Authors: Patti Shenberger
Super model Vivi Bloom has everything in life she could ever want, except someone to share it with. Confirmed bachelor Rafe Santori, owner and publisher of Out of Bounds magazine, has followed Vivi’s career since the beginning. Rafe wants Vivi for the 100th Issue Special Edition as much as he wants her in his bed. And what Rafe Santori wants, he gets.
Vivi has plans of her own for the multi-millionaire and isn’t going to settle for a quick fling aboard ship. She plans to do everything in her power to drive him crazy with wanting her. Before she slides between his sheets, she plans on making sure his offer is a lifetime commitment.
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 Patti Shenberger
Cover art by Angela Waters
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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The Zodiac Club, Book 5
To everyone who loves to read romance. Here’s to all of you!
March 21 – April 20
The sign of the Ram is high-spirited, assertive, and loves to win. Second place is never good enough – this gal wants to come in first every time. She has a love for adventure and excitement. Patience isn’t in her vocabulary, nor a strong suit for her. She has a surefire formula for success and will never leave things to destiny or chance.
The Aries girl is quick to anger, quick to forgive, and quick to forget. Be warned, she’s definitely a take charge kind of person. A self-starter, she can be relied on for fast action, and willing to take risks.
When things are too quiet, she’ll get antsy and look for ways to stir up the pot. Be careful what you say to the Aries girl as she is very direct and upfront.
When it comes to affairs of the heart, the Aries girl will pull out all the stops to get what she wants, so you better get out of her way.
Above all, the Aries girl is generous, has a caring nature and refuses to compromise.
March 29, 2012Vivi sat down hard on the leather chair atLeBluerestaurant in Rochester, Michigan. Her knees felt as though they were going to give out at any second, so it was probably a good thing she sat when she did, considering the consequences.
“Holy shit.” This was the only thing she could think of to say at the moment.
“Is that holy shit in a good way or a bad way?” her best friend Kate asked.
All eyes were focused on Vivi as she drew in a deep breath and prepared to tell her friends the news.
“Sorry for taking the call at the table, but that was my agent on the phone. I’ve been asked to do the 5th Anniversary Edition centerfold and photo spread forOutofBoundsmagazine.”
“What? That’s fabulous news.” Her friend Callie hugged her hard.
“Oh my god, what amazing timing.”
“Hell of a birthday present, Vivi,” Tara said.
“That’s an understatement,” Vivi murmured, still trying to wrap her head around the idea.
“Come on, give us more details so we can live vicariously though you,” Kate chided. “Then again lately I seem to be living vicariously through every one of you here the way my life has been going lately.”
Vivi took a deep breath before speaking, “Well, from what my agent said, the shoot is scheduled for this coming Tuesday through Sunday and it’s on Rafe Santori’s private yacht which is presently anchored somewhere in the Caribbean.”
A chorus of groans followed her words.
“Some gals have all the luck.” Kate lifted her glass. “Ladies, shall we drink a toast to the birthday girl. May she develop sunburn in places she never dreamed of, and may she get lucky on the high seas,” Kate finished before taking a sip of the champagne.
Vivi lifted the glass to her lips and took a sip. Her career had gotten her where she wanted. A prime cover spot with a centerfold and spread in one of the premier magazines of the decade. Would wonders never cease?
“And lest we forget the real reason why we are all gathered here tonight, to celebrate Vivi’s twenty-sixth birthday. Vivian Bloom, may I present you with your birthday present. Not that she needs another one. Can’t imagine how we could top what she just received from her agent. But we’ll give it to her anyway,” Kate teased, handing over a silver box tied with a red ribbon.
Vivi quickly untied the box and lifted the lid, already knowing what was contained within. Not that it mattered, she was beyond thrilled with the present. A delicate gold chain and at the bottom hung a charm with her Zodiac sign. Aries, the Ram.
“You guys are the best in the world.” Vivi quickly fastened the necklace around her neck and pulled out her compact to take a peek.
Touching the charm, she let out a sigh. “You guys mean the world to me, you do know that, right?”
“Does that mean you’ll take us along on the yacht?” Kate joked.
“Um no,” Vivi shook her head and laughed. “This one’s all mine.”
“And I’m sure Rafe Santori will be there to oversee each second of the shoot?” Tara asked.
Vivi shrugged. Probably, since the man owned both the yacht and the magazine. In fact, she hoped he was there. She had a score to settle with Rafe.
