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the canvas can do miracles

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Well, it's not far down to paradise, at least it's not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see.
Believe me.

--Christopher Cross, Sailing

 

 

 

 


Harry was the son of sailor who was the son of a shipping magnate who’d got his start as the erstwhile second son of an earl. Roland Hart had earned his stripes as a docker, working his way up from a casual worker to a TWIC union member and then someone of reliable reputation. At the age of 27, he was tapped to be first mate on a shipping freighter after a ship-to-ship collision in the Baltic resulted in the death of his predecessor.  Hart rose to the occasion and organized the evacuation of the damaged freighter while managing to salvage some 80% of the haul. For his audacity and daring, his field promotion was made permanent and Hart was hired to captain his own ship shortly thereafter.  For his bravery, he was awarded a knighthood.

By the age of 40 Roland Hart commanded the second largest freight company in England. At the end of his life, he was sitting COO of the largest shipping firm in all the United Kingdom. But more importantly, foremost, he was a sailor. And as a sailor he instilled a love of sailing in his son, Everett, and in Everett’s most beloved son, Harry.  The fortune he had earned was incidental; it was the adventure of crossing the world by water that had drawn him all those years ago and enchanted him still.

When Harry said the sea was in his blood, he meant it. He’d swum almost before he could walk and certainly was more surefooted at it in his early days. That skill had guided him to many a championship trophy and distinguished him among his peers throughout his school years. But it was his participation in the Oxford Regatta as a fourth-year rower that brought him to Chester King’s attention. The rest, as they say, was history.

When the verdict had been handed down from Kingsman’s chief physician that Harry would never be field ready again, he tendered his resignation that very day.  What was Harry if not a Kingsman?  Thirty years of his life and what did he have to show for it anymore? No family, no home (not that he minded Eggsy residing in his former abode), no codename (also Eggsy’s henceforth); and now, no future to speak of.  Kingsmen didn’t retire as a rule, they were promoted to the role of leader in one of the far flung branches or they died.  All agreed that Harry would make a singularly awful king and here was Harry, alive for some reason.

Harry had stocked up on essentials from the shop and from his old bedroom where Eggsy had left his things untouched for close to a year.  Despite his demanding schedule as a Kingsman keeping him on dry land for much of the year, Harry was always prepared to take off to parts unknown when the opportunity arose.  His go-bag and supplies in hand, Harry ditched his Kingsman glasses in a public taxi and made for the St. Katharine Docks where his beloved boat was moored.

The stress of his fruitless recovery began to seep from him as soon as he set foot on the pier opposite the Tower of London. St. Katharine was always a peaceful destination for him.  The hustle and bustle of London faded away to be replaced with the low roar of incoming and outgoing port traffic, and the tranquil chatter of shipmates laughing as they lovingly scrubbed down deck and hull and set damaged sails to rights. Tourists sat at the outskirts, sharing meals at nearby eateries and watching the nautical goings-on with a hazy contentment Harry recognized too well. This was where he came when the world became too loud and filled with distractions. He’d spent quite a bit of time here after Lee Unwin’s passing.

But Harry didn’t want to think of Lee or Eggsy or anything to do with the organization that he had gleefully sold his life to. There was a great and vast world to see and Harry wasn’t so far gone as to want to miss it. He may not be a knight anymore, but he still had the ocean, his boat, and his wits.  He had all he’d ever need again.

He found his berth through force of habit.  His yacht floated unbothered on the marina’s mild waters near the foot of the Tower Bridge.  He paid a deckhand to give her a thorough polish every week and keep her in good nick between his infrequent visits.  It appeared that his faith had been well-placed.  He owed his boatman a bonus for going above and beyond.  Her hull positively shone in the daylight as if to welcome Harry home.

Harry crouched down to scrub a nonexistent smudge from the boat’s name emblazoned upon the stern. In black text outlined in gold, it read, Young at Hart.  The name had been Merlin’s idea of a joke when Harry bought himself the motorboat for his 50th birthday.  Buying himself a boat when he routinely moved about in antique vehicles and experimental concept cars ‘borrowed’ from the Tesla Automobile Labs was the height of a midlife crisis.  Harry had kept the name because it reminded him of his parents, Natalie Young and her besotted seafaring spouse, Everett Hart. Harry never could resist the allure of a good pun.

