“Bridget, please open the door.”
“I will not! You and Mama are being so unfair!”
“We are not. Ye can’t say ye’ve fallen in love with that boy. Yer fourteen years old, for christsakes.”
There was a pause, most likely for dramatic effect. He was learning pubescent girls could be very dramatic.
“Age is irrelevant.”
Rory muttered, “The fuck it is,” but louder, through the closed boat cabin door, he said, “Aye, when yer older. But at fourteen, yer still a child. My daughter. And… Just do as I say!”
He heard a loud, very characteristic fourteen-year-old snort of indignation through the wood door.
“And not as you do, Dad?”
With a growl, he turned sideways and strode up the ladder to the deck, knowing he’d at least find peace in the arms of the woman who sat up there, book in hand.
Annabelle sat with her back resting against the back of the bench in front of the wheel, one leg tapping a rhythm on the deck and the other on the bench beside her. She was as stunning as ever as he rose to her level, smiling at her as she turned her head to see him. He was already so close to her that it was nothing to bend forward and press his lips to hers, feeling her smile against his mouth.
“Mmm, what was that for?” she asked when he pulled away, coming fully through the hatch and sitting beside her when she moved her leg to accommodate him.
“It’s to thank ye for waiting til ye were thirty-five to come into my life.”
Annabelle laughed gently, but when he put his arm behind her she went to him automatically, after all these years finding that her place was still pressed against his side. She set the book down and gave up to his embrace, resting her cheek against his shoulder.
“Bridget will come around, Rory. I promise.”
He sighed heavily, reaching up to scratch the beard that was now nearly all gray. He still wore it short--or rather, he shaved sporadically and never bothered to trim it in between--but Annabelle liked it that way. Something about how masculine she thought his neckbeard was, whatever the hell that meant. After fifteen years together, he figured he’d never fully understand her.
“Aye, I know she’ll come around. But… She’s fourteen, and fancies herself in love with the boy after having known him for a week. A fucking week!”
Annabelle laughed, soothing him with a stroking hand on his thigh. He turned his face into her curls, still half blonde but with quite a bit of white mixed in, especially at her temples. She was and always would be, to him, as beautiful as they day they’d met.
“And did she do the--”
“Yes, yes , she did ,” he interrupted with an exasperated tone. “ Do as I say --”
“And not as I do,” Annabelle finished. She brought her hand up to rub his chest, the warmth of her palm seeping through his thick sweater.
“Never should have told her our engagement story,” he muttered, but there was no real complaint behind it. “Now she thinks any cunt is husband material.”
Again, Annabelle chuckled against him.
“Ross isn’t any cunt , Rory,” she admonished. Her hand slid upwards, cupping his neck, her thumb stroking the coarse hairs covering his skin. He felt a familiar stirring in his groin as her explorations continued. Trying to concentrate on what she was saying, he heard, “Brown and Milly’s daughter is in town from London for the vow renewal tomorrow, and her son Ross is a nice boy. Didn’t you see how he treated Bridget when they met?”
“Aye,” Rory agreed, “Like she was a milk cow and he wanted t’haggle her price.”
At that, his wife laughed out loud before smacking him lightly in the chest.
“No, silly man. He’s done nothing but treat her like a little proper lady, every time they’re around each other.”
“He’s seventeen,” Rory groused in response, looking out over the marina they had called their temporary home for the last decade and a half. “He’s too old for her.”
“Says the man with a wife thirteen years younger than him.”
Her hand was moving south, over his chest once more, then across his stomach to his thigh. Rory looked down and found her smiling up at him, that look in her eyes the same as it was fifteen damned years ago. He could always tell exactly what she was feeling by how she looked at him, and he wasn’t so old that his almost fifty year old wife didn’t still warm his loins and make him lust after her like a horny young man.
“Better watch yourself, woman. We’ve got kids underfoot.”
His words were warning, but his tone was heavy with desire. He turned towards her, carding his fingers up through the back of her hair and tilting her head back to gain access to the sensitive skin beneath her ear. He lowered his mouth and tasted her briefly, knowing full well they were in plain view of every single one of their neighbors.
“Easily remedied,” she offered, breathlessly. “I have those centerpieces I promised Milly I'd help with.” He watched her swallow, head still tilted back and her eyes glazed, focused on his own. “We can send Bridget on an errand.”