Each of her friends gathered at the table knew about Vivi’s crush on Rafe since high school and had teased her mercilessly over the years. The man graduated four years ahead of them, and at the time Vivi was a freshman and he was a senior, she dogged his heels like an adoring bloodhound. Not that he ever seemed to notice. A fact she was none too proud of, but she’d come to terms with the fact they’d never run in the same circles. And yet now, it somehow seemed everything had come full circle.
“Why don’t we forget all about Rafe Santori and get down to some serious celebrating. It is my twenty-sixth birthday after all.” Vivi lifted her glass up in the air. “To birthdays.”
“To birthdays,” her friends seconded the toast.
“To private celebrations on yachts,” Kate murmured seated next to her.
Vivi elbowed her in the ribs and then smiled. “You never know.”
“Honey, you’ve never let anything stand in the way of what you’ve wanted in life. And I seriously doubt you’re going to start now.”
“What, little old me backing down from a challenge? Perish the thought,” Vivi answered with a laugh, her mind already running through the possibilities.
Vivi shut the front door of the condo behind her and dropped her car keys on the table, along with her bag of birthday presents.
Hitting the play button on the answering machine, she listened to four messages containing birthday wishes before her agent’s voice spoke up.
“Hey, Vivi, it’s Elizabeth. I wanted to share a few more details with you but didn’t want to bug you at your party. They’ll be using Jeff Baker and John Hogan for the shoot, which I knew you’d be thrilled to hear. Those guys are the best in the business next to you. Also, all your travel documents will arrive via FedEx within the next twenty-four hours. Holler if you don’t get them and I’ll follow up with Santori Enterprises. Hope you had a great birthday. You deserve it for how hard you’ve been working lately. Call me with any questions. Take care and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Though I guess that does leave a lot of options open for you to explore, doesn’t it?” Her agent ended the call with a laugh.
Vivi let out a deep breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. It still seemed so surreal to her. She clenched her hands into fists to keep them from trembling. All this time, all the hard work she’d put in and now it was all coming true. Working withOut of Boundsmagazine was the crème de la crème when it came to publishing giants.
Dropping her coat on the arm of the sofa, Vivi headed into the bedroom. She tugged her sweater over her head, tossed it on the bed, then kicked off her shoes and stripped off her jeans. Wearing nothing but her pink lace bra and panties, Vivi stepped into the bathroom.
With a critical eye, Vivi surveyed her body in the vanity mirror. Her long brown hair hung loose to the middle of her back. She didn’t color or perm it, so it was in great shape. Her entire body was firm and tight, no sagging boobs or paunchy stomach for this girl. And because she exercised regularly, she was toned and fit. In her opinion, she looked damned good for twenty-six years old. Good enough to get asked to do the spread. A shiver went through her body at the thought.
Had it really only been five and a half years since she practically begged Rafe Santori to hire her as a model? The past came rushing forward as Vivi closed her eyes, and thought back to the night in question. While it hadn’t been one of her finer moments, it definitely counted as one of her best and worst forty minutes in her life.
She’d accepted an invitation to one of the top industry designers cocktail party, knowing Rafe Santori would be in attendance. When she entered the penthouse suite, her gaze surveyed the room, seeking him out. Vivi was mesmerized by the man, considering the fact she’d followed his every career move and meteoric rise to fame and fortune since high school. But not like she was a crazed stalker or anything. This was different.
Vivi waited till he was finished with his current conversation and then moved into position, making sure he saw her cross the room toward him. She looked damn good and she knew it.
“Hello, Rafe, it’s been a long time.”
“Vivian Bloom? Wow, I guess it has. You look fabulous.” He leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to hercheek as his gaze raked her body. “Great job on the Mandrel Diamond Jewelers ad in Cosmo. I heard a lot of good buzz about it.”
“Thanks. Nothing like being covered in diamonds to perk up a girl’s spirit.” Vivi smiled.
After a few more minutes of small talk that she could barely remember, Vivi took a sip of the liquid courage in her glass. It was now or never.
“You know I’d love the opportunity to work with you, Rafe.” Vivi hated that she sounded like she was begging the man for a job. But she was, damn it all.
He gave her the once over and Vivi tried not to blush. “How old are you, Vivian?”
She straightened her back. “Twenty-one.”
Rafe smiled and shook his head. “Try again.”