Harry set out eagerly that day, ably navigating the River Thames to the Thames Estuary where it opened into the North Sea.  The shipping route was as busy as ever, sailing barges chugged along carrying their international hauls toward the marina that lay behind. Oil tankers, bulk carriers, and container ships made for perilous travel, but Harry hung in there with the ease of long practice.  He had learned how to navigate sea routes at age seven.  Though he was one eye shy of what he ought to be, that gift had yet to desert him.

In the ensuing weeks, he set out for the villages dotting the coastline of Essex’s smaller estuaries, refueling and replenishing his supplies as he used them. The people were friendly, of hardworking stock. His grandfather would have adored them.  Harry adored them, and made it his business to do those he found a good turn when he could, be that an unusually large tip for a Foulness Island bar maiden or a quiettalk with certain trouble-making upstart criminal entrepreneurs out to shake down the locals on Mersea Island.  He motored away in the dusk once he’d played guardian angel.  Merlin had a tedious gift for recognizing Harry’s brand of heroics from a vague write-up in the most obscure village papers.  He’d drag Harry back by his collar like the sodding nursemaid he was, and Harry wasn’t ready for that.  Kingsman was behind him; god, let it be behind him or he’d never move on.

He ran afoul some unforeseen trouble in Herne Bay, Kent. 

He’d gone ashore to re-stock his supplies when he came upon the perfect gift for Eggsy–or rather, Eggsy’s sister.  The boy doted on his baby sister as if she were his own and Harry felt especially compelled to do the same. Merlin and Lancelot were likewise moved to stockpile child-friendly souvenirs in Daisy’s name for no other reason than that she was Eggsy’s and he loved her. Three hardened operatives turned to mush for a toddler. God forbid their enemies should ever catch wind of their collective weakness against goopy smiles. They’d be buried up to their necks in nappies and shrapnel within the hour.

Harry was stowing a crocheted stuffed seal in his cabin when he noticed another vessel approaching his own on the harbor. The scheduled seal-watching tours had shut down for the day in expectation of an imminent storm and what leisure boats remained in port were dark, their engines still.

He’d had a nagging suspicion he was being followed through the Victoria Gardens, and then up and down the renovated pleasure pier.  His trip to the supermarket, though uneventful, had heightened the alarms bells rung by his gut.  Herne Bay was a seaside town of less than fifteen thousand and he had espied the same three or so gentleman repeatedly in different locations throughout the afternoon.  Not typical. None of the men had approached Harry and he’d elected not to confront them onshore to avoid possible civilian casualties.  Better for them to meet him on his chosen battleground.

They had chosen his haven, the deserted harbor and tumultuous sea.  Brave men.  Very foolish but brave nonetheless.

Call it a professional hazard, but Harry had anticipated some degree of ceremony prior to being attacked.

Harry had met them when they pulled their bedraggled houseboat along the Young’s port side.  It was considered good etiquette to declare one’s intentions far in advance of their presumptuous encroachment, but Harry let the matter slide.  As Eggsy’s upbringing had differed from his, so had theirs. No need to be a complete tit, as his protege would have said.

Not a fatal mistake, really. But a silly one.

They did not make a speech. They did not come out guns blazing.

One came out smiling and attempted to make conversation.

The next came out leering and pretended at patience.

The third came out with an aluminium baseball bat.

They all ended up caught in the tide, fighting hand to hand. (Harry had disposed of the bat first. His head had been through quite enough, thank you.)

Two had been given the ghastly chore of attempting to drown him while the third, sporting a swelling eye and fewer yellowed teeth, supervised from a distance.

Harry’s head was shoved underwater for a fifth time as they demanded he disclose the combination to his safe.  Burbling between stolen breaths, he refused.  It was Merlin’s given name, a name deader than the Plantagenet Dynasty, and good riddance.  Its disclosure had been the first evidence of Merlin’s burgeoning trust in Harry.  He hadn’t forgotten yet, nor had he told a soul. These cretins would remain unexceptional in that regard.

Harry gagged up a mouth of brackish water, kicking fervently to stay afloat as their grips on his arms slackened.

“Surely, we can discuss this,” he posed conversationally for a man presently wading in 34 degree temperatures.  Not the worst circs he’d landed himself in to date. Still not ideal.

“Tell us how to crack the safe and we’ll let you go.”

“Yeah, we’ll let you go,” numskull the second chuckled.  Neither were very convincing.

At his refusal he was forcibly submerged again.

That’s when it occurred to him that they had no idea who he was or who he (formerly) worked for. They only knew what he had based on what they’d observed: money, an expensive boat, and perhaps no one to account for his absence.  This is a fine mess you’ve made for yourself.  It was to his constant consternation that his internal voice was conspicuously Scottish-born.

