Read Never Too Late Online

Authors: Patricia Watters

Never Too Late (5 page)

Long slender
fingers gliding into the crook of his elbow drew his attention away from the
scene beyond the window. "A penny for your thoughts, sugar pie?" Val
asked.

Jerry peered
down at Valerie Williamson, the sleek little number who seemed determined to
warm his bed. "Just checking out things on deck," he said.

The woman
slipped in front of him, resting her back against his chest and said, musingly,
"She's my roommate... in the middle of a divorce and looking for adventure
on the high seas. Alessandro Cavallaro will take care of her. He's an expert at
giving women what they want. That body of his is nothing less than a
state-of-the-art sex machine, and he knows it. Spends hours in the gym keeping
fit. And he's got brains too. Lots of older women want him for their sugar
pup."

"What's a
sugar pup?" Jerry asked.

"On, man.
Your generation really is behind the times. I tell you what," Val said,
turning around to face him, "I'll come to your stateroom after dinner
tonight and tell you all about the sugar bowl." She trailed a finger down
his bare chest and made an idle circle around his navel.

Jerry glanced
over the top of her head and looked on in disgust as Alessandro the sugar pup planted
a kiss on the flat of Andrea's wrist while peering down the front of her shirt.
Hell! She was even more naïve than he'd figured. How obvious could a man be,
drooling over a woman old enough to be his... much older
sister.
But Andrea wasn't responding like a sister. She was practically slavering over
the man. Even from a distance he could see her nostrils flaring and her chest
heaving...

Val glanced
around in the direction of his gaze, and said, "Pathetic isn't it. But
she's been completely turned off to sex by the guy she spent the last
twenty-five years with, so she's primed for action in bed with a real man. When
Alessandro's through with her she'll think she'd died and gone to heaven. And
that prick she'd been married to... History."

Jerry glared at
Andrea, and said, "What else did she tell you about her husband?"

"Not a
whole lot," Val replied. "But I could tell from the start she's not
into the sugar bowl scene." She cuddled against him so her ample breast
pressed against his side then glided a palm around behind his waist and down to
squeeze one spandex-covered bun. "But you, on the other hand, sugar
pie,
you're a man after my own heart. In shape, active,
virile." She gave his butt a pat. "We'll check out your plumbing
later." She puckered her lips into a moist, come-to-me-baby, air kiss,
winked, and sashayed off. But the woman with the body of a goddess and the
libido of a nymphomaniac, who was intent on servicing him tonight, wasn't the
woman he wanted. But he sure as hell didn't want Andrea either. Those days were
over...

He looked out
the window again and saw Andrea walking off with her Italian stud, the man's
hand sliding down to drape over her hip, the tips of his fingers resting
lightly on her butt. Hell and damnation! He went back to pumping iron.
Vigorously. Energetically. Single-mindedly...

***

It had never
occurred to Andrea that she and Jerry would be stuck together at the same table
for all their meals, so when the first sitting for dinner was announced, their
assigned sitting, she made a point of taking a seat across the table from
Jerry, which precluded conversation. But since it was a table for six, four
more people would be joining them. Alessandro sat two tables away, which also
placed him two tables beyond Jerry's left shoulder. Looking at one man meant
seeing the other. It could not be avoided. But she could ignore Jerry by
contemplating her upcoming evening with Alessandro. He'd invited her for an
after-dinner drink, and promised her an unobstructed view of sunset from the
large viewing window in his first-class stateroom. But when she agreed to spend
the evening with him, she made it clear that hopping into bed was not an
option. But looking at his incredibly handsome face and strangely inviting
lips, she might allow a goodnight kiss. And who knows where that would lead
before the cruise was over...

A group of
people that appeared to be a mother, a father, a son about fourteen, and a
grandfather, approached the table. They stood for a moment contemplating the
seating arrangement,
then
the woman leaned over Jerry,
and said, "I notice that you haven't ordered yet. Would you mind moving
around the table so my family could sit together? My father-in-law is hard of
hearing, and it would make things easier for him."

