Moving Target

Part 26


Despite the lingering stench, and the clutter of tools andmaterials everywhere, Dar found the ship much more appealing with most of theworkers off of it.  Now thattwilight was in the offing the oppressive heat had dissipated and as she strodethrough the central atrium she could see signs that all the work were havingsome kind of effect at least.

The floors had been mostly redone, and bright rounds ofcarpet were inlaid between circles of newly polished marble. The railings hadbeen resurfaced with a new coating of brass and the curved reception deskssported handsome teak inlays.

Dar started up the center steps, feeling just a touch betterabout the project. Their systems were in, the staff was working well, all sheneeded was to keep the momentum going. She looked around as she climbed upward, seeing only one or two of theworkmen heading quietly in the other direction.

By the time she reached the deck where the ship’s bridgewas, she was quite alone.  All thehammering and noise of construction had stopped and as she walked along theplastic covered carpet Dar could see a slow, grudging veneer of modernitycreeping over the aged surfaces.

It was like an eighty year old woman getting a radical facelift.

That threw Dar’s mind onto a different track, and shepondered over it as she walked down the long corridor that would eventuallytake her to the front of the ship, and the bridge.  Eleanor had revealed to them all at their last meeting thatshe was taking a few weeks off to go get herself ‘done.’

Everyone had accepted this, and congratulated her, exceptfor Dar, who had been a bit puzzled as to why the woman would want to spend tenor fifteen thousand dollars to have invasive surgery just to look like someonehad stretched saran wrap over her face.

She just didn’t get it.  So then, Eleanor had, with some justified exasperatedsnarkiness reminded her that as the youngest person in the room, she’d justplease shut up until it was her turn to be ancient.

So that brought her to thinking about what she’d do when shedid become ancient. Would she take Eleanor’s route and get ‘done’? Outside herimmediate laughter at the thought, she’d found  a touch of insecurity in wondering if Kerry would want herto.. would want them to try to hang on to youth with tenacious claws right upuntil they qualified for Medicare.

Logically, she didn’t think so. Dar continued down thecorridor, glancing ahead to where the walls started to narrow as she approachedthe front of the ship. But you never knew, really, how people would change overthe years.  Maybe Kerry’s thoughtswould change. Maybe hers would.

Dar’s nose wrinkled in displeasure.

She didn’t really think hers would. Just the thought of herparents reaction to her getting a facelift was enough to make her run in theother direction, hollering like a banshee.  But, she decided, as she got to the end of the hall andfaced the door to the bridge. If Kerry decided she wanted to do something likethat, and it was important to her..

Well, then, she’d at least think about it.

Dar tested the door latch, finding it locked. She knocked onit lightly, rapping her knuckles against the metal surface.

Hopefully, neither of them would turn into vain harridans asthey got older though.  Dar sighed,and knocked again.  Hopefully they’djust enjoy a long life together and take life’s changes as they came.

The door opened, and she was faced with a man in a starchedwhite uniform and a very unfortunate toupee.  “Yes?” He asked, in a gruff tone.

“I’d like to speak with the captain, please.” Dar decided tomind her manners., at least for now.

The man glared briefly at her, then, surprisingly, he backedup and opened the door all the way. “Come in.”

Dar availed herself of the permission, and stepped inside.The bridge was relatively small, but probably twenty degrees cooler than thehallway and there were several men inside enjoying that fact. They turned andlooked at her as she entered, watching her curiously.

Dar returned the attention, picking out the oldest guy withthe most stuff on his sleeves and walking over to him. “Captain?”

He was, perhaps, sixty years old, with silver gray hair andshrewd eyes. “Yes?” He responded politely. “What can I do for you madame?”

Madame?  “I’dlike to discuss your plans for this evening.’ Dar said.

Several of the other men chuckled, as the captain raised hiseyebrows at her.  “I am sorry,madame, do I know you?” He inquired. “I do not believe we have met.”

“We haven’t.” Dar turned and pointed at the air conditioningunit. “But I own that.”

The smiles disappeared from the officers faces, to bereplaced by apprehension.

“So, can we talk?” Dar turned again to the captain, easingher words with a smile. “I solved a problem for you, maybe you can do the samefor me.”

The captain looked doubtful, but he stood and gesturedtowards a small office at the rear of the bridge. “By all means.” He waited forher to precede him. “But it will have to be done quickly, as we are preparingto remove the gangways and you must be off the ship.”

The door to the bridge opened as they got to the office, andthe staff captain entered. He took one look  at Dar and his eyes started to emit sparks, but she steppedpast him and the captain closed the door to the office before he could speak.

Probably a good thing. Dar found herself inside a closetjust about smaller than the head in the Dixie. The captain seated himselfbehind his desk, and she took the rickety chair in front of it, turning itaround and sitting on it with her arms resting on the back.

They looked at each other in silence for a moment.  The captain steepled his fingers.“Madame, I don’t know what it is you think I can do for you, but please, bequick in asking.” He said. “We have little time.”

Dar glanced around. “We’re the ones with little time,Captain. You’ve got plenty of it, since you’re not going anywhere.”

A faint smile crossed his face. “But you are wrong.  We are going somewhere. We are leaving,casting the lines, and removing ourselves from this port.”

Dar blinked. “Now?”

“Exactly now.” The man nodded. “So as you can see, we reallycannot help you. I would.. “ He cleared his throat. “Like to thank you with allmy heart for the loan of your piece of machinery. It has made it so comfortablefor us today.”

“I thought you weren’t leaving until Friday.” Dar tapped herthumbs on the chair. “So this is over? The renovations?”

The captain lifted his hand. “Not exactly. We are leaving,yes.” He admitted. “But we will be coming back, it is just that the governmentpeople, the.. “ He cleared his throat again. “They insist we move away so theycan examine the water. The damage, or so they say.”


“Is that all?” The captain asked. “I do really have manythings to do.”

Damn, damn, damn. Dar thought fast. “What would it take toget you to let us go with you.” She asked. “My crew.”

The man blinked at her. “It is impossible.”


“You are not authorized to sail on the vessel.” The captainspluttered. “I cannot be responsible for how many of you to be on the ship…it’s insanity.”

Dar leaned forward a trifle, her eyes narrowing a bit andthe more feral part of her personality flexing it’s paws and extending sharpclaws just the tiniest amount. “What would it take, Captain.” She held his gazewith hers. “Name your price.”

For a moment, he merely looked at her. “You insult me,madame.” He responded stiffly, then hesitated just enough. “I do not even knowwho you are.”