Well, this won’t do at all.

Harry slammed his heel into one of his captor’s knees and wrapping his legs around his ankle, yanked them into the briny stew.  He treated the second to grab and twist of the testicles that left him howling, a muffled commotion above that became entirely silent when Harry was once more was dragged below.  Their wrathful expressions were a hazy blur.

Harry hooked an arm across minion no. 1′s windpipe and squeezed till his attacker went slack in his grasp. He let him drift away and swam toward the next pair of thrashing legs extended down from the surface. He’d have to dispatch them all to have any hope of escape.

When he yanked minion no. 2 under the surf, he was met by no. 3 out of the murky blue.  The man had been waiting for him.

Harry landed solid right hook to no. 3′s jaw and drove his knee into no. 2′s solar plexus with devastating accuracy. They belched up gaseous bubbles and spun wildly away from him.

But not far enough. Before he could make his escape, they recovered and lunged for him.  They grabbed at him, trying to drag him toward the sea floor with their combined weight.  Harry’s chest ached with the need to breathe. His once above average lung capacity had diminished during his coma and physio had accomplished little toward restoring it.  His time was nearly done.

Then one of his faceless attackers jerked, their lungs fighting to compel him to breathe. And he breathed deep, a chestful of cold seawater. He was unconscious in seconds, likely dead soon after. The immediate result was him releasing Harry’s shin from his stranglehold. His compatriot held Harry’s opposite ankle in a death grip, but the renewed buoyancy was just sufficient for Harry to swing round and slam the heel of his boot into his human anchor’s nose, driving the broken bone fragments into the goon’s oxygen-deprived brain. Thus unburdened, Harry powered toward daylight as darkness encroached upon his vision.

His chest ached. His lungs burned. His limbs cramped and fought him for every stroke.  Bubbles of carbon dioxide burst from his mouth and were swept toward fresh air by virtue of their own levity.  He envied them.  With a few last, sluggish paddles, he broke the surface to suck in a mouthful of the same salty, freezing air that had taken them.

He was momentarily disoriented. The world was limitless in three directions, angry marbled water rippling outward from his arms and tiredly kicking legs. For all his training and experience and rock steady poise, some part of Harry, deep and primal, panicked.  I will not die like this.  Not today.

Harry swung around and to his grave relief found the shoreline a few hundred meters on. He also found his boat and that of his pursuers, seemingly abandoned.  He didn’t question the likelihood of his having dispatched all of his attackers. He didn’t care; he wanted to leaveright this instant.  Discretion was the better part of valor, which no one knew better than he himself. Even if he frequently ignored that edict in the heat of battle. Not that I need to worry about that any longer.

He pulled himself aboard and lay panting on the teak swimming board.  He was getting up in age to be taking on the world at large with his fists, wasn’t he? Merlin had been right about that.  Not that Harry had been in any shape to hear him at the time.  ‘There are other ways you can contribute, man. You’re not being put out to pasture. Be sensible,’ Merlin had said. Harry hadn’t been very sensible for all kinds of reasons.

Harry instinctively rigged his rowdy pursuers’ transport to explode on ignition and set off away from Herne Bay. He’d quite outstayed his welcome by now.  He set his ship back toward London, inwardly citing boredom when he knew it was quite simply time.  Bad enough that he’d abandoned his post without explanation, he couldn’t do that to Eggsy or Merlin. They’d curse his memory if he failed to turn up again.  Whatever afterlife awaited him, he was quite sure he’d be subjected to their anger either way. He’d withstand it twice again to see home again.

After a thorough, scorching shower, Harry donned a thick navy blue jumper over careworn slacks to ward off the chill that had started to seep into his bones on his long voyage away.  Now that he was soaked through, it was worse. But he’d needed this shock to his system. The wind off the Greater Thames Estuary ruffled his curling hair and stung his one good eye, which he might have felt more acutely had he not been smiling so widely.  The near-silent slice of his boat through the water soothed his soul, the lapping of the North sea against the Young’s hull was like an embrace he could only just recall from childhood. The song of the sea played and played in his ears: foghorns blaring, proximity alarms prematurely sounding, swearing sailors, and the choppy seas; all of it a symphony.  He had missed this, the solitude of man and the open water, the purr of an engine at his command with no destination in mind.  I wish I could share this with Eggsy.

