There’s a welcome sense of levity in the sunshine that pours through the kitchen windows Friday morning. Gail’s spotless countertops and stainless steel appliances glint and gleam under the soft golden rays, and the light that washes over me from across the kitchen island is warm and filled with the scent of summer. Calliope is playing on the kitchen floor, so I pack the last few things we’ll need on the yacht this weekend to the arrhythmic, tinkering cacophony of plastic toys dropping and rolling across the floor around my feet. I nearly step on her fragile little fingers when I move to reach for a bottle of sunscreen at the same time that she tries to recover a runaway ball.
“Callie!” I yelp, nearly falling as I contort my body in a strange and unnatural way to avoid her. “Careful, baby.”
She looks up at me with her perfect rosy pout and curious gray eyes, and when she picks up the ball and holds it up to me, I smile and sweep her up onto the counter in front of me.
“Maybe we should get you all lotioned up before we get into the sun, huh? What do you think?”
She blinks, then looks down and starts tugging at her dress. “Nakie, Mama.”
“We’re just about to leave, Munchkin. You can’t be a nakie baby when we leave the house.” I pick up her hands and kiss each of them to get her to stop fidgeting with her outfit. It might be just a tad costume-y with navy stripes over white fabric, brass buttons, and a cap to match, but the sailor inspired dress makes her look just like a little china doll and I can’t help myself. I’ve got… what? Three? Maybe four more years to dress her however I like before she starts making her own demands, and I intend to take advantage of my time while I still have it. Besides, Christian is going to lose it when he finally comes down stairs and sees her.
She struggles when I start rubbing sunscreen on the exposed parts of her arms and legs, but is easily diverted by a rousing verse of The Wheels on the Bus. I swipe a dab of lotion over her nose and she babbles happily along with me, until Christian’s voice begins to float into the kitchen from the entryway.
“Whose vote haven’t we secured? And when’s the last time we reached out to her office? Well, that’s the problem don’t you think?” He comes around the corner with his phone held firmly to his ear, and I can’t help but think how his casual shorts and linen shirt contrast starkly with the stress etched into the lines around his eyes and his mouth. Calliope shrieks happily the moment she sees him, but he holds up his hand to silence her and shakes his head. When she starts leaning far over the edge of the counter with her hands outstretched for him, I lift her back down to the floor and distract her with a baby doll while Christian finishes his call. “Andrea, are you on? Good, get me a phone call with Greenman this morning, as soon as possible.”
I slip the sunscreen I’d just slathered all over my daughter into the bag with our beach towels and wait for Christian to hang up. When he does, he sighs heavily and leans over the counter as though he’s doubling over after running a marathon.
“Rough morning?” I ask.
“The city council is voting on my dad’s budget proposal on Monday and if we don’t get these tax cuts passed, I might as well…” He stops, takes another deep breath, and looks up at me with careful conviction. “Ana, I don’t think this weekend is a good idea.”
“You love being out on the yacht…”
“I do, but I’ve got to make sure this vote goes my way, and we’re leaving Monday for New York and I haven’t even prepared what I’m going to say during our finalist presentation for this fiber optics contract…”
“So, you’ll prepare on the flight there. It’s not like this is the first time you’ve ever had to sell GEH to a big client. You know what to do.”
“It’s your birthday weekend, Christian. Going out on the yacht for your birthday is tradition. And it’s Father’s Day. We can’t skip out on both of our dads.”
“Believe me, I think my dad would be much happier spending the weekend with Elliot.”
“That’s good, cause he’s going to be there too.” He gives me a look that tells me he’s less than amused with my snarky responses, so I move around the counter and push myself into his arms. His body is tense, rigid almost, and I try to ease some of that away by taking his face between my hands and gently pressing my lips to his. It takes a second, but soon enough his mouth melds to mine with warm affection and the tightness in his body melts away.
“I want some time away with you,” I confess, whispering the words against his lips. “It’s been a heavy week and the only thing that’s gotten me through it is the idea of you stretched out on a sun lounger, bronzed from the sun and all oiled up for my enjoyment.”