Vivian sighed. “Twenty.” Damn the man for remembering that fact about her.
“You know I make it a practice never to hire any models under the age of twenty-five. Never have and I never will. Come back and see me when you’re twenty-five and we’ll talk then.”
Pissed didn’t begin to cover how Vivi felt. Throw in a good dose of embarrassed as well.
“When I’m twenty-five, Rafe, you’ll be old news. There’ll be someone new out there waiting to take your place. And willing to step in and scoop me up as well.” She leaned in close and grabbed his tie, tugging him close to her lips. “Just remember, you could have had me but you blew it. Your loss, I’m afraid.”
Then Vivi did something she’d never done in her life. She planted a big, wet kiss on the man, even slipped him a little tongue right there at the party.
Problem was she’d forgotten her own attraction for Rafe and was surprised at the tingle of electricity that started at their connected lips and raced all the way to her toes.
When she stepped back, Vivi noticed he looked as shell-shocked as she felt.
Turning on her heel, Vivi set the glass on a passing waiter’s tray and got the hell out of Dodge. Quickly before her body and emotions betrayed her again.
That was the last time she’d seen Rafe Santori, but she’d never forgotten the man. Nor had Vivi forgotten the way she felt when she kissed him. It was like grabbing hold of a live wire and hanging on for dear life.
Popping the front clasp on her bra, she slipped the straps off her shoulders, then slid her panties down her legs and kicked them to one side.
She looked amazing if she did say so. Lifting her breasts in her hands, Vivi ran her fingers over her nipples and watched the rosy buds tighten beneath her fingers.
Vivi slid her hand down over her flat stomach, then lower still till she reached her Brazilian waxed pussy. She let her thoughts wander for a second as she wondered if Rafe liked a smooth pussy. Vivi had found the sensations were heightened with the lack of pubic hair. Her breath hitched as she delved deeper between the wet folds, feeling the slick moisture coat her fingers. Just thinking about the man set her senses on fire as she’d known it would.
“Yes.” If only Rafe Santori knew what he was missing.
Stroking herself, Vivi leaned back against the bathroom counter for support. She rolled her tight nipple between the fingers of her other hand as she pleasured herself, all the while continuing to think of him. How many times over the years had she climbed into her empty bed, closed her eyes and brought herself to an orgasm all because of him? Way too many to count, Vivi thought.
Vivi gasped, her breath coming in fast pants now as her climax began to build. She slid a second finger inside her throbbing pussy and increased the pressure. It wouldn’t be long now. She imagined it was Rate’s fingers on her nipple, teasing her, plucking her nipples between his thumb and forefinger. It was Rafe’s fingers buried in her wet pussy, fucking her, coaxing the climax from her. And it was the image of Rafe’s face she saw in her mind right before she came.
“Oh god, yes.” Vivi collapsed against the edge of the bathroom counter, her fingers still buried inside her quivering pussy. Her knees unsteady, she splayed her hand across the countertop in an effort to hold herself up.
Lifting her head, Vivi turned and took one more look at the woman in the mirror. Rafe Santori wouldn’t know what hit him when she was through with him. After crashing and burning with Plan A five and a half years ago, it was time to put Plan B into action. And the sooner the better, starting with the upcoming photo shoot. It was as though the planets had all aligned just to give Vivi a fabulous birthday present.
All rolled up into one hot, sex package named Rafe Santori. And this time Vivi was going to celebrate the encounter.
Vivi leaned over and turned on the hot water faucet in the soaking tub. She dropped in a capful of lavender scented bath oil, lowered herself into the water, and sank up to her chin. Inhaling deeply, she could smell the fragrance as it wrapped its way around her senses. Trailing her fingers through the water, she watched the ripples break the surface.
Right now she could do with a little rest and relaxation. Problem was rest was the furthest thing from her mind as all thoughts headed back into forbidden territory.
Rafe Santori territory, to be precise.
Stepping out of the town car that picked her up bright and early, Vivi tucked the now memorized and well-worn itinerary back into her tote bag. She pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head and climbed up the steps leading to the private plane owned by Santori Enterprises.
Looking at the private jet parked on the tarmac drew a shiver down her spine. From far away it looked bigger, but up close it only reminded Vivi of how fragile life was if this thing could fly from Michigan to the Caribbean in one sitting.
As she climbed the stairs, Vivi paused at the door of the plane and gave the side a pat.
