The Falcon & the Viper

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Chapter 67

The loud trill of the alarm clock signalled the start of the weekend’s trip waking Samantha and James from their sleep. They got up and Samantha started preparing a quick breakfast in the kitchen while James showered in the bathroom. Both were keen to start the weekend and were soon on their way roaring up the hill out of Dover in James’s Porsche 911. It was a glorious morning and up on the cliff tops they looked out across the Channel, both noting the fine weather that promised a good day’s sailing. James hoped the conditions were the same in the Solent, although he knew they could be very different, and would assess the local wind strength, direction and tidal flow once he got there. He concentrated on the road ahead but could not ignore Samantha’s long legs tucked under the dashboard in the passenger well beside him.

‘How long will it take to get there, James?’ asked Samantha, interrupting his thoughts of how pleased he was to be going out with this intelligent, beautiful girl, who even shared his own passion of sailing.

‘Oh, about two and a half hours if we take the M20 and M3. There shouldn’t be much traffic at this time in the morning, even with the road works.’

‘Where do you keep her?’

‘At the Warsash Sailing club. It’s easy to get to from home or work and once you’re out on the Solent, it’s a great place to relax. We must do the Round the Island race.’

‘When’s that?’

‘In October.’

‘Sounds good to me.’ chirped Sam, feeling at ease and enjoying James’s company.

‘How far is that?’

‘It’s about fifty miles round the island. I’ve sailed around lots of times and never stop enjoying the views.’

‘Didn’t Queen Victoria have her summer residence on the Isle of White?’

‘Yes, she did. She commissioned Osbourne House to be built in Cowes and Prince Albert designed it himself. The house is quite a pile, built in the style of an Italian Renaissance palace. Now there was a devoted couple, and she never got over his death.’ remarked James.

‘I like romantic stories.’ said Samantha looking at him with a smile. ‘Which reminds me, what did you do in your seafaring days in the Royal Navy?’

‘Well, Sam, truthfully, I found it all rather boring. Until I joined the SBS.’

‘Is that a nautical SAS?’ asked Samantha.

‘Yes, only the Special Boat Service uses boats rather than aircraft.’

‘Did you see any action?’

‘Some, but I can’t tell you about it!’

‘Go on, you can tell me, I’m good at keeping secrets.’ chortled Samantha.

‘I bet you are!’ laughed James. ‘Ask me something else.’

‘What work do you do now in London?’ she quizzed, realising that she knew hardly anything about the gorgeous man sitting beside her.

‘A job in the City that can be demanding at times. It’s why I keep the boat so I can relax and enjoy myself when I get the time.’

‘But what sort of job?’ she persisted.

‘Oh, it’s so boring, you really don’t want to know, Sam.’ said James.

‘But I’m inquisitive, tell me!’ insisted Samantha, ‘We reporters have ways of making you talk.’ she mimicked, poking her finger into his shoulder.

‘No, it’s only on a strictly need to know basis.’ said James, tapping the side of his nose with a finger and laughing.

‘Stop teasing me or I will start turning the thumb screws.’ threatened Samantha.

‘OK, I give in. I’ve got a low threshold to pain.’

‘Well?’

‘I’m a director of fun.’

‘A what?’

‘A director . . .’

‘Beast! Stop teasing me.’ said Samantha and thumped him hard on the shoulder.

‘Hey, steady on or we’ll have an accident! I’ll tell you later, all right?’

James tactfully changed the subject and asked how long Sam had been sailing.

‘Must be about three years now. I went on a sailing trip when I started uni and got the bug. How about you, seeing, as you own two. Have you always been interested in boats?’

‘Sure have, ever since dad took me sailing when I was a kid before he got killed with mum.’

‘Yes, I’m sorry about that, James. Charlie told me. By the way, you were going to tell me about how you got the Antoinette to Windsor from Liverpool. Wasn’t it a bit rough in the Irish sea for such an old boat?’

James flicked the indicator and joined the M3, the Porsche’s exhaust purring as he kept it just over the edge of the speed limit.

‘It wasn’t rough at all, Sam, just a bit bumpy in places although we got stuck under a bridge on the North Circular Road.’

‘What!’ exclaimed Sam.

‘We brought Antoinette down on the back of a heavy-haulage low loader truck. It was a touch too tall after we loaded her so I had to take the wheel house off.’

‘So how come she got stuck under a bridge?’

‘The Metropolitan Police routed the truck the wrong way around London after we got off the M1 and we got caught under the scaffolding they were using to build the overpass at Staple’s Corner. It was embarrassing for them as it was right in the middle of the rush hour and there were coppers everywhere.’

Sam listened intently.

’We had to run over a couple of traffic islands, flattening the signs and bent a lamppost before we got it unstuck, and then we drove it down the M4 to Windsor. I’d arranged for a large crane to lift her into the Thames. Trouble was, even though I’d told them the Antoinette weighed over sixty tons, the crane they sent was too small.

‘What did you do?’

‘The crane company sent a larger crane that got stuck under the Riverside railway bridge in Windsor on its way down!’

‘No!’ shrieked Sam, you’re joking?′

‘Not at all. They sorted it out but there was one final problem after the crane lifted her into the Thames, as I had to get her under Eton Bridge to the mooring by the Donkey House. It had rained hard there while I was up in Liverpool and the level of the river rose. Although I’d taken the wheelhouse off so we could get under the motorway bridges, the funnel was welded to the deck, and too high to go under the river bridge!’

‘Oh no.’ groaned Sam, did he normally get into these sort of scrapes, bearing in mind the sailing trip coming up.

‘No problems, though. There were plenty of tourists about and I offered them a free river trip.’

‘You did what?’

‘Got about fifty of them on board and with their extra weight, just got it under the bridge and on to the mooring!’

‘I hope you’re not having me on. James?’

‘Now would I do a thing like that, Sam?’ he said with a mischievous grin.

‘Hey up, we’ll be there soon.’ said James, and checked the time on his watch.

’I’ve got some sorting out to do with the motor and the rig.

’When we get to the marina, do you mind driving back to the supermarket we just passed to get a bottle of vino and food? We can change over in the car park, as it’s only a short walk to the boat from there.

‘Not at all.’ replied Sam, smiling at the opportunity to try out the Porsche on the shopping expedition.

‘The boats called Wandering Star, she’s a Moody 34 on number 42, the last mooring on the end of the Shore House berth pontoon before the sea. Makes it dead easy to get her in and out of the marina.’

They pulled into the car park and got out of the car. James took out his wallet to give Sam some money for the shopping, but she waved it away. Grabbing his bag from the back he gave Sam a kiss as she got in behind the wheel. Through the windscreen, she watched him stride off taking in his delightful small bum. This is getting interesting, Sam reflected. I could definitely fall for this guy or maybe I already have. She started the engine, put it in gear, spun the wheel and with a slight squeal from the tyres did a one-eighty turn out of the car park on to the main road, glancing in the rear view mirror as James disappeared into distance.

A gruff, thickset man got out of a black Audi that had just driven in to the car park and followed James at a safe distance into the marina.

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