"You are cordially invited to attend the wedding of Kimberly Jane Cook and Lorenzo Salvadore Cucinello on Saturday the tenth of September . . ." Grace Pachelli muttered to herself as she struggled into her shoes. The clock in the living room struck one as she managed to get the high heels on.
"The ceremony is at two o'clock at the Sacred Heart chapel, reception following in the Potomac Princess. Where is my purse?" she yelled at her apartment. A harsh sigh escaped her and she squared her shoulders as she glanced in the bathroom mirror.
"Face it--you don't want to go. You know damn well that the old witches are going to snipe at you about Enzio's death and then try to fix you up with some unsuspecting stud at the reception and of course the whole family will be laughing about that--"
She broke off her tirade and looked over her outfit again. A small pleased smile spread over her face as she admired it. The dress was a short black wool number, shot through with gold threads. It was cut in a deep V to the small of her back, and had a lovely scooped decolletage in front that set her full chest off to great advantage. Grace had put her long hair up in a French twist and locked it in place with a gold comb. And under it all--no bra, but a tiny pair of gold and black panties with a matching garter belt that Madonna would have killed for. Lovely black stockings with flecks of gold in them too, leading into the highest meanest heels she could walk in.
"Ha! Too bad Mr. AD W.S. Skinner--you don't know what you're missing." she murmured to herself in a slightly forced tone. She hadn't seen Skinner in three weeks, not since the start of the congressional investigation hearings he was required to attend. He'd written her a few terse notes, she sent him a few offical memos--all business and no play. It galled her--after that long ago weekend of utterly scorching eroticism, how he could so quickly re-focus on work and not spare a thought for her?
A cab honked outside. She grabbed her purse and dashed out the door.
** ** **
The Potomac Princess was a floating two-story palace of a paddle wheeler, permanently docked on the Georgetown side of the River She had been renovated ten years ago as a restaurant/hotel, and had been doing booming business in weddings and conferences ever since. Grace loved the look of her white lattice rails and polished wooden decks in the golden autumn afternoon.
aboard, Grace darling!
It's good to see you. Oooh love that outfit!" came cousin Sofia's
voice halfway down the awning covered gangplank. Grace gave her
a quick hug as she stepped onboard the Potomac Princess. A light breeze
the hemlines and hairdos of both women.
"I think Tina has someone she wants you to meet."
"I think I'm gonna scream. Is it Daphne's brother, or that actuary that Joe works with?"
"Mario? Met him already. Good-looking, but not my type."
he's big, strong and
silent--JUST your type."
"Everyone can just lay off, okay?" Grace warned, reaching for a glass of white wine from a passing waiter's tray. "I'm here for Kim and Lorenzo's big day and not for matchmaking."
"You know that the Trio is going to give you holy hell about your dress, widow lady."
Grace shrugged. "God, the Enzio tragedy--married for two years, dead now for twelve. I think I'm over the hump."
suit yourself, but Mario
might start looking real good in a couple of hours."
The reception line snaked from the ballroom on the lower deck and out the French doors to the rail side promenade. Looking down from her vantage on the upper deck, Grace was glad that she'd already passed through the line and congratulated the newlyweds earlier. It was nice to have a few quiet minutes in the glorious sunshine.
"Graziella dulcia mia!" a quivery voice called to her. Grace turned to see Zio Vittorio being wheeled up to her by his bodyguard. She bent to kiss the old man, aware of Mario's quick peek down the front of her dress as she did so.
"Zio--you look good." she told him.
"So do you, so do you. Doesn't she, Mario?"
A man of few words, Grace noted sourly. She handed her empty glass to the burly bodyguard. "Ancora, por favore?" she simpered.
Mario hurried away, leaving her and her uncle alone on the uppermost deck.
The old man sighed with amusement.
"You don't like Mario, do you?"
"I don't know Mario. And I'm tired of everyone trying to pair me up." she confessed wearily. "I'm not ready to get involved again."