Dar removed her wallet, opened it, and retrieved one of herbusiness cards. She tossed it on his desk. “That’s who I am.” She fished in thewallet and removed something else. “And I’m  not a stranger to the water.” She tossed over a small squareof well laminated cardboard, her captains license with it’s surprisingly hoaryissuing date.

The man picked both up and examined them.

“Look.” Dar said. “That blowout yesterday put us behind. Ijust need the time to catch up. My people need to get things onto this ship,put them in places, and make sure the work. It’s better for us to do it withoutthe rest of the circus onboard, and I’m willing to pay for the privilege.”

The captain tapped both cards on his desk. “All right.” Hesaid. “I will  accept your offer,but this is what I want.” He slapped his hand on the desktop. “You cannot buyme, woman.  I am not for sale.”

Dar waited.

“But my people on this ship, they have been screwed by thesepeople. We have had nothing but canned garbage since we have gotten here.” Hestood. “You bring on to this ship a meal, some good drinks, some comforts formy crew, you can stay.”

It was absurd. Dar almost felt like crying.  It was like finding a clean spot in themiddle of a garbage heap. “No problem.” She managed to say. “Give me an hour.”

“An hour?”

“An hour.” Dar stood also and  extended her hand. “Deal?”

The captain reached over and took her hand, squeezing itpowerfully. “We have a deal.” He said. “You have how many people?”

“Thirty… one.” Dar mentally counted. “You?”

“Two hundred.”

“Done deal.” Dar released his hand. “See you in an hour.”She turned and opened the door, drawing it back and gracefully gesturing him togo first. Then she followed him outside and headed for the door, not forgettingto give the staff captain a smile as she passed.


“We’re going to what?” Kerry stared at Dar’s back, as shetrotted past on the stairwell. “Dar!” She turned and bolted after her partner,catching up to her and grabbing the back of her jeans. “Whoa!”

Dar halted and turned around. “Yeees?” Her eyes twinkled mischievously.“C’mon, Ker. You wanted to ride on the thing, didn’cha?”

“Are you serious?” Kerry asked. “The ship’s really leaving?”

Dar nodded. “EPA’s asking them to move so they can reviewthe water.” She explained. “So they’re taking off, that’s why they kickedeveryone out.”  Tugging Kerry’sbelt loop, she started to move down the steps again. “I got the captain toagree to let us stay on, but we’ve got a ton of prep to do and only an hourleft to do it in.”

“So, we’re going.”

Dar gave her a sideways glance. “We’re going.”

“On the ship.”

Dar stopped. “Ker, you need a cup of expresso or something?”She asked curiously. “You’re not usually this slow.”

Kerry gave her a poke. “YOU are the woman who chased me downon this thing the first day and wanted to carry me off over your shoulderbecause you were afraid it would sink. Now you want to sail on it???”

Had she done that? Dar frowned, then her brows lifted. Shehad. “Well, they’ve had time to stuff silly putty in the holes.” Shetemporized. “Anyway, they’re not going that far.”

They both started down the steps together. “All the staff?”Kerry asked.

“Yeah.” Dar nodded again. “But the price was, I’ve got toget the catering guys in here and feed the crew.” She pulled out her cell. “Hopethey’re up for it.”

“The crew?”

“The caterers.” Dar punched a number in. “Get our guys readyto start moving everything in sight onto the ship. Just dump it in the hold andwe’ll hump it upstairs later.”

“Hm.” Kerry skipped a few steps to keep up with Dar’spowerful strides. “Think your dad wants to come along? I think he can carry afew pc’s in each hand.”

“He might have left already.”

They got to the bottom of the steps and entered the shippinghold, stopping as the spotted Andrew seated on a crate, kicking his heelsagainst it. “Guess not.” Dar said. “Hi, dad.”

“Howdy, Dardar.” Andrew greeted her amiably. “Whatcha up to?”

“Hey dad.” Kerry went right up to him and put her hands onhis knees. “Guess what?”

“Wall.” Andy considered. “I guess that this here boat’sfixing to leave.” He said. “Heard them kicking over those mules back there.” Hethrust his thumb over his shoulder. “Thought they were staying till Friday.”

“They’re making them leave to check the oil  leak.” Dar explained.

“Ah.” Her father nodded. “Figgured.”

“Was that mom’s idea too?”

Andrew scratches his jaw, and gave his daughter a mildlysheepish look. “Ah do not believe she had anything to do with that this time.”He said. “So you all going home?”

“Nope.” Kerry smiled. “We’re going on the ship.”

Andrew stared at her, then looked past her to where Dar waslounging against the wall. “Ya’ll are joshin me.”

Dar shook her head. “No.  We’re behind the rest of them. This was the only way wecould catch up.  All of us aregoing.” She watched her father’s face. “Wanna come with us?”

“Hell yes.” Andrew snorted. “If you think I’m letting youkids out on this here crate by yourselfs you have lost your minds.”

Kerry leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “You’re sosweet.” She grinned, then headed for the gangway. “I’ll get the guys going,Dar.  I’m glad they all brought achange today.”

Dar’s cell phone rang, and she answered it. “Steven?” She listened.“Yeah,  it’s Dar Roberts. Listen, I’vegot a very big job for you, I’ll pay premium for it, but it’s got to happenin  less than an hour.” Shelistened again. “I am  nuts, but Iwant it anyway.”

Andrew pulled out his own phone and studied it, thenselected a sequence of numbers with studied precision.

“Okay, here’s what it is.” Dar said. “I need a class Adinner, the works, with alcohol, for two hundred and fifty people, delivered tothe pier.”

“Cec?” Andy spoke into the phone. “You ain’t gonna believethis here.”

“Steven, don’t give me bullshit. Either you can do it, or I’llfind someone who can.” Dar was perfectly well aware of the fact that she couldn’tfind a caterer in under an hour and she knew their regular guy knew that aswell. “Hell, I’ll get Hooters to cater it if you can’t. They’re close, and Ibet their serving staff’s cuter than yours.”

“Yeap, ah surely am.” Andrew half listened to Dar. “Ain’t noway… huh?”

“Okay.” Dar felt relieved. “Don’t skimp, Steve.  Some of these guys have been living onSpam for three weeks. They deserve it.”


“Tell me about it. I’ve been kicking a timeclock in the assall week.” Dar argued. “Look…”

“Now, you just hold on there a minute, ma’am!” Andrewsounded slightly exasperated. “Ah don’t..”

“Full bar. Not that jug wine crap you brought to the office.”

“Ceci, you cannot just walk in this here place.”

