Half-Hitched (The Wrong Bed)(7)

By: Isabel Sharpe

Paul directed Lucky’s bow toward the mooring, which Derek snagged with the boathook, inhaling the cool air’s clean pine-salt scent as he tied her on.

“Nice place you got here.” He and Paul were the only ones on the boat. Most of the wedding guests had already arrived, but Derek hadn’t been able to get a flight out of Hawaii until after his last charter ended yesterday. Or was it the day before? God he was tired. But he wouldn’t miss Paul’s wedding for anything.

“Yeah, it works for us.” Paul grinned and slapped him on the back. He had one of those eternally youthful faces, round cheeks, sandy hair and bright blue eyes. At twenty-nine he didn’t look a day older than when Derek found him ten years earlier vomiting up too much summertime fun, lost and disoriented in a not-great part of Miami. Derek lived there at the time, working jobs on whatever boats he could, in the years before he got serious about his maritime career and enrolled at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Since Paul had had no idea where his friend Kevin lived, Derek let him crash on his floor in the tiny apartment he’d sublet when he wasn’t at sea. Didn’t take him long to figure out Paul was a good kid caught in a bad situation—a delayed adolescent rebellion against real and imagined pressures of adulthood.

Derek got Paul a job on a boat for the summer, helped him get off booze and back on track to finish college at Notre Dame. In the ensuing years their friendship surpassed big-brother mentor and younger screw-up, and became close and satisfying. About as close and satisfying as any relationship Derek could have these days.

He helped Paul load last-minute supplies into the onboard dinghy and lower the boat into the smooth water.

“You won’t know a whole lot of people.” Paul climbed into the dinghy and manned the oars. “Sarah, of course.”

Of course. Derek settled himself in the bow seat. He’d emailed Paul’s sister before coming, hoping she’d put aside her grudge against him, but Sarah was a passionate woman prone to the dramatic, and apparently hadn’t forgiven him for thinking it was an extremely bad idea for them to sleep together. Her reply had been coldly formal, but at least she’d replied. “How is Sarah?”

“She’s Sarah.” Paul spoke of his twin with exasperated affection. “Two parts fabulous, two parts crazy-making. She has her best friend Joe here, and her friend from grade school Addie Sewell.”

“Addie.” Derek frowned, trying to get his tired brain to function. “That’s a familiar name, have I met her?”

“Nope.” Paul corrected his course with a few strokes of his right oar. “Grade school friend of ours. I was crazy about her for years.”

“Oh, right, the woman who walked on water.” Derek had been curious about her. Paul was easygoing about pretty much everything—once he stopped drinking—but this Addie had him in knots. As far as Derek knew, Paul had never let on to Addie how he felt.

“Yeah, I had it bad.” Paul shook his head, laughing. “Ellen finally exorcized her completely. Addie’s a great friend now.”

“Okay. Sarah, Addie. Who else?” The boat nudged onto the generous expanse of sand exposed at half tide. Derek jumped out and grabbed the bowline, pulled the dinghy up onto the beach. At high tide, there was barely enough beach to walk on. At low, twelve vertical feet out, there was ample sand, then ample mud, sprinkled with rocks and starfish, clusters of mussels, and a hidden bounty of steamer clams.

“Some friends from college and a few from work in Boston. Nice people. Oh, and Kevin Ames, who can’t make it until tomorrow. I think you met him once.” He gave Derek a sheepish look and started unloading the skiff onto a waiting wheelbarrow. “Maybe not under the best circumstances.”

“Right.” Kevin had been the friend buying Paul booze in Florida in spite of his obvious issues with alcohol, and encouraging him to drop out of college and “find himself.” He’d reminded Derek of his own brothers: wealthy, self-centered and entitled, sure rules were for other people and that they’d automatically rise to the top—like most scum. If it wasn’t for the sea, which had started calling to Derek in middle school and soon after took him away from the life his parents planned for him, he’d probably be that way himself.

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