I was walking down the hallway on my way to the upper deck when I heard a loud burst of laughter. I sighed in frustration; this was supposed to be a quiet escape from work, yet my yacht was full of a bunch of twenty-year-olds.
I had invited Lauren, my daughter, as a way to spend a bit of time together this summer, partly out of guilt for not being around much when she was younger.
Lauren asked if she could bring her new boyfriend along, and I agreed without much thought. I had met Todd earlier in the week over breakfast, and he seemed like a good kid. He worked in finance for his father's financial firm in New York, so we immediately had so much to talk about.
He was very complimentary of my recent purchase of Explore Air, the second airline that I now owned. It truly was a good purchase, and I had big plans for expansion.
I was impressed that Lauren had picked someone who was putting down roots, and he seemed like a stable choice. Lauren had never introduced me to a boyfriend before, so I was taking their relationship seriously.
Having her boyfriend join us would be an easy way for me to get to know him better and also give me a little more time for myself, which was probably a little selfish.
It's not that I didn't love my daughter; I found it difficult spending time with my daughter; we weren't very close. I had only found out she existed fourteen years ago, and trying to connect with a ten-year-old with whom I had nothing in common had not been easy.
It didn't help that I had bought her everything she could possibly ask for–for the last fourteen years. In the beginning, I did it to make up for missing the first ten years of her life, but after that, it just became easier than dealing with her when she didn't get what she wanted.
Lauren was now a spoiled and entitled twenty-four-year-old with no plans for her life other than partying and spending as much money as possible.
In classic Lauren fashion, my agreement to let her bring her boyfriend along turned into her filling each one of my guest rooms with her rich and arrogant friends.
She had also hired a DJ against my wishes, but after a hysterical outburst where she accused me of not loving her, she got her way, just like always.
So my quiet and relaxing vacation with my daughter quickly turned into me hosting a summer-long party. Before I headed to my stateroom, I figured I better play the welcoming host and go up to greet Lauren and her friends.
As I turned a corner, I bumped into someone. The woman had her head down, so all I could see was her wavy hair, a deep red shade I had never seen before.
“I am so sorry; I should have been watching where I was going," the red-haired beauty said. When her eyes finally met mine, I was surprised at the color. They were so light blue that they almost looked grey, but it looked like she was fighting tears.
“Are you okay, miss?" I said in response. I felt dumb as soon as the words were out of my mouth. She, very obviously, was not okay.
“Yes. I'm just heading back to my room, uh sir," she said as she straightened up, obviously not wanting to be caught crying.
“Oh right," I said, suddenly realizing that she called me sir, so she must be one of the maids.
I started picking through my memories, trying to remember when I'd hired her. Reggie must have been the one to interview her because I surely would have remembered a woman so captivating.
“Before you do that, would you head up to my stateroom and unpack my luggage? I am afraid it has been delivered later than usual. I had some business I had to attend to before leaving port, and I did not get here as early as I would have liked."
“Oh…I am… Uh…" she started staring at the floor, and her cheeks flushed slightly.
I stood waiting for her response. I thought it was cute how flustered she was; Perhaps it was because I made her nervous. That was pretty common with new hires, but oddly, she made me feel a bit flustered, which was completely uncommon.
“Yes," she stammered, her face flushing an even darker shade of pink.
“Thank you so much," I said with a smile, leaving a pause in hopes that she would tell me her name. She turned quickly and headed in the opposite direction.
I couldn't help but stare as she walked away. She had one of those figures that required a double take to fully appreciate. As she slipped around a corner and out of sight, I sighed, knowing I needed to make an appearance upstairs. I continued that way.
I walked out onto the deck, where a large dining table was placed and decorated with an extravagant centerpiece. The stars reflected over the ocean and created a stunning backdrop for my daughter's dinner party.
I was really impressed at how well the staff had done at transforming this space, most likely with very particular instructions from Lauren.
“Daddy!" Lauren screamed as I made my way out onto the deck. She screamed a lot, but I noticed most girls her age did. It looked as though their dinner party was just wrapping up; waiters were clearing away everything from the table. Lauren ran over and hugged me.
“Hello, sweetheart," I said and kissed the top of her head. “Is everything going alright?"
“Everything has gone perfectly so far. The yacht is so awesome; I think my friends could die out of jealousy."
I remained silent, not knowing how to respond to Laurens's need to be the envy of other people. I would leave figuring that out to Lauren's mother, Marmie. We hardly spoke other than when she needed money from me, which was more often than I'd like.
“Good evening, Mr. Astor," Todd said as he made his way over and shook my hand.
“It is good to see you again, Todd," I said.
“Likewise. I'd like to discuss a real estate investment I am working on for a client, when you have the time. I would love to get your opinion."
“Of course. We can talk about it tomorrow night over some drinks." I answered.
“I look forward to it, Mr. Astor."
I continued to greet Lauren's friends and make small talk for as long as I could manage. I made my exit by lifting a glass of champagne in the air and toasting, “To an amazing summer."
Lauren's friends echoed my toast, followed by cheering and chatting amongst themselves. I slipped out and headed over to a hidden elevator, which went up one more floor where my stateroom and private deck were located.
I hoped that the group would make their way to their rooms soon. I was exhausted and could not wait to slip into sleep.
I opened the double doors to my stateroom and was slightly disappointed that the maid I had met earlier was already gone. My suitcase was missing from where I left it at the end of the bed, so she must have come and gone while I was greeting my guests.
I immediately made my way to the bar cart and poured myself a glass of whiskey. Taking a long sip of my drink, I couldn't stop my mind from wandering back to the maid I'd run into. Her black dress fit her slender frame perfectly and showed off her amazingly long legs.
It'd been a long time since someone had caught my attention as she did. She did seem much younger than me, though. I wasn't sure that would be a problem.
I walked over to the screen mounted on the wall next to the door, and at the press of a button, the wall of windows at the far end of the room slid open, eliminating the barrier between my living room and private deck.
That feature was one of the main reasons I purchased this particular yacht. I thought there would be nothing better than feeling the ocean breeze and hearing the waves even while hiding away in my stateroom.
I stepped onto my deck and could see the dinner party continuing without me one deck below. The muffled sounds of conversation and laughing were the only sound drifting up to me. I sat in a deck chair and threw back the rest of my whiskey.
I watched the white foamy wake following the yacht as we moved through the water. It was the only way I could tell we were moving as the sky darkened to a deep blue. I closed my eyes and imagined a pair of eyes staring back at me.
A pair of enchanting grey eyes.