“Oh yes, and I think you’ll enjoy what I have planned for you very, very much.”
He laughs, and the lines around his eyes smooth away. He looks at me for a long, drawn out beat, then sweeps my bangs to the side so he can kiss my forehead.
“You really are irresistible, you know that?”
“Then stop trying.”
“Noted.” He gives me the undeniably sexy, side smirk he gets when I know he’s thinking about something dirty and leans down to kiss me again. This time, he’s much more ardent in the way he tangles his tongue around mine or sucks softly on my bottom lip. But when his hands start to roam freely down my body, I quickly slap them away and give him a stern look..
“We’re going to be late.”
He shakes his head. “It’s my yacht, it leaves when I tell it to.”
“People are waiting on us.”
“So?” He leans down and drags his bottom lip over the curve of my neck, making me shiver and squirm away from him.
“Fine.” He steps back, looking disappointed but still in a better mood than before. I brush the tip of my nose against his, smiling broadly, and then hop off the counter.
“You get the baby into her car seat, I’ll get the bags.”
“Think you packed enough?” His eyes sweep over the bags piled on the counter and the suitcases on the floor next to me before turning back to me with a teasing grin plastered across his face. I narrow my eyes.
“It’s not just for this weekend. We’re going straight from the yacht to the plane on Monday and… and…”
“And if you hadn’t let Gail leave early this weekend, she would have packed everything exactly the way you like it. But you did and she’s gone, so you’re stuck with me and my over packing.”
“And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
He kisses me one last time and turns to collect our baby, while I sling the long straps of the boat bag over my shoulder and give myself another minute to worry over what I may have forgotten. The truth is if Gail had been here, I wouldn’t have given a second thought to what we were bringing along because her perfect organization has never failed us before. But she left last night for Portland, just like Taylor left to take his daughter on a camping trip around Mount Rainier and Kensie took the weekend to cram for her final for the first session of summer classes at UW. We’re on our own this weekend and now that we’re headed out the door, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve missed something.
“Calliope Katherine, what in the world are you doing?” Christian says, catching my attention. I turn to look at the two of them and watch as he picks up our baby, who has somehow managed to strip herself down to her diaper. She beams at him and throws her hands into the air.
Christian laughs and hugs her close to him, then kisses her and leans down to scoop the adorable dress that she hates off the ground. “Why don’t you get the baby and I’ll load the car?” he suggests. I sigh and hold my hands out for her.
Calliope is not happy to be wrestled back into her dress or strapped down to her carseat, and she lets Christian and I know it as we pull out of the garage and make our way through the neighborhood towards the I-5. Her screams are piercing, the kind that stab you through the heart each and every time she takes a breath and shrieks again. By the time we hit the wall of traffic right outside the city, I’ve exhausted every trick in my bag to soothe her and Christian’s knuckles are white on the steering wheel. Though, I don’t know if that’s because of Calliope’s tears or the news broadcast coming through our radio.
The Mayor will meet with city council members Monday morning to vote on next year’s budget proposal. It’s the first major legislative task Mayor Grey will face since his inauguration this January, but surprisingly, it isn’t his political opponents that are the biggest threat to his budget being approved, it’s his own son. Seattle billionaire and Grey Enterprises Holdings CEO Christian Grey has campaigned at large for extensive corporate tax benefits to fund projects aimed at rehabilitating the Seattle job market. NPR asked the Mayor if he has any concerns that Mr. Grey has swayed enough city council members to derail his vote.
“I’m not worried about it,” Carrick’s voice says through the radio. “Mr. Grey and the members of city council know full well that the city of Seattle is already extraordinarily friendly towards our larger corporations in terms of tax responsibility and that any further reduction in the tax burden for companies like GEH will only serve to ensure record breaking profits for this city’s millionaires and billionaires while our middle class is left to pick up the tab. I campaigned for tax reform, and I’m fighting for it.”
NPR reached out to Grey Enterprises Holdings, but so far have not received a response.
Christian reaches forward, switches the radio over, and the news report is instantly cut off by a song from Tangled. Calliope’s tears come to a halting stop the moment she hears Rapunzel singing, but Christian’s thumb brushes nervously over the Bluetooth button on the steering wheel.
