Two weeks later
Henry Colchester held a glass in his hand. He gently spun the fragile stem between his thumb and index finger. He’d been smiling to everyone until his fucking lips felt about to crack. Damn, he hated parties. He’d rather be out sailing. He spotted his business partner, John Stevenson, making a beeline toward him.
“Hey there, partner. Some party, eh?” John waggled his eyebrows. “Lots of hot legs.”
Like him, John loved women, but he wasn’t crazy enough to settle down. “I know. What’s new, John?”
“Talked to the owners. They want our answers before the bidding. They’re interested in selling their ships to us, Henry, instead of going through the bidding—which is big. They trust us.”
“I wish they would trust us with their ships before we purchase them. It would make our financial problem a little lighter.”
“I know. We’ll get the money. For now, how about we enjoy this party, huh? Your parents are over the moon. Heard them bragging about your wonderful accomplishments.”
“They’ll never pass on an opportunity to brag or spread the Colchester name and make it known that Judge Richard Colchester raised a fine young man.”
The surprise party was thrown in his name. His parents’ idea. They’d said he had finally accomplished something and it was only right the whole community heard about it.
Funny, only a month ago, they’d had a blowout. Dad had called him an embarrassment, a failure, not good enough to deserve the name Colchester. A name that his great-great-granddaddy had protected and worked hard to be respected.
Well, he supposed Dad was right. He didn’t deserve to hold the Colchester name. After all, he’d brought the cops to their gated mansion many times because of fights, bad decisions and women. He’d gained the reputation of a womanizer, rascal and his father’s nightmare.
But he wouldn’t be all of those things if his parents hadn’t tried to mold him the way they saw fit. Oh, yeah. When he had refused to follow his father’s footsteps, everything had changed. In his father’s eyes, he’d become nothing but an obstinate, ungrateful son. His fascination with ships and naval crap, Dad believed, was nothing but a waste of time.
But he’d proven his parents wrong—and voila! Now, he’d not only gained their respect but they looked at him differently. An accomplished son. A captain. Fucking sad, though, that his parents were proud because of his newly gained title. That was it. Without it, he was just a nasty shit to them.
It’s all a damn pretense.
He didn’t fucking care. All that mattered now was that he had elevated to a new status on his own, without the influence of his family name. He didn’t have to live behind his parents’ shadows. Finally, he would be recognized not as the son of Judge Richard Colchester, but as Captain Henry Colchester.
Henry looked at his parents laughing with his girlfriend Stacey, the mayor of Seattle and other mucky-mucks. He couldn’t tell who was sucking up to whom.
“Man, Stacey is looking sharp tonight.”
Henry grinned. Stacey was the only one he cared for in this room. Everyone else could all go fuck themselves to hell. “She always does.”
“You keeping her?”
Stacey looked in his direction, raised her glass, winked at him then went back to talking. Damn, she looked so hot tonight. He loved it when she wore those red high heels and that short, strapless black dress. Easy to take off her slender body. He’d bet she wore a thong underneath and no bra. Henry suddenly felt uncomfortable. Heat from his belly traveled down to his now-excited cock.
Stacey, five years older than him and a modern woman in so many ways, had been a friend of the family. Eight months ago, they finally crossed the barrier between friends and lovers. Stacey had been a great bed partner and one he could always count on to open her door so he could crash at her place—provided he lowered the toilet seat after he used it. Otherwise, she’d go fucking crazy.
She was a wildcat, uninhibited and damn it, she knew how to please a man. Stacey never expected anything from him. A perfect girlfriend until she turned thirty-two. Now, she wanted more—a ring on her finger.
Marriage, however, had not made it on his list this year. A wife and kids had no room in his mind. What he wanted had been to start his own maritime business. Family later.
“I might, John. I just might.”
“Well, she’s coming. I think I’ll go refill my glass.”
Stacey left the group then walked toward him, a big smile on her face. The subtle scent of her perfume reached him. Aw, man. He wanted to snatch her and take her someplace where he could slide that dress up her thighs and taste every inch of her. She had just come back from her three-week trip to Italy, but they hadn’t gotten to see each other for another two weeks. He’d been out of town busy with meetings and getting his licenses and certificates. Damn. It had been a month and a half since he’d had her. It had been fucking too long. Henry’s dick hardened, his balls damn heavy.
