me. “What are you now? A rock star groupie?” “No. I‟m a free woman. Free to have sex with anyone I want to.” Billionaire at Sea “I thought you were a woman with a broken heart?” I said, staring at her in disbelief. “And not interested in hooking up right now?” “Maybe I didn‟t love Adam as much as I thought I did,” she said softly. “Maybe you‟re just not thinking straight because Simon is a celebrity,” I said as we approached our rooms. Sighing, Ridley unlocked her door and then turned around. “I know you‟re worried about me. But, don‟t be.” “I can‟t help it. You‟re my best friend.” “Look, If I end up in bed with Simon, or hell… even Marshall, it won‟t mean anything other than a fond memory that I‟ll have for the rest of my life.” “Or a disease,” I murmured, thinking about Simon and how many women he‟d probably screwed. She snorted. “Like you were concerned about that when Damian stole you away from the kitchen for a few minutes. I doubt he was carrying around a condom when he went in for the kill.” I thought back and my eyes widened. The truth was, he‟d screwed me in the heat of the moment and I didn‟t even know whether or not there‟d been protection. I had to believe that a billionaire would be smart enough to try and keep a woman he barely knew from having his baby. “I‟d trust Damian‟s naked penis before I‟d trust Simon‟s,” I whispered. Billionaire at Sea “Stop it. All of this talk about penis isn‟t helping this conversation. It‟s only making me think more of it,” she pouted. “Along with big hands and feet.” Shaking my head, I walked into my cabin. 
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34
 Damian
 The food Mia and Ridley had made was incredible and it went quickly. After only fifteen minutes, everything was gone, including the backup in the galley. “Damn, those two know what they‟re doing,” said Ransom, shoving another jalapeno popper into his mouth. He chewed it and then said, “I wish I would have known about them earlier. Taffy and I could have hired them for the wedding.” “I just found them myself,” I admitted. “Through Ridley‟s brother.” “Ridley. That chick looks good enough to eat,” said Simon, who‟d just stepped out of the bathroom. His nose was red and it was obvious he hadn‟t been in there to take a piss. He sniffed a couple of times and then rubbed his nose. “You don‟t care if I have a go at her, do you?” “She‟s here to work,” said Ransom. “And not on your cock.” We all laughed. Billionaire at Sea “She wouldn‟t have to do any work. Just lay there and let me run the show,” said Simon, smiling wickedly. “Ridley and Mia are off limits,” said Marshall, looking a little peeved. “But, don‟t worry. We‟ll have some entertainment joining us later this evening.” “What kind of entertainment?” asked Ransom. “The kind that welcomes all of our attention,” said Marshall. “Especially if you have a fistful of dollars,” I added. “Strippers. Excellent,” said Todd, another guest. “What time are they showing up?” I told them. We‟d decided to bring the strippers in around ten. Two hours before we set sail. That would give the guests some play-time. Whether or not anyone of them got laid, was up to them. The women we‟d hired were supposed to be discreet, which I why I‟d paid a lot more than one might normally for exotic dancers. “In the meantime, help yourselves to whatever you want and if you need anything, let me or one of my crew know,” I said. “What if what I want is in the galley?” said Simon. “Sorry, man,” said Ransom, noticing Marshall‟s darkening expression. “Once he sets his mind on something, he won‟t stop.” “This time he has no choice,” said Marshall, smiling coolly at Simon. “Nobody is touching Ridley.” Nobody but Marshall, I thought in amusement. I wasn‟t blind to the fact that he had the hots for her. But, I knew he respected boundaries and Ridley had 
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been very adamant about where hers were. I didn‟t blame her either. Her last boyfriend was obviously a loser and she wasn‟t ready to jump into bed with anyone. Simon‟s eyes widened and then he chuckled. “Oh, now I get it. You‟ve got the hots for her, too. I‟m sorry. I‟ll back off. She‟s all yours.” “I don‟t have the hots for her,” Marshall replied. “I mean, obviously, she‟s a beautiful woman. But she‟s here on business and I‟m just trying to make sure nobody harasses her or Mia.” “They were both a little anxious about doing this party,” I said, adding to the fact. Obviously, Simon was a character who was used to getting his way. “And we don‟t want to antagonize them.” “Exactly, so keep your dick in your pants and stay away from both of them,” said Ransom, who was also beginning to look irritated. “Chill out,” said Simon, smiling. “I‟m just fucking around. You know me, right, Ransom?” “Yeah. I do,” he said staring hard at him. “Okay, it‟s getting too serious in here,” said another of Ransom‟s friends, Thane. “I say we break out the cards and play some poker.” “Let‟s do it,” said Ransom. We left the dining room and headed to the salon, where the poker tables were set up. There we spent the next couple of hours playing cards and gambling.