“Mine? I don’t… wait… yeah, make sure you have Corona, and acase of limes. We set?”

“Yes, ma’am, ah will be here.” Andrew sighed, and closed hiscellphone.

“Thanks.” Dar folded her phone, at the same time as herfather did. They looked at each other. “This is gonna be a circus. We’re going to end up with Kentucky FriedChicken and a keg of Budweiser.”

“Your mama’s headed this way.” Andrew said. “So ah do hopethat there chicken comes with them little cartons of cole slaw of she’s gonnastarve to death.”

Dar chuckled wearily, limping over to the crate and taking aseat next to her father. “Wonder when the dancing bear shows up.” Kerry couldmore than handle getting the troops together, she reasoned. No sense in both ofthem stirring up trouble.  

Andrew chuckled softly.  “You figure t’get this all squared away tonight?”

Dar exhaled. “Well, we’ll get further than we would if wedidn’t try it.” She admitted. “There’s still so much construction going on it’shard to say how far we’ll get, but.. hey. Gotta try.”

“Damn straight.” Her father agreed.

“Speak for yourself.” Dar answered dryly.

Andrew looked at her, then he chuckled again. “How’s thatfoot?” He nudged Dar’s calf.

“Eh.” Dar regarded her sneaker encased extremity. “I thinkit’s getting better.  Hurts less.”She glanced out the open gangway door, where she could already see a cluster ofpeople and boxes starting to head their way at a double march.  “You wouldn’t believe the crazy assstories those people came up with as to how it happened, though.”


“Mm.” Dar shook her head. “I tell one person I got bit by a fishrunning after a frisbee at the cabin, and the last I heard I’d gotten it savingKerry from a shark.”

Andrew laughed. “Jungle talking. Always does it.”


Kerry jogged up the gangway and into the hold. “Okay,everyone’s with the program.” She announced. “And would you believe it, Dar?They’re all excited as kids.” She came over to where they were sitting. “I toldthem they had to work all night, and go out on this tub and it was like I’dannounced the quarter bonuses.” She rested her hand on Dar’s thigh. “Just weird.”

“For them it’s an adventure.” Dar smiled.

“For us it’s an adventure too.” Kerry retorted. “Dar, do youknow how much work we have to do tonight?”

Dar nodded. “I know.” She circled Kerry’s waist with her leftarm.

“Ah can help.” Andrew offered. “I got me some books on allthese things you brought in here.”

“On our stuff?” Kerry asked.


“And you read them??” Dar looked at her father. “Jesus, dad…six pages and I’m snoozing with those damn things.”

Andrew waggled his hand, and managed a lopsided grin.

“Well, that’s probably more experience than some people we’vehired.” Kerry headed for the gangway as the first load of gear started up it. “C’monguys.. we don’t want the ship to sail without us, right?”

“Right.” The chorus of voices answered her.

Dar sat back and watched as the line of people and boxesstarted to stream onto the ship. Eyes moved in her direction, and she saw thehesitant grins appear before the techs went to drop their boxes off near thefar wall and head back for the next load. “You guys ready for this?” She asked.

“You bet, ma’am.” Carlos replied, with a bright smile. “Thisis gonna be cool.”

Oh yeah.  Darfound herself smiling back, almost unconsciously. Cool.  It was going to be a mess. It was goingto be annoying, and aggravating, and frustrating….

“Ah do believe that feller might be correct.” Her fathercommented. “Ah do like this sorta mess to get fixed up.”

And very possibly her angle to success.  “You got it.” Dar got up off the crateand gathered up her energy. “Let’s do this thing.”  She walked to the edge of the gangway and looked out, craningher head around and peering down at the ship Telegenics was outfitting.

She spotted Michelle and Shari on the dock, talking with Quest.  Shari was moving her arms a lot, andeven from where she was, Dar could sense the heated nature of the discussion.

Would they notice the steady stream of equipment heading toher ship?  Dar started down thegangway.  “Be right back.” Shecalled over her shoulder.

“Where are you going?” Kerry yelled after her.

“To make some trouble.” Dar replied, hopping off the end ofthe ramp and heading down the dock. “Keep my crate warm!”

“Uh oh.” Kerry drummed her fingers against the rusted steelplate. Torn, she half turned as one of the techs called out to her, asking aquestion.  She stared at him, thenheld up one finger. “Hold that thought.”

“Ma’am?” The tech queried, watching as his boss disappeared downthe ramp at a high rate of scamper. “Hey.. where’s she going?”

“T’where she belongs.” Andrew got up and went over to him. “Here,put that thing there, and that other box sideways, son. Ain’t no way that’sgonna fit otherwise.”


Andrew cocked an eyebrow at him. “Y’all aint’ gonna make memad, are you?”

“No, sir.” The tech scurried to do as he’d been told.

“Damn straight.” Andrew leaned against the wall, with a satisfiedexpression.


“Dar!” Kerry scrambled off the gangway just asanother group of techs reached it. She pointed up, then went after the darkhaired woman, catching up to her a few strides across the pavement. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Dar replied. “Thought I told you to keep my crate warm.”

“You seriously thought I was going to stay there?” Kerry askedincredulously.

“Not really, no.” Dar admitted.

“Well, okay then.” Kerry settled down at her side and they walkedalong the pier towards their erstwhile enemies.  She’d started putting Quest into that category lately, andbased on the glare he gave them as they walked up, she suspected she was deadon right. “Evening.” She greeted them cordially.

“Ms. Stuart.” Quest responded, in a brief tone.

Dar strolled around them and stopped to their east, forcing them toturn to keep her in view. “Another challenge you tossed us, Mr. Quest?” She asked.‘At this rate, I figure the bomb squad to show up next.”

Surprisingly, Michelle chimed right in. “Just exactly what I wassaying. You can’t expect to keep changing the rules, and have us pay for it.”

“Right.” Shari said.

“They aren’t my rules!” Quest lifted his hands. “I can’t do anythingabout these damn government people! I told you that.”

“So what are we supposed to do?” Shari asked, her hand indicatingDar and Kerry as well as herself and Michelle. “You get in government trouble,and we have to pay for it? Hell no.”

Dar and Kerry exchanged somewhat bemused glances.

Behind them all, the techs had started toting in cartloads ofmonitors, terminals, and boxes of the various accoutrements computers require.

“Ah.. that’s right.” Kerry spoke up. “Mr. Quest, we really can’t beexpected to be penalized because of all these external factors. It’s not fair.”

“Right.” Michelle agreed.

Having nothing else to add to the conversation, Dar decided to just foldher arms across her chest and listen.

