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Heather could not take her eyes off him as he walked across the room, stopping at a couple of tables to chat briefly. Making it ever closer to the chair right next to her. What then?
She should run. Excuse herself, and just leave. Go back to her cabin and stay there until they docked in Bergen, then take a straight flight home. Home? Was it any more? Without Geoffrey, it did not seem that way anymore.
And Amber? Her daughter that she had sacrificed everything for no longer needed her. She was a usurper in her life now. And that was how it was supposed to be. Children grew into adults. Even autistic ones. She could not be prouder of the woman that Amber had become. So much of that too was thanks to Geoffrey.
Now was the time that they had planned for. Their time. They would do all the things they wanted to do, including this cruise.
But she was here alone. Just as she faced the future alone, another couple of decades or more of nothingness stretched out in front of her. It was enough to make her want to throw herself overboard. Except for the pain, she knew that would bring Amber, and the fact that was not how Geoffrey would want her to honor his memory. Honor the remarkable love they had shared for a dozen glorious years.
“We can’t live in the past, dearie.” Maggie’s words could have been Geoffrey’s.
Heather smiled weakly at the woman and returned the gentle squeeze on her hand as the waiters began to disperse the selection of desserts.
“Crème Brule or chocolate mousse? Which are you having?” Her new friend continued to chatter on.
Small ramekins of each appeared on the dessert plate in front of her, “Try both,” Jan took his seat next to her. He leaned in, “You have lost too much weight,” he whispered.
If she had a dessert fork, she might have stabbed him, but the spoon would do not sufficient damage. Instead, she picked it up and stabbed the caramelized sugar coating on top of the creamy vanilla custard, pretending it was his heart. Well, perhaps that would be a bit too radical. Maybe his butt. Yes, that would be the perfect punishment for a Dom.
Of course, it might have ramifications. Uber Doms, like Jan, did not believe they were ever wrong, and certainly did not deserve punishments. Those were for subs. But even as she thought it, she knew she was not fair to this man. He had never had the rigidity or arrogance of an Uber. In his own way, he had always considered her needs every bit as much as Geoffrey had. But she was not at a place to think about that right now.
The smooth, rich, subtle taste was comforting. Her brows furrowed, she would have to be careful. She had not found comfort or solace in food in close to a year. Her new slimmer figure attested to that. And she wanted to keep it that way.
She was shocked at her vanity. Why should she care if she was a size fourteen or forty? It was not like she would ever get naked and nasty with another man or even a woman. As for healthy? What was the point of living to a hundred now? Another four decades without Geoffrey seemed unthinkable. So, why was she worrying about eating two desserts or gaining a couple of pounds?
She licked the last of the Crème Brule from the spoon as she debated whether or not to try the chocolate mousse. She illegal bahis was still undecided as a spoon of the fluffy, dark brown goo appeared at her lips. “Eat,” that voice was not tentative or cajoling this time. If he had stealthily couched the salmon in his role as host, this was pure Dom. And it irritated her.
But her sub brain opened her lips as the flavors burst on her senses. Bitter. Sweet. Creamy. With just a tad of fruitiness. The Crème Brule had been excellent, but this was chocolate. Chocolate that was incredibly well done.
Jan smiled, and the lines around those icy blue eyes that had always fascinated her crinkled a bit more than she remembered. Then again, twelve years was an incredibly long time.
She could not even remember what color her hair was the last time they had met. Black? Purple? Red? And the skin of her cheeks, jowls, and neck definitely sagged more than it had then.
The doctor had tried to get her to let him correct those as well while she was under the anesthetic. But she was not interested in erasing the badges of courage that went with aging, only the disgusting rolls of skin that came with pregnancy, overeating, and weight loss. She had no desire to be some plastic doll, merely be able to fit in her clothes properly.
She reached for her spoon on the corner of her plate, but before she could lift it, Jan brought another bite to her mouth. Those eyes held hers as he continued to feed her. There was an intimacy to the act that she did not want to examine too carefully.
Especially when he took a bite from the same spoon. He leaned in so close that she swore she could feel the rough wool of his jacket brush her bare shoulder, “Incredibly sweet, but I have tasted sweeter. But not in a very long time.”
She knew that her cheeks must have been flaming red as she opened her lips for the final bite. Looking around the table, she realized just how obvious a show they had put on. Though at least she still had her knickers on and there were no ropes burns. But from the shocked and disapproving expression Margo wore, there might as well have been. She wanted to laugh out loud at the image in her mind of this woman if she arrived at this Captain’s table as disheveled as she had that other one.
As she moved her eyes to Maggie’s kinder visage, it was like sharing some unspoken joke with a dear friend. Like Maggie knew what she was thinking and concurred. She smiled as Jan stood up. He held out his hand in her direction. At first, she thought it was for her. She was not sure she was ready to spend three or four minutes held in this man’s strong arms.
But she did not need to have worried. “Mister Leadbetter, may I have the honor of your wife’s first dance?” Jan poured on the charm so much that even Margo blushed like an innocent sixteen-year-old on her first date.
“You can have all of them for all I care. I’m not much of a dancer,” he replied before turning back to converse with the woman on his other side about recent market upheavals.
Heather watched as Jan led the woman to the dance floor as the slow eighties ballad began to fill the room. She was a bit surprised at how easily he guided his partner through the steps. This suave persona was starkly different from the rough seaman she illegal bahis siteleri had known.