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35
 Mia
 I took a short nap and then jumped into the shower. Afterward, I put on a clean uniform and texted Ridley. We met in the hallway and headed back toward the galley, passing the salon on the way. The smell of cigars drifted through the doorway and from the noise inside, it was obvious that the guys were having good time. “Sounds like they‟re having quite a blast in there,” said Ridley as we walked away. “Yeah. And it‟s still early.” “I have a feeling tonight is going to be just nuts,” Ridley said. “I overheard one of the servers mention that the strippers are boarding around ten.” “Good to know,” I said dryly. “We can make ourselves scarce.” “I agree.” It wasn‟t as if we hadn‟t known what we were getting ourselves into. We knew. But, what I hadn‟t expected was the spark of jealousy I felt when I thought about Damian being surrounded by strippers. *** Billionaire at Sea We spent the next couple of hours preparing dinner. Every once in a while, Damian or Marshall would check in with us, to see how we were doing. “Stop worrying about us,” I told Damian, the second time he stopped in. Ridley was in the bathroom and it was just the two of us. “And go have some fun.” “I am having fun,” he said, reaching over and grabbing my butt. “See?” Laughing, I slapped his hand away. “Stop,” I whispered. “Someone is going to notice.” “I don‟t care,” he said, pulling me closer. “Let them see.” I raised my eyebrow. “I thought you were concerned about the guests finding out about us?” “I‟m more concerned that one of them will try and touch something that doesn‟t belong to them.” “What do you mean?” He leaned down and began nibbling on my ear. “You. You‟re mine. Nobody else can have you.” I chuckled. “Is that right?” “Hell yeah,” he whispered against my skin, making me shiver. “I‟m going to make it so you won‟t want anyone else.” “I don‟t,” I admitted, feeling excited again. “Just you, Damian.” He groaned and grabbed my hand. “I want you so badly,” Damian whispered, placing it on his hardness. “Can I visit your cabin later?” “Will that be before or after the strippers arrive?” I asked, trying not to sound catty but knowing that‟s exactly how I was acting.
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Damian didn‟t seem to notice. “After. Only because I need to keep an eye on things.” “I bet,” I said dryly. He tilted my chin up and stared into my eyes. “I don‟t give a fuck about the strippers. Hell, if I could send everyone home right now, I would. Even Ransom.” I smiled in pleasure. “Really?” “Yes,” he said, dropping his hand and placing it on my hip. “In fact, I don‟t think I can wait until tonight. Do you have time to steal away for a few minutes?” “No,” I whispered, eyeing the doorway. I knew Ridley would be back any second. “We‟re about ready to get things out to the dining room.” “Okay. I‟ll visit you after. While everyone is stuffing their faces with food,” Damian placed his hand on my crotch, “I‟ll be eating you up,” he said in a husky voice. Groaning, I pulled his hand away again. “Quit distracting me. I‟m never going to be able to concentrate on serving your guests if you don‟t keep your hands to yourself.” Smiling, he promised to meet me back at my cabin, around eight-thirty. “Okay,” I replied, looking forward to it. Damian gave me another kiss and then took off. A few seconds later, Ridley walked back into the galley, looking irritated. “What‟s wrong?” I asked. “Nothing,” she said, not meeting my eyes. “Are you sure?” Billionaire at Sea She let out a ragged sigh. “I ran into Simon. Or rather I should say, he was waiting for me outside of the galley.” Noticing that she didn‟t look very happy to have bumped into him, I asked what had happened. “He came on to me.” I was a more surprised at the fact that she looked irritated. “I thought you liked him?” “Not anymore. He‟s a jackass.” “What did he do?” “He backed me into a corner and started telling me how gorgeous I was and how he couldn‟t get me out of his mind. Then he asked if he could just have one little kiss.” “That doesn‟t sound so bad,” I said, although I would have told him where to go. Ridley, on the other hand, thought more of Simon than I did. She smirked. “That‟s what I thought. At first, I was like – okay… why not? He‟s hot and famous. Who‟s to say that I‟d ever get the chance again. But then I heard your voice in the back of my head and immediately felt guilty.” “So, you do listen to me sometimes,” I teased. Ridley grinned. “Yeah. Of course I do. Anyway, after he started kissing me, I tried breaking free but he wasn‟t having any of it. Then his hands were everywhere and,” she scowled, “that‟s when I got pissed.” “I would have, too. What a prick.” “Exactly. Anyway, I had enough so I kneed him in the balls,” she said. “Hard.”