“What happens if this vote doesn’t go your way?” I ask.
“And if it doesn’t?”
The muscle in his jaw twitches with irritation but his response is held up by an incoming call. Andrea’s name flashes across the display panel on the dash.
“Finally. I hope you have good news for me, Andrea,” he answers.
“Yes, sir. Councilwoman Greenman is in a meeting right now, but she’s available at 10:30. I’ve already scheduled a meeting with her office and put the call-in information on your calendar. Should I call your family and reschedule your disembarking time?”
“No, I’ll take the call via Satellite. I want you on as well, and Ros, if she’s available.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll forward the meeting invite now.”
“Good.” He flicks the turn signal, and merges for the exit towards the marina. “We’re just pulling in now. I’ll talk to you once we set sail.”
“Yes, sir. Enjoy your weekend!”
“Not if this doesn’t go the way I need it to,” he replies, but he’s already hung up the phone, and Andrea is gone.
When we pull into our parking place at the waterfront, the only other car we recognize belongs to my father. He and Kim and hovering near the hood of his beat up pickup, pointing off into the sound at some of the sailboats bobbing like toys among the waves.
“Hey, Dad!” I call excitedly, stepping out of the car and hurrying over to him with open arms. “Happy Father’s Day!”
“Thanks, kiddo.” He grunts slightly as he pulls me into a lung crushing hung and swings me from side to side. Just before my toes touch the ground again, he plants a hard kiss against my temple and then rubs his chin over my cheek so that the prickly hairs of his well trimmed beard scrape harshly against my skin.
“Dad!” I push him away, but the power of my indignation is somewhat lessened by the smile I can’t wipe off my face.
“Just planting whiskers, sweetheart.”
I narrow my eyes. “I haven’t believed that was possible since I was seven years old.”
“Then why do you look so worried?” He grins down at me as Christian comes up behind us with Calliope perched on his hip, then turns and holds out his hand. “Hey, son. Happy birthday.”
“Thanks,” Christian replies. They shake hands and Calliope takes the opportunity to jump out of Christian’s hold, though thankfully my father is right there to catch her.
“And hello to you too,” he chuckles, pulling her into him. “That’s a mighty cute dress you’ve got on there, little girl.” She wraps her arms around him, clinging to him as tightly as she can manage, and while my dad bounces her up and down and soaks up every ounce of affection she offers him, Christian and I turn to Kim.
“Happy birthday,” she says, smiling at him and stepping forward for a hug.
“Thanks,” Christian replies. He passes her off to me, though I’m much more begrudging when I step into her embrace.
“I thought you were bringing your kids?” I ask once we’ve pulled away and I’ve safely retreated out of her reach and back under Christian’s arm. She smiles, but I can tell there’s unresolved tension behind the gesture.
“The boys weren’t able to get today off. If we’d have left tomorrow, then sure. But neither of them own the company they work for so they have to work the hours that they’re scheduled.”
“It’s a long trip,” my dad says, obviously trying to play peacekeeper. “We’d either have to miss today or Monday and Annie’s flying back to New York once we get back.” He turns to me, creating a barrier between me and Kim. “How’s that book release coming along, any how? You haven’t said much about it since Calliope’s birthday.”
“That’s because I’m trying to forget about it,” I grumble. He raises an eyebrow, but I shake my head dismissively and turn towards the back end of the parking lot where I see the rest of our family slowly making their way towards us. My gaze immediately shifts to the car seat Kate is awkwardly schlepping across the asphalt and I take a long, excited breath in as I push past my father to get to her faster.
“Gimme, gimme, gimme!” I say, bypassing the hug she offers me for the tiny sleeping baby buckled in her carrier.
“It’s great to see you too, Ana,” Kate says dryly. I glance up unapologetically at her as I untangle Kennedy’s harness and then lift her into my arms.
“Hi, sweetheart!” I coo, breathing in the warm, addicting scent wafting off the top of her head. “Oh my god,” I groan, turning to Kate. “She smells like heaven.”