“Be good to me plane, I’ve got a lot of living yet I want to do,” she whispered, so no one would hear her words of encouragement and, at the same time, a short prayer for a safe flight.
Stepping inside, Vivi found the interior was bigger than her entire condo and decorated a lot more richly. Everywhere she looked was leather captain seats, very high quality mahogany end tables, and a massive conference table and eight chairs if anyone wanted to hold a meeting mid-flight. She didn’t, but it was still pretty amazing looking, Vivi thought.
“Good morning, Miss Bloom. My name is Audrey and I’ll be taking care of you today. Assisting me will be Christina. Please choose any chair you would like for the flight today.”
“Good morning Audrey.” Vivi trailed behind the flight attendant, gawking the whole time and trying not to show her nervousness. She’d been fine right up until the minute they reached the tarmac and she stepped out of the car.
“We’re awaiting the arrival of Mr. Hogan and Mr. Baker, and then we’ll be ready to leave for St. Thomas. Once we’re airborne, Christina and I will be serving breakfast. Would you like something to drink while you wait?”
“Hot tea would be wonderful if it’s not a problem,” Vivi answered, pulling her gaze back to the young woman.
“Coming right up.”
Vivi lowered herself into the plush cream-colored leather chair and sighed. Though this looked more like a huge armchair than a cramped and uncomfortable airline seat.
“Well, if it isn’t the famous Vivian Bloom.”
Vivi turned toward the sound of the voice and smiled. “Fancy meeting you here, gentlemen. And I do use the term loosely based on prior experience.”
Jeff Baker leaned over and kissed Vivi on the cheek. “Woman, do you ever look less than perfect?”
“Hey, share would you?” John Hogan shoved Jeff aside and brushed Vivi’s cheek fondly.
“I hear it’s the three of us this week,” Vivi said, watching the two models select a chair.
“In most cases, three’s a crowd, but this time three’s company.”
“And I’m glad to have you along for the fun.”
John dropped his carry-on next to a chair across the aisle and lowered himself into it. “Ah, I’ve died and gone to Heaven.”
Jeff followed suit and soon the three were engaged in a lively conversation till a man’s voice came over the speakers.
“Please fasten your seatbelts in preparation for take-off. Once we reach our cruising altitude of twenty-thousand feet, Audrey will begin serving breakfast. Until then, sit back, enjoy the flight and let the cabin crew know if there is anything you require.”
What she required was her feet on the ground. Vivi closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath. Flying was never her favorite thing to do and yet her job required it practically on a weekly basis. Her stomach lurched as the plane picked up speed and was soon off the runway and climbing higher and higher away from the ground. Once the clouds blanketed everything within sight, Vivi would be fine until it was time to drop the landing gear and head for terra-firma.
Vivi accepted the mug of hot tea and carefully took a sip. She wished she could brew something this wonderful at home, but hers always ended up tasting just a bit off.
“I could seriously get used to this,” Jeff said from across the aisle.
“Beats first class every time,” Vivi replied. “But this is a first for me. Usually I’m traveling commercial. I’ve never been in a private plane before.”
“Gives new meaning to the phrasehow the upper half lives, doesn’t it?” John replied.
“You got that right.” Jeff pushed back his seat and moaned. “Oh god, it’s even got massage built in. I’m not leaving this seat till we get there. This is going to be one fantastic ride.”
Vivi looked at John and smiled. “Children. They do make the trip amusing.”
“Yeah, too bad we couldn’t leave this one at home.” He jerked his finger in Jeff’s direction.
“I heard that,” Jeff mumbled.
“So, how does it feel knowing you’re the headliner on this party boat?” John asked Vivi and then took a sip of his juice.
“I have to admit I was floored when my agent called to tell me the news. But to be in the 100th Edition issue is a huge coup for all of us. This will open doors we’ve never even dreamed about.”
John nodded. “I agree. I gotta admit, it gave me goose bumps just thinking about it last night.”
“Yeah, he kept tossing and turning all night long. Drove me crazy,” Jeff grumbled.
“I thought you were getting your beauty sleep over there,” John teased. “Don’t let him kid you. He was just as psyched as I was.”
Vivi looked over at Jeff who nodded sheepishly. “Yeah, I am.”
She smiled. John and Jeff were two of the nicest men she’d ever met and within minutes they’d formed a fast and lasting friendship on the first shoot they’d done together. And she was thrilled they were along for the wild ride they were all about to take.