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I raised my eyebrows. “And he let you go?” “Oh yeah. He called me a couple of names at first, but then left.” “We should tell Damian,” I said angrily. “No. I just want to let it go. Anyway, it was my fault. I let him kiss me.” I groaned. “Would you quit blaming yourself? Every time someone assaults you, you make it your fault. It‟s not. The guy is a scumbag and should be dealt with.” “I know he is, but nothing else happened. I took care of the problem myself.” “But, what if he–” She interrupted me. “Look, I didn‟t even want to tell you because I knew you‟d react this way,” Ridley said loudly. “I‟m fine, okay? I‟m fine and I don‟t want to ruin Ransom‟s party because of that asshole.” I let out a ragged sigh. “Okay. Fine. Just promise me that if he tries touching you again, you‟ll speak up.” “If he tries touching me again, I‟ll scream so everyone knows about it. Okay?” I picked up a cleaver. “Actually, just carry one of these around so that you‟re not the one screaming.” She laughed.
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36
 Damian
 Dinner was served buffet style again. There were huge platters of Alaskan King crab legs, walleye, butterfly shrimp, and BBQ ribs. For the sides, the girls had made an assortment of hearty selections, including lobster mac-n-cheese, au gratin potatoes, and green beans with bacon. “If we keep eating this way, I‟m going to be too tired to party,” said Thane, filling his plate. “No shit,” said Reed, who stood between us. “I can‟t remember the last time I ate this well.” “Sinclair isn‟t much of a cook?” Thane asked. “She‟s an excellent cook. It‟s just that she doesn‟t like doing it. So, we eat out a lot,” Reed answered. “Sera‟s a great cook and enjoys it,” said Thane. “I‟m a lucky man.” “Sounds like you‟re both pretty lucky. How did you meet your wives?” I asked them. Listening to the two of them talk about their wives reminded me that it was possible to have a successful marriage. “It‟s a long story,” said Reed, smiling. Billionaire at Sea “But one that‟s very interesting,” said Thane. “Sinclair was dating his brother.” My eyebrow shot up. “They weren‟t really dating. Jesse‟s gay,” explained Reed. “For some reason, he decided that he needed a date for my parents‟ anniversary party. A female one. Anyway, through a series of unfortunate events, we hooked up and eventually fell in love.” “Unfortunate events?” I repeated, wanting to hear more. “Exactly what he said. Unfortunate events,” said Thane. “The kind that ends up on the news.” “Now that sounds fascinating,” I said, thoroughly intrigued now. “What in the hell happened?” “It‟s a long story. If you‟re interested, I‟ll tell you about it. I just have to be sitting down,” he joked. “That bad, huh?” I said, chuckling. He chuckled. “Yeah. „You can‟t write this shit‟ type of bad.” “Okay then. What about you, Thane?” “I met my wife at work. Coincidentally, she also had a lot of baggage before moving to California.” “Baggage that almost got her killed, too,” said Reed. I looked at both of them in disbelief. “This is getting more interesting by the minute. How do you two know Ransom?” “Our wives used to work with Tiffany. His fiancée,” said Reed. “Actually, so did Thane. Until he married Sera.”