“I know, right?”
“Don’t let her fool you,” Elliot interjects. “She draws you in with that new baby smell and then leaks some kind of fluid all over you. Snot. Pee. Whatever sticky thing she manages to get all over her hands… The kid’s a deviant.”
“And yet, from what Kate tells me, she’s already got you wrapped around her tiny little finger,” I reply.
He grins, looking at the baby in my arms with a kind of pride that can only exist between a father and his daughter. “Yeah, she’s alright.”
I laugh, then shift Kennedy in my arms so I can hug him too. The moment I’m out of the way, Grace barrels past me and throws her arms around Christian, while Carrick makes a beeline for Calliope.
“Hi, Princess,” he says, lifting her out of my father’s hands and wrapping her in his arms so tightly that he nearly squeezes the wind out of her. “I’ve missed you so much.”
Ever since Christian took this tax issue public with his announcement of the fusion project, his relationship with Carrick has taken yet another severe hit. The two of them have barely spoken at all in the last month and Carrick has only seen Calliope maybe once since. Only now, watching the way he holds her against him, do I see how much it’s really affected him.
He’s missed her. Too much.
“Happy Father’s Day, Carrick,” I say, smiling guiltily at him as I lean in to kiss his cheek.
“Thank you, Ana.” His eyes shift up and lock with Christian’s, and the rest of us seem to freeze under the tension that fills the space between them. They look at each other for several seconds, almost like they’re in some kind of standoff, until I eventually elbow Christian hard in the ribs.
“Happy father’s day, Dad,” he says, only just barely covering the pain in his voice.
“Thanks. And, happy birthday.”
Christian replies with a curt nod, then turns as though he’s going to start up the gangway, but Carrick reaches out and grabs him by the arm to make him stop.
“Look, son… There’s going to be a vote on Monday and one of us is going to lose. If it’s you, it’s you. If it’s me…” He sighs. “What do you say you and I put everything aside for the weekend and enjoy each other’s company, huh? May the best man win?” He holds out his hand, and Christian’s eyes shift down to it.
“Yeah, sure,” he replies without shaking his father’s hand. “But if you’ll excuse me, I have a call to make. Please, come aboard. Make yourselves at home.”
He turns and walks up the gangway without another word, only offering a half-hearted salute to the captain as he steps through the door. I turn to Carrick and offer him a contrite look.
“He’s really stressed right now with work…”
“Yeah,” Carrick agrees. He looks up to the ship where Christian disappeared, sighs, and then curls his lips up into a tight smile as he turns his attention back to me. “Come on, we’re wasting valuable fishing time.”
He reaches for Grace’s hand and pulls her up the loading ramp and into the boat, taking Calliope with them. I help Kate get Kennedy back into her carrier, then let her and Elliot board first before my dad throws an arm over my shoulder and drags me inside with him, telling me all about the progress he’s made on his latest carpentry project back home.
Once I’ve made sure everyone is settled in their cabins, I lug my bag up the stairs to the master and find that Christian has already sequestered himself in the office off our bedroom. The door is closed, so I leave him to his call, but by the time I’ve finished unpacking and completed every other meaningless task I can think of, he still hasn’t emerged. Even though it’s taken me over an hour…
“Hey, Annie.” I turn and see Kate standing in the open doorway, smiling at me. “We opened up all the door and windows in the sitting room. It’s nice. You should come join us.”
I turn towards Christian’s closed door again, lips pursed together, and let out a defeated breath before turning back to Kate and returning her smile. “Great.”
She stretches a hand out to me, which I take and drape over my shoulder so we can Wizard of Oz march our way out to the living room. Each of us stumble a hand full of times navigating our way through the narrow passageway, so by the time we reach the rest of our family, we’re both lost to a fit of giggles.
“As I was saying,” Elliot says loudly, clearly indignant that we’ve interrupted whatever he was saying to our parents. “She’s much better now, but it was a rough few days.”
I drop down into the seat next to my father and take his hand in mine, then turn back to Elliot. “What happened?”