Jerry looked
across the table at Andrea, clenched his jaws momentarily, then replied, while
standing, "No problem." After he'd seated himself beside Andrea, he
looked in the distance, and Andrea knew he'd spotted Alessandro. She also knew
Jerry had seen them together earlier, which she found absurdly satisfying.
Jerry had been so sure she couldn't turn a man's head, and she'd managed to
snag the handsomest, most eligible bachelor aboard.

Leaning toward
Jerry, she said, in a hushed voice, "Are you enjoying the cruise?"

"It's great,"
Jerry replied in a low, quiet tone. "Couldn't be better."

"Do you
have plans after dinner?" Damn! She hadn't expected to ask that. It just
slipped out.

"Possibly,"
Jerry replied. "And you?"

She looked at
Alessandro, who tipped his wine glass toward her and smiled. She smiled back.
"As a matter of fact, yes." She draped her napkin across her lap and
tried not to stare at Alessandro, but her gaze kept shifting that way.

"He's a
gigolo," Jerry said.

"Ha! You
wish," Andrea replied in a hushed voice. "It happens that Alessandro
owns a villa in Majorca and a sixty-four-foot yacht for cruising the
Mediterranean."

"And you
believe him?"

"I have no
reason not to," Andrea said, keeping her voice low so the others wouldn't
hear. "He showed me pictures of his yacht and his family. He has two
sisters, one of whom is married to a count. And his parents are currently
cruising the Mediterranean on their own private yacht. He even invited me to
spend some time at his villa in the very near future."

Jerry stabbed
an artichoke heart from the salad that had just been placed in front of him,
and said, in a muted voice, "I can't believe a woman with three grown
daughters can be that naïve."

"That's
not quite right," Andrea said. "The truth is
,
you can't believe that a woman with three grown daughters is capable of
catching the eye of a handsome hunk like Alessandro Cavallaro."

"Handsome
hunk?" Jerry gave a cynical laugh. "Single's lingo doesn't suit you,
sweetheart
, comes across exactly as what
it is. A middle-aged woman trying her damndest to sound trendy."

"Well if
that isn't the pot calling the kettle black!" Andrea snapped. "
You had your chest waxed!
" She
looked across the table and saw the couple staring at them.

"I'm
surprised you noticed," Jerry said, his voice low once again.

"How could
I not," Andrea hissed. "You were standing with your shirt unbuttoned,
sandwiched between two women the age of our daughters, while slavering and
drooling like a St. Bernard. I'm surprised you didn't trip over your big fat
slobbery tongue."

Jerry threw his
head back and laughed. "You're jealous!"

Andrea looked
at him, aghast. "Are you serious? What on earth is there for me to be
jealous of when there's a man aboard with a villa in Majorca, the body of a
Greek god, and the charm of Cary Grant, who's interested in me?"

"Wake up,
Andrea. The man's a gigolo," Jerry said. "All he's interested in is
your money."

Andrea started
to tell Jerry that Val pegged him as her next sugar daddy then decided to let
things ride. After he'd made a complete fool out of himself, believing Val was
after him for his engaging personality, and somewhat good looks, and reasonably
fit body, for a man his age—actually somewhat above average—she'd hit him over
the head with the truth. Still, the thought of him in bed with Val was
strangely disturbing. But after twenty-five years of having him all to
herself
that was to be expected. But, Alessandro would take
her mind off it...

"We're the
Danforths," the woman across the table said. "I'm Lillian, and this
is my husband Charlie, our son Ned, and my father-in-law, Edward. We're from
Charleston."

Andrea realized
she and Jerry had been so caught up in throwing verbal darts at each other they'd
completely ignored a family that would be joining them for all their meals, for
the rest of the cruise. "I'm Andrea," she said, omitting her last
name. If she and Jerry were both Porters, it would require an explanation that she
wasn't prepared to give.

"Jerry
Porter," Jerry offered. Standing, he stretched across the table to offer
his hand. Charlie stood and gave Jerry a solid handshake.

"Then you
two are traveling alone?" Lillian asked, eyes shifting between them.

For a few
moments neither spoke, but when the silence became awkward, Jerry said,
"We were acquaintances before the cruise, and we have some mutual...
friends."

