Ted is a billionaire and a treasure hunter — and he’s on the biggest search of his life, the fabled Santa Ana. Scavengers and poachers would love to follow his lead and then scoop it up under his nose, so Ted sets a plan in motion. He hires Peter to act as his boyfriend for the summer, so that the paparazzi think he’s on a romantic vacation. Sure, it means outing himself to the media, but the price is worth it if it keeps the Santa Ana safe. There are two problems, though: he didn’t expect to fall in love with Peter… and Peter wants nothing to do with him…
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As he walked along the wharf, suitcase rattling on its casters behind him, he idly wondered how much the boat cost. Ten million? Fifteen? It was easily a hundred feet bigger than the other large boats in the marina, so maybe he could add another zero to that estimate. However much, it was more money than he’d ever see in his lifetime. That didn’t make him envious, but it seemed like a monumental waste while there were hungry people in the world.
But he couldn’t help but be grudgingly impressed. What sort of man rented a boat like that? He’d told Ted he thought his new employer was compensating for something, but that was only because he was embarrassed about being labeled a “companion” for the summer. It sounded like a euphemism after all, though he pictured himself in the role of carer, providing a bit of conversation at dinner and helping Edward Arthur, whoever he was, in and out of his chair and taking on some of the simpler shipboard cleaning jobs. With any luck he would be a nice old man, whatever Peter’s duties turned out to be.
He reached the yacht as his new employer stepped out onto the lower deck.
What the—? Is he—? But I … shit.
“The boring old rich guy who needs a penis extension?”
“I am so sorry,” Peter said, blushing furiously.
Ted laughed. “I’ve heard worse. Come aboard.”
Peter carried his suitcase up the boarding ladder while Ted leaned against the railing and watched him. Although Ted made him feel beyond comfortable the night before, Peter now found he couldn’t meet his eye. When he finally felt brave enough to snatch a peek Ted was gazing at him fondly, but looks could be deceiving.
What must he think? Fuck fuck fuck.
Inside, the yacht was as flashy as it was outside. Casually dressed crew were buzzing about, hauling crates down what appeared to be service stairs and into the belly of the ship. None stopped to take Peter’s bag. It wouldn’t have occurred to him they would try if the place didn’t feel more like an expensive hotel than a boat.
“Don’t mind these guys,” Ted said as they bustled around him. “We’re in a hurry to get away, but I’ll introduce you properly later.”
Peter nodded. He was in a daze and couldn’t take in what was happening. He glanced around, trying to find something normal to focus on.
The entrance hall interior was more like a spaceship than a ship. Gleaming white panels covered the walls, starkly highlighting the design of the bold postmodern benches lining them. Ted led Peter down a long, improbably wide corridor traveling through the center of the ship, and then ushered him into a vast dining room.
“Welcome aboard Suzette,” Ted said, arms outstretched as he turned around, indicating everything all at once. “She’s a seven-year-old, 250-foot leisure cruiser and your home for the next six weeks. I’ll give you the grand tour.”
It was grand and took forty minutes with only brief stops in each room. Alongside all the crew workspaces and a set of office suites there was a library, a games room, a small cinema, a well-stocked bar, and a gym to keep Peter busy. There was even a decently-sized swimming pool outside on the top deck.
The decor in the guest areas had mellowed into your typical five-star resort-hotel chic, but the crew space, which he visited briefly, was a more Spartan affair. Peter received a sheet of paper with all their names and their room numbers but wasn’t shown inside any of the cabins.
“Which room’s mine?” he asked.
Ted grinned at him. “These rooms are for the crew. You’re here as my companion.”
“That’s a job, though, right?” Peter was beginning to doubt that fact.
“It’s a job, but it comes with perks — one of which is you’re sharing a cabin with me.”
Peter drew in a sharp breath fuelled by mild panic, and Ted’s easygoing demeanor faltered.
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