After a breakfast of Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, and wheat toast, Vivi was stuffed. Jeff was spot on, it was hard not to be enticed by everything the flight attendant offered.
Vivi looked over at the pile of newspapers by her side. They covered everything from international news to local happenings, to the celebrity gossip magazines.
Lifting up her home town paper, Vivi skimmed the front page before flipping to the horoscopes. Just because she was on a job didn’t mean she wasn’t going to take a peek at how her day would be going. Granted she didn’t put a lot of stock in the words, she just read it for fun. How often was a horoscope ever one hundred percent accurate? Besides, everyone who was an Aries was going to get the same thing all on the same day. And the same could be said for the other astrological signs. She seriously didn’t think so.
Aries girl, today’s your lucky day. Get ready for a hot and heavy romance. Be prepared for fireworks in and out of the boudoir. But don’t get burned in the process. Keep your guard up and you’ll walk away unscathed. Otherwise, your heart is going to fall hard with you along for the ride.
Vivi bit back a laugh. Yeah, like that was going to happen any time soon. Besides, she was on a job. Not like she was going to fall in love with anyone there. Her hand froze in mid-air, the paper still clutched within her fingers over the end table.
Out of Bounds magazine.
No, it wasn’t possible. There was no way that her horoscope was right. No way that this was going to happen. Falling in love with Rafe Santori didn’t come anywhere close on her list of things to do this week. Giving him a little payback for the past was a totally different matter entirely.
She shook her head and dropped the paper on the table next to her. Vivi leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes, trying hard to erase the idea from her head.
She might as well make use of the downtime while she could. Once they landed Vivi knew it would be business, business, and more business till the shoot was over. She’d sleep once she got back home.
Vivi gathered up her tote bag and pushed her sunglasses from the top of her head back to the bridge of her nose.
“Welcome to St. Thomas, people. For the next six days it’s sun, sun, and more sun. Hope you packed your sun block, Vivi,” John said as he helped her down the steps of the plane and onto the tarmac.
Waves of heat shimmered off the surface of the concrete as they made their way to the waiting limousine. The sun was shining brightly in the sky and the feel of the warm breeze against her face did wonders to lift Vivi’s spirits. Her short nap on the plane had been filled with erotic dreams of Rafe Santori. Not what she wanted or needed at present time. Just thinking about it made her stomach give a lurch. Damn the man, he invaded her thoughts whether she wanted him to or not.
“I don’t plan on spending any time soaking up the sun, John. This is a working trip, remember?” Vivi reminded him. “Some of us have bills to pay.”
“Hey, working or not, we are in the Caribbean and that’s all that matters to me,” Jeff spoke up. “And getting paid to be here, no less. I’ll take that over sun worshipping any day. Besides, John, you’ve been looking a little wrinkly around the edges. Might want to cut back on the fake and bake machine,” he teased his partner of five years.
“Just wait. One of these days life will catch up with you, too, buddy. And they’re not wrinkles, they’re laugh lines and I’ve earned each and every one of them.”
“Boys, do I have to separate you to make you behave?” Vivi laughed, knowing the good natured teasing was all in fun.
John and Jeff laughed at the thought. It wasn’t the first time over the years Vivi had threatened them with it.
“Honey, you know we three work better as a team than alone. Separating us will only make us bored and cranky. Together, we are invincible,” John said.
Vivi nodded. “That is true.”
She was still having trouble wrapping her head around the fact that mere hours ago the plane had taken off from Oakland County Airport and now here she was standing on the tarmac of the private jet at Cyril E King Airport in the Virgin Islands. Vivi took off her jacket and draped it over her arm. The temperature was a definite difference as well. More like summer than spring, Vivi thought.
Vivi turned toward the sound of the man’s voice. “Yes, I’m Vivian Bloom.”
“Please follow me. I’m Mr. Santori’s driver.” The man leaned over and took Vivi’s luggage, motioning for a nearby porter to gather the rest of the luggage as the trio followed him to the waiting limo.
After ushering them inside and out of the heat, he took his seat behind the wheel and spoke up. “Mr. Santori regrets not being able to personally pick you up from the airport, but he was detained on the mainland. He will join you as soon as his schedule permits.”