Eggsy had taken to the aquatic portion of the Kingsman trials like a fish.  He was an expert swimmer and diver, combining speed and grace in an unbeatable, perfect package.  Harry could admit, now that he had only himself for a confidante, that it was Eggsy’s affinity for water that had drawn him over the line separating a harmless attraction from a quiet fascination.  That feeling hadn’t left him, not during his two protracted comas, nor during the intensive physiotherapy that followed his career-ending injury at Richmond Valentine’s hand.  If anything, his fascination had coalesced into something warm and more lasting than any infatuation could prove to be.  Harry loved Eggsy and the realization that he was almost certainly unworthy of him was the most frightening moment of his life.  Perhaps that was his real reason for fleeing upon receiving his prognosis.

Galahad could be worthy of Eggsy’s regard. He was on the side of righteousness, despite a penchant for bloodshed that made many question that fact. Who was Harry Hart and what was he worth without that title to justify his darker inclinations? Forget class distinctions and age, forget his blasted eye, what good was he to Eggsy if he wasn’t good at all?  Valentine’s mind control had forced him to question the man who lived beneath the suit and deadly instincts.  Those instincts were only as justifiable as their target was just. On that day they hadn’t been just at all, and Harry had been paying the toll every moment since.

Now it was Kingsman that would pay. But not more than they had to. Not yet.

If this was the end of his usefulness to the agency, he had his fair share of gratitude to express. To Bors, who had taken over as his mentor when Chester King became Arthur. To Gwaine who had taught him the elegance of a subtle pinstripe. To Merlin who had taught him all the rest.

And to Eggsy, good, faithful Eggsy who had brought warmth into his life again.  A warmth he dearly missed far as he’d strayed from home.

Eggsy deserved a proper parting of ways.  He’d been abandoned by Harry too often as it was.  This will be the end of it, then.  If he lowered his speed as he traversed the Thames waterway back to St. Katharine, there was nobody but his fellow mariners to know it.  Let an old man drag his feet to say goodbye.

Late afternoon had well set in by the time the Young at Hart pulled into the marina several day later.  The docks were as busy as ever, this time more oriented toward private vessels than the larger shipping containers that dominated its morning and midnight hours.  Harry navigated a path around a honeymooning couple with elegant Just Married signs affixed to the aft and stern of their 55-foot cruiser.  They were still attired in in tuxedos; the wedding party waved them merrily on their way from the pier.

The well-wishers had disbursed to Zizzi’s for local Italian fare by the time Harry had brought the Young At Hart around for locking.  Harry cut the engines to let his boat coast comfortably into its berth on pure inertia with minimum steering.  She bobbed on the waves as the engines’ roar fell to a purr and then silence.

Harry allotted himself the next few minutes to prepare himself to be a man of land instead of sea.  Land was filled with so many more people and could be far less forgiving. 

He had apologies to make.

He disembarked with nautical rope in hand and sought out the boat’s cleat to tie her on.  Were Harry not so accustomed to observing his surroundings he might have been surprised at the sudden arrival of a familiar presence at his side, helping to tether his boat to the pier.  Somehow he knew it wasn’t his boatman.

He turned for a moment, yielding to a need to cover his blind spot, to see Eggsy using an impressive set of knots to securely moor theYoung at Hart in place. His hands were bloodless on the ropes, as pale of his drawn brow and his pursed lips. He was angry and doing his best to keep it from Harry.

Harry might be down an eye but he wasn’t a fool. He still had his thirty-year career to fall back on. He was in the market for emotion and rage was for sale.

“Eggsy.”

Eggsy glanced at him from the corner of his eye. His hands jerked on the line, tugging the boat into the dock hard enough to rock them where they stood.  Harry gently, swiftly relieved him of the task. His boat shouldn’t suffer for his folly; he was a big enough man to suffer for himself.

When he was done and the Young was safe, he gave Eggsy his undivided attention.  Eggsy was terribly readable for a crack spy. He was hurting. Anger was a distant second to the sense that he’d been left behind.

“Where’ve you been?”

“You obviously know that. You wouldn’t be here to meet me otherwise.”

The dense, powerful muscle in Eggsy’s saw twitched in time to the pulsing of the vein at his temple. That might have worried Harry more if the pained slope of his brows didn’t give him away.

“If something had happened to you out there, out of communication range, where nobody could get to you, nobody’d know what happened.”

“I had a satellite phone.”  Which he’d kept switched off for most of his outing, a fact that almost proved to be Harry’s undoing.