“Kennedy just got over her first stomach bug,” he says. “It was awful, Ana. She stayed up the whole night screaming and puking. She went through every outfit she owned until I finally had to put her in one of my old Metallica t-shirts and hold her in my arms so she didn’t suffocate in all the extra fabric when she finally fell asleep. Kate was a mess. I’ve never seen her so worried in all my life. And Lexi died on Grey’s Anatomy last month, so that should tell you the levels of stress we’re dealing with here.”
“Me?” Kate squeaks. “I was panicking? You took her to the emergency room because she had a hundred degree fever and called our pediatrician every twenty minutes for three days.” She turns to me. “And I mean every twenty minutes. 3 o’clock in the morning, Elliot is on the phone.”
“She was having trouble breathing,” he says defensively.
“She had a stuffy nose!” I laugh, but give Elliot a sympathetic look.
“We all worry when they’re sick. The first time Calliope got a fever, Christian flew the NICU doctor who took care of her in Boston out to Seattle to watch over her like her own personal physician and when she didn’t magically cure our baby overnight, he called a neurosurgeon in Sri Lanka.”
Kate rolls her eyes, but Grace puts a hand over her heart and takes a shaky breath, like she’s holding back tears.
“Grace?” Carrick asks.
“My boys are just really good fathers.” The rest of us break out into laughter that lasts several minutes and leaves Kate doubled over in Elliot’s lap, unable to breathe.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he says. “Laugh it up. Can I ask a really serious question though?”
“What?” I ask, still trying to catch my breath.
“I just don’t understand why we’re out in the middle of the sound and yet, the jet skis are on the boat, instead of in the water.”
I roll my eyes.
“We’re waiting on Christian,” Kate says, finally sitting up on the couch again and nestling under Elliot’s arm.
“My little brother?” he asks. “My little brother is the only thing standing between me and 250 horsepower?” She nods and he gets up and moves aggressively towards the stairs, like he’s going to drag Christian down here to join us at any cost, but Kate snags his t-shirt and yanks him back.
“He’ll come down when he’s finished, just be patient.”
We decide to play some games together while we wait for Christian to put work aside and join us, but Kate and Elliot are so dominant at both Charades and Catchphrase that the rest of us decide it’s better if we just sit and talk. Lunch comes and goes. We spend some time in the pool up on the top deck. There’s even an hour where we sit around and just watch Calliope as she puts on a show in the middle of the sitting room, clearly happy just to have an active audience.
Christian never comes downstairs.
“Should we think about dinner?” Grace asks, the excitement in her voice from this afternoon now all but extinguished.
I gnaw irritably on my bottom lip as the rest of our family shrugs in disinterest, then shake my head and stand up.
“You know what, I’ll go get him.”
“No, if he’s busy…” my dad begins, but I cut him off.
“It’s after 5. The work day is over, it’s the weekend, he can come and spend some time with his daughter for Father’s Day.”
“Thank you, Ana,” Grace says, and she gives me a grateful smile that follows me out of the room. Once I’ve gotten upstairs though, and I hear Christian’s voice through his still closed office door, my conviction fails. I’ve been on the other side of a closed door with him countless time, and I know from experience that, if he’s not ready to be done, the only thing that waits for me on the other side is a fight. There are only so many weapons I have at my disposal, and as powerful as they can be, I’m well aware of the fact that Christian is always a worthy adversary. He has weapons of his own…
Nervously, I knock on the door.
“Yes,” he calls back, and slowly, I ease open the door. He looks up, his expression patient but definitely placating. “What is it, baby?”
“We’re all waiting for you.”
He sighs. “Well, don’t. I’ve got more here than I thought. I’m going to be working for awhile.”
“Ana, I told you this weekend wasn’t a good idea. This is why. I have too much work to get done, I should be in the office today.”
“But you’re not.” I close the door behind me and move to his desk, purposefully placing myself between him and his laptop. “Come sit out on the deck with us. You’re stressed and you need to relax and take your mind off all of this for awhile. Maybe even get to play with some of your toys. I bet you could convince Elliot to pull out the jet skis.”
“It’ll be difficult, but if you ask really nicely…” He laughs, but shakes his head.