"No, you're not ready to marry again. You're already involved, bambina. I can tell." Grace blushed and tried to deny it, but her uncle cut her off with a wave of his leathery old hand.
"Neglectful man. Is he here?"
"No--" even as the words left her lips, her gaze caught sight of Skinner below in the reception line. Dark suit, geometric patterned tie, easily a foot and a half taller than Kim's secretary friends in front of him.
Of course. As Kim's boss he would be invited--Skinner looked uncomfortable, and for a moment, Grace felt a flash of satisfaction. An idea began to form in her mind.
An evil idea.
"Zio--about your charming young Mario--"
"Graziella--" her uncle looked up at her and followed the line of her stare to the imposing figure below. A grin crept across his lined face; he understood immediately.
"He IS here. Ah, I sense the Borgia in your blood, bambina. But I am fond of the boy, and I will not have him hurt just for your revenge, capice?"
"I don't want to hurt Mario--just make someone else a little hot under the collar." Grace moved away from the rail to keep Skinner from seeing her.
"Mario could be very helpful that way."
"Then talk to him, let him in on the game, Graziella." Her uncle placed a finger alongside his aristocratic nose and nodded. "He's not very smart, but he is loyal and follows direction well enough." As he finished speaking, his bodyguard returned.
Mario faltered when he saw both of them turn to him, the same dangerous smile of each of their faces.
** ** **
She hid and waited. Skinner was in the buffet line, seriously studying each dish before choosing what to put on his plate. She waited until he'd seated himself, then slowly sauntered past him, the lazy roll of her hips catching admiring glances from several men in the room.
Bingo. He saw her, fumbled with a fork, dropped it on the floor. She ignored him and carried her plate to the table where Mario was waiting and pulled her seat close to his. Mario smiled at her, white teeth flashing.
"Did he see? You sure can walk great."
"He saw. So did the Trio." Grace grumbled through a smile. From the corner of her eye she could see Skinner trying to size up the situation. When his glance turned to Mario, she saw his jaw tighten. Something glittered behind the glasses, and suddenly Grace found she wasn't hungry.
At least, not for food. She picked at her plate while Mario shoveled in his meal and talked in far too much depth about season drafts for the football season. She pretended to listen, and once in a while peeked at Skinner. He didn't seem to be eating much either. Around them, the crowds of wedding guests laughed and drank and table hopped. Grace speared a fork full of food and fed it to Mario.
"Here--it's a garlic -stuffed olive."
To his credit, Mario took it in his teeth and lolled it lasciviously on his tongue before chewing it. Grace grinned at his attempt to look passionate.
"He's gotta be noticing, right? Hey, those are good--you got any more?"
Cousin Sofia passed by them and gave Grace an approving pat on the shoulder.
Grace hid her wince. She kept smiling at Mario, patting his hand, laughing at his remarks and ignoring Skinner.
The dinner wound down. Harried caterers carted off plates and refilled champagne glasses as guests began to trickle off to the ballroom. Grace sighed. In order to leave, she'd have to pass by the Trio. Mario walked her to their table then left, promising to meet her in the ball room. Grace took a deep breath.
"Nona, zia Maria, Zia Anna--" She greeted them respectfully. The three ancient matriarchs in black looked up at her.
Nona spoke first, her frail appearance and gentle smile in contrast to her harsh words. "That dress is too short and too whorish for a widow, Graziella Pachelli. You dishonor Enzio's memory!"
The two aunts chimed in, agreeing but not adding anything more. Grace blushed, half in anger, half in embarrassment. She kept her head high.
"Enzio died a long time ago, Nona."
"And throwing yourself all over that bodyguard--disgraceful. You need to have a proper courtship. Have you no shame?" The trio clucked again in a bizarre Greek chorus. Grace bit back a sigh and dutifully kissed her grandmother's cheek. She had given up trying to remind these old ladies of the truth about her husband's death. They would never admit that Enzio Pachelli was a drunk driver who took three other lives along with his own all those years ago.
