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The proposition, p.4
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       The Proposition, p.4

           Jessica Schlafer
 

  Chapter 4

  The next morning, I slept late, dragging myself out of bed and to the in-home gym. I did some work with the weight machines and then ran three miles on the treadmill. After that, I went to the kitchen to look for breakfast. Paul had told me I was welcome to anything in the kitchen and, if there was anything I needed, to let him know. His home had everything that I could ever want. I was able to find some fruit, a muffin, and some coffee that I took to the pool so I could enjoy some sun. I had finished the fruit and was working on the muffin when Paul appeared.

  "I've got a phone for you," he said, handing me the newest iPhone. "I programmed my numbers and Nick's numbers for you."

  "Thanks," I said, taking the phone.

  "Is this your plan for the day?"

  "Yep," I said, browsing through my new phone. "Unless you have something for me?" I added.

  "No, I haven't talked to Nick yet, though."

  "Well, you know where I'll be, then."

  Why am I acting like an insolent teenager?

  Paul went back toward the house and I played with my phone. When I was bored with that, I took off my clothes and jumped in the pool. When we had gone shopping, I didn't get a bathing suit, so I was in just my bra and panties. I swam around the pool, loving the heated water. I dove off the diving board several times and just enjoyed myself. I finally decided it was time to get out. I dove underwater and swam to the ladder. As I climbed out, I looked up to see Nick.

  "I saw you diving from inside," he said.

  "I'm not very good."

  He smiled. "Do you need a towel?"

  "Crap."

  "They keep some in the bin over there," he said, pointing.

  I jogged the short distance to the weather-proof bin and pulled two towels out. I slowly walked back over to where Nick was now sitting.

  "Have you been out here all day?" he asked, noticing my breakfast dishes.

  "For a little while, I went to the gym for a bit this morning."

  "Oh. You don't have a bathing suit?"

  "No, I forgot to buy one." I said, pulling my towel closer around me.

  “We’ll have to go get you one, then.”

  “Why?”

  “We’ve been invited onto Merritt’s boat.”

  “Cool, I love boats.”

  "You don't drive but you love boats?"

  "There are ferries in New York, duh!"

  "Jesus, how could I forget?" Nick laughed and shook his head. “We’ll be with Paul and a couple of guards.”

  “Do I need to get ready?”

  “Yeah, we’ve got about an hour.”

  I dashed inside, took a quick shower and threw on one of the new dresses I bought. I met Nick in the kitchen and we left to buy something for me to wear to the boat. After I chose four different bikinis, we arrived back at Paul’s house just in time to ride with him to the boat.

  I didn’t talk much on the ride, Paul and Nick talked about “The Plan.” We finally arrived at a dock where several men were standing around.

  “Ahoy,” Merritt called from the yacht.

  I waved after I had gotten out of the car and we made our way to the boat.

  “Abigail, I’m so happy you were able to join us today. Please," he waved us onto the boat. "Welcome aboard.”

  Paul walked aboard first, then Nick, who held my hand as I walked across the bridge to go aboard. Paul had two other men that followed us aboard, they must’ve been the guards Nick mentioned.

  “Good afternoon, my friends,” Merritt appeared in front of us, kissing my free hand. "Please make yourselves comfortable. We're about to shove off."

  "It's beautiful, I've never seen the Pacific Ocean," I said.

  “Something put you in awe,” Merritt said.

  “Well, Manhattan is an island, but the water doesn't look like this all the time,” I said.

  The men took seats on the chairs around the deck and immediately started talking business. I stood near the rail, watching the water and enjoying the sea air. There were four other men with Merritt and there were about 10 bikini clad women that may or may not have been strippers or hookers. I walked over to the men and stood for a moment before they noticed me.

  "Excuse me, I'm so sorry to interrupt," I said. "Is there somewhere I can change? I'd love to lie in the sun for a while."

  "Of course," Merritt said, standing. "Follow me, Abigail."

  I gave Nick a "help me" look over my shoulder and followed Merritt inside. Inside were three doors, two of which led to bedrooms, the third to a bathroom. The hallway was small and cramped.

  "Abigail, you may change in here," Merritt said, leaning close and pointing to the master bedroom. "I simply cannot wait to see what you will be wearing to enjoy the sun."

  "Thank you, Merritt. I'll be just a moment."

  "Do you need any help?" he asked, lecherously.

  "Um, no, thank you," I said, trying to squeeze by Merritt to get into the bedroom.

  He had positioned himself between me and the door so that I would have to make full body contact with him to get into the room. I quickly shut the door and tried to quietly lock it, afraid that Merritt would “accidentally” walk into the room.

