Jamie had overcome one great hurdle, though not intentionally. Stripping naturally for bed, he'd completely forgotten about his scarred back, until Michelle gasped, "Oh, what happened to you?"
Jamie froze for a second. He didn't want to tell them he'd been shot by the police—there were people in Hawkes Harbor who had been frightened of him ever since, though Jamie thought it would be more logical to be frightened of the cops.
After all, he had been saving Katie, not hurting her.
"Were you in Vietnam?" Diane asked, looking closer.
Jamie thought of the men he'd known in hospitals who had been to war. It would be sacrilege to claim their pain.
"A bank robbery." Jamie had drunk enough not to stammer, which he usually did when he lied. "In Jersey. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The guy went nuts and started shooting. It was years ago."
He hated lying to the girls, with their disdain of bullshit, but he was not going over the whole Katie Roddendem thing again.
"I remember reading about that," Diane said. "Wow. How many times were you hit?"
She was naked herself by now, sitting next to him, caressing his back lightly, feeling the scars left by the bullets, by surgery.
"Three times," Jamie said shortly. He took a breath, determined not to cry at their kindness. It was the first time since the shooting anyone other than a doctor had seen his back.
On his rare and strangely listless trips to one of the Ocean City whorehouses he hadn't thought it necessary to remove his shirt.
Michelle sat on his lap. Her lips were soft against his, her hands played with his hair. She was all gentle curves. He ran his hand over her lightly. She traced his lips with one finger.
"You have the most incredibly beautiful mouth." Jamie slid an arm around her waist, rolling back on the bunk, bringing her on top of him.
"Yeah? Thanks," he muttered. "I like yours, too."
"Make room," Diane said. They moved over. There was enough room after all.
Jamie woke when Diane slipped out of his arms. He'd been sleeping on his side, the three of them huddled together spoon fashion. Her hair in his face smelled of baby shampoo.
"First dibs on the shower," Diane called.
Jamie felt Michelle snuggle closer, her arm tighten around him.
"She's an early bird," she said. "I'm not in any hurry."
Then she said, "Your poor back."
Her lips softly kissed the scars on his shoulder blade; he felt her tongue lightly caress him. Gently, tenderly, she acknowledged each old wound.
Jamie felt the tears running down his face. No one had ever expressed sympathy for his pain.
He shivered when he felt her lips move to the back of his neck, felt her take his ear lobe into her mouth and suck it gently.
"Turn over," she whispered.
He didn't know how much later it was when he opened his eyes. It was like returning to consciousness.
Diane was toweling off in the middle of the small cabin.
"My turn next!" she stated.
"It'll have to be later," Jamie said honestly.
"Okay. But remember, it's my turn."
After lunch, and two Bloody Marys, Jamie and Diane lay on a single lounge chair next to the pool.
Michelle had gone to a makeup demonstration.
"Is it my turn yet?" Diane whispered to him. "I bet I'm better than Michelle."
"I don't know, she's awfully good."
"I'll prove it. Let's go back."
Diane was better, she used more tongue, but Jamie diplomatically declared it a tie.
Then fell asleep and slept through the twilight.
Jamie was waving at him from the side of the dance floor.
Grenville felt annoyed for a moment. He and Leslie were in the middle of a waltz, one of his favorite dances, Jamie was dressed in the atrocious fashion most of the young people on this boat adopted—cutoff jeans and a souvenir T-shirt—and he'd have to be introduced.
You would think Jamie would have learned some taste after all these years ...
Grenville gracefully danced Leslie to the deck side of the dance floor.
"Leslie, this is my man, Jamie Sommers. Jamie, this is Leslie Anderson."
Grenville hoped against hope that he was misreading the phrase on Jamie's T-shirt.
Grenville noticed the hot red flush spreading up from Jamie's neck across his face, and attributed it to his embarrassment at meeting such a lady in such attire.
"Glad to meet you," Jamie said politely. "Grenville, could I speak to you for a minute?"
"Certainly. Excuse me, Leslie, I'll only be a moment."
Leslie found a chair to watch the dance floor, and Jamie and Grenville walked to the railing overlooking the night sea.
"Goddamn it, Grenville!" Jamie spoke though gritted teeth. "I'm not your fucking man! Stop calling me that! I hate it. 'My man'—you might as well call me a fuckin' dog and get it right!"
Grenville stood amazed. Jamie had never spoken to him like that. Once the sheer surprise was over, Grenville said, "Jamie!" in a tone that made the young man's knees turn to jelly, made him grab the railing.
Jamie, suddenly frightened, blinked back tears.
"It ain't fair, Grenville," he said. "You get mad at me all the time. Can't I be mad at you once in a while?"
He looked out across the ocean, afraid to meet Grenville's eyes.
Grenville was thinking he actually preferred this little spat of anger to Jamie's usual muttering sulks.
"First of all, how exactly would you like to be introduced? In my day it was common to refer to one's manservant as 'my man.' But if you prefer something else ... just exactly what would you like to be called?"
Jamie, a little heartened by the lack of rage in Grenville's voice, thought: Chauffeur? Cook? Repairman? Restorer? Errand boy?
"How about Jamie Sommers? Okay? Just Jamie Sommers."
"All right. And exactly when and where did you inform me that the phrase 'my man' was so offensive to you?"
Jamie's eyes went wide. He had never mentioned that title grated so strongly—he never had the courage. Suddenly he thought, I could have just told him, a long time ago, instead of getting madder and madder about it.
"So you'll concede that this is the first I've heard of it? I will take note. Now, surely you didn't call me out here to discuss your job description?"
"Oh." Jamie remembered. "No—you know I didn't come in last night?"
"Yes," Grenville said dryly. "I noticed."
"Well, I got another invite for tonight. So I thought I'd tell you. So maybe if you wanted to have somebody in for a brandy or something ..."
Jamie's voice trailed off. Then he finished, "Anyway, I won't be barging in."
He was as red as he had been before.
Grenville paused. Of all the impertinent... but Jamie was just trying to be thoughtful, in his own blundering way.
"Thank you, Jamie. I'll see you sometime tomorrow." Grenville left Jamie standing at the railing, the cool night air taking the heat from his face.
A nightcap, Grenville thought. A pleasant idea.
Jamie and the girls danced all the way to the cabin from the disco, where they'd danced for hours before.
"Oh man, am I tired," Jamie said, sitting on a bunk, his head spinning from beer, scotch, and music.
"Too tired?" Michelle pulled off her T-shirt, unzipped her jeans.
"Naw," Jamie said, hoping he was right.
Diane, still dancing, paused to kiss the top of Jamie's head.
"Listen, you girls have been awful sweet to me. Anything special you like? Just tell ol' Jamie. Anything at all."
Diane stopped dancing. She and Michelle looked at each other.
"Well," Michelle said, "instead of us telling you..."
"We could show you," Diane finished.
Jamie suddenly felt very alert, almost sober, not tired at all.
Diane unzipped her minidress and let it fall t
o the floor. Michelle jumped onto the bunk across from Jamie, and Diane crawled in beside her.
"So show me," Jamie said. "I'll take notes."