The day was clear and warm, Sidney was out on her little motorboat and she took in the scene around her. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge arched across her little stretch of bay, and she could see the Washington Monument in the distance, a faint line against the horizon. Across the bay, on the opposite shore, a thick line of trees was present. Sidney often looked at the million dollar homes dotting that old lush forest, wondering who lived there. Sidney refocused on her immediate surroundings and gave a small smile when she saw another small motorboat bobbing out in front of her a short way. She glided over, careful about her positioning.
"Now what have I told you about crabbing?" Sidney asked, putting a hand on her hip and smiling over to the other boat.
"Sidney!" The taller man with dark rich colored skin looked up, adjusting the baseball cap on his baldhead and smiling. "Didn't you know crabbing was a Maryland past-time?"
"I don't care." She said, looking down at the bait line off the side of the boat. It was an elaborate rig consisting of one long line of string, chicken necks tied at various points. The crabbers, CJ and Andrew in this case, would wait a few hours after setting up their rig and then pluck one end of the line up and string it across a long wooden rod situated off the end of the boat. Then they would slowly drive the boat down the line, catching the crabs attached to the chicken necks. It was a delicate process and disturbing the water meant the crabs would be scared off. "Get your chicken necks out of my water."
"Now that's a euphemism I haven't heard," The shorter man said, smirking. He had a short haircut with a cowlick curled over his forehead and was wearing a tight white sleeveless shirt to show off the intricate tattoo across his chest.
"Thanks, Harvard," Sidney said, her eyes snapping back up to meet his. He smirked.
"Tell me, Sid, is it taxing to be so beautiful?" He was lounging at the steering wheel, his smirk firmly in place.
"I don't know, An-drew," She separated the syllables, mocking the ditzy blonds he usually went after, "is it taxing to be so cocky?"
"Don't be like that, Sid-ney," He responded, mimicking her.
"Care to tell me why your best friend is back in town?" Sidney asked, taking her chance while he was in a joking mood.
"Scottie's here?" Andrew sat up, now looking at Sidney properly. He then turned to CJ, "You must have known."
CJ shrugged, tying a loose string on his fishing net. "Thought you must've known." He looked sheepish, but Sidney didn't blame him for avoiding that conversation as long as possible. Scot and Andrew might be best friends, but their friendship was tumultuous.
"Well, I guess that answers your question, Sid." Andrew said, turning back to Sidney. His voice had taken on an edge. "Can't even bother to tell me he's in town. What a dick."
Sidney suddenly felt a little uneasy and she put a hand on the steering wheel, an initial move to escape this situation.
Andrew stood up, a new kind of smile crossing his face, "you've already fucked him, haven't you?" The boat rocked under the shift in weight, but Andrew paid no attention.
"What?" Sidney spun back around, taken off guard.
"You have." Andrew nodded. "I can see it on your face."
Sidney knew he was trying to hide it, but she could see the pain in Andrew's face. The last time she had seen him, she was running away from his bed. With the ditzy blondes Andrew was a playboy, but that morning she had seen the impending commitment in his eyes. Commitment was an issue, especially when that commitment was to Scottie's best friend.
"How about you just figure out what brought him back to the bay." Sidney said, trying to ignore the anger in his expression.
"Sidney?" Anne's voice crackled through the radio.
"Yeah, Annie," Sidney said, relieved she was going to have a way out of this situation.
"We've got a WASP nest coming up and I don't know if the boat's ready for them. And Mookie wants to know where you are."
"Alright. I'll be there in a sec." Sidney looked back over the CJ and Andrew, feeling like this was an obvious out to the situation.
"How is Mook?" CJ asked, maybe he wasn't quite ready to deal with Andrew alone.
"Unfortunately for you, he's doing great." Sidney smiled. CJ had been Sidney's vet for years, she had introduced CJ to Anne at a family party and the two were married a year later. "Does Annie know you're out here?"
"Of course she does." CJ said, letting a small laugh and then pausing, "Just don't remind her."
"Hey, Sid," Andrew said, as Sidney was turning her boat away from them. Sidney turned, waiting expectantly, though she didn't know what to expect. "I've got a game tonight. Want to know what Scottie says? Meet me at the field."
