Identity Series Book 2: I Am Sarah

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Chapter 11

When we emerged from our cabin over an hour later, the first thing I noticed was a slender black woman in the kitchen. She was wearing an emerald green dress with a spotless white apron over it, and when she heard us, she turned around quickly. She looked to be about thirty years old, and she was stunningly beautiful. High cheekbones framed dark eyes that were almost black, and her black hair was twisted up on her head in a neat bun. My hand went to my hair that I had tried to brush out, but I knew it looked horrible after hours of sleep and, well, Erik.

“You are beautiful,” Erik whispered in my ear. “Stop worrying.” He kissed my temple and took my hand. “Mrs. Chase,” he said out loud, “I’d like to introduce you to my wife, Sarah.”

White teeth flashed in a smile, and she wiped her hand on her apron before holding it out to me. “So nice to meet you, ma’am. I have heard wonderful things about you.” As we shook, she looked me up and down, and I repressed the urge to fidget. “And you are as lovely as Mr. Desmond claimed.”

Her words sounded sincere, and I returned her smile. “Thank you, Mrs. Chase. That’s very kind.”

Erik slipped his arm around me, resting his hand on my hip. “I know we missed supper, Mrs. Chase, but I was hoping you still had something available.”

“You missed nothing, Mr. Desmond. The crew has eaten, but I kept everything warm for you, and I’ll bring it to you as soon as I get it served up. Do you want to eat here or on deck, sir?”

“On deck. We want to watch the sunset.”

“Of course, sir. You go on up, and I’ll have everything ready in a few minutes.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Chase.”

Erik turned us toward the stairs and guided me up them. When we reached the deck, I was surprised by the slight chill in the air. I looked around and saw that we were in the middle of the ocean, and as I turned toward the west, I saw land on the horizon far in the distance, but other than that, there was water.

“Where are we?”

“I’m not exactly sure,” Erik answered. “I’ll ask Captain Cunningham.”

He walked to the captain and a second blond man who was standing next to him, and I moved to the railing. I rested my hands on the smooth metal and closed my eyes as the spray misted my face. When I opened them, I looked down at the water. It seemed to be streaming by at a very rapid pace, and I watched it until Erik wrapped his arms around my waist.

“We’re off the coast of New Jersey, and the food is almost ready,” he said, and I turned in his arms until my back was against the railing.

“I love you, Erik.”

“No more than I love you,” he answered with a smile, “but I am starving, and Mrs. Chase’s chowder smells amazing.”

The mention of food caused my stomach to rumble, and I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything substantial since breakfast. Finger foods at the reception didn’t count. We walked to the bench, facing west, and Erik let me sit before sliding in next to me and resting his arm around my shoulders. I leaned into him and sighed.

“This is the perfect honeymoon, Erik. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I’m glad you like it. Just think,” he said, suddenly sounding as young as he was, “we can go anywhere, do anything, for as long as we like. We have no obligations or responsibilities right now.”

Just then, three men walked up to us, one being the man who had been with the captain.

“Ah,” Erik said, standing up. “Gentlemen, I’d like you to meet my wife, Sarah. Sarah, this is First Mate Brice Speare, Engineer Jared Burton, and Mrs. Chase’s husband, Xavier.”

I stood as well, and the men each took my hand. I said with a smile, “I’m sure we’ll get to know each other quite well. It’s very nice meeting you all.”

The first mate had the same blond hair and dark, tanned skin as the captain, but he looked to be about ten years younger. His eyes were blue, almost as blue as Erik’s. Mr. Burton had flaming red hair and hazel eyes, and when he smiled back at me, I could see that one of his front teeth was golden. Mr. Chase had the same coloring as his wife.

“Very nice to meet you, too, ma’am,” they all said, and then Mr. Speare said, “If you’ll excuse us, Mr. Desmond, we have work to do.”

Erik nodded, and we sat down again.

His earlier words about no responsibilities had brought something to my mind, and I looked at him. “Erik, may I ask you a question?”

“Of course you can.”

I hesitated, and the boyish happiness that had been on his face dimmed.

“Sarah? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I said hastily. “I’m just trying to figure out how to ask you this.”

He pushed a strand of hair behind my ear. “Just ask. I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”

I inhaled deeply. “Okay. My father is wealthy; I know this, but there is no way he could afford to take more than a week or two off to go on a trip like this. You said we could spend five years on this boat if we wanted to?”

