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Page 47 of Alpha (Alpha 1)

We were moving slightly, the sail flapping, the bow angled toward the New Jersey shoreline. We were heading south, away from Manhattan and toward Staten Island. I loosened the line he’d indicated, wrapped both hands around it, and pulled hard. As I pulled, the mainsail tightened, and the line grew taut, becoming harder and harder to pull as the wind caught it. A gust of wind blasted the sail, nearly jerking the line from me and pulling me off-balance. I pulled again, but another gust hit, this one pulling me clear off my feet. I wrapped the line around my fists, braced one foot against the side of the boat, and pulled as hard as I could, then wrapped the line around the tie-off bracket thing. The sail was bellied out but firm, not flapping in the wind anymore, and I felt the sailboat pick up speed immediately. I glanced at Roth who gave me a bright grin and a thumbs-up.

“Perfect!” He patted the seat beside his own, and I sat down.

“When did you learn to sail?” I asked.

“I’ve been sailing my whole life. I grew up summering in Greece, and spent nearly every day during the summers sailing with Dad or with my friends when I got older. After I left home at eighteen, I ended up working on a fishing boat in the Aegean for a while. It was fun. Hard work, but fun. That was my first business. I bought that boat, hired the same crew that had taught me the business. Eventually, I bought a second boat, and then a third. I still own several boats in the Mediterranean, actually. Some are commercial fishing boats, some are private charters. Coming about.” He loosened the mainsail line, held on to it with one hand, and spun the wheel with the other, bringing the bow around, and then he re-tied the line again. He made it look easy, but I remembered how hard the wind had pulled at the sail, and thus the line, nearly jerking me off my feet, yet he’d held it in place with one hand while operating the wheel. “No matter how busy I get, I make time to sail. It’s my one real escape.”

I watched Roth as he spoke. He seemed relaxed, the lines of tension and stress on his face smoothing away, his posture at ease. The wind ruffled his hair and snapped the edges of his blazer and the white cotton T-shirt underneath it, molding the fabric to his rock-hard body. He had one hand on the wheel, the other stretched out to grip the back of my chair, his knuckles brushing my shoulder blade.

We were silent for a long time, watching the sun rise higher in the sky, watching the cityscape to either side pass by and the open water in the distance grow closer. Eventually, we breasted the opening of the bay and left land behind. I could see why he loved this. The sense of freedom, the salt spray of the water on my face, the wind carrying us away from everything…I’d never felt anything like it. He seemed content to just sail without talking, and so was I. We chatted here and there, mostly me prompting him to tell me stories about himself. I learned he’d sold his fishing business for a profit and gotten into the import-export industry, and then eventually sold that business for an even bigger profit, which had led him, at the age of twenty-one, to Asia, where he’d gotten into real estate and urban development. I got a sense for Roth the man, how he’d made his way in the world by himself. He’d learned the hard way that he couldn’t trust anyone, having survived more than one betrayal in the business world. He’d learned to be ruthless and untrusting, depending on no one but himself, keeping his businesses small, with as few employees as possible. Eventually, he’d moved to New York and tried his hand at several business ventures, building his wealth bit by bit. I couldn’t glean from him what his primary business currently was, despite several leading questions.

I, in turn, told him about growing up in suburban Detroit, summers spent at a cabin on Lake Michigan, trips with Mom to Chicago. The fun and pleasant stories in my life all stopped cold when Dad was killed. We lapsed into silence when my stories reached that threshold, and Roth seemed content to let the silence stretch.

After a few hours, Roth loosened the mainsail and let us slow to a stop, then furled the sails and let down an anchor. We were in sight of land, but it was a ways out, providing a hazy and beautiful backdrop for a lunch at sea. Eliza had packed us cold cuts, cheese, fresh-baked bread, a bottle of wine, some Perrier, and fresh fruit. Roth assembled a sandwich for me, poured white wine into glasses, and then held out his glass for a toast.

“To a pleasant day and a long night.”

I smiled at him and clinked his glass with mine. “I’ll drink to that.”

Lunch finished, we lounged on the deck and soaked up the sun. It was oddly comfortable, hanging out with Roth. We didn’t need to fill every moment with idle chatter, both us seeming to be content to let silences stretch for long periods of time, enjoying the moment, enjoying each other’s company. Conversation would come and go, questions directed and answered, ebbing and flowing easily.

I was lying on my back on the deck, letting the sun bathe me, when I felt Roth rise to his feet beside me. I cracked one eye, watching him. He stared down at me as he shed his blazer, then his T-shirt, then his shoes. I sat up and felt my heart race when he set his sunglasses aside and reached for the zipper of his pants. “Time to swim,” he said.

I shoved my sunglasses up on my head. “I didn’t bring a bathing suit.”

He grinned. “Neither did I.” He dropped his pants and underwear, standing naked in front of me.

I swallowed hard, heart pounding, desire swelling. Roth naked was a sinfully glorious sight. My ni**les hardened and my thighs tensed, my core going damp just looking at him. Six-pack abs leading to a sharp V-cut, a thick, proudly jutting erection, powerful thighs, broad, firm chest smattered with golden hair, bulging, toned arms. Holy shit. That man wants me. Me. His body, those hands, those abs, that cock…for me.

He winked at me, then turned and dove into the water, slicing the blue waves neatly. “Get naked and get in here, Kyrie.”

I stood up on shaky knees, set my sunglasses aside, unzipped my dress, and let it fall to the deck around my feet. I glanced around, but the sea was empty. We’d cut east once we hit open water, and I suspected the hazy-gray land in the distance was Long Beach. There was a ship way out at sea, a long, low tanker of some sort, but it was far enough out that even with binoculars I doubted they could see us clearly. And…I didn’t care.

I watched Roth’s reaction as I unhooked my bra and stepped out of my underwear. He was treading water, watching me intently, eyes hot and hooded. “Is the water cold?”

He shrugged. “A bit.” A hungry grin curled his lips. “Don’t worry, love, I’ll keep you warm.”

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