Better to roll one's eyes and move on.
She walked away.
She could sense him behind her, and she tried to hurry her pace along the deck to the ballroom. The sun was just starting to set, casting long red and gold shafts of light across the water. Grace knew she couldn't let him touch her; one touch and she'd melt. She hurried on, hampered by the shoes and spinning on one heel through the doors to stumble into a group of men clustered there.
"Whoa, bella! Don't fall--" Dimly she recognized a friend of Lorenzo's as he steadied her with a strong arm. Grace smiled her thanks. Skinner strode past them all to disappear into the darkened depths of the room.
"Hey kid--wanna dance?" Her brother Paul asked gently. Grace nodded as the DJ cranked up something loud and vaguely familiar. She let Paul tug her out onto the crowded floor.
It was fun. She hadn't danced in ages, and at the end of each song it seemed someone new would ask her for the next one. The music varied : traditional Italian songs, rock , golden oldies--Grace enjoyed them all. An hour passed before she realized it. When the DJ finally cued up a slow Sinatra song, she felt Skinner's presence before she looked up and saw him there.
He didn't ask anything, he just stood there and waited, blocking off her escape to the tables. He'd left his coat behind and had rolled up his shirt sleeves, loosened his tie a bit. In the darkness she sensed the heat rising off of him, not the heat of exertion--something different.
Grace took stock of herself : she was sweating lightly, her hair was beginning to free itself from the gold comb, and her feet hurt. She looked up at Skinner. Instantly, an erotic surge started to throb deep between her thighs. Against her will, she nodded.
Skinner roughly scooped her into his arms, gradually forcing her across the dance floor. Grace tried to protest, but a single glance from him made her stop. She realized he'd steered them to the darkest farthest corner of the room, well away from her companions.
"I didn't know you could dance." Even in four inch heels, she had to look up to meet his eyes.
"Marine training." he answered tersely. Grace wriggled against the tightness of his grip; her fingers were caught in the vise of his hand.
"You're hurting me--" she managed between clenched teeth. Around them the lazy romantic music pulsed on. Skinner pulled her closer, and when her body pressed against his, she had to bite back a groan at the hard familiar feel of it. His breath stirred her bangs, and the clean scent of him washed over her in a wave. He bent his head down, bringing his mouth next to her ear.
"Having a good time, Pachelli?" From any other person, the question would have been innocuous. From Skinner it was threatening. Grace felt his hot breath tickling her ear.
Grace realized that he didnt' expect a reply, so with a sense of cool she didn't really feel, she gave him one.
"Oh yeah. Best time I've had in say--three weeks."
The barb hit home; she heard him growl and the sound made her smile even as shivers galloped down her spine. Here in the dark everything was a little wilder, a little more primitive. With a sensual whimper, Grace was just bringing her teeth up to Skinner's ear as the song slowly ended. Someone was coming up to them, someone in white--
"Gosh, there you are Mr. Skinner! Aren't you going to have dance with me?" A slightly drunken Kimberly smiled up at her boss and tugged on one of his arms.
Momentarily distracted, Skinner allowed himself to be detached from Grace, but his angry eyes promised her that they had some serious unfinished business. Strains of Dean Martin's "Amore" flooded the room. The bride giggled and put her arms around her boss. Grace shook her head to other invitations to dance and slunk out of the ball room, needing air. Needing time.
She leaned on the rail on the river side of the unlit upper deck looking out on the moonlit water, feeling sorry for herself. Obviously she'd screwed up--he wasn't jealous, he was just pissed at her. Crap, he'd probably spank her again without any of the fun this time around. Down below music and laughter drifted on the breeze. It was colder now that the sun had set, and she wished she'd brought a sweater. Grace turned her head as Mario came up to her.
"You're on your own now, signorina." His tone was peeved.
"What do you mean?"
