The thirty-two passengers and several of the crew members were milling around the deck enjoying the sunset. Trent, Justin, and Jason found John Grayson lounging against the rail watching the other passengers enjoying the cocktail hour and sumptuous dinner buffet in the main dining room and on deck.
“Hey, Gray. Did I lie? I told you there would be some good-looking women aboard. This is going to be great.” Trent’s enthusiasm was contagious.
“Redding, you did not lie. And there are some good-looking women as advertised. The last time I was aboard I was otherwise occupied and didn’t take notice.”
“Devereau here can arrange an introduction to any unattached ladies you find interesting. I’m sure you’ll meet some of the available subs in the training classes as well.” Trent saw Paula raising her eyebrow at Calleigh, and he foresaw a problem there. He leaned down and whispered in her ear, “Paula, remember what we discussed. Hands off.”
As Trent stopped a steward with a name tag identifying him as “Don” for glasses of champagne for himself and Paula, he saw Gray’s attention riveted to the entrance of the dining saloon. A tall, slender woman with almost waist-length, dark-brown hair and startling blue eyes was framed in the doorway. She was a vision in her long red dress. If he wasn’t mistaken, Trent thought she looked a little like Gray’s ex-sub—she was definitely the same artsy type anyway. “Don, can you tell me the name of the woman in the doorway? It looks like she’s captured my friend’s attention.”
“That would be Ms. Pandora Wescott. I believe she’s traveling alone.” The steward moved off.
Trent turned to Justin. “Hey, Devereau. It looks like Gray here would like to meet Ms. Wescott.”
Gray laughed and gave Trent a none-too-gentle punch in the arm. “Redding, I can handle this myself.”
* * * *
Gray left the group and walked up to the gorgeous young woman who hesitated in the doorway. She was a stunner and just his type—dark-haired, tall, slender with nice but not over-blown curves. He checked out her wrists and noticed that she was not yet wearing a red- or green-colored bracelet. “Will you join me for a drink, Ms. Wescott? I’m John Grayson. My friends call me Gray.”
She looked up at him uncertainly and then smiled. “I’d like that, Gray. Call me Pandora. I’m feeling a little off balance. Since I’m traveling alone, I don’t have a friendly safety net.”
“Allow me to be your safety net.” Gray stopped the steward, Don, and turned to her. “What would you like to drink?”
“A martini would be wonderful.”
Gray ordered martinis for both of them, turned to Pandora, and took her arm. “Let’s join my friends over there, and then you’ll know at least seven of the passengers.” She laughed delightedly and followed him over to the rail. He introduced the three couples who quickly brought Pandora into the conversation. “Will you join us for dinner? We were just about to get a table.” He certainly found her attractive and would like the chance to get to “know” her. He had to laugh to himself. His hard-on was knocking at the front of his trousers. That response had taken no time at all. He hadn’t had that strong of a reaction to any woman since… Well, anyway, it had been quite a while since a woman rang his chimes to this extent and this quickly. Maybe it was the pheromone-drenched atmosphere aboard the Golden Dolphin. Maybe it was Pandora Wescott.
“That would be great. I was worrying about having to eat alone.”
Conversation was lively during dinner, and Gray was becoming seriously interested in Pandora Wescott. She was beautiful, sexy, outgoing, and interesting. She might be just the one to get him out of his current funk. He knew his interest did not escape the notice of Paula Redding, who had tried to fix him up with friends on a couple of occasions since he had been single again.
“So, Pandora, what brings you aboard the Golden Dolphin?” Paula, the editor of Ocala Country Life magazine, was not known to beat around the bush when she wanted information. In fact she was an inveterate gossip, and Gray knew that fact frequently made Trent see red.
Pandora hesitated a moment before answering. “I’m taking a little vacation and combining it with a photography assignment. I’m a freelance wildlife photographer, and I have an assignment from National Geographic to photograph some locations in Alaska for an upcoming article. I was assured that there would be several opportunities for me to leave the ship to get the pictures I need.” Gray thought he saw a shadow of sadness cross her face as she answered their questions. I wonder what that’s about. It seemed out of context.
Jason said, “That’s correct. Several of us are leaving the ship at Seward and flying up to Fairbanks to check on some business matters and then coming back to rejoin the cruise. The ladies will most likely stay with the ship and check out the Kenai Peninsula or possibly take the scenic railroad trip north to Denali.”
Paula jumped back in. “But why the Golden Dolphin, Pandora? That’s a strange choice. I see you’re not wearing a rubber bracelet.”
If Pandora was offended by the bluntness of the questions, she did not show it. “Not really so strange—two birds and all. I’m also interested in taking the new sub training class that starts tomorrow while I’m aboard. I haven’t decided about bracelets yet. I thought I’d take the training first and then make an informed decision.”
“Well, if you want to ask any of us questions feel free. While none of us are really into the extreme stuff, we were all newbies at one time and know how scary that can be,” Paula said with a smile. “And Gray is teaching the Master Dom class. What a coincidence.”
“Yeah, you can ask my wife about ‘topping from the bottom.’ She’s an expert at that,” Trent groused as Paula jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow.
“I am not. I am a perfectly well-behaved sub at all times.” She had the grace to blush when all of her friends burst out laughing.