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“You were a hair stylist?” I asked, not picturing it. Thane was rugged, muscular, and hard looking. I couldn‟t imagine him standing behind someone and asking if they wanted high or low lights. “No. I just owned the place,” he replied. “Sera runs it now, since I‟m too busy with my gym.” “Oh, you own a gym?” I said, thinking that made more sense. “Yeah,” he replied. “Thane used to be a fighter,” said Reed. “What kind?” I asked. “MMA,” Thane replied. “That was a few years ago. Now, I just train others interested in the sport.” “Good to know. We might need your help if Simon gets out of hand later,” I joked. “Yeah, he gets worse when he drinks, too,” said Reed. “Great,” I said, noticing that Simon was barely eating anything. The fact that he was snorting coke also meant that he probably wouldn‟t be passing out anytime soon, either. We took our food to a table and I got to know Ransom‟s friends a little better. By the time I was finished clearing my plate, I had a lot of respect for Thane and Reed. “I‟d love to meet your wives someday,” I said, getting ready to leave. “They‟re obviously fascinating women.” “We‟ll have to get together the next time you‟re in California,” said Reed. “Most definitely,” said Thane. Billionaire at Sea “I‟m looking forward to it.” I looked at my watch. It was time to check in with Mia. “I‟ve got to go and take care of a few things. Help yourselves to more food or beer. I‟ll be back in an hour or so.” They both thanked me. I checked in with Ransom, to let him know I had some things to take care of. “No problem. If you run into Mia or Ridley, tell them we‟re thoroughly impressed with the food,” he said, sitting back in his chair. “I‟m stuffed but I can‟t seem to stop eating.” “I have a feeling I‟ll be bumping into one of them,” I said, imagining Mia naked and underneath me as we bumped uglies. Slightly tipsy, I laughed at my mind‟s play on words. “What‟s so funny?” asked Ransom. I waved my hand. “Nothing. Help yourselves to anything you want. I‟ll be back.” “Will do. Thanks again,” he said raising his bottle of beer. “You‟re an awesome host.” “Only when I want to be and you‟re worth it,” I said. “I appreciate it, bro,” he said and took a drink of beer. On my way out, I pulled Marshall aside, and told him that I was going to be unavailable for the next hour. “Why?” he asked bluntly. “I‟ve got some business to take care of. If you need anything, send me a text,” I said. “Sure.” Billionaire at Sea Running a hand through my hair, I left the dining room and hurried to Mia‟s cabin. I knocked on the door rapidly and waited for her to answer. It seemed like it took forever for Mia to open it. When she did, I found it was worth the wait. “Hello there,” I murmured, staring at her lustfully. She‟d changed out of her uniform and was wearing nothing but a small, white robe. “Hello,” she said, smiling at me. “I wasn‟t sure you were coming.” I stepped inside and closed the door behind me. “Oh, I‟m coming, alright. Right after you, do.” Mia smiled
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37
 Mia
 Damian was good on his word. Pulling off my robe, he picked me up, carried me to the bed, and had his tongue between my legs before my head hit the pillow. After making me come, he made love to me with a fervor that left my head spinning. As he was throwing away the condom, I asked if he‟d used one in the supply room. “Of course,” he said, turning back to me. “I know you‟re not looking to have kids right now and Lord knows, I‟m not. I‟ve already got one who thinks I‟m a jerk.” “I‟m sure he doesn‟t think you‟re a jerk,” I said, watching as Damian began to dress. “He hates me for leaving his mother. I don‟t exactly blame him.” “What is that supposed to mean?” I said, wondering if he still loved her. The thought made my stomach sour. “He‟s just a kid. He doesn‟t understand. All he knows is that his parents were together and now they‟re not,” Damian replied. “I‟m sure he must have known that you two fought a lot.” Billionaire at Sea “We tried keeping it from him… but, I‟m sure he was aware that we weren‟t getting along.” Kids were always aware. Their parents were the most important people in their lives, I thought, thinking