"Your 'friend' just warned me that if I ever touched you again, he'd take my arm off at the shoulder." Mario sulked and lit a cigarette. "Asshole. I promised your zio that I wouldn't fight anybody, but I might have to--"
"He said that?" Grace looked stunned.
"No he wrote me a letter." Mario snapped. "I think I could take him, but it might ruin the wedding."
Grace shook her head firmly. " No. Don't. Lorenzo would never forgive me. Besides, you have better things to do. I heard that Lorenzo's sister, Angelina, has the hots for you."
"Really?" Mario brightened.
"Oh yeah. She's helping cut the cake." Grace gave him a little shove and a crooked smile. "Go on! You deserve to have a good time too, right?"
"Damn right. " Mario nodded and sauntered off, his cigarette bobbing like a firefly in the darkness. Grace turned back to the water, watching the moonlight dance and glide on the currents for a long time.
Threatening bodily harm. Yep. That was definitely a jealous reaction. A grin kept danced across her lips but before she could wipe it away, a strong hand clamped on her mouth.
Trapped! She hadn't heard him come up behind her, but now she could feel him pinning her against the wooden railing with his body. In a panic, she tried to kick, to fight, but the squeeze was too tight and her arms flailed uselessly in front of her.
Uh oh--maybe the bodily harm wasn't going to be confined to Mario-- "Three weeks, two day and fifteen hours." Skinner angrily whispered into her ear. Grace struggled. Using his torso, he forced both of them to lean over the waist-high railing. The comb fell out of her hair; it dropped, winking in the moonlight until it splashed into the dark water below. Her hair cascaded in a warm wave over her shoulders.
She grabbed at the palm over her mouth, tugging on it with both hands, but Skinner's grip was steel. With a start, she realized that his other hand was slowly sliding up the back of her thigh, under the skirt of her dress. When his fingers reached the top of the gartered stocking, he gave a low grunt of approval in her ear.
Oh. Oh yessss---
The hot throbbing between her thighs began to pulse in time with her accelerating heartbeat. Grace could feel the iron ridge of Skinner's cock pressing against the cleft of her ass. Her fingers dropped away from the grip over her mouth; instead she grabbed the railing at each side of her waist, bracing herself. The hand on her lips slid away.
"Good girl." he praised her softly as he straightened up. She bit her lips and kept her face towards the view before her, not daring to look over her shoulder at him. If he saw her grin he'd probably torture her further by walking away.
Skinner's hands slid in tandem up her firm ass and around her small hips, bunching the wool dress up around her waist. Grace slowly rubbed back against his rigid cock and heard him inhale sharply with pleasure. But he pulled away slightly. His voice was as controlled as ever.
She waited, quivering slightly. On her hips his two teasing, maddening hands hooked strong fingers under the panties and tugged them down. The gold and black silk dropped to the deck soundlessly. Grace lifted each high heel in turn freeing herself from them, and Skinner kicked the panties off the deck.
They drifted down to the water, floating for a moment on the current, then disappeared from sight
The knowing warm fingers of his right hand slid down into the gossamer tangle of her fur. The left glided up the hip, over the ribcage and under her full breast. Her dress was now bunched well above her navel. Grace sucked in a deep breath. The combination of cool night air and his warm hands over her half-exposed body were making her hyperventilate. Skinner's fingers slowly reached her clit and her nipple at the same time. She was slick; his fingers glided easily around the quivering bud between her thighs, barely touching it with feather-light strokes.
"No . . . no, I can't . . ." she whimpered even as her stomach began to tighten under his caresses. Long moist pleasure-filled minutes ticked by. He lazily increased the pressure and speed of his touch, his hot breath tickling the crown of her head. Grace thrust her pussy against his hand, spreading her legs apart, gasping.
"Ooh . . . essere brava, molto brava--" her soft frantic cries grew louder.
Skinner shifted his left hand from her erect nipple up through the neckline of her dress and back over her mouth. She wailed into it gratefully as her orgasm shuddered through her body on three strong jolts. Unintentionally, her teeth nipped his palm.