Three daughters to be exact...
Andrea
almost announced.

Lillian
Danforth gave them a puzzled look, which was to be expected, considering that
she and Jerry had been sitting across the table from each other like strangers,
when the people arrived, and within five minutes got into an argument about
Jerry's waxed chest.

"Well
there's not a better place to get to know each other than on a cruise, I've
heard," Lillian said. "You two will have ten days, and approximately
thirty meals, to get acquainted. Who knows what might develop?"

Andrea glanced
at Alessandro, who was looking steadily at her, and said, "Yes, who knows?
I'm looking forward to it."

"I'll just
bet you are," Jerry mumbled under his breath.

Andrea ignored
him, concentrating on what lay ahead after diner. Perhaps she and Alessandro
would follow their after-dinner drink with a stroll around deck, and when they
came to the stern of the ship, Alessandro would take her by the shoulders and
kiss her on the forehead, then turn her around so she was resting against his
back, and wrap his arms around her so they could watch the phosphorescent glow
from the wake of the ship as it moved through the water. Her heart gave a
little patter of anticipation.

A smile tugged
at her lips. Little could she have dreamed, the week before, that she might be
spending her twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with a tall, sophisticated,
incredibly handsome,
Italian
with bedroom eyes. And
who knows what next year might bring? Possibly a first wedding anniversary in a
villa in Majorca, or on a luxury yacht cruising the Mediterranean... or beyond?

Oddly, that
thought made her just a tiny bit sad.

***

Andrea looked
across the small, linen-covered table at Alessandro, who stared steadily back
at her. Thirty minutes before, room service rolled in the table bearing an
assortment of elegant pastries. It bothered her that Alessandro's shirt was
unbuttoned to mid chest, and that his eyes kept drifting to her breasts while
he talked. And earlier, there was no mistaking the fact that when he'd come
around behind her while she was enjoying the view beyond the window in his
stateroom, and curved his arms around her waist, that his hands had moved
upward to places that had never been touched by any man but Jerry. She'd turned
out of his arms then, and took her place at the table. Now, as he stared at
her, she was beginning to wonder if Jerry was right...

"You're a
very beautiful woman," Alessandro said, in his smooth Italian accent. "I'm
entranced by you. By your beautiful smile and your quick wit. I believe you are
attracted to me as well."

"Well
yes," Andrea admitted. "But I'm sure you're used to women being
attracted to you."

Alessandro let
out a soft laugh. "Maybe at times, but I'm not used to a woman of your
charm being so." Again, his eyes roamed to her breasts.

Feeling
suddenly anxious about being alone with the man, Andrea set her napkin aside
and said, "This has been a lovely evening, Alessandro, but I'm tired and I
need to go." She stood abruptly and started for the door.

Alessandro was
up from the table in an instant and positioned himself between her and her exit.
Taking her by the shoulders he kissed the side of her neck, but when he made
his way down, Andrea pushed away from him, and said, "I didn't come for
this."

Alessandro
released her shoulders. "Sorry, I did not mean to rush you," he said.
"We have ten days to get to know each other. You're a desirable woman. Beautiful,
charming… But it's what's here—" he placed his hand over his heart
"—that attracts me to you as a women." He made no attempt to reach
for her.

Andrea still
felt a little uncertain, but she was relieved Alessandro had backed off. But
she'd had enough for one night. She still wasn't used to the feel of another
man's hands on her, or his lips on places that had been Jerry's alone. But all
she needed was a period of adjustment. "Thank you for the pastries,"
she said, starting for the door.

He took her by
the arm and turned her around. "You are welcome,
cara
mia
, and I hope this will give you something to remember me by
until tomorrow." He placed his hands on her shoulders and kissed her on
the forehead, a short, sweet kiss that made her heart flutter. He dropped his
hands, and she quickly stepped out of this stateroom and made her way back to
her quarters. But as she passed the honeymoon suite, the sound of a woman's
voice caught her up short. She listened for a moment and was certain she heard
Val. Angling her ear to the door, the words became distinct...

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