“That’ll be fine,” Vivi turned her face to the window so neither the driver or her two friends would see the disappointment in her eyes. Not that they could, thanks to her sunglasses. Vivi knew she shouldn’t be putting so much stock into seeing Rafe Santori again after all this time, but a small part of her wanted him to see how much she had changed, had grown and had taken command of her future.
She wanted him to see she wasn’t the sweet twenty-year-old girl that he spurned the last time they met.
She stared out the window at the scenery as the driver put the car into gear and headed off the tarmac.
Lush greenery filled every vacant spot, brilliant pink and red flowers dotting the side of the road as they wove their way through the town and toward the marina.
“We’ll be aboard the yacht in less than an hour. Should you wish for refreshments in the meantime, the mini bar is stocked for your convenience. Please help yourself.”
“Thank you,” Vivi murmured.
Beside her, she could hear John and Jeff discussing whatever the contents were in the small refrigerator, not that it mattered to her at present. She was still full from the gourmet breakfast she’d eaten earlier. Vivi let her thoughts drift, the sound of their voices fading into the background as she took in the landscape outside the window.
Maybe it was a good thing Rafe wasn’t there to greet them. Then again maybe it only gave her a reprieve till later on. Either way, Vivi knew she needed to gather her wits about her and fast.
The limo slowed to a stop at the Charlotte Amalie Harbor. Two cruise ships were docked at the concrete pier as traffic yielded the right of way to the pedestrians in the crosswalk.
It was all Vivi could do not to gawk in amazement at the size of the giant ships anchored in the harbor. Sure, she’d been on cruises before, but never paid much attention to the outside of the ship. She could see the passengers walking around the decks, eagerly awaiting their turn to go ashore. But to do so she had to crane her neck upward to get the full effect.
The driver continued on and turned onto a side street. Vivi leaned closer to the window to see the sign. Yacht Haven Grande, it read. And from the look of the boats docked there, it was definitely a haven for yachts.
And not just a few, there were over two dozen tied up.
“Would you look at the size of that one? It’s like an office building.”
“That looks more like a floating hotel than a yacht,” Jeff said softly. “Which one do you think is Santori’s?”
“That one,” Vivi lifted her hand and pointed to a huge ship docked in one of the slips. “NoRegrets. Interesting name, but it certainly does fit the owner.”
“We will be arriving momentarily at Mr. Santori’s yacht. If you would like to go into town, please let me know and I’ll take you wherever you’d like. Also the Yacht Haven Grande does have its own dining and shopping complex, should you prefer to stay within the marina. You have only but to ask.” The driver filled them in on all the surrounding options.
Minutes later, Vivi once again accepted the drivers hand as she alighted from the limo. The bright sunshine nearly blinded her as her gaze quickly swung back and forth, trying to take it all in.
“Thank you. This is magnificent.”
“It does tend to take one’s breath away,” the driver replied before heading to the trunk to retrieve the luggage.
“Take your breath away is an understatement,” Jeff said, shaking his head. “This could render a guy speechless.”
Vivi followed the driver up the gangplank and onto the yacht.
“Welcome aboard theNoRegrets, Miss Bloom, Mr. Hogan, Mr. Baker. It’s a pleasure to have you traveling with us this week. My name is Roland, Mr. Santori’s personal valet, and I’ll be taking care of you while you enjoy your time aboard. If there is anything you require, at any time of the day or night, you have only but to press the number one button on your stateroom phones. That will connect you to me directly. Thank you, Benjamin.” The valet turned to the driver and clapped him on the back.
“And as Benjamin already mentioned, he is at your disposal if you wish to journey into town, go out to dine, or anything else you desire while we are in port.”
This was like being given the keys to Disney World, Vivi thought.Ask and you shall receive.
“Miss Bloom if you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your stateroom first so that you may freshen up, if you’d like. Gentleman, if you’d be so kind as to have a seat on the terrace, I’ll be back promptly to show you to your staterooms as well.”
Vivi followed Roland across the terrace, into what she thought might be the living room, then across the room into an elevator and up two floors. At least she thought they were called floors on a boat. By the time they alighted from the elevator, Vivi’s head was spinning trying to take it all in.
The elevator doors opened to a view of the ocean directly in front of her.
“Here we are at your suite. I hope this is to your satisfaction, Miss Bloom.” Roland stepped back, allowing Vivi to precede him through the opened door and into the suite.
“Holy crap,” the words slipped out before Vivi had a chance to stifle them. “Sorry, Roland.”
