“Mac will be back soon,” he murmurs.
“Hmm.” My eyes flicker open to meet his soft gray gaze. Lord, his eyes are an amazing color—especially here, out on the sea—reflecting the light bouncing off the water through the small portholes into the cabin.
“As much as I’d like to lie here with you all afternoon, he’ll need a hand with the din-ghy.” Leaning over, Christian kisses me tenderly. “Ana, you look so beautiful right now, all mussed up and sexy. Makes me want you more.” He smiles and rises from the bed. I lay on my front admiring the view.
“You ain’t so bad yourself, captain.” I smack my lips in admiration and he grins.
I watch him move gracefully about the cabin as he dresses. He really is divinely beautiful, and what’s more, he’s just made such sweet love to me again. I can hardly believe my good fortune. I can’t quite believe that this man is mine. He sits down beside me to put on his shoes.
“Captain, eh?” he says dryly. “Well, I am master of this vessel.” I cock my head to one side. “You are master of my heart, Mr. Grey.” And my body . . .
and my soul.
He shakes his head incredulously and bends to kiss me. “I’ll be on deck. There’s a shower in the bathroom if you want one. Do you need anything? A drink?” he asks solici-tously, and all I can do is grin at him. Is this the same man? Is this the same Fifty?
“What?” he says, reacting to my stupid grin.
“What about me?”
“Who are you and what have you done with Christian?” He lips twitch with a sad smile.
“He’s not very far away, baby,” he says softly, and there’s a touch of melancholy in his voice that makes me instantly regret asking the question. But he shakes it off. “You’ll see him soon enough”—he smirks at me—”especially if you don’t get up.” Reaching over, he smacks me hard on my behind so I yelp and laugh at the same time.
“You had me worried.”
“Did I, now?” Christian’s brow creases. “You do give off some mixed signals, Anastasia. How’s a man supposed to keep up?” He leans down and kisses me again. “Laters, baby,” he adds, and with a dazzling smile, he gets up and leaves me to my scattered thoughts.
When I surface on deck, Mac is back on board, but he disappears onto the upper deck as I open the saloon doors. Christian is on his Blackberry. Talking to whom? I wonder. He wanders over and pulls me close, kissing my hair.
“Great news . . . good. Yeah . . . Really? The fire escape stairwell? . . . I see . . . Yes, tonight.”
He hits the end button, and the sound of the engines firing up startles me. Mac must be in the cockpit above.
“Time to head back,” Christian says, kissing me once more as he straps me into my lifejacket.
The sun is low in the sky behind us as we make our way back to the marina, and I reflect on a wonderful afternoon. Under Christian’s careful, patient tuition, I have now stowed a mainsail, a headsail, and a spinnaker and learned to tie a reef knot, clove hitch, and sheep-shank. His lips were twitching throughout the lesson.
“I may tie you up one day,” I mutter crabbily.
His mouth twists with humor. “You’ll have to catch me first, Miss Steele.” His words bring to mind him chasing me round the apartment, the thrill, then the hideous aftermath. I frown and shudder. After that, I left him.
Would I leave him again now that he’s admitted he loves me? I gaze up into his clear gray eyes. Could I ever leave him again—no matter what he did to me? Could I betray him like that? No. I don’t think I could.
He’s given me a more thorough tour of this beautiful boat, explaining all the innova-tive designs and techniques, and the high-quality materials used to build it. I remember the interview when I first met him. I picked up then on his passion for ships. I thought his love was only for the ocean-going freighters his company builds—not for super-sexy, sleek catamarans, too.
And, of course, he’s made sweet, unhurried love to me. I shake my head, remembering my body bowed and wanting beneath his expert hands. He is an exceptional lover, I’m sure—though, of course, I have no comparison. But Kate would have raved more if it was always like this; it’s not like her to hold back on details.
But how long will this be enough for him? I just don’t know, and the thought is unnerving.
Now he sits, and I stand in the safe circle of his arms for hours, it seems, in comfortable, companionable silence as The Grace glides closer and closer to Seattle. I have the wheel, Christian advising on adjustments every so often.
“There is poetry in sailing as old as the world,”1 he murmurs in my ear.
“That sounds like a quote.”
I sense his grin. “It is. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.”
“Oh . . . I adore The Little Prince.”
It is early evening as Christian, his hands still on mine, steers us into the marina. There are lights winking from the boats, reflecting off the dark water, but it is still light—a balmy, bright evening, an overture for what is sure to be a spectacular sunset.
A crowd gathers on the dockside as Christian slowly turns the boat around in a rela-tively small space. He does it with ease and reverses smoothly into the same berth we left earlier. Mac jumps on to the dock and ties The Grace securely to a bollard.
“Back again,” Christian murmurs.
“Thank you,” I murmur shyly. “That was a perfect afternoon.” Christian grins. “I thought so, too. Perhaps we can enroll you in sailing school, so we can go out for a few days, just the two of us.”