of my own. “You don‟t regret leaving Marissa, do you?” He looked at me like I‟d said the most absurd thing in the world. “No. Not at all. I only regret not being a better father for him. I should have been around more.” “You were busy earning a living,” I said, thinking about his baseball career. “It‟s not like you were screwing around.” “Yes, but… I didn‟t try hard enough to keep him close. Hell, maybe I should have hired a traveling nanny.” “You did your best under the circumstances,” I said, not knowing what else to say. Maybe he could have tried harder. I had no idea. “Just think, though… you have a second chance to make things up to him. Don‟t wreck it.” He smiled at me. “Mia, I can tell you‟re the type of person who‟s always trying to build others up but without sugar-coating things. I have the utmost respect for you.” “And I have the utmost respect for you,” I said, feeling suddenly as if he was about to break it off with me. “I don‟t know what‟s going to happen after this weekend, but I want you to know that I haven‟t felt this way in a long time. Seriously.” Billionaire at Sea I relaxed. “And how is that?” He grinned wickedly. “Like I‟m a teenager again. All I want to do is stay here and mess around with you all night.” I smiled back. “I wish you could, too.” His phone began to vibrate. “It‟s Marshall.” He read the text and grunted. “Looks like the entertainment has arrived.” I frowned. “How exciting,” I said dryly. Damian looked at me, an amused expression on his face. “You have nothing to be jealous about.” “I‟m not jealous,” I said, the lie sounding ridiculous on my tongue. “Not even a little?” he teased, crawling over to me. “Maybe a teeny bit,” I replied, as he cupped my breasts and kissed them. “No matter what those girls look like, nobody has breasts like yours. Yours are perfect,” he said, weighing them in his hands. “And sexy enough to get me hard again.” I stared at him in disbelief. “You‟re getting hard again? What are you on, Viagra?” “I‟m on Mia,” he said, unzipping his shorts again. “And plan on being in her again real soon.”
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38
 Damian
 “Where have you been?” asked Marshall, as I met him in the salon. “In my office,” I lied. “Sorry, I lost track of time.” “I heard the strippers are here,” said Simon, looking delighted as he and the others entered the room. “I heard that, too. So, where are they?” I asked Marshall. “They‟re getting ready,” he said and then nodded toward the entrance. “That‟s Big Al over there. One of the three bodyguards they arrived with.” I looked over and noticed the thick-necked Neanderthal silently watching everyone. He stood a head taller than most of us and had to weight four bills. We nodded to each other. “How many girls did they send over?” I asked Marshall. “Six,” he replied. “Good. That‟s what I ordered,” I said and then walked over to where Ransom was seated. “How‟s is everything going?” “Fantastic,” he replied, looking relaxed. Billionaire at Sea “Where‟s your beer?” I asked, noticing that his hands were empty. He nodded toward the bar, where Simon was now talking to the bartender I‟d hired. “He‟s ordering me a drink.” “Good. Just let me know when you‟re ready for that cigar,” I said. “Maybe as we‟re pulling out of the harbor?” he said. “Sounds like a plan. I‟ve got a special one with your name on it. One from Cuba. I think you‟ll like it.” “I‟m sure I will,” he said as music began to play. I grinned. “Looks like the entertainment is about to start.” “Yeah. Thanks a lot for that,” he said dryly. Chuckling, I patted him on the back. “Don‟t be afraid. They are only women. What kind of damage could they possibly do?” Thirty minutes later we found out just how much. Ransom was seated in the middle of the room with his hands behind his back, while a heavily endowed woman was straddling his lap and slapping his cheeks with her giant breasts. Seeing how red his face was, I knew he was definitely in some pain. “I think he‟s going to cry,” said Simon, who was laughing hysterically at the display. “You‟re next, fucker,” growled Ransom, not appearing to be enjoying himself. “Gladly. Bring those cannons over here,” said Simon, holding up a hundred-dollar bill. “I could use a good beating.”