“Alone?” Rory’s voice was wary.
His daughter was fourteen and eager to exert her independence, but he felt she was too young to walk that distance alone. He also suspected Annabelle felt the same. Pulling back to focus on his wife's face, he now saw the way her mouth turned up at the corners as she lifted a hand to his chest, pressing it to the center where he was certain she would feel the thumping of his heart, evidence of what she still did to him.
“Not alone.” Her voice was gentle, and he knew he wasn't going to like her suggestion. When the same hand rose to cup his jaw, her fingernails scratching through his beard, she smiled. “He's a nice, respectful boy, Rory.”
Rory released her hair from his grip and she adjusted herself so her cheek rested on his shoulder. Hand still on his face, she stroked his cheek and wet her lips, clearly directing her gaze at his mouth. It was a message he heard loud and clear.
“Fuck,” he grumbled, screwing up his face and sighing through his nose. “You drive a hard bargain, woman.”
“Well, it could be worse,” she suggested. “Tommy’s son has been seen around Troon.”
Rory's eyes widened for a moment, his entire body tensing at the man who even after all the time, got under his skin for that one time he'd accosted Annabelle outside Paterson’s. It was bad enough Tommy had cleaned up his act and bought the pub from Brown a couple years back. The trouble was, the apple didn't fall far from the tree and his son, Junior, had been rumored to be residing at some school for troubled youth over the summer. If he was back, it meant Bridget was a possible target for the eighteen year old boy’s sights, and Rory would not have Bridget be the third young woman Junior left with a baby in her belly.
“Fucking hell, call the boy.” He glared at Annabelle, though her simpering smirk said she knew there was no heat behind it. “He's to have her back by five.”
At that, Annabelle’s eyes widened.
“Two hours to ourselves?” Her soft lips spread in a grin, and she let her thumb swipe across his lip. “Do you plan on seducing me, husband?”
He snapped at her thumb, capturing it between his teeth in a gentle bite. Inside his mouth his “Very talented tongue”--her words-- did that thing that he liked to do to her, and she didn't catch the moan in time before it left her mouth. Satisfied that she was good and properly turned on, he smirked back, releasing her thumb as he leaned forward to speak again her lips.
“Aye, girl,” he said, knowing she liked it when he called her that. “Best call the boy, because I'm going to need an empty boat for what I plan to do to you.”
Annabelle laid on her side nearly two hours later, completely sated, with a large, slumbering Scotsman behind her. Wrapped this way in his arms, she was always brought back to that first night they'd slept together, on the extra large airport cot in Boston. She could now recall with fondness those early days between them, which were followed by several very bad days. But once they’d sorted through what was going on between them and Annabelle had come to terms with the trajectory her life had suddenly taken, she had been like Milly--never looking back to where she had once been.
And that turn of events had, much to Douglas’s delight, suited both of them. Douglas found he loved Scotland and visited often, only sometimes attempting to lie and say it was a business trip.
Although Bridget was a bit of a surprise, Grant was not, and having the kids only completed the family unit both Annabelle and Rory ended up adoring. Grant was off somewhere helping Brown right now, preparing for the renewal of vows, the precocious twelve year old boy having adopted the older man and his wife as surrogate grandparents. Together, Grant and Bridget kept Rory on his toes, but Annabelle had spent the years watching them grow, and watching Rory grow into a wonderful father.
Through the years there had been more acting roles for Rory, to which Annabelle and the kids would follow him. He always had a trailer big enough for his family, and became known as the man who took them everywhere. When someone hired him for a job, they were hiring a family man, and that was that. Deal with it or don’t, Rory always told Annabelle she and the kids were his priority.
There were also more books, and more book tours. They avoided conflicting schedules when they could, and very rarely were forced to spend a night or two apart before they could reunite. Rory became good at not getting irritated when their lovemaking was interrupted by a crying child, and Annabelle found the coming together after an interruption always surpassed her expectations for sensuality and passion. Rory was never one to be deterred from a goal.
Their love for each other had simply grown, although their love for their boat remained steady. It was why they still had the same one he’d bought when he thought she was going to go with him all those years ago. It served their purposes, and now their family was close--four years, possibly--to once again being short a person. Then two years later it was very possible that Annabelle and Rory were going to be empty nesters.
