“Welcome on board the Virago,” Matsumoto greeted the two bedraggled women.
“Kaori,” Ryo murmured into her hair, keeping a possessive arm around her waist. “This is Captain Matsumoto.”
“Hi.” She smiled and waved slightly.
Matsumoto Keno bowed. She was beautiful, even in the condition she and her dress were in. No wonder Saeba was prepared to kill him in order to save this girl.
“He’s the one who helped me get to both of you in time.” Ryo kissed the top of her head, closing his eyes with a sigh of gratitude. She felt so good in his arms. Alive and well.
“Thank you, Matsumoto-san,” the sisters replied in unison.
Blushing slightly, the captain cleared his throat. He wasn’t used to this sort of thing. “Well…I’ll get you home in no time. If there is anything I can do, you know where to find me.”
Ryo grabbed his elbow. “Actually, there is.”
Saeko sniffed in the handkerchief Mick has gallantly offered her. Umibozu’s ears smoked and steam rose in white whiffs off his blinking fiery red bald head. His wife, her arm curled around his, sighed dreamily, wiping at stray tears trickling down her cheeks. Mick was grinning like an idiot, standing proudly behind his best friend. Sayuri, kept upright with the First Officer’s not-so-subtle help, stood behind her sister, eyes misted and lower lip wobbling suspiciously.
Kaori, her hand firmly grasped in Ryo’s, her fingers fluttering nervously, still grouched under her breath, plucking at the stained skirts of her gown.
Ryo smiled, leaning closer to her, so his breath caressed her ear as he spoke. “Would you stop mumbling? I can’t hear a thing. You’ll ruin the ceremony.”
She gave him a black look. “You could have checked with me before deciding on this stunt. My dress is ruined if you haven’t noticed.”
“You still look beautiful to me, baby.” He squeezed his fingers around hers. “Pay attention.”
Captain Matsumoto cleared his throat for the third time. “If you really want to do this, you better stay focused. It’s tough for me, too. I’ve never done this sort of thing before.”
“Sorry, Captain,” they both mumbled simultaneously.
“Please,” Sayuri whined. “Would you just go through with this? I don’t think I can stay conscious for much longer.”
Kaori quickly looked at her sister. Sayuri was pale as a sheet and the corners of her mouth were pinched. “OK!” Kaori ran a shaky hand through her disheveled hair. “I’ll do this, but under heavy protest. I’m not presentable.”
“Miss, if I may,” the First Officer put in. “You look lovely.”
“Who asked you?” Ryo growled, sending him a killer glare.
It was Kaori’s turn to squeeze his fingers in warning. “Behave,” she hissed. Beaming at the poor captain, she said sweetly, “Please, go on.”
“Oh, right.” He cleared his throat again. “We have gathered—” He glared at Ryo. “Son! Would you stop fidgeting?!”
“Skip the preliminaries, Matsu-chan. I just need the basics.”
The captain frowned. “Look, whelp. This is the procedure, take it or leave it.”
“Sir,” Sayuri whispered faintly. “Please, just go with the basics. I can’t hold on any longer.” She winked at Ryo, who grinning winked back.
“All right, all right. Today’s youth. Hah! Where is this world going to?”
“Oh, for the love of God,” Umibozu sighed. “Would you concentrate on the matter at hand?”
Matsumoto swallowed loudly. “Where were we?” He cleared his throat again. “Do you, Saeba Ryo, take this woman to be your wife?”
Ryo looked down in her hazel eyes and smiled slowly. “I do.”
“You go, man,” Mick whispered behind him.
“Do you, Makimura Kaori, take this man to be your husband?”
Kaori looked up, feeling a little faint. Those midnight eyes stared at her with such love, she thought her heart would melt. Her wish was really coming true. “I do.”
Matsumoto smiled. “By the powers invested in me, I pronounce you husband and wife. You may now k—Hey, I wasn’t finished!”
The newlyweds were caught up in a fierce lip lock, not having heard a word beyond their vows.
The sky was turning dark blue as they sailed into Tokyo harbor. Kaori and Ryo stood on the back of the ship, watching the white foam she left in her wake.
He tightened his arms around her, leaning his chin on her shoulder. “I love you .”
She sighed, watching the sun slowly peek out of the sea. “I love you, too.”
Ryo gently nuzzled her neck. “I thought I lost you back there.”
“Bad thoughts are not allowed today,” she frowned.
“Oh, really?” He turned her in his arms, arching an eyebrow. “What is so special about today?”
She circled his neck with her arms, brushing her lips over his. “It’s the most beautiful day of my life.”