  I made a quick change, into the teeny, blue bikini and walked back to the deck. I found a chair that was already in the sun and stretched myself out. I sat for just a moment before I decided I would need to apply sunscreen. I did so very slowly and deliberately, covering every inch of my bare skin. I noticed Merritt, Nick, and more than one of the guards watching me intently. I stopped, gave a brilliant smile, and a quick wave. I finished with the sunscreen and put my head back to relax.

  I must've dozed off because after what seemed like a few minutes, I felt the boat stop and power down. I stood up to stretch and again walked to the rail of the boat. I didn't see Merrit, Nick, or Paul, so I just watched the water. I started to hear squeals and giggling from the women and I also heard some splashing. I wandered to the back of the boat and saw that some of the women and a few of the men had jumped into the water and were laughing and splashing.

  "You should go in. I hear the water is very warm," Merritt said, suddenly standing very close behind me.

  "Hmmm," I could feel his breath on my neck, "maybe a quick dip."

  Anything to get away from you!

  I lingered a minute before walking down the stairs to the back of the boat. I made sure I threw him a look and a smile over my shoulder. I could feel him watching me walk down the stairs. At the bottom, I saw Nick and Paul sitting with two other men.

  "Oh, there you are!" I said, throwing myself into Nick's lap.

  "I thought you were sleeping, I didn't want to wake you up," he said.

  "It's okay," I said, kissing him. "I missed you, though," I said, breathlessly pulling away.

  "Are you gonna go in the water?"

  "Will you come with me?"

  He kissed me this time, I felt my toes curl and I threw my arm around his neck. I felt his arms around my waist and up my back.

  "All right, you two," I heard Paul say, clearing his throat.

  I pulled away and smiled. "Come on," I pulled Nick to his feet. "You're coming in with me, go change."

  Nick walked up the stairs and into one of the rooms to change. I walked to the edge of the boat and dove into the ocean. I swam toward the people already in the water and noticed they were practically having an orgy, so I kept my distance.

  I saw Nick walk onto the deck with his swim trunks on and couldn't help but stare at his beautiful body. He had well formed abs and his biceps were amazing to look at. Again I noticed the ugly, pink scar on his abdomen. I watched him dive into the water and didn't see him again until he popped up in front of me. I couldn't help myself, I screamed a little.

  "Nick! You scared me!"

  Nick put his arms around my waist and pulled me close.

  "There aren't any sharks or anything here, is there?" I asked, suddenly
remembering I was in the middle of the open ocean.

  "I don't know. Probably not, Abby," he laughed.

  "With my luck, there'd be one and it'd pass everyone else and eat me."

  "I doubt it," he laughed.

  “This is a crazy situation, you know?” I said, finally.

  “I know, Abbs. I'm really sorry. This was not my first choice on how to handle the situation,” he roughly ran his hands through his hair.

  “It'll be okay, Nick. You won't let anything bad happen and I know that Paul will do the same. It's just, no one would believe this if I tried to tell them.”

  “I bet not,” Nick said, laughing. “Come on, we're too serious,” he said, splashing.

  We played and flirted in the water for quite a long time. I enjoyed the gentle rolling of the waves while we were in the water. We were swimming toward the boat when I heard the other women screaming and saw one of the men swimming in my direction.

  "What the..." I started.

  The man reached and grabbed my bikini top off in one move and then swam at top speed toward the boat.

  I screamed and covered myself up, apparently the same way the other women did.

  "Hey man," Nick shouted. "Not cool."

  The man was able to get aboard the boat and wave the tops around, laughing, before anyone could react. I was the closest to the boat, so I was able to swim ahead and get to the boat faster. I climbed aboard, which was not easy to do while I was covering my chest, and snatched a towel from Paul.

  "Seriously? I don't even know you. Can I please have my top back?"

  The man just laughed and waved it in the air.

  By that time, Nick had climbed aboard and got in the man's face, "All right, man. Fun time is over. Give it back to her."

  "Fuck you, man," the man said and threw all the tops in the water.

  The other women swam for them and Nick dove for the man, knocking him onto the ground and viciously punching him in the face. Nick clearly had the upper hand and was just pummeling the other man. I was pulled back by Paul while guards pulled Nick off the, now bleeding, man.

  Nick was being held by the guards and said, "Don't fuck with me, man. Me or my girl. You got that?"

  The man, who had been pulled to his feet, spat blood at the floor in front of Nick. Nick immediately tried to break away from the guards to throw more punches. The other women had climbed aboard, most were covering themselves and at least two were screaming.