The man merely smiled and deposited her luggage inside the door. “No worries, Miss. I’ve been tempted to say worse on more than one occasion myself. The first look at the yacht and its amenities does tend to take one’s breath away.”
Vivi laughed at his comment. “I don’t know how anyone ever gets used to something like this. It’s like being on a permanent vacation where all you have to do is show up.”
“I trust the stateroom suite is to your liking then?” Roland inquired, another smile crossing his face.
Vivi looked around the room once more. The king sized bed faced a wall of windows that at present were open to the sunshine, the breeze and its own private deck, complete with lounge chairs and a Jacuzzi.
You wouldn’t even have to get out of bed in the morning to see the ocean. Just lift your head a few inches and there it was in all its brilliant blue glory.
Roland picked up a remote off the end table. “And with this remote you can open and close the curtains. This button will control the music. And this one is for the television.”
As Vivi watched in surprise, the top of a wooden cabinet at the foot of the bed opened and a television set rose up to viewing height.
“Is there a button that allows someone to go to the bathroom for me so I never have to get out of bed?” she asked with a laugh.
“I’m afraid we haven’t been able to get that to work just yet. But hopefully soon,” Roland retorted.
“This is perfect. I’m going to love spending my days and nights here, Roland. Thank you for showing me everything.”
“You’re most welcome, Miss Bloom. When you’re ready, please come topside. I’ll be serving appetizers and cocktails. Take your time though, there’s no rush. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go see our other guests settled.”
Vivi watched him walk out the door and close it behind him. If Jeff and John’s rooms were anything like this, they’d be hard pressed to want to leave them.
She kicked off her shoes and flopped down on the bed. This was something she could seriously get used to. Grabbing the remote, Vivi pressed the top button and watched the curtains open and close a few times. She giggled, and then hit the next button and the soft strains of country music flooded the room. The next button was for the television and Vivi watched it rise from the cabinet, then disappear back down once more.
Who’d have thought a girl from the wrong side of the tracks would end up here? From wearing hand me downs and cast-off clothing to touting the latest fashions from the industries top designers – it was a lifestyle change of massive proportions. And Vivi was bound and determined never to end up back in the throes of her old life.
Even in her wildest dreams and most incredible fantasies Vivi never thought her life would turn out this way. She was doing something she loved and getting paid to travel all over the world in return.
Rolling to her side, Vivi stared out at the ocean. Maybe she’d just lie here and rest for a few minutes. Then she’d go join the others on deck. She closed her eyes and thought about the text message she’d send her friends later on, enlightening them to all the fun things she’d encountered, and it was only her first day on the job.
Roland stood beside the dining table, set up on the terrace for dinner.
“I apologize, but Mr. Santori will not be joining us this evening. He’s been delayed even longer, I’m afraid. He sends his apologies and asks that everyone enjoy themselves in his absence.”
Vivi put down her fork and then lifted the glass of white wine to her lips and took a sip. Another delay. She wondered if this was standard operating procedure for the man. Well, it certainly wasn’t a problem for her. She was enjoying every minute of her time on the yacht.
“We will be pulling away from the dock momentarily, so please be advised you might feel a bit unsteady if you’re not accustomed to sailing. But it will pass. And for those it doesn’t, I have medication if needed. We’ll rendezvous with Mr. Santori tomorrow,” Roland finished.
Vivi wasn’t sure if she was prone to seasickness or not, and hated the thought that it might all be ruined by a bout of nausea. The only real boat rides she’d ever been on were rowboats at Houghton Lake and the swan ride at Cedar Point. Well, she’d find out soon enough how her stomach fared.
The next afternoon, Vivi wandered around the yacht, peeking into rooms with opened doors and trying to get her bearings.
Making her way to the third floor terrace, she joined Jeff and John, who were enjoying the afternoon sun.
“Remind me again why we have to leave here on Sunday,” Jeff asked.
“Because I think Rafe Santori is going to kick your ass off the boat if you don’t leave willingly once the shoot is over,” John told him.
“Okay, I have changed my life’s goal. I want to earn enough money to be able to afford something like this. I’ll sail around the world, enjoying everything life has to offer,” Jeff declared.
“That’s a nice game plan, but do you have any idea how much something like this costs to buy, let alone maintain on a daily basis? Let’s just say you better be Donald Trump in order to get started with your new goal for life.”