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“I agree,” said Ransom, turning the stripper around gently. “Go get him, doll, and don‟t hold back.” Giggling, the young woman began dancing her way over to Simon. “You okay?” I asked Ransom as he ran a hand over his face. “That hurt like hell,” he said, chuckling. “It was like getting hit with sandbags.” I laughed. “Poor baby.” “Seriously, that shit hurt. You try it.” “No. I‟ll take your word on it,” I said, watching as another stripper made her entrance, this one dressed like a nurse. “Oh shit,” said Ransom, as the stripper scanned the room holding a big, fake needle – one that looked more like a penis than a syringe. “She tries pricking me with that thing and I‟m done.” I laughed. *** Admittedly, being a man, I couldn‟t help but get a little turned on by all of the nudeness. Had I not been playing around with Mia all day I might have even participated in some of the craziness. Instead I sat back, watching in satisfaction as our guests enjoyed themselves. When the show was finally over and the strippers were safely off of the ship, some of the guys began playing poker again. “The ship is about ready to set sail. You ready for that cigar?” I asked Ransom. Billionaire at Sea “Yeah. Sounds good.” We told the others where we‟d be and then Ransom and I walked out onto the deck with cocktails. “Well, that was interesting,” he said as we sat down. “It sure was.” “I think Simon might have gotten a piece of ass from the stripper with the sandbags. Those two disappeared for a while.” “I noticed. Maybe he‟ll lay off of Ridley now.” “Sorry about that,” said Ransom, lowering his voice. “He can be a real dickhead at times. If he wasn‟t such a good drummer, I‟d replace him.” “It‟s fine,” I said and then handed him a cigar. “Here you go. This one‟s a genuine Cuban. Best there is, I hear.” He took it out of the plastic and smelled it. “Thanks, Damian. This thing is going to keep me up all night.” “It‟s your weekend. Why waste it on sleeping?” He laughed. We lit the cigars up as the ship‟s engine was started. Soon, we were pulling away from the marina and heading out to sea. “So, how‟s your son doing?” he asked me. “Okay. He‟ll be here on Monday.” “How are things with Marissa?” We started talking about my ex and all the shit she‟d pulled. Ransom had met her once, and although he‟d been nothing but cordial, told me later that she‟d tried hitting on him.
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“Not a surprise,” I replied, disgusted with her. She‟d always been a flirt and I‟d thought it to be innocent. I‟d been so wrong about her. “You seeing anyone now?” he asked. I thought about Mia and smiled. “Maybe. It‟s complicated.” I wasn‟t sure what was going to happen between us. I certainly wasn‟t ready to give her up anytime soon. “It can‟t be as complicated as Marissa.” “You‟ve got that right.” We talked and smoked our cigars until about two a.m. Afterward, Ransom headed to his cabin and I checked in with the captain and crew. “How was your little party?” Charles asked, when I arrived on the bridge. “It was crazy but manageable,” I replied. “You didn‟t pop in for a lap dance. I was hoping to see you.” He chuckled. “No. That would have worn me out. I need all my wits about me if I‟m to be responsible for this ship.” “I understand. I‟m grateful to have you aboard,” I said as my cell phone began to ring. Curious as to who was calling me so late, I pulled it out but didn‟t recognize the number. “I‟ll be right back,” I said, leaving the bridge to take the call. “No problem,” said the captain. I stepped outside and answered the phone “Hello?” Billionaire at Sea “Mr. Stryker. Listen carefully. I have something that belongs to you. Your son,” said a synthesized voice. My stomach twisted. “Who is this?” I asked angrily. “Say „hello‟ to your father,” instructed the stranger. The next voice that I heard stopped my heart. “Hello? Dad, is that you?” “Jake?” I replied, horrified. “Are you okay? Where are you?” “I don‟t know,” he said, his voice breaking. “I‟m scared.” The stranger got back onto the phone. “If you want to see your boy alive again, do not contact the police. Do not tell anyone on your ship that we have him, believe me… we‟ll know. You must keep this to yourself.” “Listen, you motherfucker, if you hurt one hair on his head, I‟ll kill you!” I growled angrily. “You are in no position to make threats. I‟ll be calling you back in thirty minutes. Keep this to yourself or you‟ll regret it,” the stranger said before hanging up.