Sidney nodded, smiled at CJ one last time and rode back into the dock. Sure enough there was a group of people surrounding an SUV, pulling out coolers and bags, putting on sunglasses and hats, re-lacing their top-siders and making sure their pink and green polo shirts clashed perfectly. Sidney hopped off the boat and walked toward the office. Anne was waiting at her desk, craning her neck to look out the window. Her perfect French manicure tapped against the shiny top of her desk filling the room with a staccato 'clack, clack, clack.'
"Oh good, you're here." She said when the old door opened and closed with a soft creek. "They've been unloading all this stuff and all our Scots are already out on the water. They won't demand one, right?"
"Well, there are seven out there. At least that's what it looks like." Mookie finally realized Sidney was back and sniffed her legs excitedly, waiting for all the details of her morning jaunt without him. "Hey, baby." Sidney knelt down to kiss Mookie's head. Sidney stood back up, smirking at Anne and shaking her head. "Have you heard from Petrocelli by any chance?"
"You're studly Italian lover?" Anne shimmied her shoulders and laughed.
"No, the guy who brought his enormous boat into dock with us."
"You mean his enormous dick to dock with you." Anne laughed. "Actually, yeah. But he didn't say anything about a party on his boat."
"Well, that's where I'm going to bet they're headed." Sidney patted Mookie on the head once again and then walked out of the office. Mookie was not about to get left again and wormed his way through the door before Sidney could let it fall closed behind her. She walked back out into the sun, ignoring the now slow moving clump of madras to walk down to the monstrosity at the end of her dock.
"Good morning" Sidney said, more harshly than she had meant. She had just slightly trespassed on Petrocelli's boat and looked around at the sudden realization that she was standing on the most beautiful, shiny, clean boat she had ever seen.
Petrocelli himself was sitting, leaning back casually and looking out at the water. He turned to look up at Sidney, lifting his expensive looking tortoise shell sunglasses to fully take her in. "Good morning, bella. To what do I owe this pleasure?"
Sidney shook her head, a little taken aback and more interested in his casual outfit of khakis and a white polo. "Uh, there is a large group of people making their way toward the water. Would they belong to you, by any chance?" Mookie barked at Sidney's side and Petrocelli smiled at him.
"Oh," Petrocelli gave a knowing nod and stood up to walk over to Sidney. He leaned down a little and for a moment she thought he was going to kiss her. Instead he scratched Mookie's ears before addressing Sidney. "I didn't tell you they were coming."
"No," Sidney said, "You didn't."
"Well, we will not be out for very long." He said, casually putting a hand in his pocket. Sidney noticed his belt buckle was in the shape of a lobster claw, the faded brass glinted in the sunlight. "So I don't think we'll have enough time to cause trouble, but if you are very worried you are more than welcome to join us."
"Join you?" Sidney asked.
Mookie was wandering around the deck of the boat and noticed the hoard of Kelly green approaching he barked at them and both Sidney and Petrocelli turned to see what was happening.
"Well now you have to meet everyone." He said, putting a hand on the small of her back and steering her toward the edge of the ship. She felt a flutter in her chest at his touch and decided that maybe meeting all the WASPs in DC wasn't a bad idea. "Hello!" He said, as they all came aboard.
"George," The first woman gushed, "This is a gorgeous ship, I can't believe we've never been out before."
"I know, but better late than never." He smiled at her, letting her reach up and give him a hug. "Mia, this is Sidney. She is the person who makes this marina run smoothly."
Mia looked less than thrilled to make Sidney's acquaintance, but shook her hand all the same. Sidney looked at her crinkled, sagging face and droopy monogrammed sunhat and tried not to cringe. She also took a moment of pleasure in the fact that George had not been thrilled to reciprocate her hug.
"Georgie, my boy!" An older, plump gentleman was next in the receiving line in Nantucket reds and a light blue oxford shirt. "This is a fine boat. Although, I do wish I was back out on a skipjack one more time." He smiled all the same and took George's hand.
"Harold, I would like you to meet Sidney Jedson. She runs the marina. Sidney, This is Harold Burton." George was more gracious with this introduction and Sidney looked up at him, silently asking why. He gave no response, so she just took his hand and smiled politely.
"It's a pleasure." She said, not sounding like herself at all.