“Yes.”

“How can you afford to do that? Don’t you have to keep selling your art to make money?”

Just as Erik was about to answer, Mrs. Chase set down two platters each with a covered bowl and a large slice of buttered bread. We thanked her, and after she disappeared down the stairs, I looked at Erik expectantly.

“Sweetheart,” he said slowly, toying with his spoon, “you have absolutely no idea how much money I have, do you? How much we have?”

I shook my head, regarding him curiously. He was frowning again, and he looked uncomfortable. A bit of his new-found poise and confidence seemed to have left him, and I reached out my hand and stopped his fingers from twirling the utensil.

“You don’t have to tell me, Erik,” I said softly. “It doesn’t matter to me, really.”

He covered my hand with his. “It’s not that I don’t want you to know,” he answered. “It’s just that I don’t want it to make a difference.”

“A difference in what?”

His head had dropped, and now he was fiddling with my fingers.

“In the way you look at me.” He glanced up at me, and I saw that fear had returned to his eyes. “In the way you love me.” He dropped his eyes again.

“Erik, look at me.”

He shook his head.

“Please?”

He sighed heavily and slowly raised his head until his beautiful blue eyes connected with mine, dread painfully obvious in his gaze. I cupped his scarred cheek and said, “Erik Desmond, I love you. You could lose every penny tomorrow, and I would still love you. You could double your money, and I would still love you.” He tried to look away, but I held him still. “I love you, Erik, not your money.”

He closed his eyes and held his breath, but some of the tension left his face, and he leaned forward until his forehead rested on mine.

“Do you really want to know how much I’m worth? How much we’re worth?”

“Only if you want to tell me.”

He gave me a small smile and said, “Do you know how much money I made with my art last year?”

“I have no idea.”

“Over two million dollars.”

My eyes went wide. “Does that happen every year?”

“Not the first year after I came to New York, but since then, yes. I make about half a million dollars per showing with four showings a year. I also get almost fifty thousand dollars a month from my tenants at the Desmond Building and over a hundred thousand a month from my hotel in Tennessee. Not to mention the inheritance I got from Doctor Clark.” He took a deep breath and squeezed my hand, staring into my eyes. “As of last month, my personal worth was over twenty million dollars.”

“I see,” I squeaked, and then I swallowed the lump in my throat. My father was worth a little over two million.

“Sarah? Please tell me this doesn’t change anything.” His expression was still anxious, and I leaned forward to kiss him, even though I was reeling inside from his divulgence.

“It changes nothing,” I assured him as I sat back with a smile. “Not even the fact that I am still starving.”

He grinned, and the relief on his face brought tears to my eyes. He kissed me quickly and then said, “Me, too.”

We settled into eating the delicious, only slightly cooled clam chowder and bread. When we finished, Mrs. Chase magically appeared and took our dishes away. Then Erik leaned against the back cushion of the bench and lifted me onto his lap. With one arm around my waist, his other hand on my thigh, and my head on his shoulder, we simply sat and enjoyed the fresh, ocean air. It only took about ten minutes until the sky to the west started turning into a stunning combination of reds and oranges and yellows, the distant coastline a dark line underneath.

“How long will it take to get to Jamaica?” I asked languorously.

“Captain Cunningham said that if we keep the tail wind we have now, it will take about six days. If that dies, or if we end up with a head wind, it will take longer.”

“He can’t sail that whole time. When does he sleep?”

Erik chuckled. “He and Mr. Speare and Mr. Burton will take turns at the helm. We’ve only been sailing for about five hours so far, so they’ll probably switch in another couple of hours.”

I looked over at the captain who was sitting on a high stool, one hand resting idly on the wheel. Every once in a while, he would adjust something, but from what I could see, he wasn’t doing much at all. Mr. Speare was there as well, but his back was to us, and I couldn’t see what he was doing.

“Sailing doesn’t look so hard,” I said.

This time, Erik laughed. “Captain Cunningham has been sailing since he was ten years old. I’m sure that if you tried to do what he’s doing, you’d sink the boat or at least run it aground.”

The sun had set, and the stars started coming out. It quickly got dark, and I noticed that a light had come on behind the captain and first mate, but it was still darker than anything I had experienced in a long time. We sat for a long time; Erik’s body relaxed beneath me, and I knew he had fallen asleep. It didn’t take long before I joined him, happy and content to be in his arms.

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