“You know I want to, baby, but I can’t. Go. Jet ski. Swim. Sunbathe. I’ll join you when I can.” He reaches up for my hips, like he’s going to move me out of his way, but I refuse to let him. Instead, I hop up onto his desk and reach back to close the lid of his laptop.
“What are you…”
“I just think that before you decide that you’re too busy to spend time with your family, you should know that I bought a new swim suit for this weekend.”
“Mhm. Do you wanna see it?” His eyes move down to the deep v neckline of my sundress, and the cleavage he can see through it, but he doesn’t respond. I smile and slowly start to unravel strings around my waist that hold my dress together. His lips part and his mouth moves as though he’s going to protest, but can’t quite summon the words, so I lock eyes with him and purposefully bite down on my lip. Once I pull my dress open, he groans.
“It’s not much,” I say coyly, though I mean it in the literal sense. The small triangles of fabric that make up my bikini top are only just large enough to hold my breasts, and though they’re lined well, the crochet knit gives the illusion that it’s see through. There’s even less to my bottoms, which are held up only by the ties around my hips. I lift my legs and put them on each arm of his chair, ensuring that he can see just how little fabric there really is.
“Ana, what are you doing to me?” he asks, hungrily, eyes focused between my legs. I let out a soft, breathy laugh, then hook my fingers under the collar of his shirt and pull his lips to mine.
I have him instantly. I can feel it in his lips and the way his hands drag up my naked thighs. He groans into my mouth when his fingers tangle in the strings that hold my bottoms together, and I wonder if it’s because he’s thinking about how easy it would be to unravel them. To yank on one thread and watch it all come undone, leaving me open and exposed in front of him. It’s a thought I want to encourage, so I reach down and take the longest of the strings in my hand. Then I pull away from his lips and push the end the sting into his mouth. He clamps his teeth around it and leans back into the chair, untangling the knot as he moves. Once the strings release from around each other, he lets the end fall out of his mouth and the front of my bikini bottom falls limply onto his desk.
“Oops,” I say with false timidness.
“What are you doing to me?” he laments through gritted teeth. His entire face contorts with want, but he doesn’t immediately lunge for his prize.
“Five minutes,” I encourage him. “You could take a five minute break.”
“No, I really can’t.”
“Three then?” He slowly shakes his head back and forth, but since his eyes are still greedily taking in every inch of my exposed skin, I take a chance that he’s not serious. Again, I pull him into me and kiss him hard.
“Oh, fuck it,” he growls. “Three minutes. I can do three minutes.”
“Good.” With my feet pressed to the seat of the chair between his legs, I roll him back enough for me to get on my knees on the ground in front of him. He helps me undo his buckle and the buttons and zipper on his pants, too eager to let me do it on my own, and once I’ve freed his erection, his hands fists my hair and he pulls my mouth down onto him.
I don’t waste time with cursory licks or kisses on the tip of his erection. I suck him hard and deep, swallowing over and over again so that he can feel the tightness of my throat. His head drops back with a gasp, his eyes close, and his hips thrust forward, pushing him deeper. I nearly gag around him, but I manage to stave it off by pulling in a deep breath through my nose. He pulls back and thrusts forward again, and I milk him with my cheeks. My tongue moves wildly around his shaft, massaging every inch that my lips aren’t touching with every single pass. It’s some of my very best work, but right before he’s about to blow, I pull back.
“Three minutes,” I tell him. “What a shame.”
“What? No, fuck that. Keep going.”
“Sorry.” I reach down and quickly knot the strings of my bikini bottoms around my hips again. “But you said you don’t have time to take a break, remember? Only three minutes. I can’t ask you to stop when you clearly have so much on your plate.”
“It’s fine,” he dismisses me. “I really don’t care about work right now.”
“Good.” I stand up and smile down at him. “Then why don’t you come join us out on the deck? I’m going to make dinner soon.”
I lean down, gripping the the arms of his chair and holding my face half an inch from his. “Come spend time with your family, Christian. With me. And if you do that, then tonight, I’ll give you however many minutes you want.”