  "Gentlemen," Merritt's voice came from the top deck. "If we can stop the fighting, I'd like to invite you all to join me for lunch," he said, waving his hand behind him.

  I was shaking like crazy, but I couldn't argue with the man, the food smelled divine. The guards let Nick go and watched the man intently as he limped away with one of the women nursing him. Another one of the women had pulled my top out of the water and handed it to me. I thanked her and turned to face the open ocean to try to put it on. After struggling for a few minutes, I felt Nick's hands on my shoulders, instantly calming me. He quickly tied the top and bottom strings and hugged me from behind.

  I leaned into him, "Do you fight like that a lot?"

  "Not like I used to."

  "That was scary."

  "I know," he paused for a moment. I could feel him breathing, "I'm sorry, Abby. You shouldn't have seen that. Let's go upstairs. You should probably grab your dress."

  I followed Nick up the stairs, taking his hand as we went. After grabbing my dress from the master bedroom and stashing my bra in my bag, my panties, however, were missing. I followed Nick onto the upper deck to where there were several tables of food and servers scurrying about.

  "Abigail, welcome to Portland!" Merritt said, appearing from nowhere.

  Damn, he's always doing that.

  "Oh my goodness! This isn't all for me, is it?"

  "As much as I'd like to say that it is, unfortunately, it is not. However, your arrival is a wonderful and unexpected treat," Merritt said.

  "Thank you," I said.

  "Please, everyone, find a seat and we'll begin," Merritt said. "My chef has prepared a feast for us."

  Nick and I sat near Paul at one end of the table, with Merritt and his guests sitting at the other end. I made sure I put myself between Nick and the man he beat up. The man was still nursing his wounds and looking for sympathy, which other women were more than happy to give him.

  The servers brought plates of food and we were served lobster, shrimp, scallops, steak, pasta, and vegetables, among many others. By the time the meal was finished, I felt like a glutton, and by the looks of the other people at the table, they all felt the same way, too.

  "Merritt, as always, the meal was delicious," Paul said, standing and raising his wine glass. Everyone at the table followed suit. "To Merritt, the consummate host."

  Shouts of "To Merritt" and "Here, here" were heard around the table before everyone took a drink.

  After a moment, Merritt stood, "I'd just like to say a few words about my guests. Well, one guest in particular. Abigail, you've enchanted not only Nick, but also myself and I would be honored if you would accompany me to a meeting in Seattle on Wednesday."

  Oh my God!

  I was frozen in fear. What was I supposed to say? All eyes were on me. I pulled myself together and smiled, "Merritt, what an amazing offer. I've never been to Seattle. I don't know what to say."

  "Say you'll go," he said, growing impatient.

  Nick squeezed my hand a bit and gave me a tiny nod, "Of course I'll go with you, Merritt. I imagine it's bigger than Portland. Why not? I'm here on vacation.”

  I noticed the stripper women glaring at me. Merritt clapped his hands together and raised his wine glass, "To Abigail, a beautiful new addition to our city."

  After the meal was finished, I noticed that we were getting closer to land. Once again, I was standing by the railing, looking at the water and the setting sun.

  Paul came to stand beside me, "You did the right thing. I'll be with you the entire time."

  "Oh, thank God," I said. "I don't know if you noticed, but I froze."

  Paul smiled, "I did, I was hoping you would answer on your own, so I didn't have to answer for you."

  "It's the only thing I could think of and I was pretty scared."

  Paul patted my hand and walked away, "We'll be fine."

  I loved the ocean. I was probably the only person in New York who would ride the ferries just to enjoy the air from the water. My dream was to have a house on the beach someday. I could stand all night, just watching the water.

  I felt the boat motor down and felt Nick standing behind me. I didn't know how, but I could sense him whenever he was close to me.

  I turned around to face him, "Are we back?"

  "Yes. You were amazing today."

  "Thank you. I froze when he asked about Seattle."

  Nick smiled and took my hand. I followed him to the lower deck just as the boat stopped at the dock. People were walking off the boat and toward the parked cars. I hadn't noticed that Nick had changed back into his shorts and tee shirt. I was still wearing my bikini under my dress.

  We got to the car and the guards walked around the car, checked under it with long, metal poles with mirrors attached to the end. I noticed that they did that every time we went somewhere. They checked the inside next. Just when they told us we could get in, the man who Nick beat up on the boat came up behind him and pushed him hard into the side of the car.

  "Sucker punch me in front of the boss, mother fucker."