Most of the other introductions were bland and Mookie got bored of trying to get everyone to pay attention to him when they were obviously more interested in the trim on the boat and how crisp the sails looked in the sun. George came up with more creative ways to say that Sidney ran the marina and Sidney got the distinct feeling that George was not looking forward to a day out on the boat with this group of people. He seemed much less enthused to introduce the women and played obvious favorites with the men. All of them had coolers or bags filled with food and drinks, and they obviously were planning on a much longer day than George had just described to Sidney. Sidney also had a few moments to notice that George took many opportunities to put his hand on the small of her back, and to think about how it made her feel so comfortable and taken care of as he was leading introductions.
"Well," George turned to the group of people on his boat, "Now I guess it's time we see if I can drive this thing." There was a round of laughter and George turned back to Sidney, putting a hand on her arm. "Will you be joining us?"
"No, Mr. Petrocelli." Sidney said, trying to take in all of his dark angular features at once. Their faces were so close to each other, it wouldn't have been awkward to reach out and touch him. But she resisted. "But I will be here when you get back." She dropped her voice so only he could hear, "maybe with a beer or two."
George winked at her and gave a small nod. "Then I guess we'll see you two later." He patted Mookie's head before they got off the boat.
Sidney walked back to the office, shaking off what had just happened.
"Andrew's out on the bay." Sidney finally said out loud as she walked into the office. "Andrew is out crabbing right past the dock."
"That's where the people were going?" Anne asked, looking away from her computer.
"No, they were there to see George, but Andrew is on a crab boat, crabbing." Sidney sat down at her desk and ruffled through some papers without having any kind of end goal.
"Sweetheart?" Anne shook her head, a sign that she wasn't sure what was going on.
"I just, I haven't talked to him at all and he was just out there and I acted like it was nothing. He's seeing Scot tonight and I'm going to his game and I offered Petrocelli a beer." Sidney raised her arms in an overdramatic shrug.
"First let's talk about you giving the hot Itallian guy a beer." Anne said, always one to skip to the punchline.
Sidney stood on the deck of Petrocelli's boat for the second time today with two beers in hand. "So how was the ride?"
"Pretty good, bella. How was your afternoon?" He closed the top to a storage bin and motioned for her to sit with him.
She obliged, holding out an already opened beer and sitting so she was facing his tall frame. Even sitting he was overpowering to look at and she had a feeling he was completely unaware.
"Fine, pretty normal." Sidney shrugged and balanced her beer on her knee.
George looked over at her, waiting for a continuation, but she didn't oblige. They sat silent for a moment and Sidney was suddenly afraid this was a completely inappropriate relationship to be starting, and then finally he spoke.
"All those people combined own about a third of the country." George took a sip of his beer, as if it would help him contemplate that fact.
"So all of you together would own the whole country." Sidney said, hoping for a laugh.
George looked over at her again and gave a soft smile, but didn't respond. That means it must not be that far from the truth.
"Dad says you were looking to work with me." Sidney couldn't handle another silence.
George nodded, "Only if you want to."
Sidney shrugged and nodded trying to look both apathetic and intensely interested. "What would we do? Or you, I guess. What would you do?"
"We would be working on a campaign to raise awareness about the bay and the ecosystem it supports." George stressed the word "we" and Sidney felt a little tingle. She would be working with a billionaire who called her bella, introduced her to his powerful friends and looked sexy as hell in a polo shirt. "I thought you would be a wonderful spokesperson for that since you are so close with the bay." He referred to the bay as if it was a person, a living thing with a personality and idea about how it wanted to be. For a moment Sidney thought about correcting him, but then realized the bay was kind of like a person. It did have a personality and it did have a way of showing off its own character.
"That sounds really nice."
"Have you had dinner?" The conversation turned completely and George was looking at her more intently now.
"No," She said, pulling a knee up to her chin.
"What would you say to continuing this conversation over dinner? At my place."
Sidney's eyes went wide and she tried to manage her surprise at this offer, but couldn't. She also couldn't say yes to this offer, even though she wanted to more than anything. She wanted to know how he lived, what he liked, who he was as a person instead of as a billionaire who entertained businesspeople on his gigantic boat. One meal wouldn't hurt, and she was going to be working with him soon anyway, so this wasn't an inappropriate relationship.
"I have to go watch a soccer game for a little while," She remembered.
George shrugged, "You are allowed to just say 'no.'"
"It wasn't 'no,'" Sidney reached out and touched his arm, realizing this was the first time she had touched him at all. His arm was smooth and she could feel heat radiating off him. "I just remembered I had plans, but if you aren't opposed than neither am I."