“Well, I can’t be held responsible either!” Quest argued. “A deal isa deal. You want the contract? Then fufill your part of the deal.”

 He turned and stalkedoff, heading for the gate in the fence that would take him outside of the pierarea. Outside the wire, three men were waiting, and as Dar looked at them, oneturned away and almost triggered a sense of familiarity in her.

“Well.” Michelle exhaled. “So much for that.” She eyed Dar andKerry. “Not that it would have helped you much anyway. Bad luck, huh?”

Dar shrugged one shoulder. “Happens.”

Shari looked at her. “What drugs are you on today?”

Kerry felt herself bristle, and wondered if it was a visiblereaction. Did her hair fluff out like a cats, maybe? Certainly, Michelle edgedaway from her, so something must have shown.

“Drugs?” Dar asked. “Tetracycline,why?” She unfolded her arms and stuck her hands in her pockets instead.  Curiously, Shari’s taunting didn’t evenbother her in the slightest.

“Because for someone who’s going to lose big, you’re too damnrelaxed.” Shari said bluntly. “Give up already? Going through the motions, Dar?”

From the corner of her eye, Dar watched as Mark led a group of sixother techs out the door to the terminal, steering a huge flatbed covered ingear.  “Yeah, maybe.” She drawled. “Can’tfight fate all the time, can ya?’

Kerry patted her arm comfortingly.

“Well.” Michelle ran a hand through her hair. “Not like we can saymuch at the moment either. I can’t believe they made us stop work. It’s just notfair.”

Shari snorted.  “Atleast we know no one’s getting an advantage.” She looked at Dar pointedly.

Dar produced one of her best, most innocent smiles, as the last ofthe gear trundled past behind their backs and went up the gangway. “Nope.”

“Doesn’t that bug you?” Shari persisted. “Not having an angle?”

Michelle took Shari by the arm and simply turned and startedwalking. “Come on. I’m not listening to this crap again.”  She sounded angry. “I’ve had enoughalready.”

“Hey!” Shari protested, pulling on her hand.

“Either come with me, or stay here and act like a jackass, again.”Michelle turned and spat at her. “Make up your mind.” She released Shari’s armand started marching for the gate again.

Shari looked at her, then turned and looked at Dar and Kerry.

Never one not to take an advantage when she saw it, Dar draped anarm over Kerry’s shoulders and gave her a kiss on the head. She winked atShari, and smiled.

Without a further word, Shari turned and followed Michelle.

“Mm.” Kerry grunted contentedly. “Nice.”

“Yeah.” Dar turned them both around and pointed. “Nice timing. I don’t’think they even noticed us taking half the domestic inventory of Computers R Uson board.”

“Couldn’t care less about that part.” Kerry put her arms around Darand hugged her tightly.

Puzzled, but not unhappy, Dar returned the hug. “You want to grabour bags?” She asked. “Might as well get on there and make sure it’s allgetting to the right places.”

“Sure.” Kerry released her, and patted her side. “I’ll have thesecurity guys clear the front doors for the caterers, too. I bet they’ll comein here  on screaming tires.”

“Bet you’re right.” Dar lifted her hand and waved as Kerry madetracks for the terminal.  Shefondly watched her partner’s determined little swagger, then she retreated backto the ship’s gangway and climbed up it, noting the angle had increased alittle as the tide came in.

The sun had come out too, and it was preparing to grace them with adecently photogenic sunset. Dar gazed benevolently at it, as she ducked insidethe hold and found her father organizing the troops. Around them, the ship’screw went about their tasks, giving the techs skeptical looks, but staying outof their way as they dogged down hatches and prepared the ship for sea.

Dar knew those sounds. She’d gotten to sail one or two times on Andy’sships, illicit adventures where the crew would hide her when they went out fora day cruise, or when the ship was repositioning from one pier to the other.The scent of diesel was the same, and the sounds of metal doors being rolledclosed and locked was the same.

She wondered if her father found it as nostalgic.

“Hey. You there.” Andrew suddenly raised his voice. “Get that boxout from that doorway, son. Doors gonna close there and make that a pancake.”

“Yes, sir.” The tech in question started tugging the box out of theway. “Sorry, I thought this was open space.”

“Ain’t no open space on a ship.” Andy said. “Every little inch’s gotsomeone’s claim on it.”

Dar walked over and joined him, watching the boxes line up againstthe back wall. “Lot of stuff.”

“Ain’t that the truth.” Her father agreed. “Y’know I can rememberwhen the most techno thing we had on one of these here things was a waterfountain.” He reminisced. “And wasn’t that a six day wonder when they put that in.”

“I remember that.” Dar recalled, with some surprise. “I brought youa bag of shirts from mom that day. I remember wondering why everyone wasstaring at that damn fountain like it was a television set.”

Andrew chuckled. “Cause sucking that there stuff from the commodesink just was not a whole lot of fun, Dardar.” He reminded her. “Not everybodyliked getting a drink from the hose, neither, like you did.”

Dar licked her lips in memory, and produced a grin. “I ever tell youabout the first time Kerry took a drink of hose water?”

“Heh.”  Andrew glancedaround at the cramped ship hold. “ You know what, Dar?”


“It’s a hell of a lot better to be the skipper of the damn boat.” Hesaid. “I would not go back to doing this if they paid me all the dollar billsin the Navy.”

“Hm.” Dar remembered those stolid seamen who suffered thecramped  spaces and shared theirhoarded candy bars with the scruffy child she’d been. “I’m damn glad you’llnever have to.”

Andrew looked at her.  Then he chuckled. “Darn good thing you went after themcomputer things, ain’t it? Or we’d all be having crackers and peanut butterstew down there in Stiltsville.” He clapped her on the shoulder.  “Got all the stuff you all need?”

Dar nodded.

“Got a pair of jammies?”

“We don’t’ wear them.” Dar replied absently, then she shot herfather a look as the silence lengthened. “Hey, you asked.”

Andrew pointed at the techs. “Got some pills for them fellers?”

Dar peered at them. “Dad, we’re just going offshore.”

Andrew lifted his grizzled eyebrows.

“I’ll go get some.” Dar sighed, and headed for the gangway. “Nosense in wasting good roast beef.”


Kerry had to admit she felt a little excited. She wasstanding outside the terminal, checking her watch as she bounced from foot tofoot waiting for the caterers. It was close to the time they were supposed todepart, and she didn’t want to either miss the ship or miss the dinner. ‘C’mon..c’mon…”

From where she was standing, she could see the bridge thatconnected the port to the rest of Miami. At this time of night, in this time ofthe year, it was probably the only major roadway in the vicinity bare oftraffic. But that helped Kerry’s mental state because she knew she’d see thebig catering truck before it got anywhere near the terminal.