Vivi nodded at John’s assessment of the yacht. From what little she knew about the yacht and most of it from Googling the boat and its owner the previous night, John was correct in what he had told Jeff.
“I hate to disturb your gathering, but Mr. Santori’s helicopter is about to land and the wind it generates and the loud noise is quite discomforting. Would you mind stepping into the lounge for a few minutes until he is on the deck?” Roland asked.
“Sure thing, it’s not a problem.” Jeff and John grabbed their drinks and headed inside.
Vivi followed along behind, but what she really wanted to do was see the helicopter land atop the yacht. She lingered for a few minutes in the lounge, and then ducked back outside. Shading her eyes with her hand, she watched for the chopper. The breeze began to pick up and Vivi heard the roar of an approaching engine.
She watched the chopper circle and then land on the red landing pad atop the highest deck. She saw Rafe climb down from the front seat, grab his briefcase, and head for the staircase.
The pilot lifted off as quickly as he landed and was gone in seconds.
Rafe Santori is here.
Vivi clenched her hands into fists at her side and willed her nerves to steady. She was a grown woman for heaven’s sake, not some lust starved teenager.
Correction, she wasn’t lust starved, either. It had been a long time since she’d last seen the man and a lot had changed.
Before he could see her, Vivi slipped back inside the living room and headed for the bar. The last thing she wanted was for Rafe Santori to see her openly gawking at him. That would never do.
After greeting each person in turn, Rafe headed in her direction. Vivi took a sip of her wine for courage.
“Vivian Bloom, I must say you are a sight for sore eyes. It’s been a long time.”
“Yes, it has Mr. Santori.”
“Please call me Rafe. We’re beyond the formalities at this point, aren’t we Vivi?”
Vivi merely nodded, at a loss for words.
Rafe accepted a glass of scotch from the bartender and turned back to Vivi.
“You probably don’t even remember our last meeting.”
Better than he could imagine, Vivi thought.
“Not really I’m afraid. It was what six, seven years ago?” She wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of knowing she knew every single second that had occurred. Every single word, every single action, every single moment reliving the night repeatedly over the past years.
“Well, I most certainly do. You were wearing a fire engine red dress, with four-inch high heels. And your toe nail polish was calledSeduceMeSilly.”
“It was?” Vivi frowned. Okay, that part she didn’t remember that at all.
“Though at the time I was in a relationship, or I might have taken you up on your offer.” Rafe took a sip of the scotch.
“My offer?” God, now she was sounding like a parrot repeating everything he said.
He nodded. “That I could have had you, though looking back I’m sure you meant for the magazine and not for me personally.”
“Oh, right.” At a loss for words, Vivi could hardly put two words together, let alone form a coherent sentence. If only Rafe knew.
“As I recall, your parting shot wasYour loss, I’m afraid, and that was right before you kissed me and then left like Cinderella in the night,” Rafe finished with a smile.
And of course that part he had to remember with total clarity. Not sure what to say, Vivi wisely chose to keep quiet, lest she say something stupid.
“I am quite pleased you accepted the offer to do the shoot this week. I’ve enjoyed following your work over the past years. You’re going to be a fabulous addition toOutofBoundsmagazine. I see great things in store for both of us when this issue goes to press.”
“Thank you. It was quite an honor to be chosen. Along with Jeff and John, of course.” So he really did remember that night. Especially the part about her age. Now that she was twenty-six.
Damn the man.
No matter how hard she tried, Rafe Santori was going to haunt her dreams tonight as well.
Standing on the terrace, Vivi shaded her eyes with her hand and stared out at the miles of bright, blue Caribbean Sea in every direction. Overnight they had traveled from the harbor to here and she’d slept through the majority of the journey.
Vivi tugged the cotton robe’s sash tighter about her waist and headed over to join the crew.
“My staff will be on call all week, but they will remain out of the photo shoot,” Rafe told the gathered group of people.
“No problem, boss.” Paulie Porchette,OutofBoundspremier crème-de-la-crème photographer moved like a hummingbird across the deck. Flitting back and forth, he arranged and then rearranged the backdrops, making sure everything was in readiness for the shoot.
“Ah, there you are, Vivi. Good morning, my darling. Did you sleep well? I would have said hello last night when I got in, but I didn’t want to wake you from your beauty sleep.” He kissed her cheek, then stood back to survey her with a critical eye.