Margo smiled up at him as he said something. Not that she cared. She was not jealous. She picked up her napkin and dabbed the corner of her mouth before laying it on the table. She turned to Maggie, “It is getting late. I should go back to my cabin, but I hope to see you again.”
“If you’ll wait for a couple of minutes while I dance with Jan, then we can walk back together, dearie. I’d like to arrange to meet for breakfast tomorrow.”
What would a couple more minutes matter? She really would like to spend more time with this woman. Whether that was because they were both writers or widows or just this woman’s kindness, it did not matter. Heather nodded and smiled as Jan escorted Margo back to her chair, holding it out for her, then kissing her hand. He was perhaps a little too good at this job. Not that she cared. She was certainly not jealous.
He then turned to Maggie, “May I have this honor, Maggie Mae? You know that I always look forward to our dances.”
He was definitely good at his job, as even Maggie blushed prettily like a young girl. She left her bag and napkin on the table as she stood, winking at Heather, “I’ll be back in a few moments. Don’t go nowhere.”
She nodded as they made their way to the dance floor, bringing her glass of champagne to her lips once more. It was difficult to keep count of how many she had since the waiter seemed to refill it every time she sat it down. But it was probably way too much.
“How do you know the Captain?”
Heather heard the disapproval in Margo’s voice. She had spent too many years around women like this. Women who disapproved of everyone and everything, especially their husbands. Cold. Frigid. She was not sure whom she pitied more them or their husbands. Everyone lost in those marriages.
“I’m sorry. We just met, so I don’t think I need to lay my whole life on display for you.”
“Well, I’ve never. I was just trying to make conversation,” Margo replied as she lifted her patrician nose just a tad higher in the air before turning her back on Heather.
She sighed; she knew that she probably should not have been so honest with the woman. She knew just how sharp her tongue could be. But she was tired, incredibly tired. She was exhausted, not only from the shocks of this day but from months of grief. That meant, what few filters she did have, did not necessarily work when she needed them.
She was considering breaking her promise to Maggie and going back to her cabin alone when he took a seat next to her in Jan’s chair. “I meant what I said. I would like to spend some time talking with you. Hearing your perspective on autism, BDSM, and psychology,” Dr. McAllister intruded on her thoughts.
Would this night never end? What had Geoffrey been thinking? What had she? They both knew that these things stretched her limits sometimes to the point of breaking. “The cruise is another nine days. Perhaps at some point. But I’m just too tired right now to think about any of that.”
“Too tired? Or too preoccupied with other things?” The man turned to stare at Jan and Maggie, dancing and laughing like old friends.
Whoever coined the phrase ‘polite’ society either canlı bahis siteleri had a kickass sense of humor or had never spent much time in it. Heather shook her head, “Quite frankly, Dr. McAllister, that is none of your fucking business. I am not your patient. Nor your date. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be going before I say anything else I won’t regret later.”
She had not even gotten fully to her feet before a masculine hand gripped her elbow. She was about to shake it off and tell the little shrink precisely what she thought about him and his profession, when she looked up into Jan’s cool blue gaze.
“I believe that this is our dance.” Turning to the other man, he added, “Then I’ll escort you back to your cabin as I promised.”
“That’s alright, Maggie and I…”
She did not have the chance to finish as he held out a card, “I’m sorry. Maggie said she was not feeling well. She asked me to explain and give you this.”
Heather nodded and took the card that had the woman’s cabin number, ten a.m, and the name of another of the ship’s half a dozen restaurants on it. “Thank you. But that is not necessary. I am sure that you’re busy, and I can make my way back to my cabin by myself.”
He shook his head, “No, it is my pleasure.” His hand on her elbow tightened a bit as if he realized that she was considering pulling away, arguing, and fleeing. But she supposed she had given these people enough fodder for their gossip this night.
Besides, it probably was better if they cleared the air between them in private.
Whatever had once been, she supposed she did owe this man some explanation. Without his help, she might never have found the courage to reactivate that online profile, might never have met Geoffrey. Were one dance, a five-minute walk back to her cabin, and the truth too much to ask?
“If you’ll excuse us. I have other duties to attend to. If you need anything else, my First Mate Sabastian will be happy to assist. Good night,” he smiled at the table.
He led her on to the dance floor as one slow song faded away. She smiled and chuckled as the first notes of the piano solo floated on the air. When she had heard this song over the years, it always brought this man to her mind.
He drew her into his arms. She noticed that he held her far closer than he had Margo or Maggie. Her choices were limited: she could stare up into those icy depths or lean her head on his chest. That seemed the safer option as the music and lyrics wrapped them in a cocoon of nostalgia.
“The honesty was always too much when we touched,” she had not meant to vocalize her feelings.
“Yes, it was, and I always made the mistake of hiding,” he answered as he drew her even closer.
This was not the Captain dancing with another passenger. She knew that anyone looking at them could see that. She felt that to the bottom of her soul.
Her mind and her body were at distinct war. Her once wanton body that had been almost as dead as Geoffrey was suddenly resurrected. This man had always known just how to play it. Perhaps he was even more technically proficient at that than Geoffrey had been, but that was comparing apples and oranges. This man had never made love to her the way that her husband did. She was not sure Jan even knew what that was. Sex was sex with him.
Her heart knew that. Knew that after years of making real love, just sex would never be enough. Could never replace what she had come to know. Second best, as good as it was, just would never be enough.
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