“That’s right, baby. Give it up for me. Please. Ana.”
“Christian!” she cries out as she comes around me, and I let go.
THE AFTERNOON SUN FILTERS through the portholes, casting watery reflections over the cabin ceiling. It’s so peaceful out here on the water. Maybe we could sail around the world, just Ana and me.
She dozes beside me.
My beautiful, passionate girl.
I remember thinking those three letters had the power to wound, but now I know they also have the power to heal.
She doesn’t know the real you.
I frown at the ceiling. This thought keeps plaguing me. Why?
It’s because I want to be honest with her. Flynn thinks I should trust her and tell her, but I don’t have the nerve.
No. I banish the thought and enjoy lying with her for a few more minutes. “Mac will be back soon.” I’m sorry to have broken the peaceful silence between us.
“Hmm,” she mumbles, but her eyes open and she smiles.
“As much as I’d like to lie here with you all afternoon, he’ll need a hand with the dinghy.” I kiss her lips. “Ana, you look so beautiful right now, all mussed up and sexy. Makes me want you more.”
She strokes my face.
She sees me.
No. Ana, you don’t know me.
Reluctantly, I clamber out of bed, and she turns and lies on her stomach.
“You ain’t so bad yourself, Captain,” she says with appreciation as I dress.
I sit down beside her to put on my shoes.
“Captain, eh?” I muse. “Well, I am master of this vessel.”
“You are master of my heart, Mr. Grey.”
I wanted to be your master in a different way, but this is good. I think I can do this. I kiss her. “I’ll be on deck. There’s a shower in the bathroom if you want one. Do you need anything? A drink?”
She’s amused, and I know it’s at my expense.
“What?” I ask.
“What about me?”
“Who are you and what have you done with Christian?”
“He’s not very far away, baby,” I answer, and anxiety knots like ivy around my heart. “You’ll see him soon enough, especially if you don’t get up.” I smack her ass so that she laughs and yelps at once.
“You had me worried.” She feigns concern.
“Did I, now? You do give off some mixed signals, Anastasia. How’s a man supposed to keep up?” I give her a swift kiss. “Laters, baby.” I leave her to get dressed.
Mac arrives five minutes later, and together we get the dinghy fastened onto its rig at the stern.
“How was your friend?” I ask.
“In good spirits.”
“You could have stayed longer,” I say.
“And miss the trip back?”
“Nah, I can’t stay away from this lady too long,” Mac says, and he pats the hull of The Grace.
I grin. “I get it.”
My phone buzzes.
“Taylor,” I answer, and Ana opens the sliding doors to the saloon. She’s holding her life jacket.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Grey. The apartment is clear,” Taylor says.
I pull Ana close and kiss her hair. “That’s great news.”
“We’ve been through every room.”
“We’ve also been through all the CCTV footage of the last three days.”
“It’s been illuminating.”
“Miss Williams was coming through the stairwell.”
“The fire-escape stairwell?”
“Yes. She had a key and climbed all those floors to get there.”
“I see.” Wow, that’s some climb.
“The locks have been changed and it’s safe for you to return. We have your luggage. Will you be coming back this evening?”
“When can we expect you?”
“Very good, sir.”
I hang up and Mac fires up the engines.
“Time to head back.” I give Ana a swift kiss and strap her into her life jacket.
ANA IS A KEEN and willing deckhand. Between us, we hoist and stow the mainsail, the headsheet, and the spinney while Mac steers. I teach her how to tie three knots. This she’s not so good at, and I find it hard to keep a straight face.
“I may tie you up one day,” she promises.
“You’ll have to catch me first, Miss Steele.” It’s a long time since anyone tied me up, and I’m not sure I’d like it anymore. I shudder, thinking how defenseless I’d be against her touch. “Shall I give you a more thorough tour of The Grace?”
“Please, she’s so beautiful.”
ANA STANDS IN MY arms at the wheel, just before we make the turn into the marina. She looks so happy.
And that makes me happy.
She’s been fascinated by The Grace and all that I’ve shown her. Even the engine room.
It’s been fun. I take a deep breath, the salt water in the air cleansing my soul. And I’m reminded of a quote from one of my favorite books—a memoir, Wind, Sand and Stars. “ ‘There is a poetry of sailing as old as the world,’ ” I murmur in her ear.
“That sounds like a quote.”
“It is. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.”
“Oh, I adore The Little Prince.”
I pilot us into the marina, then slowly turn The Grace and reverse into the berth. The crowd that gathered to watch has dispersed by the time Mac jumps onto the dock and ties the stern lines to two dock cleats.