Skinner held her as she wilted back against him, breathing hard, barely able to stand. As she gradually came to her senses, she remembered the condition of her clothes.
"Oh-my-GOD!" frantically she tried to smooth down her dress, but Skinner wrapped both arms around her, pinning her, nuzzling her hair. Grace realized he was enjoying her panic and it infuriated her.
"Damn it, what if someone walked by right now--" as the words left her mouth, she understood.
He'd meant to seduce her in public, to claim rights to her in no uncertain terms. Her chin trembled as that realization set in , but he spun her around and stared down into her eyes before she could say anything further.
"Go say your good-byes." Not a request, not a suggestion. He dug in his pocket and handed her a cabin key. "Ten minutes."
Startled, Grace looked from the cold metal shape in her hand and back up to his fierce gaze. He was breathing a bit harder than usual.
"Do it." His deep voice held a hint of arrogance, a firm seductive tone that brooked no argument. Still slightly dizzy from her climax, Grace tottered off.
Downstairs she mechanically spoke to people and gathered up her purse. Zio Vittorio glanced at her keenly when she bid him goodnight.
"Mario tells me you succeeded?" the question implied more. Grace just looked at her uncle with slightly glazed eyes, and the old man unexpectedly laughed.
"I think I will like this man. He thinks like an Italian, no?"
She walked up the stairs on wobbly legs. Cabin 29. She unlocked the door. Dark--the only light came from the moonlight spilling through the porthole.
As she stepped in, Skinner grabbed her, spun her to a chair, thrust her down.
Her purse flew, hitting the cabin wall. Dimly Grace realized she was in a rocking chair. Her dress was impatiently tugged up from her body, tossed aside.
Dreamily she reached for the strap of her shoe and Skinner's strong hand gripped her wrist. He shook his head.
The fuck me high heels would stay on.
No problem . . .
Grace leaned forward, pressing her face to the fabric of his trousers and his erection surged against her cheek. Quickly, she unzipped him and slid the pants down; his cock rose up, angry and swollen. Grace sighed in delight and took him into her mouth.
Lapping, licking, sucking, she rocked back and forth in the chair. Her hands caressed the heavy silken mass of his balls, and Skinner growled with each deep stroke. His hands clenched her bare shoulders, tangling in her satiny hair. Grace could sense his climax building and she tightened her wet lips around his shaft.
Skinner groaned, a deep guttural sound.
He came in a great salty bitter surge, flooding her throat; she could barely keep up with the flow as she swallowed it down. Pain shot through her shoulders--his hands were squeezing hard enough to make her whimper.
"Christ, Grace--" it was an apology and sigh all in one. Skinner was still panting slightly as he pulled her unresisting form up out of the rocker and into his arms. She molded to him, fitting her curves into his hollows, helping him out of his clothes, holding him.
They stood in the dark for a long time. Skinner gently touched the bruises on her shoulders, acknowledging them. She wiped the corners of her mouth with her thumb.
"So--come here often?"
"Is everything a joke with you, Pachelli?" Skinner's voice held a tone of annoyance.
"No sir." Her fingers slid along his shoulders down the length of his arms until her hands rested in his. She pulled his arms into position.
"Again?" a soft, heartfelt, passionate plea. "Ancore, por favore?"
Skinner danced her over to the bed.
** ** **
The thumping began again. Kimberly looked at the bedside clock--three A.M.
She rolled over to face her new husband and sighed.
"Jeez Louise--I though WE were the only honeymooning couple on the boat!"
"Whoever they are, that's what, three times now? Hell of a lot of stamina."
Lorenzo grumbled, wrapping a pillow over his head. "I bet one of them's Italian."
"Probably only by injection." Kim giggled, reaching for him. "Like me. I think I need a booster."
"Oh yeah?" Lorenzo tossed the pillow away. and began to kiss his wife. "No problem--"