I am Sarah. Sarah Elizabeth Desmond. It felt strange to think of myself like that, but that was my name. For exactly two hours and twelve minutes, I had been married to the love of my life.
For two hours, we had entertained our guests at our reception in the Della Robbia Room of the Vanderbilt Hotel. My grandparents, my aunts and uncles and cousins, and of course, Sebastian, Abigail, and my father, surrounded us with well wishes and congratulations. It was exhausting.
As beautiful as it was with our white linens and silver candlesticks, the silver and white three-tiered cake, combined with the tiled arches of the room in white and shades of blue, by the time Erik took my arm and said, “Thank you everyone, for coming to our special day, but it is time for us to be leaving. We have an appointment to keep,” I was more than ready to get out of there.
After everyone came to say goodbye, we left the church and got into Erik’s Spyder. It was already full of our luggage, and I thought we would depart immediately, but instead, after sliding in behind the wheel, Erik turned and took my face in his hands.
“I love you, Sarah Desmond,” he said softly, and then he kissed me. This wasn’t the peck he had given me during the ceremony, it was a full-blown, passionate kiss, and it left me breathless. When he pulled back, he smiled and drove away from the church.
Now, we were headed toward the Hudson River, and I was thinking. Of many things, but foremost on my mind were our fight and the subsequent dispute with my father, Erik’s incredible change in demeanor and behavior since then, and of the wedding.
Erik had been right about my father being angry with him…and me. When I got to our apartment the night of the fight, he started castigating me the instant I stepped foot through the door. I stood there with my head down and let him yell, and soon enough, he pulled me into a hug and told me never, ever to do that to him again. I promised.
Then he sat me down in his study, and I will never forget what he said next.
“I warned you that he still had issues, Sarah. Are you sure you want to marry him?”
I sat, stunned. The thought had never crossed my mind that I would leave Erik. I glared at my father.
“Of course I’m sure! Just because we had a fight doesn’t mean I don’t still love him. Couples fight all the time! It doesn’t mean that you just give up on each other!” My voice was rising, and I stopped suddenly and clamped my jaw shut in an attempt to calm down, but I was shaking, I was so angry.
My father just smiled. “Relax, Sarah, I just wanted to make sure. I know you love him and he loves you. I’m glad to see you defend that love.”
That had almost started another tirade on my part for manipulating me like that, but he soon pacified me by showing me the evening paper. “It’s especially good to see since the announcement came out today.”
It was official. Millions of New Yorkers would now know that Erik Desmond, genius artist, millionaire, and perfect man was mine.
Since that day, Erik’s attitude toward himself seemed to do a complete reversal. Not overnight, of course, but each day, I could see him carry himself a little straighter, smile and laugh a little more, and generally feel better about himself. When I asked him about it a week after our fight, he said it was simple.
“You love me, Sarah,” he’d said, “for whatever reason. My mother and Doctor Clark loved me, Sebastian and your father love me. I just decided that if all of you can love me, I can love myself, too.”
They were words I’d never thought he’d say, and tears had welled up when I heard them. He’d kissed them away, and my heart had soared.
Weeks of caterer, florist, and dress appointments followed, but finally, May first came, and, at nine o’clock in the morning, I waited in the bride’s room of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, nervously wringing my hands together. We had decided to keep our ceremony small and private with only my family and Sebastian and Abigail attending. My father was with me, looking very distinguished in his black tuxedo, and he gently took my hand.
“Relax, baby girl. Everything is going to be perfect.”
I smiled and him and tried to breathe. Suddenly, a horrible thought flashed through my brain, and I squeezed his hand tightly.
“What if he doesn’t show up, Daddy? What if he decides he doesn’t want to marry me after all?”
My father chuckled and pulled me into a hug. “Don’t worry about that. He’s here, and, incredible as it may seem, he’s even more nervous than you are. I saw him in the narthex about half an hour ago.” He laughed again.
“What is it?” I asked, stepping back.
“I’m sorry, dear. I shouldn’t have laughed, but I swear he looked like he was about to lose his breakfast.”
“Oh, no!” I cried out, moving toward the door.
“Sarah, stop,” my father said. “Sebastian’s got him. He’ll be just fine. Besides, he can’t see you before the ceremony; you know that.”
I groaned and started pacing the small room. “How much longer, Daddy? I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
My father opened his mouth to answer when my cousin Jane stuck her head in the door.
“It’s time, Sarah,” she said with a smile. “Your handsome beau is waiting for you.” Then she disappeared, leaving the door open.