Eggsy didn’t dignify his defensiveness with a remark.  “Merlin told me you’d be coming back around now, so I made it my business to be here.”

“I didn’t give him an exact date.”  He’d registered a rough date of expected return with Camper & Nicholsons, not Kingsman.  Merlin had gone the extra mile to see him home safe.

Eggsy scuffed his winged trainers on the scrubbed boards. “I came every day.”

“You shouldn’t have. You should be out on missions, Eggsy.”

“Merlin agreed to keep me local, just till you got your head out of your arse.”  Eggsy raised a censorious brow.  “Looks like one of knows ‘ow to do his job even when he’s hurtin’.  What’s your excuse?”

“I don’t have one. I should. I’ve had more than enough time to come up with one and then I realized that it doesn’t exist.  I left you. I shouldn’t have left you.”

“This ain’t about me, bruv. You left us in the lurch.”

“I fucked up. I have no excuse, except to say that I saw my life as I had lived it go up in flames and I couldn’t cope. I don’t know who I am if I’m not Galahad.  What use is Harry Hart to Kingsman? And if I’m no use to Kingsman, what use am I?”

“We coulda worked somethin’ out if you hadn’t run away,” Eggsy shouted, startling a group of seagulls perched on a gangway into flight.  Eggsy didn’t notice  “I thought you were gonna–do you know how many nights I dreamed about getting a call from Merlin that somebody found you floating fuck knows where, dead because you didn’t know who you were no more, so you weren’t gonna be nothing. You were dead. Weeks of nothing but the worst I could think up.”

“Eggsy-”

“I can dream up some pretty scary shit, bruv, is all I’m sayin’. You left me nothin’. I didn’t get a text, bruv, nothin’.  I thought…I was worth that much.”

“I don’t have words enough for what you’re worth to me. Worth more than is left of me, Eggsy.  How do you say goodbye to someone you would rather die than leave?”

“You did it, though. You left and you ain’t dead, so.”  Eggsy’s mouth pulled tight to quell what his eyes revealed.  “You did what you wanted to do.”

“I’m doing what I want to do now.  You deserved a goodbye worthy of what you mean to me.”

“Don’t wanna say goodbye.  You shouldn’t’ve come back for that.”

“I can’t be what I was, Eggsy, but I can be this. I can do this, still.”  He was a sailor’s son. The sea was as much a mother to him as his own had been.

“You can do lots of things. Just because you can’t be on active duty doesn’t mean we don’t need you anymore.  I need ya, Harry.  You haven’t lost everything, you still have me.”

“I don’t deserve you.”

Eggsy shrugged. “Love’s not about what you deserve; it’s what you get anyway.”

“And what you earn. I’ll earn your faith in my again.”

“You sure about that?”

“Positive.”

“Imma hold you to that.  You run off again, I’m draggin’ you back for Merlin to deal with and that’s it.”  The set of his jaw was only matched by the hardness in his eyes.  Eggsy wasn’t yet lost for good but he could be.

“Understood.” Harry concealed his shaking hands in his pockets. “Thank you for waiting for me, Eggsy.”

Eggsy sniffed, a well-acted performance of nonchalance that gave Harry some hope. “Thanks for coming back.”

Clearing his throat, Harry sought to diffuse the awkward silence before it could become insurmountable.

“There’s still time for a last lap before night falls, if you’d like the grand tour.”

“Not much of a sailor, me, but I could go for a spin.”  Eggsy gingerly laid a hand on the Young’s gunwale. “Seems sturdy enough.” His assessing gaze of the vessel was somewhat less convinced.  “You gonna teach me how to drive this thing?”

“There’s no time like the present.”  He was delighted at the prospect of sharing his greatest love with the one he held most dear.  No matter the outcome, these memories wouldn’t be lost.

Eggsy touched his ear and turned back toward the pier.  An earpiece, Harry surmised.  “Uh, Merlin has a message before we go.”

“Oh?”  Harry should have figured Merlin would be listening in.  Not that a word had been said that Merlin wouldn’t have anticipated.  Harry was hardly quiet about his feelings for Eggsy. Somebody’d had to witness his fretting and the role of captive audience had fallen to Merlin.Poor bastard.

“You’re the guvnor, I’ll tell ‘im whatever you want.” Eggsy turned back. “Merlin says to turn on the fucking satnav or he’ll ‘scuttle your lousy tugboat personally.’ Got that?”

