Below Deck

Page 5

And then he met Allyson at a charity event a year ago. As much as I can’t stand the woman and her equally money-hungry daughter, I would never blame all of his current money problems on her if the accusations were unfounded. But I refuse to believe it’s a coincidence that my father’s wealth started to quickly disappear exactly a year ago, which has led to unpaid personal bills, unpaid business bills, and unpaid taxes, which has led to the IRS practically living at his office building, going over every piece of paper with a fine tooth comb.

Even though I don’t make an obscene amount of money working for my father, and what I do make wouldn’t even cover one percent of one tax bill, I still met with the head of payroll a month ago when my father was out of town on business. I told them I needed to stop drawing a salary for the time being. Even if my father wants to turn a blind eye to all of his problems, I can’t. I won’t let him lose the company he built from the ground up, out of the basement of the two-bedroom cottage he purchased with my mom after they first got married, where they would lie in bed at night dreaming about all the things they would buy when they weren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck, struggling to make ends meet.

Two crew members from the yacht walk across the gangway that connects it to the dock. My father introduces everyone to them, and one of them leads the way on board while the other one gets busy grabbing our luggage from the multiple carts my father had to pay a few locals to push down the dock since my evil stepsister and stepmonster couldn’t possibly condense their things into one suitcase, or leave any of the purchases they made back at the hotel since, “Have you seen the type of people who work here? You know they’d rob us blind the first chance they got.”

“Dibs on the one with the blond hair named Ben. You can have Eddie with the dark hair since I know you’re a sucker for men with dark hair,” Brooke whispers, winking at Eddie when we walk past him, causing him to blush a deep shade of red and drop one of the suitcases.

“That is a Louis Vuitton, limited edition, vintage trunk!” Arianna shouts, stopping halfway across the gangway to glare at Eddie. “If you scuff it, it’s coming out of your salary! Daddy, tell him to be careful with my luggage!”

I cringe when I hear her call my father daddy and swallow back the vomit rising up in my throat. She only calls him that when she wants something, knowing it makes my father melt like butter and agree to anything she asks.

Brooke and I wait at the end of the gangway for my father to rush back, pull a hundred-dollar bill out of his pocket and hand it to Eddie with a sheepish smile while he kindly requests for Eddie to be a little more careful.

Once Arianna is mollified and we can finally continue on our way, Brooke and I pull up the rear, all of us following behind Ben single-file across the gangway until we get to the wide, outside balcony that runs along the entire length of the ship and we spread out.

Ben and my father make small talk about the weather as they lead the way to the back of the ship, Allyson and Arianna mutter complaints about how we should have chartered a bigger yacht, and Brooke whispers in my ear about Ben’s fine ass and muscular arms busting out of his navy blue polo, using her hands to guesstimate the size of his penis. I can’t contain my laughter when she holds her hands at least three feet apart and wags her eyebrows up and down.

The two of us are still giggling like little girls and whispering under our breaths about the state of Ben’s supposed giant penis when we finally make it to the back of the ship and see the captain and the rest of the crew lined up next to him, all wearing the matching uniform of a navy blue polo on top, the guys wearing khaki shorts and the women wearing khaki skirts. As the captain introduces himself and goes down the line introducing his crew, my trailing giggles come to an abrupt halt and my jaw drops in the most unladylike fashion when he gets to the tall drink of water at the very end.

“And this our Bosun, Declan McGillis. He’s in charge of…”

I don’t hear another word Captain Michael says as he lists Declan’s job duties on the ship. I’m too busy staring at the man, who has to be over six feet tall, with a lean build and just enough muscle definition in his arms to prove he does a lot of heavy lifting. Declan stares straight ahead as the captain continues talking and my eyes trail across the cut of his pectoral muscles that I can see perfectly with the way his polo stretches tightly across his chest. His dark brown hair is shaved close to his head on the sides and stands up in messy spikes on top. A muscle ticks at the corner of his neatly shaven jaw as the captain lists all of the things Declan is responsible for and his green eyes remain unblinking and unmoving during all of it.

I realize I’m still standing here with my mouth open when Brooke’s elbow jabs me roughly in my side. I blink out of my lust-filled daze that was made even more potent when I noticed tattoos trailing down one of his arms. Yes, I’m one of those typical women who think guys are a hundred times hotter when they have tattoos. I’m a sucker for the bad boys and I’m not even ashamed to admit it.

Brooke’s elbow connects with my ribs again and I finally manage to tear my eyes away from the hot guy long enough to realize everyone is staring at me. Including him. Especially him.

While Allyson and Ariana look at me in annoyance with their hands on their hips, my father stares at me with an embarrassed, nervous smile. Brooke is outright laughing at me, and the crew just looks at me expectantly with matching smiles glued to their faces. He’s looking at me with one corner of his mouth tipped up in a smirk and a cocky look in his eyes.

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