If she looked behind her, she could now see lights beginningto come on aboard the ship. Dar had their bags inside, and she’d heard rumorsthat they were being assigned cabins. From the few she’d stuck her head into over the past weeks, Kerry waspretty sure she’d rather sleep on the deck. The musty smell, and the grungyinterior hadn’t seemed appealing in the least but she did appreciate the ship’sattempt at hospitality.

Ah. Her eyes caught a white panel truck cresting the riseand heading in her direction. Unfortunately her peripheral vision also caughtMichelle Graver approaching obviously intent on talking to her.  “Pig farts.” She composed herexpression, and half turned, giving the oncoming woman an inquiring look. “Helloagain.”

“Hi.” Michelle mounted the two low steps to the foundationKerry was standing on and approached her. “Listen, can we talk?”

Kerry watched the truck out of the corner of her eye. “Uh..yeah, sure.. we’re about to tie things up here but..” She drew a breath in. “I’vegot a minute.”

Michelle faced her. “Look, you’re screwed.”

The truck parked right across from where they were standing,and the doors flew open, allowing two sweating men to jump out and run for theback. “What do you mean?” Kerry asked, edging over a little so Michelle wasforced to turn her back completely to the truck to talk to her.

“C’mon, Kerry. You’re not stupid. You were behind a day, andnow with this.. there’s no guarantee when they’ll let the ships back into port.”Michelle said.

Kerry watched what appeared to be an entire football teamworth of men pour out of the back of the truck, dragging carts and a whole lotof other things out after them. “And?” She cocked her head slightly. “Forgiveme, Michelle, but shouldn’t you be kicking back a beer at that? Why talk to meabout it.”

Michelle sighed. “Look.” She ran her fingers through herhair. “None of the other bidders are friends of yours.”

“Ah.. you are?” Both of Kerry’s very blond eyebrows lifted.

“No. But they aren’t either. You don’t get anything out ofthem getting the contract.” Michelle said. “On the other hand, if we get it,and you help us get it, maybe you will get something.”

The wind was fortunately blowing from behind them. Itcarried the noise of the catering men setting up away, and almost left them ina sound vacuum.  Probably a goodthing considering Kerry felt like her sense of moral outrage was caterwaulingat the top of it’s imaginary lungs.

“What exactly are you offering here?” Kerry asked warily.

“This doesn’t have to be a losing situation for you.” Herrival said. “You know you can’t win the bid, hell, I bet you can’t even get allyour systems working by Friday. It’s not your fault.”

“Michelle, please cut to the chase.” Kerry spotted a line ofperspiring caterers headed her way, pushing laden carts. “What exactly do youwant from me?”

“Join with us.” Michelle said. “You and Dar, and your team.Help us win the bid, and we’ll cut a deal with you. There’s enough business onthis account for both of us.”

Kerry looked over at the ships, then at Michelle. “From thisguy? C’mon, Michelle. We both know there ‘s something sourer than lemons aboutthis whole thing.”

“Not from him.” Michelle moved a step closer. “From the restof the industry. We both know who’s watching.”

Ah. Kerry backed up a few paces and took hold of the doorhandle, pulling it open  as thefirst of the caterers carts clattered up the cement handicapped incline.  She half turned to look back atMichelle. “You’re serious?”

Encouraged, Michelle moved closer to her, giving the carts abrief look. “Serious as a heart attack. You’ve proved yourselves. You’re atough adversary, everyone knows it, hell they have it on film. And for therecord, I did check that shipment and it did get delivered her by a cluelesstrucker. So thank you.”

“Careful.” Kerry cautioned a rushing caterer. “Back there,that’s right. Out that door.” She indicated the back of the terminal.

“What do you say, Kerry?” Michelle asked.

“Whoops.” Kerry put a hand out and steadied one of thewomen, who gave her a brief nod of thanks. “Let me talk to Dar.” She finallyresponded to Michelle.  “I’ll tellher what you said, and see what she thinks.”

“Can’t make up your own mind?” Michelle almost laughed. “Funny,I didn’t have you pegged as a bottom.”

Kerry’s brow creased momentarily. “Dar’s my boss.” She said.“It’s her decision, Michelle. You do realize a chief information officer doesoutrank a VP, right?”

Michelle just shook her head.

“Anyway, I’ve got things to do, so I’ll have to bid you agood night.” Kerry prepared to follow the cavalcade of catering. “Enjoy yournight off.”

Michelle reached for the door. “What’s with all the food?”She asked, since Kerry seemed to be genially ignoring her jibes.

“Dar’s hungry.” Kerry shrugged and smiled. “Gotta go.” Shepulled the door shut and locked it, then waggled her fingers at Michelle beforeshe turned and headed for the back door.

Well, she would talk to Dar, and she would tell her whatMichelle said. And then, probably, they both would get a good laugh out of itand maybe share a beer.

Okay, maybe not share one. Kerry liked her beer, and if shewasn’t mistaken, the last big cart they’d taken through had a distinctivetinkle of bottles in it. She checked quickly into their office, and found itempty. She locked the door and went to the back, where she could now seedockworkers preparing to let the ship loose from it’s moorings. “Uh oh.. notwithout me you don’t.”

She shoved the back door open and headed for the gangway. Atthe top of it she saw the last of the catering carts vanishing, and behindthem, she spotted Andrew directing traffic. 

Just as she was scooting across the pier, she heard a rattleof the fence behind her. Turning, she spotted Ceci on the other side of thelocked gate. “Hey!”

“Let me in there!” Her mother in law yelled.

Kerry veered, and got to the gate as she spotted two bigsecurity men heading their way. She quickly threw the latch and opened it,letting Ceci in as the men started to yell. “Oh oh.”

“Oh, please. I’ve seen more dangerous things than those kidsswimming by the boat in the morning.” Ceci replied with a touch of testiness. “What is this crazy nonsenseabout all of you going out on that thing?”’

Kerry took her arm and headed towards the ship. “Can weargue about this onboard? I don’t  want to tangle with those guys no matter how not dangerousthey look.”

“Hey! You there! Stop!” The guards broke into a run. “Hold it!”

Kerry broke into a run too, with Ceci right behind her.It  was a fairly long stretch ofpavement, but they had a shorter distance than the guards and a better angle tothe ship.

“Just how I wanted my evening to start.” Ceci yelled.