At that moment, my stomach decided to do a flip, and I held my breath and tried to keep my own breakfast where it was.
“Come on,” my father said softly, taking my hand and placing it through his arm. “Let’s go get you married.”
I swallowed thickly. “Thank you, Daddy.”
With a smile, he guided me through the door and into the narthex itself. I took a deep breath when we made it to the nave doors. Two of my cousins were acting as ushers, and they each had a hand on a handle.
“You look beautiful, Sarah,” Edgar said softly, and I smiled at him.
Teddy was about to say something when Pachelbel’s Canon in D started playing in the sanctuary, and instead, he just grinned and opened his door as Edgar opened his. I closed my eyes briefly and only opened them when my father took a step forward, forcing me to follow.
I caught my breath when I saw Erik waiting for me at the altar, Sebastian and Abigail with him. He was dressed in a black tuxedo with silver vest and tie, and I couldn’t stop my heart from fluttering as I slowly scanned him from head to toe and back. When my eyes came back up to his face, I blushed furiously as I locked gazes with him. I hadn’t meant for him to catch me gawking. I stood up straighter, though, when I saw him return the scan, a small smile forming on his face as he did so.
“I told you he was here,” my father said softly, and I smiled, knowing he was trying to make me feel not so nervous. Amazingly, it helped, but not as much as the love I saw shining out of Erik’s eyes.
I only remember four things about the rest of the ceremony. I remember my father whispering, “I love you, baby girl,” as he placed my hand in Erik’s; I remember Father Moretti asking me if I took Erik as my husband and me responding, “I do;” I remember him saying, “I now pronounce you man and wife. Erik, you may kiss the bride;” and I remember Erik’s lips on mine. The rest was lost as I gazed into Erik’s deep blue eyes. I know I knelt and stood and recited at the proper times, but I can’t actually remember any of it.
“Sarah, you really have to stop doing that.”
Erik’s tense words snapped me out of my thoughts, and I looked at him. His eyes kept flickering back and forth from me to the road ahead of him.
He glanced at me and then at my right hand. I followed his gaze and saw that I was unconsciously caressing the leather seat again. I smiled.
“I can’t help it; it’s just so soft.”
“Yes, it is, but you doing that is not helping my concentration any.”
He sighed and bit his bottom lip. “Remember when I mentioned my inappropriate thoughts about a month ago?”
“Yes, and you told me you’d tell me what they were after we were married.”
He nodded and smiled slightly. “Well, now that we are married, they are no longer inappropriate.” He glanced at me again. “Then and now, I was thinking that my car was very lucky to have you running your fingers over it like that.”
At first, I didn’t know what he was talking about, but then understanding hit me, and I smiled. “I see. So, what you’re saying is that you are jealous of your car.”
I smiled and leaned my head against his shoulder and moved my hand from the seat to his knee.
“So you’re saying that you would rather my fingers be here than on your car.”
Erik sucked in his breath as I settled more closely to him. “Oh, yes.”
“I can do that,” I said softly, and I began tracing small circles on his leg.
I sat up when he slapped his hand on top of mine.
“Why? You said you wanted me to touch you.”
“Touch, yes; caress, no.” He looked at me as he stopped at a red light. “At least not while I’m driving. It’s very…distracting.”
“Sorry,” I said with a small pout. I stilled my fingers and sat straighter.
The light turned green, and Erik frowned at me for a brief moment before driving again. He took my hand in his and ran his thumb over the back of it.
“Sweetheart, don’t be mad.” He sighed. “Remember when I told you that I was trying to understand my feelings about you?”
“Yes,” I said sullenly, a little hurt that he had stopped me. “Why? Are you confused again?”
“No, I’m not confused. Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact.”
Now I was confused. “What are you talking about?”
He smiled slightly and said, “I know exactly what my feelings are right now and what I want to do about them. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about them at the moment.”
I shook my head and sat back from him, pulling my hand from his. “Erik, I have no idea what you mean.”
He chuckled. “You will. I promise.”
I tried to get him to explain, but he said nothing more until we reached the river. He pulled into a marina, and I looked at him questioningly, but he just smiled at me and parked. He got out and handed the keys to the attendant who had materialized out of nowhere. He spoke to the man for a few moments and then walked around to my door and opened it. The smile was still on his face as he helped me out, and I put my hand on his arm to stop him when he tried to walk down the wooden dock.
“Why are we here?” I glanced at the car as it drove away.