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39
 Damian
 The call left me nauseated and frightened beyond belief. Who had my child? What in the fuck was going on? I tried calling the nanny‟s cell phone but she didn‟t answer. I left a voicemail, telling her to call me back. “What‟s going on?” I turned around to face Marshall, who was standing behind me, a questioning look on his face. Don’t tell anyone on your ship… I trusted Marshall. He was my cousin and always had my back. “Did you happen to hear any of my conversation?” I asked, trying to clear my head. I wasn‟t drunk, but not completely sober either. “No. Why?” He frowned. “You look upset.” “Someone has Jake. They‟ve kidnapped him.” His face went white. “What?” I went over the conversation. “I don‟t know what to do,” I said, my voice husky. “They said to not tell anyone. I don‟t know if I should call the police or the FBI.” Billionaire at Sea “Did they ask for a ransom?” “No, but I‟m sure that‟s next. The asshole is supposed to call me back in thirty minutes.” “Are you sure it was Jake?” “It sounded like him,” I replied, although how hard would it be to find someone that could imitate his voice? It was always possible. “But, you‟re not sure?” “I guess, I‟m not one-hundred percent sure,” I admitted, running a hand over my face. “I did call my nanny, Alice, but she didn‟t answer her phone. I suppose she could be sleeping.” “We need more proof that it‟s him,” said Marshall. “Have them send you a photo of Jake with today‟s date and time.” “Good idea,” I said, trying to stay calm. “Do you think I should call the police?” “If these guys really have him, and they‟re ordering you not to, I wouldn‟t make any calls to them. Not yet, anyway. If I were you, I‟d wait for more proof and find out what they want. We‟ll go from there.” I let out a ragged sigh. “Okay.” “In the meantime, give me the phone number. I have someone who can trace it. Chances are, if these guys know what they‟re doing, we won‟t get anything useful out of it, but it‟s worth a shot.” I gave him the number. “I‟ll call my friend. It‟s late, but hopefully he‟s near his phone.” “Thanks, Marshall.”
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He stood up straighter. “Hey, what about Kendall? Isn‟t she supposed to be staying at your house?” “Yes,” I replied, pissed at myself for forgetting. I dialed her number. She didn‟t answer either. “I just sent her a text,” said Marshall. “Hopefully one of us will get ahold of her.” *** Thirty minutes later, we‟d made no progress in trying to figure out who‟d called or whether or not they really had Jake. Neither Kendall or Alice returned our calls either. “I wonder if we should turn the ship around?” I said. “No. This might be a hoax. Don‟t do anything rash.” I nodded. When the alleged kidnapper called back the second time, it was from a different phone number. “Mr. Stryker, are you ready for your instructions?” said the voice, still using some kind of synthesizer. “First of all, I need proof that you really have my son,” I said coldly. “I want a picture of him with today‟s date written on a sheet of paper. Otherwise this call is over.” “Very well. We‟ll give you what you want. Then you will give us what we want.” The person hung up. “Did your friend get back to you yet?” I asked Marshall, pacing back and forth in my office. Billionaire at Sea “No,” he replied. “I‟m still waiting.” I stopped and rubbed the bridge of my nose. “I can‟t believe this is happening.” “This could just be someone fucking around. They might not have anyone,” reminded Marshall. “Whether it is or isn‟t, I‟m going to make their lives a living hell,” I said angrily. My phone went off, notifying me that there was an attachment received. My hands shook as I opened it up. “No,” I moaned, my worst nightmare coming to life right before my eyes. In the photo was my son, wearing his favorite Iron Man pajamas, and holding a sign with today‟s date and time. There was a look of terror on his face as he stared at the camera, and it broke me. Someone had my son. His life was on the line. Marshall put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed. “Don‟t worry. We‟ll get him back,” he said, his own voice breaking.

 End of Book One

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