The next morning, I woke before Erik did. As I lay in bed and watched him sleep, I thought about his threats to Ryan Debois the day before. I thought that he had only uttered them in the heat of the moment, but the fury on his face as he’d held Ryan by the shirt had frightened me. I honestly hadn’t known if he was going to be able to control himself, and I had been scared that he would kill the man for his actions and words.
Now, he looked like a little boy as he slept except for the deep cut on his bottom lip. He was curled up on his side facing me, and his hands were tucked underneath his cheek. He was dreaming of something, for his eyes were moving rapidly beneath his closed lids. I watched him for a few minutes, and then I softly kissed his forehead and slid out of bed. After quietly getting ready for the day, I slipped out of our cabin and shut the door behind me.
“Good morning, Sarah,” Sheryl said as I took a seat on one of the stools. “Can I make you something for breakfast?” We had dispensed with formalities on the boat the third day of the voyage, and we were all on a first-name basis now.
“Thank you, Sheryl. Some eggs would be nice, if we have any.”
“We have everything. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday restocking our supplies. Over easy or scrambled?”
“Scrambled, please. And can you please start some coffee?”
She smiled brightly as she pulled a mug from the cupboard over her head. “Already done. The men have been up for about half an hour, and if they don’t get their coffee, it’s like being caged with vicious bears.”
She poured the coffee, added milk and sugar, and held it out to me. I reached out my hand to take it, and she gasped.
“Sarah, what happened to you?” She narrowed her eyes. “Did Erik do that to you?”
I took the mug and set it on the bar before looking at my wrist. As I had feared, there were dark purple bruises encircling it. I gently touched them and winced. I looked down at my knees and saw bruises there as well, but they weren’t as bad as I had expected.
“There was an…altercation at the club yesterday,” I said distractedly. I was terrified of what Erik would do when he saw the bruising, and I was trying to think of a way to not let him know.
“An altercation? You got in a fight?”
“What?” I looked up at Sheryl. “No, there was a man who was drunk and showing me more attention than he should have. When I told him I wasn’t interested, he grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.”
“Where was Erik?”
I sighed, knowing I couldn’t possibly keep this from my husband. “He was dancing, but when he saw what was happening, he did get into a fight.”
I spent the next few minutes telling Sheryl what had happened the day before, from the incident at the club to the confrontation at the yacht to Ryan Debois’ accusations.
“He accused Erik of forcing himself on you? What a bastard!”
A chuckle escaped me even as dread filled me. Erik had completely lost control at just the thought of Debois touching me. What would he do when he saw my injuries?
“Sarah, what’s wrong? Does it hurt that much?”
“No, it’s not that.”
I looked up at the woman who had become a friend in the short time I had known her. “I’m afraid of what Erik will do when he sees this. If I hadn’t been here yesterday, he would have seriously hurt that man.”
Sheryl shrugged. “Sounds to me like he deserved it. His father thought so, too.”
“Deserved or not, I won’t let Erik do that to anyone. He’s not his father.”
Brow furrowed, Sheryl started cooking breakfast. “What do you mean by that?”
“Nothing,” I murmured.
“Hmm.” Nothing else was said until my food was sitting in front of me. “Sarah, may I ask you a question?”
Sheryl gestured toward the scars on my wrists. “Will you tell me where you got those?”
I almost choked on the bite of food I had just taken. I looked up at her and saw her leaning back against the counter staring at me. I swallowed through the lump that had formed in my throat and thought about how much to tell her.
“Let’s just say my early childhood was not anything I would wish on anybody for any reason.”
“You got those as a child? Who would do that to a child?”
Sheryl’s eyes told me more than words could how shocked she was. “What kind of mother would do such a thing?” she breathed, her eyes filling with tears.
“Mine,” I said simply.
“And the scars on your back? She made those, too?”
I frowned. “How did you know about those?”
“This isn’t that large of a boat, Sarah, and your hair doesn’t always cover them.” She glanced at our cabin door. “What about Erik?”
“He’s got his own story. If he wants to tell you about it, that’s up to him, but I can’t do that for him.”
I finished eating, and Sheryl started to clean up. I made my way onto the deck and stood at the railing looking out over the harbor. There was no one on deck, and I enjoyed the solitude. Sea birds circled above me, crying out to whomever would listen. Occasionally, one would dive into the water and emerge with a fish in its beak. I must have stood there for close to an hour when I felt Erik’s arms around me. He wrapped me in his embrace and rested his chin on my head.
“Let me see your wrist,” he said.
He kept one arm around me and took my damaged wrist in the other hand. “This is not fine, Sarah.”
I pulled it out of his grasp. “Yes, it is. I’ve had worse done to me.”
A growl came from him, and he grasped the railing in a white-knuckled grip. “That’s not the point, and you know it.”
“I know, but the bruises will heal, and we’ll go on.” I turned around and looked up at him. He was staring out across the water, and I could see that he was still extremely angry. “Erik, let it go.”
His jaw clenched. “I can’t. I still want to kill him.”
“But you won’t.”
He looked down at me and grimaced. “No, I won’t, but I so very much want to.”
“I know you do, but Erik…” I stopped, unsure of whether or not to say what I was thinking.
I sighed and draped my arms over his shoulders, lacing my fingers behind his neck. “You told me once you would never act like your father. What you are thinking of is something he would do. You are not him.”
His body relaxed slowly. “No, I’m not. At least, I don’t want to be. Sometimes, though, I can hear his voice in my head telling me to hurt people. Not because I would enjoy it like he did, but because they deserve it. Mr. Debois deserved it yesterday.”
I nodded. “He did, but I am very happy you didn’t hurt him. In the end, it would have done more damage to you than to him.”
Erik smiled slightly. “I know, but if you hadn’t been there, he’d be in the hospital right now.” He released the railing and cupped my cheek. “You help keep the demons at bay, and I love you for that.” He lowered his head and kissed me. I tried to keep the kiss light, thinking of his lip, but his arm tightened around me, and he threaded his fingers through my hair, holding me in place while he deepened the kiss. When he finally stopped, I could taste blood, and I knew his wound had opened up again.
“Erik,” I breathed, “your lip.”
“I don’t care,” he answered, and he kissed me again.