“To start on our honeymoon, of course. And to give you your wedding present.”
“My wedding present? What is it, a boat?”
“You could call her that, I suppose,” he said, taking my hand and pulling me along the dock. “She was finished last week and is ready to go.”
Erik laughed. “Stop with the questions, Mrs. Desmond. You’ll see soon enough.”
I loved his laugh, and I stilled my tongue so that I could focus on it. He continued for a short while, and even when he stopped, a chuckle escaped him every once in a while.
The marina was quite large, and we made our way along the wooden planks, constantly moving closer and closer to the river itself. I noticed that the boats nearest the street were the smallest and that they got bigger the further we walked. Finally, Erik stopped and moved in front of me.
“Close your eyes, Sarah.”
“Again with the questions,” he said with a smile. “Please? Just do it for me?”
“Fine, Erik,” I said with a huff as I closed them, “but know that I generally don’t like surprises.”
“You’ll like this one, I promise,” he said, and he put his hands on my shoulders from behind. “They’re still closed, right?”
“Good.” He pushed me forward, and I took a shaky step. “Don’t worry, sweetheart,” he said softly. “I would never let you fall.”
He guided me forward and to the right, and then he stopped.
I did, and a gasp escaped me as my hand came up to cover my mouth, and my eyes went wide.
Docked at the end of the pier, nothing but the Hudson River behind it, was a sailing yacht. I had been on a few of my father’s friends’ yachts over the years, but none of them compared to the beautiful vessel before me.
She—I didn’t know much about boats, but I knew they were always shes—had white sides and red sails, and I estimated that she was at least one hundred feet long. There were a dozen people swarming over her, front to back, up and down the gangplank, carrying boxes and bags, checking lines, and doing a million other things I didn’t understand. She gleamed in the afternoon sun, her metal surfaces shining as if untouched by human hands.
“Erik,” I breathed, “she’s beautiful!”
“And she’s all ours,” he said, wrapping his arms around me and pulling me back into his chest. “For the next…who knows how long…she is our home.”
I couldn’t contain my excitement, and I squealed as I turned in his arms. I bounced on my toes as I looked up at him. “Where are we going?”
“First to Jamaica. Then, wherever you want, for however long you want. This honeymoon can last a week, a month, a year, five years, I don’t care. I just want you to be happy.” He kissed me briefly and then took my hand. “Come on, I want to show you something.”
I followed him to the back of the boat.
“I hope you don’t mind,” he said softly with a catch in his voice, “but I already named her.”
“Of course not,” I said, wondering at the sadness I heard, but then I saw her name, painted in brilliant red, and I instantly wrapped my arms around his waist and held him tightly.
“It’s perfect,” I said, and I felt his breath hitch.
“I love you so much,” he whispered, and then he lifted me into the air and kissed me. He put me down and took my hand again. “Time for me to give you the tour and introduce you to some people.”
We walked up the gangplank, the workers nodding and greeting us with a respectful, “Mr. Desmond, ma’am.”
Erik nodded back and led me to the back of the yacht where the wheel stood. The wheel itself seemed huge to me, but it was nothing compared to the man standing next to it, his head bent toward a sheaf of papers in his hand. The man was as tall as Erik, but he had to outweigh him by at least fifty pounds, and it looked to be all muscle. He had long, blond hair that was pulled back into a ponytail, and his skin was tanned to the point of being brown. He was probably about forty years old.
The blond head snapped up, and I saw the most intense pair of green eyes fix on my husband. The man gave Erik a brilliant smile, white teeth flashing.
“Mr. Desmond, sir! So good to see you! I hear congratulations are in order.” He tucked the papers under his arm and held out his hand to Erik, who shook it.
“Thank you, Captain.”
The big man turned his smile on me, and I couldn’t help but return it. “And this pretty little lady must be the brave woman who has agreed to put up with you, sir.” He held out his hand again, and when I reached for it, he took my fingers and kissed my knuckles. “Captain George Cunningham, at your service, Mrs. Desmond. I must say that it will be nice having you on board, ma’am.” He grinned at me, leaned down, and whispered, “If for no other reason than to occupy your husband so we can work.”
“I heard that, Captain,” Erik said sternly, but I heard the smile in his voice.
“Blast! I forgot about your hearing,” the captain muttered, and then his mouth snapped shut. “Sorry, ma’am. I’m not used to being around a lady.”
I laughed. “I’ve heard worse, Captain Cunningham, and my sensibilities are not offended that easily.”