Kerry sucked in a lungful of humid air and just ran faster.She could hear the pounding steps of the guards closing in on them, and shepulled Ceci up by the arm and pushed her ahead, towards the ship. “Go go!”

They reached the gangway and bolted up it, as Andrew steppedto the edge of the opening and peered out. “What’s all that there noise?”

“Us.” Kerry scrambled past him, hauling Ceci with her. “The damnpunky fake police are after us.”

“Hey!” The guard nearest the ship yelled. “Stop!” He pointedat them. “That’s an illegal intruder! Stop!” He skidded to a halt as Andrewunclipped the gangway and it swayed. “Hey! Put that back! Hold it! I’m warningyou!”

“S’allright, relax!” Andrew uncoiled a rope tied off to the gangwayand hooked it security to a crane hoist dangling nearby. He put his fingersbetween his teeth and let out a sharp whistle, and after that no one could hearanything because the crane started up and began to hoist the gangway off andaway from the ship’s side.

“Hey!’ The guard mimed, waving his arms. “Stop! Stop! I’llcall the police!!”

Andrew waved amiably back at him, then stepped back andcleared the opening. “All right, young fellers. G’wan and close this here.” He indicatedthe hatch.

Ceci backed up against the wall, and Kerry joined her, tostay out of the way. “You know something?”

“What?” Kerry asked, wiping the sweat off her forehead. Her heartwas racing, and she felt a little shaky from the unexpected chase, even thoughshe didn’t really think the guards were any physical danger to them.

“I’ve never seen this from this side.”

The crewmen unsurprisingly obeyed, working the variouswheels and levers as a counterbalanced steel door slowly moved down and slammedinto place with a grinding shudder. 

Kerry felt her ears pop, just a little. Now that the outsidewas closed off, she could smell the scent of diesel and oil much more strongly,and as she watched the crewman mutter something into an aged phone set she feltthe rumble of the engines as they engaged.  “So.. what do you think?”

“Hate it.” Ceci went over to Andrew and put a hand on hisarm. :”Hey sailor boy.”

Kerry’s nose wrinkled, and she wiped her forehead off again.“Yeah, me too.” She sighed. “I’m going to go find Dar.”  She viewed the milling caterers. “Ithink.. wait.” She turned and found one of the crewmen edging past. “Excuse me.”

The man looked at her warily. “Yes?”

“This stuff’s all for the crew. Where can they put it? Isthere a kitchen near the main dining room so.. uh..”  Kerry watched in bemusement as they were surrounded by crewinstantly. “So they can keep it warm for you?”

“For us?” The man asked. “You’re kidding, right?”

The crewmembers started peeking into the trays on the cart,whispering to each other in muted excitement.

“Uh.. no.” Kerry shook her head. “So, is there a place?”

“Sure.” The man said. “C’mon, we’ll take them to theelevator.”  He motioned for thecaterers to follow him. “Taki taki.. let’s go.”

“Elevator?” Kerry queried. “They told us it wasn’t working.”

“Not for anyone but crew.” The man cheerfully explained. “Sorry!”  He started off, leading the carts withmany willing assistants. “Hey, is that alcohol?” He rattled the biggestcabinet. “All right!”

Kerry put her hands on her hips, then she looked over atAndrew.  The big ex-seal shrugged,and half grinned at her. “You know something, that’s not very god damned funny.”She said. “I had people lifting hundred pound switches up those stairs.”

Andrew blinked at her in some mild surprise.  The crewman also turned and looked ather.

“I’ Kerry pointed at her own chest. “Paid for all that. Soyou can take your crew only rules and stuff it up your butt, buddy.” Shepointed at the crewman, whose eyes widened. “You better rethink that attituderight now!”

“Hey! Hey.. relax, okay? It’s not my rule!” The crewmanstammered, backing off. “You can come on the elevator, okay? Take it easy.”

Kerry glared at him, then caught  motion in her side vision and turned her head to see Darrambling down the last few steps in the stairwell. “Hey.”

Dar walked right through the crowd, expecting it to part. Itdid. “What’s going on?” She asked, giving everyone a dirty look. “Did all thefood get here?”

One of the caterers came up to her. “Yes, ma’am.” The mansaid, handing her a list. “It wasn’t easy, Ms, Roberts.”

“Or cheap.” Dar reviewed the bill, then handed it to Kerry. “Why were you yelling?”

“Did you know there was an elevator?” Kerry asked. “Aworking one?” ‘

“No.” Dar looked at the nearest crewman. “Is there?”

The man nodded.

“Then get this stuff up stairs.” Dar directed. “And let ourpeople all know where it is so they can get the rest of your new computer gearin place.”

The man nodded again.

“Scoot.” Kerry nudged him. They watched the crowd start tosort itself out, and the now chastened crewman directed the carts towards adouble set of doors at the end of the cargo hold.  “Jesus.”

Andrew cleared his throat. “Ah do not think they meant to bebad fellers.”

“Oh, bull hockey, Andy. They certainly did. I know youseamen – if you don’t have twenty voyages under you you’re not worth a navybean.” Ceci snorted. “Please!”

Andrew managed a relatively sheepish look.

“You okay?” Dar took the opportunity to attend to moreimportant matters. “Got our space squared away. Want to go see it?” She gaveher parents a look. “They’ve got a room for you guys too.”

“Bigger than a twenty four inch rack?” Ceci asked drolly. “Oh,be still my beating heart. I thought we’d camp out on the fantail.” Sheindicated the stairwell. “Let’s go watch this thing try to get out of thechannel. That could be as entertaining as seeing Jerry Springer in Judge Judy’scourt.”

Kerry squared her shoulders and let the tension flow out ofher as she followed Dar towards the door. There would be time, later, she hopedwhen she could sit down and talk to her partner about what Michelle had said.For now, just the thought of changing her clothes, and relaxing for a little whilewas very appealing.

“You okay?” Dar asked again, lowering her voice.

Kerry exhaled. “Yeah.” She put a hand on Dar’s back. “Ithink I just need a protein bar.”

“How about a roast beef sandwich?”

“That’ll do.”  Kerry felt Dar’s arm settle over her shoulders, bringing avery welcome comfort despite the humid air. “Matter of fact, yeah, let’s go upon the deck. I want to wave.”

“At the port?” Dar asked, puzzled.

Kerry  merelychuckled, and kept on climbing.


The central atrium was a bit of a mess. Dar and Kerrystopped as they got through the stairway door, watching as their entire groupwas scrambling around trying to get the computer equipment in some kind ofdistribution order.