“Noted.” Harry hopped aboard to do as he was bid. V-Day was only one example of Merlin’s skill at remotely bringing others to heel. The stories Harry could tell…He had no desire to be made an example of.

Eggsy was waiting on the gangway for Harry’s return.  “Permission to come aboard, Captain?”

“Permission always granted.”

Harry showed Eggsy around the forward deck and then introduced him to the well-stocked cabins below. Eggsy They detoured to Harry’s private cabin where Eggsy took it upon himself bounce on the edge of Harry’s plush bed.

“So it’s a house.”

“It’s not meant for long-term habitation, but yeah, I suppose it could be a house for someone who wanted the option.”

“That what you lookin’ to do, sail around the world in 80 days or whatever?”

“I’ve gone as far as I intend to go for now. The things I need, the answers I want, they’re not out there. They’re here.”

“In London.”

“On this boat.”

Eggsy reclined against Harry’s pillows. It was startling to Harry how much he wanted to keep him just where he was.

“I thought you came back for Kingsman.”

“Not only Kingsman.” As an aside, he murmured into Eggsy’s earpiece, “Sorry, Merlin.”

Eggsy’s lips quirked. “He just called you a grade-A arshole.”

“Can you disagree?”

“Nah.  Still like you, though.”  He patted the empty space beside him. “Come on, old man, ya look like you haven’t sleep for days.”

Harry rested his bones on the familiar pillow top with a sigh.  “The sea is rife with peril.  I’m still recovering from a run-in with a couple of would-be hijackers.”

“And that’s why you shoulda had your transmitter on!”

“That’s also from Merlin?”

“Melodramatic, self-aggrandizing prick,” Eggsy ground out plainly. “That’s from Merlin.”

“Your Scottish accent needs work, but A for effort.”

“You gonna make a joke every time I tell you to take care of yourself? Because I’ll leave right now.”

Harry laid a heavy hand over Eggsy’s shoulder. “Don’t. Stay. Just…stay.”

“You’d betta take me at my word when I say I’ll go. I don’t want to, but I’ll do it. I’ve seen my mum get played lovin’ a piece of shit, it won’t be me.”

“Never. I promise you.”

“Don’t promise, do. That’s all I need.”

Harry pursed his lips, and then nodded his understanding.  His need to dress his acquiescence in flowery words would get in the way when his words weren’t the problem.

“Shit, I think I broke him. Merlin, he ain’t talking.”

Harry snorted his incredulity and crossed the plush, narrow mattress to kiss the next words out of Eggsy’s mouth.  Eggsy made a triumphant noise and pushed Harry back against the bookshelf serving as a headboard.  He settled his weight across Harry’s thigh and staked his claim on the roof of Harry’s mouth with a curl of his tongue.  Shuddering, Harry darted forward to suckle sweetly on Eggsy’s lips till he yielded to Harry’s sweetness and cupped his jaw. Eggsy’s scratched gently at Harry’s bristled chin and nibbled lightly at his mouth.

“I’m likin’ this.” He rubbed his clean shaven jaw against Harry’s well past five o’clock shadow and gave a delectable shiver.  Harry would like to make him shiver just this way for hours.

I may never shave again.  A besotted lie for his own mind only. Facial hair and a double-breasted suit was a look suited to others but not to him.

“And here I thought it was my irresistible animal magnetism that compelled you to join me on my romantic yacht.”

Eggsy harrumphed, indignant. “You ain’t romancin’ me.”

“That’s unfortunate. I brought champagne and souvenirs in the hopes of winning your affections. I’ll have to save them for the next handsome fellow I meet at sea.” Eggsy treated his jaw to a hint of teeth this time around.  Harry’s breath sped up. He licked his lips. “Or not.”

 “You’d better not. You’ve got one bloke in one port.”

“Good thing I only want the one.”

Eggsy sank his fingers into Harry’s riotous hair and brought their noses together in the tenderest nuzzle. “Now you’re catching on.”

Encapsulated in this sacred place with the man who held his heart, Harry had to ask, “Shall we go on an adventure now.”

Eggsy gazed at him from beneath feathery gold lashes and said, “I think we already are.”


“Where do you want to go, Eggsy?” Harry asked when the cabin was lit only by the sidelights of passing vessels and Eggsy’s earpiece had been lost in the sheets. They were completely alone.

Eggsy stretched up Harry’s bare chest to kiss his neck and shoulders and to bury his smile somewhere warm.  “That’s easy: I’d go anywhere with you.”