“This is coercion you know…”
“Yeah, sometimes your own medicine can taste a little bitter.” I turn and saunter back towards the door, making sure to sway my hips back and forth as I go to draw his attention, and just as I move past his desk, I let my dress fall from my shoulders to the ground so that he can get the full view of miserable job my bikini bottoms do of covering my ass.
“Now that won’t do,” I say, bending over to scoop up my dress and slipping into it once again. I’m very purposeful in the way I tie it closed, exaggerating each and every movement because I know it makes him think of how to undo it. But once the knot is in place, I smile and let my hands fall. “Gotta keep covered up. After all, my dad’s down there. What would he think?”
Christian’s hands curl into fists, probably because it’s the only thing he can do to keep himself from reaching across his desk for me, or possibly launching himself across the room and throwing me up against his office door, but I simply wink, turn away, and walk through the door.
I move slowly across our bedroom, and even more so through the passageway to the stairs. Any second, I expect strong hands to grab ahold of me and drag me back to the bedroom, but they never come. By the time I make it back to the deck where the rest of the family is waiting, my ego is a little bruised. I was sure that I would be enough to lure him away for awhile…
“No luck?” Grace asks, cuddling Kennedy on the sofa.
“No, he’s really busy,” I sigh in defeat. She nods, but I see a shadow of hurt cross her eyes before she looks down at the sleeping baby in her arms.
“Ana, come quick!” Kate shrieks, poking her head through the open door on the other side of the room. My brow knits together with worry as I rush over to her. She takes my hand, drags me out into the open sea air, and points excitedly out into the water.
“What?” I ask.
Off in the distance, I can see something black rolling over the waves. It’s hardly noticeable against the deep blue water, and I have to squint to be sure it’s even there. But as I focus on the moving thing, it pulls out of the water and I realize that it’s a huge tail.
“Oh my god!” I gasp, eyes widening. Kate squeals.
“There’s a whole pod of them, come look!”
Taking my hand again, she pulls me across the deck to the railing and we stare down at the water for any other sign of movement. But there’s nothing. No bursts of water from a blowhole or inky black bodies moving through the sapphire waves. Just a long, calm stretch of water that only breaks at the tree covered shoreline miles in the distance.
“They’ve got to be…”
“There!” my dad exclaims, pointing off into the distance. I turn and watch as an enormous whale breaches the water’s surface and falls back into a shower of glittering white spray.
“Oh my god,” I breathe in awe. My fingers curl around the edge of the railing as another whale leaps through the air, then another…
“Ho-see!” Calliope shrieks excitedly.
“No, baby,” a voice answers behind me, and my smile falters under the weight of my surprise. I turn around and see Christian standing a few feet behind us. He takes a few steps forwards and lifts Calliope out of Kim’s arms and brings her over to me so that he can hold both of us as we continue to watch the show just a few meters in the distance.
“That’s a Humpback Whale,” he tells her.
“No, ho-see,” she says stubbornly.
“Yeah, Christian,” Elliot says. “Don’t you know a sea-horsie when you see one?”
“That’s an actual animal, dumb ass,” Christian replies.
“Oh. Right.” We all laugh, except for Christian who leans down to kiss Calliope’s cheek before pulling me closer into him and staring out at the water contentedly.
“I didn’t think you were really going to come,” I admit, quietly enough that only he can hear me.
“Yeah, well… you were right. Work will be there Monday. This is happening right now.”
I smile and turn to pull him into a passionate kiss meant to express how happy I am to have him here and to reiterate the promise I made to him in his office, but before our lips touch, Elliot puts a hand between us.
“Alright, alright. We get it. You love each other and it’s adorable but those jet skis aren’t going to ride themselves. We’re burning daylight.”
“God forgive us our mortal sins,” Christian replies, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“God? No, no, Christian. You can call me Elliot.” He claps his brother on the shoulder before marching proudly across the deck, but Christian simply rolls his eyes and turns his focus back to me.
“Jet skis.” I confirm, and after we’ve each covered our daughter in a shower of kisses, we pass her off to Carrick and make our way down to the lower decks.