Everyone was sweating. The air inside had started to movearound sluggishly, and by the strong scent of musky, musty mildew Kerry deducedthat the long absent air conditioning had been turned on. It wasn’t helpingmuch yet, however.

Mark spotted them and came over, his polo shirt grimy withsweat and dust. “Wow. Just made it, huh? I saw you run on with the chow.” Hegrinned wearily at Kerry.

“You know me and chow.” Kerry acknowledged with a droll grinof her own. “Everyone okay?”

“Wiped, but okay.” Mark said. “We’re gonna get this stuffsorted out, then everyone’s gonna take a break and die for a half hour orsomething. John dragged his dad’s cooler on with the gear.” He pointed. “It’sgot ice and drinks in it.”

“Good idea.” Dar complimented him. “I ordered food foreither five hundred normal people or two hundred fifty sailors and us.” Shesaid. “They’re taking it to one of the big dining rooms.. let’s get set up, leteveryone relax and maybe go take a shower, then get dinner.”

Mark nodded.

“Everyone should get a room.” Kerry chimed in.

“Except you and me. We’re sharing.” Dar reminded her.

“Shucks.” Kerry gave her a kindly ‘duh’ look, then returnedher attention to Mark. “Let everyone chill out and get food. We can plan tostart up again after that.”

“Right.” Mark plucked his filthy shirt. “So much for thatlight blue collar reputation IT has.” He remarked.

“Wasn’t what they advertised in my school either.” Kerrytook Dar’s hand and they circled the atrium, exiting out the doors onto thedeck outside.  A breeze caughtthem, welcome even with it’s humidity as they walked over to the railing andstood there, side by side, watching the pier very slowly receed.

The sun was setting. This far from the highway, there was nosense of the hectic scramble to get home that would be going on in the city,and over the engines they could hear the call of sea birds coaxing them out,away from the land, out to the sea.

Kerry looked down the pier, to where Michelle and Shari’sship was also moving out, preparing to follow them down the channel. There wasa large cluster of people  on thepier, and she wondered if the guards that chased them was part of it.

Would they get in trouble for letting Ceci on? Kerry figuredthey wouldn’t get in any more trouble than they would for staying aboard withthe rest of their staff anyway. “It’s going to be a nice sunset.”

“Yeah.” Dar leaned on the railing, after cautiously shakingit to test it’s strength. “Ah. There’s our little friends.” She mused. “Shariand Michelle. Left at the dock as usual.”

Kerry peered down at the pavement. “Wave at them, honey.”She lifted a hand and waggled it.

Dar gave her a look, but complied. “Why?”

Kerry watched intently, and smiled as she saw Michelle pointat them, grabbing hold of Shari’s arm and turning her towards the ship.  “Hi there, you two little piles ofhorse manure.” She crooned. “Hasta la vista, cucarachas.”

Dar snickered.  “Don’thold back, Ker. It’ll give you a hemorrhoid.”

Shari pulled free and ran towards the ship, pointing andturning around to yell at the group behind her. This far away, all they couldsee was the motion, and the frustration in the woman’s gestures.

Dar stood up, to make sure she was recognizable. She liftedher arm and waved cheerily at them again, then let her elbow rest on Kerry’sshoulder. “I think they’re a little perturbed, Ker.”

Shari turned, and found Quest in the crowd. She pointed athim, yelled something, then turned and pointed at Dar’s ship. 

Quest made a hand gesture, then he turned his back to Shariand started towards the gates of the pier, where  a group of people had gathered.

“I think they’re pooping stalactites, honey.” Kerryresponded. “Michelle just tried to get us to give up the bid and help them winit instead.”


The film crew pushed out of the crowd and rushed up toMichelle and Shari, Cruickshank in the lead.  Shari turned around and shoved her away, then she picked upa piece of pier iron and threw it at the retreating ship.

“Mmhm.” Kerry leaned on the railing, almost smiling when shefelt Dar’s hand immediately settle on her back, her thumb snagging the backbeltloop of her jeans to keep her steady. “She figures we can’t win, so why nothelp them, and they’d toss us a few bones afterward.”

Dar made a snorting noise.

“I told her I’d talk to you and see what you said.” Kerrycontinued. “She accused me of being a bottom.”

Dar started laughing, ending up sliding down the railing tosit on the deck holding her hands over her stomach as she continued to crackup. “Bwahahahahahahh!”

“Dar, get up.” Kerry tugged at her sleeve, muffling a laughherself. “Oh, hurry.. I think ..look!”

Dar grabbed the railing and pulled herself up, turningaround to peer at the port. She could see Shari now facing off againstMichelle, pointing at her with vicious, sharp motions, the redness of her facevisible even from where she was standing.

“Wonder what that’s about?” Kerry leaned on the rail next toher, shoulders touching.

Dar merely watched, a gently bemused expression on her face.“Think her head’s going to explode?” She asked.

“Oh, I hope so.” Kerry replied. “Did you know they’re notsure when they’re going to let the ships back into the port?”

“Really?” Dar said. “No, I hadn’t heard that.. thought theywere just coming in..oh, wait. They couldn’t.” She changed thoughts. “EPA wouldn’twork at night. They need time in the morning.”


“So, we scooped all of them.” Dar laughed. “Son of a bitch.All I wanted was to catch up.. we could end up ahead of the game.”

“Yep.” Kerry leaned her head against Dar’s shoulder. “Oh..look!” She pointed.

Dar craned her neck, where the crowd of people around Sharisuddenly convulsed, and chaos ensued. “Think her head exploded.” She observed. “Eitherthat, or she started hauling off on those guards. Or Michelle.”

“Mm. Good. That’ll make them forget about us.” Kerry said. “GuessI owe her a thank you.”

“Don’t stretch it.” Dar warned. “She’s probably telling themwe’re terrorists.”

Kerry snorted softly. “Wouldn’t it be something if she wentoff on Michelle? Sometimes I think.. you know, I think she projects onto youall the crappy stuff inside herself, Dar.”

Dar fell silent, her eyes turning from the pier to herpartner’s profile. 

“People do that, you know.” Kerry added quietly.

There was another long moment of silence, and then Darshifted, leaning over and giving Kerry a kiss on the cheek. “Yes they do, don’tthey.”

“Yep.” Kerry agreed. “C’mon. Show me our barracks for thenight.” She linked her arm with Dar’s, but they both stood there watching thedock recede and the chaos with it. “We don’t get to do this on our boat.” She observed,steering the conversation downstream a little.