It was bittersweet, but Annabelle knew she’d spend her later years loving this man as much as the universe would let her.
As though sensing the turn in her thoughts, he stirred behind her, tightening the arm he had wrapped around her stomach. His hand splayed across her belly, not as smooth and taut as it once was, but obviously still deserving of Rory’s attentions. He often kissed it and caressed it on his way to what he jokingly called The Prize.
“You’ve unmanned me, woman,” he grumbled into her shoulder, nipping her with his teeth before soothing the mark with his tongue.
“Mmm, that’s just how I like you.”
His rumbling laughter reverberated through her rib cage.
“The kids will be back soon,” she whispered. “I need to start dinner.”
“Ten more minutes.”
“Ten more minutes, and we might be caught without clothes on.”
Annabelle rubbed his arm, feeling the springy hairs covering his skin.
“Aye, but they know how they were made. Won’t catch them by surprise too much.”
He groaned as she laughed and turned, facing him in the bed then. Seeing him that way--gray hair and beard, eyes closed in sleepy satiation, his chest hair beginning to be more gray than black--she felt a warmth that hadn’t dimmed with the passage of time. Nor did her attraction to him, as she ran a hand along his shoulder and down his arm, sliding to his waist and hip and thigh.
“Girl, I’m an old man,” he grumbled, eyes still closed. Annabelle couldn’t help it--she giggled.
“Oh, don’t give me that.” With a forceful shove, she pushed him over onto his back and swung her leg over his hips, straddling him. He peered out one eye and, upon seeing her naked above him, opened the other and let out a very manly, very satisfied sigh.
“Damn,” he muttered appreciatively, almost to himself. His eyes skimmed over her body and she felt it nearly like a caress.
“You’re as ready to go as you were fifteen years ago.” She rocked against his growing hardness, sliding along his length in a move she knew could drive him wild with want. His quickly indrawn breath was her reward.
“Aye, girl, my cock is ready but my body isn’t.” His grumbling was familiar, as was the sly grin now spread across his face. They’d had this conversation many times before in recent years, and just as before, she knew how it was going to end.
Smiling in return, she rubbed against him again.
“You’ve had your nap, husband, and I want to go again.” She sensually slid one hand through her curling bangs, slowly pushing them off her forehead and letting them fall against one shoulder. He loved her hair and she knew it, using it to her advantage when she wanted to distract him.
His reply was a groused, “Ten fucking minutes.”
“Aye,” she said, the word coming easily after hearing it countless times over the last decade and a half. “So why don’t you just lay there and let me do the work?” She rose up and positioned him at her entrance, before sliding down to the hilt, taking him all the way inside her as they both moaned and sighed in pleasure.
Rory’s arms had been crossed behind his head, but now he brought them down to her thighs, running his palms up and down the lengths of them before sliding up and over her waist, up to her breasts. He cupped them in his hands and Annabelle held them to her, covering his hands with her own as he spoke.
“That sounds like a great idea, love.”
But when she began to move, so did he, rocking his hips to meet her thrusts, their eyes locked in such a way that Annabelle knew, as she did every time they locked eyes during lovemaking, that soulmates were real.
They moved together, they loved together, and when the end was near he reached down and made it so they came together, their release hitting them both just minutes before the knock came at the hatch.
“S’just Brown! Kids an’ ah’ll hang out up ‘ere til ye get yer skivvies on!”
With her cheek pressed against Rory’s slick, warm chest, Annabelle laughed. His long arms came up to wrap around her as she listened to his great big heart slow in the aftermath of their love.
“I need that now--need you now--as much as I did fifteen years ago,” he said quietly, drawing long strokes with his fingertips up and down her spine. Annabelle shivered, and he switched to full palms, coursing up and down her sides.
“Do you think Milly and Brown will need two kids to help them with preparations tomorrow morning?”
Rory’s chuckle sounded against her ear, and she slid her hands up his arms to his chest, lifting her head and pillowing her chin on them.
“Say please, and might be I’ll ask him.”
His answering smile warmed her heart, and made the promise of tomorrow even more lively than when it had just been the vow renewal.
Annabelle leaned forward to press her lips to his, whispering words of love and what she planned to do to him, while the voices of those they loved carried down to them through the cracked window, reminding them of all they had to be thankful for.