“I’m about to give my wife a tour of the Rebecca, Captain. Are we set to sail on schedule?”
“Yes, sir. Give us another hour to finish getting things squared away, and we’re off.”
As Erik took my hand again, I said, “It was very nice meeting you, Captain. I’m sure I’ll see you later.”
“Of course, ma’am. Enjoy the tour.”
We walked past the captain and through what looked to be an open-air dining area covered by a white canopy. A polished wooden table stood to the left side of the deck with a bench behind it. The bench had a red cushion running the length of it, and I thought it was covered by fabric, but it was shiny. I pulled my hand from Erik’s and ran it over the cushion. The covering was smooth, and I looked at Erik in confusion.
“What is this?”
“It’s called vinyl. It was discovered about twenty years ago. It’s waterproof, so we don’t have to worry about mold or sea water ruining the cushions.”
“Wow, that’s amazing!”
Erik chuckled and gestured toward a door near the middle of the deck. “Shall we continue?”
“Oh, yes, of course.” I hastily moved to him.
He held the door open for me, and I walked down a short flight of steps. I couldn’t believe what I saw at the bottom. The stairs ended in a living room of sorts. Couches curved in a semicircle along the left wall, and a low wooden table stood in front of them. On the right was an actual kitchen separated from the living room by a bar with stools. In front of us was another door, and, as I turned in a slow circle, I saw another door behind us by the stairs.
Everything was the same polished wood as the table on deck, and red and white accents were everywhere, from the trim around the portholes to the cushions on the stools. I stepped up to the low table and ran my hand across it. It wasn’t quite as soft as the leather in Erik’s car, but it came a close second.
I turned to Erik with a grin. “Erik, she’s absolutely beautiful!”
“I’m glad you approve,” he answered, stepping up to me and wrapping his arms around me, “but we’re not quite through with the tour.” He jerked his head behind him. “Behind that door is the crew quarters. There are five crew members who will take care of everything: Captain Cunningham, Brice Speare, Jared Burton, and our steward and chef, Xavier and Sheryl Chase. You can meet them all later. There is one more room I need to show you.”
Without releasing me, he started walking toward the other door, forcing me backward. When my back hit it, he reached down and turned the handle. It opened, and he continued forward. As soon as he had room, he shut it behind him and locked it.
“This,” he said, dipping his head to kiss me, “is our cabin.” He turned me around and kept his hands on my shoulders. “What do you think?”
“Oh, Erik,” I breathed. “It’s gorgeous!”
The room filled the front of the boat from wall to wall, and in the middle, facing the door was a large bed, a thick, red comforter on top with white pillows against the headboard. Above the headboard were five portholes trimmed in red that let in the afternoon light. Through them, I could see the bright blue sky behind the New York skyline. To our right were floor-to-ceiling cabinets, and to our left was another door. I glanced over my shoulder at Erik who was staring down at me.
“Where does that lead?”
“To the washroom,” he said, his voice husky.
My words died when he moved my hair away from my shoulder and kissed my neck. He inhaled deeply as he slowly turned me around and trailed his hands down my arms.
“Those feelings I had that I didn’t understand?”
I nodded silently.
“I know what they are now.”
“Oh?” I squeaked out the word.
“Desire,” he breathed as he slowly walked around me, his hands leaving fiery brands everywhere they touched. “Need.” He stopped in front of me, and I couldn’t catch my breath as he closed the small distance between us. His breath had quickened, and his tongue darted out to wet his lips. “Hunger.”
“Don’t talk,” he whispered, his eyes the color of turbulent seas. He kissed me again, and his hands moved to the zipper on the back of my dress.
“Erik,” I protested weakly, attempting to pull away. “It’s the middle of the day.”
“So what?” he rasped. “We just got married, and I’m tired of being jealous of my car.” He continued unzipping my dress, but I somehow found the strength to reach behind me and stop him.
“But there are people around.”
“There will always be people around on this boat, Sarah, and there is no one around right now. They’re all busy.” He reached up and drew shades down over the portholes. The fabric was thick enough to block anyone’s view but thin enough that light still made it through. He then stood in front of me, dipped his head, and kissed my neck again before moving the neckline of my dress to the side and continuing his kisses down to my collarbone. “Please, Sarah, I can’t wait anymore. I need you so much it hurts. Please let me make you mine.”
He cupped my face and kissed me passionately, the way he had in the car after the wedding, the way I had always wanted him to, and I didn’t stop him when his hands went back to my zipper.