“No. I have to steer, that requires looking forward.” Daragreed. “I’d love to watch the sunset with you while we go out, but crashinginto a billion bucks worth of motor yachts would just ruin my day.”

“Mmm.. true. But it’s kind of nice.” Kerry smiled. “Theview, I mean.”

Dar drank in the reddening sunlight, watching the glowoutline the buildings on the horizon. “Kinda.”

Kerry looked down at the churning water, now a somewhatfrightening pea soup color from the engines wash. “Ew.” She looked at the pier,spotting a group of men in identical dark windbreakers heading for thebreakfront, along with some people in regular clothes carrying what looked likeequipment. “That the government people?”

“I think so.”

“Did mom really call them?” Kerry asked.

“Uh huh.” Dar turned and gestured to the door. “We canprobably watch the rest of the sunset from our cabin.”

“We have window?” Kerry was surprised. “I mean, a porthole?”

Dar grinned. “C’mon.”

“Cool.” Kerry obediently followed her inside, and across theatrium to the stairwell. “I’m still pissed off about those elevators.”

“I know. C’mon.” Dar started up the steps. “Look at it thisway..  at least we get a workoutfrom it.”

“Hm.” Kerry glanced behind her, satisfied at the progressthe team was apparently making in organization. “I ever mention how much I hatethe stairstepper?”

Dar chuckled and kept on climbing.


Dar’s cell phone rang as they pushed open the door to theroom they’d been assigned. She stood aside to let Kerry go in, and opened it. “Yeah?”

“Ms. Roberts!”

Ah, the Herald. “Yes?” Dar drawled. “What can I do for you?”

“You’re on the ship.” The reporter almost laughed. “Aren’tyou?”

“We are.” Dar confirmed, entering the cabin and closing thedoor behind her. “With our team, and our gear, and we’re getting a lot done. I’mquite pleased, from a business perspective.” She smiled. “Anything else?”

“A lot of people are pretty damn ticked off at you.” The reportersaid. “They’re saying dirty tricks.”

“Dirty tricks?” Dar’s brows contracted. “What’s dirty aboutit? I negotiated with the captain of the ship and got what I wanted. Not myfault they didn’t.”

“Quest told them they couldn’t!”

Dar chuckled. “I never asked him if I could.”

Another laugh. “Damn it, you should have taken me with you.”The reporter replied. “What a story. See you when  you get back.”

Dar closed the phone and stood near the door, watching Kerryexplore their cabin.

It was definitely old. The place had the air of a patrician,yet far outdated and well worn quality hotel. The fabrics were faded, the teakfloors were water stained, and in need of a refinishing, and the wall borepeeling gilt paper on it that almost visibly exuded detritus into the room.

Yet, it had a certain rakish charm.  There was a reasonable sized bed in it,with clean, if threadbare linens and a tiny sitting area with two chairs and alow table.

A cramped bathroom was near the door, but near the back weresliding glass panels that led out to what Dar considered to be the saving graceof the thing. A balcony with a view of some wide open spaces, and promised someair movement if nothing else.

Kerry had discovered this, and pushed the doors open,sticking her head out with a grunt of approval. She ducked back inside andfaced Dar. “This isn’t nearly as bad as I expected.” She admitted. “I thoughtwe’d might be sleeping on the floor, and wasn’t looking forward to it.”

“Me either.” Dar sat down on the bed and patted a space next to her.  Kerry came over and agreeably occupiedit and they sat quietly for a minute, absorbing the rumble of the ships enginesand the motion that was quite different from their boat.

“The ship moves.” Kerry noted.

“It does.” Dar concurred.

The sea breeze came in the open balcony doors and refreshedthe stale air inside the room. Kerry lowered herself down until she was lyingflat on the bed and let her hands drop to her sides. It felt good to be sittingstill for a bit after the long day, and despite the fact that the nightpromised to be even longer she was glad she was here. “We’re going to do thisthing, Dar.”

Dar lay down next to her and folded her hands over herstomach. “We’re going to do this thing.” She confirmed. “Come low tides or highseas we’re going to.”

“They’re going to be telling stories about this in theoffice for the next twenty years, you do realize that.” Kerry crossed herankles, noting the water stains on the ceiling.

“Yeah.” Dar eyed her. “And speaking of that, have you heardthe latest one about me?”

Kerry’s green eyes narrowed, and she turned her head to faceDar. “No. What?”  She growled. “Sohelp me, Dar, one of these days I’m going to catch one of these peoplespreading all this crap and I’m..”

Dar put her hand over Kerry’s mouth. “I saved your life from a cute blond woman eating shark.”’

“Murph?” Kerry looked very surprised.

“Yes.” Dar removed her hand. “So, now.. I’m wondering,Kerrison.. since I only told Mariana what happened, and I told her the truth,Frisbee and all… exactly how the office would have gotten that idea.”  She rolled over and propped her head upon one hand, looking at Kerry inquiringly.

After a brief nibble on the inside of her lip, Kerry gentlytraced the outline of Dar’s jaw with her fingertip. “I didn’t say anythingabout a shark.”

The blue eyes took on a twinkle that lent a distinctsweetness to Dar’s expression. “Punk.”

Kerry grinned impishly. “Hey, who better to spread storiesabout you than me?” She said. “At least then I get to like what I hear.” Shetweaked Dar’s nose. “Isn’t it nice to her nice things for a change?”

Dar grinned. “Yeah.” She said. “Shocked the hell out of me,but yeah, it was nice. Even though it was an out and out lie.”

“Weelll.” Kerry waggled her hand. “It could have been true.”She ran her fingers though Dar’s bangs. “Does that bathroomette over there havea shower in it?”

“Uh huh.”

“Big enough for both of us?”


“Wanna try it anyway?”

Dar reached over and pulled Kerry into an embrace, rollingover so they ended up in a pile in the center of the bed. “Love to.” She kissedKerry on the lips, tasting a dusting of sea salt on them. “Know what else wenever get to do while we’re under way?”

Kerry chuckled, a deep, rich sound from her gut that fairlydrooled sensuality. Then she paused thoughtfully. “How thick are these walls?”

Dar kissed her again. “I don’t care.” She ran her hand underKerry’s shirt and cupped her breast. “Least it’ll get their minds of sharks.”

Too true. Kerry surrendered to the enticing passion of it,the wound up tension in her easing as a tension of a different kind entirelyspooled up to take its place far more pleasantly. The shabby nature of the roombecame irrelevant as she focused instead on the warm smoothness of Dar’s skinand the gentle touch that was gliding over her body.

So what if they had to work all night, if the night startedoff like this?


Continued inPart 27