  Nick was quick to his feet, swinging and connecting with the man's face. He was about 20 years younger and at least 70 pounds lighter than the man. The women were screaming and, while the man was recovering, Nick pushed me inside the car. Both men were swinging wildly with most punches connecting with sickening sounds. I could see Nick's eye was bruised and his lip was bloody. The other man looked like he had a broken nose, he was spitting blood, an
d had two black eyes. The people from the boat were crowding around us, seeming to enjoy this macabre fight club.

  Nick hit the man and sent him flying through the crowd, onto the gravel and Merritt walked up. "That will be all, Thomas," he said, holding up his hand. "Your services will no longer be required."

  Thomas, the man who had been fighting with Nick, laid on the gravel with a look of terror on his face, "But..."

  Merritt glowered at Thomas, "You have made a grave mistake, Thomas. Mistakes are not made in my company. You will be dealt with."

  Two other men that had been with Merritt stepped forward and grabbed Thomas and pulled him to his feet. They dragged him into a waiting SUV, threw him inside, closed the doors, and left. The crowd of people dispersed immediately, leaving Nick, Paul, and the two guards standing beside Paul's SUV and me sitting inside, with the door open.

  "Nick, I hope you do not take this as a reflection of how I conduct my business," Merritt said.

  "No, man," Nick said, panting.

  "Please, accept my apologies. Thomas will be dealt with swiftly," Merritt held out his hand and Nick shook it. "Ms. Abigail," he turned to me. "It appears that I must also apologize to you for the brutish behavior of my guest. He has been an employee of mine for only a short time and I was not aware of his penchant for harassing women. For our trip, I will only travel with associates who I know I can trust."

  He took my hand and kissed it, effectively creeping me out.

  "Thank you," was all I could manage.

  "Paulie," Merritt stepped over to Paul. "We'll be in touch."

  They shook hands and Merritt walked to his SUV and left. With the rest of the party gone, I looked at Nick and noticed that he was starting to slump against the side of the SUV.

  "Nick!" I exclaimed, jumping out of the SUV. "Are you okay?"

  "Yeah, my head just hurts."

  "Get him in the car," Paul waved his hand dismissively.

  One of the guards helped him into the car and I helped maneuver him into the third row so I could sit beside him. On the drive home, I held his head in my lap while he rested. When we returned to Paul's house, Paul got out of the car almost immediately.

  "Paul," I called after him. "I want Nick to stay here tonight so I can make sure he doesn't have a concussion or something."

  Paul rolled his eyes. "He was sleeping the entire trip home, Abby. You aren't supposed to let concussed people sleep." I stuck out my lower lip in a pout and Paul sighed. "He needs to be awake at six to meet with me."

  "Okay, I'll make sure of it."

  Paul turned again and walked back toward the house. I climbed back into the SUV and woke Nick up to help him out of the SUV.

  "We're home already?"

  "Yeah, come on, I'll help you inside."

  "I'm just gonna go on home."

  "Like hell you are," I said. "Come on."

  Nick didn't argue and let me help him up the stairs to my bedroom. Nick started to sit on my bed when I stopped him, "Strip!"

  "Excuse me?"

  "Take your clothes off so you can sleep, Jesus. I'm gonna go take a quick shower and brush my teeth. You'd better be sleeping when I get back," I went into the bathroom, closed the door and locked it.

  After my shower, I walked back into the bedroom and found Nick asleep in my bed. I couldn't help but feel a little excited to see him. He was wearing boxers and nothing else. He wasn't under the blankets, so I studied his body, focusing on the ugly scar. Before I knew what I was doing, I found myself standing over him, studying the scar, reaching out my finger to touch it.

  Finally, I climbed into bed beside him, set the alarm for 5:30 and went to sleep. The next morning, the alarm woke me up and I felt Nick's arm draped protectively around me. I could feel his warm body and his steady breathing behind me. I could also feel a massive erection pressing into my back.

  Holy shit! Is that for real?

  "Nick," I whispered.

  No response.

  "Nick," a little louder.

  Nothing.

  "Nick," I felt him moving around. "You need to get up to go meet with Paul."

  Nick immediately pulled his arm off of me and pulled away. "Shit, Abby. I'm sorry."

  "It's okay," I said, sleepily rolling around to face him. "Paul told me to have you awake by six to meet with him."

  He looked away from me, sheepishly. I looked down and noticed that my shirt had pulled down, almost exposing my left breast.

  "Can I grab a shower?"

  "Be my guest, I'm going back to sleep."

  Nick went into the shower and I went back to sleep.

 
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