Shit. He shifted from his position, glancing around, hoping no one could see his erection. “Hey there.”
“Hey back.” Stacey bit her lower lip. Hard to believe this man belonged to her. Well, not on paper yet, but in her book he was hers. Blue-eyed with firm and sensual smiling lips, over six feet tall, with a beautifully proportioned body that she fantasized about practically all the time, and now with a sexy title to go with his seductive name. Henry. Oh, she loved whispering his name, especially when his mouth was between her legs. But she wanted more than just fantastic sex. She wanted his name and everything else attached to him. Sadly, last time she’d broached the subject about taking their relationship to the next level, he’d just given her a lopsided grin and explained what he wanted in life right now. It was a hard blow to her gut, but she wasn’t giving up. Before the year was over, she’d have his ring around her finger.
Henry touched her cheek with his index finger. “Enjoying the party?”
“Yes. Unlike you.”
“Only you would hide in the corner and scowl when a party is in full swing.”
“You know I don’t throw a party and invite gnats, crocs and leeches to have fun.”
Stacey met Henry halfway when he leaned in for a kiss. The moment their mouths met, she knew she would wage war with anyone who dared try to take him away from her.
“Want to get out of here?”
Drat. Of all times, why ask her now? She had a meeting with the assistant district attorney. Sighing, she wrapped her arms around his waist. “Where were you when I wanted you?”
“You already know. Busy mapping my moves. So, yes or no, Stays?”
Oh, she loved it when he called her Stays. Stacey leaned her forehead against Henry’s chest. Shit. She didn’t like saying no to Henry, but it was too late to cancel her meeting. “Damn it, Henry. Love the offer, but I have to say no. I’m leaving this party in a few minutes. I’m going to Olympia tomorrow. Need to leave early. Gotta love the life of a prosecutor.”
“Baby, you just got back.”
“How about if I take you to Olympia? We’ll stay in a hotel—”
“No. I won’t be able to concentrate if you’re with me. Besides, you have fans to entertain here, Captain. And this is not a good time.”
Henry leaned in until his lips touched Stacey’s ear. “Anytime is a good time. I want you—bad.”
“You have no idea how much I love hearing you say that. But I’m having my period.”
“Better then. It’s safer.”
“How could you say that? We’ve never even tried it.”
She’d been an uninhibited lover and loved good sex. But since her first boyfriend had forced her to suck his dick and released his onion-tasting cum in her mouth, she’d never tried it again. “I’m not discussing this right now. Anyway, I’ll be back in a week—enough time for you to think about my proposal.”
Henry raked his hair with his fingers. “Stays, we’ve been through this.”
“I know.” Damn it. Stacey couldn’t help it. She looked heavenward then let out a sigh. “Not going to work because you’ll be too busy building your business. I told you I don’t mind as long as you live with me. You know, if we’re together, we’ll actually be able to squeeze in some time to spend in bed.”
Here we go again. Henry knew Stacey well enough to know that moving in together was her first step in reaching her goal of them getting married. He cared for her, but he couldn’t see himself as a husband right now. “Come on, Stays.”
“You’re a captain now. Finally, you made a name for yourself. Isn’t it time to just lay back and take it easy?”
“No. I finally got the ball rolling, Stays. No stopping for me now. I have to use my connections, learn more about the trade. My title will help me move papers from one desk to the next faster.”
“That’s all you’ve been doing. How long do I have to wait?”
What kind of a marriage would they have if they had to squeeze time to be together? Henry tucked Stacey’s hair behind her ear. “I’m not asking you to wait, Stays, but I’d love it if you do.”
“You know I’ll wait. Darling, we could work together on building your business. Just let me be a part of it, of your life. Not just a warm body to please you.”
“You are a part of my life, Stays. But starting the maritime business is something I want to do on my own. I’m building a future.”
“Whose? Yours? Mine? Ours?”
Damn it. He hated it when Stacey started dissecting everything he said. He didn’t want this conversation right now. What he wanted was to take her someplace where he could get rid of her dress.