DISCLAIMER: Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight, but I claim the intellectual property of White Swan.
No copyright infringement intended.
To my fab pre-readers and betas: Belindella, Colette, Silvia & Lezlee. Thank you!
This story was originally written as a one-shot for the 'Gotta Love a Man in Uniform' contest—hosted by Twific Hall of Fame—where it won Second Place and Judges Choice Award.
It was rather long for a o/s, so I've trimmed and chopped it up to form the first three chapters of the story, with the aim of extending the story into a novella (around 10 chapters long).
Bella and Edward are the perfect couple. Shame her father is using her yacht for illegal purposes, and Edward's a coast guard officer who is supposed to turn them in.
Rating is for sex scenes, violence, illegal activity & explicit language.
Chapter 1: Rescue
Alone, alone, all all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge; The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner
"Bella… Wake up."
Though I was asleep, I registered the man's voice was nothing like Dad's smoker's raucous. This voice was smooth like midnight velvet and washed over me in a calm tide.
A hand shook my shoulder, and I stirred, feeling the stiffness in my aching muscles. The vibration and rumble of the sailing boat's engine indicated we were still motoring. However, because the boat was gently rocking through the water, I assumed we were cruising in the calmer waters inside of Washington's Cape Flattery.
"We're almost there," the man said.
My eyes blinked opened, only to look straight into deep pools of liquid green.
I had read the name "Cullen" on his bright orange, Coast Guard life vest after him and another officer, who had the name McCarty on his life vest, leaped aboard my sail boat to help air lift Dad to hospital this afternoon.
Dad and I had left Hoquiam harbor just after sunrise, and we'd been enjoying the beautiful summer day, chatting about exploring the inlets and islands around Seattle and the San Juan Islands over the next few months. But our cheerful mood had turned dire when a steep swell pitched the boat sideways, catching Dad off guard. He'd been standing at the wheel but had lost his footing with the sudden movement, unable to stop his leg crashing against the rear winch block. I'd been powerless to help him as I'd had to hold onto the seat I was on to stop myself from falling. Seconds later, he'd released a blood-curdling scream of agony, making me freeze as he voiced the utter savagery of pain he was in.
I'd rushed to his side and helped maneuver him into the sunken seating area of the cockpit, wrapping him in blankets to stave the shock. I'd cursed, knowing that I was hours – days – away from a hospital. And even then, I had no idea where one was.
"I've got to call for help, Dad. I've got to get help." I pushed myself up but he gripped my arm, his face pinched in pain.
"No! I'm fine. Now sail us in, Bella."
"You can." He'd gritted his teeth, groaning as the boat jolted from a wave hitting us side on. "I'm fine."
"Don't be so stubborn, Dad! You can't put up with the pain for hours. You'll go into shock."
And so, ignoring his pleas, I'd gripped the VHF radio handset between my shaking hands and issued an emergency Pan-pan call. I'd been overwhelmed with relief when my call was answered by the Port Angeles Coast Guard. I'd stated Dad's injuries, and our location, and they told me to hang in there until they arrived.
I'd remembered Dad's instructions from over the years and knew that Pan-pan calls were for emergency help that would still allow me to stay on board, unlike a Mayday call that would mean I was in life threatening danger also and we'd have to abandon our boat.
Even though the six to eight foot swells had become more unpredictable and steeper because we'd been rounding Cape Flattery, I'd sailed through a lot worse and didn't feel that I was in any immediate danger that would require me to abandon our home.
Thankfully, the Coast Guard motor boat and helicopter had arrived soon after. That short amount of time had felt like a lifetime of waiting and reassuring Dad that help was coming while I'd continued to sail us around the headland.
When the Coast Guard had arrived, the strong gusts that the chopper created, together with the thirty knot winds filling our sails, had caused our boat to pitch and roll too much for the chopper to safely lower the rescue basket for Dad.
I knew we were getting knocked around so much because our sails were still up, and I wished I could have lowered them myself, but there was no way I could keep the nose of the boat pointing into the wind while I let go of the steering wheel to pull the sails down. Our autopilot had been acting up for the past week, and of course, Dad was in way too much pain to help me at all.
With my stomach in my throat, I'd watched Cullen and McCarty risk their lives and leap from the huge Coast Guard boat onto our 39 foot vessel. The large swells had been okay to sail in, but damnit if they weren't scary as hell when you were watching someone jump from boat to boat when there moving. As soon as they'd scrambled aboard, they'd used hand signals to tell me to steer my boat into the wind so that they could lower the mail and front jib sail for me.
What seemed like seconds later, Dad was inside the helicopter and as soon as I knew he was out of harm's way, I'd burst into tears, overwhelmed by the physical and emotional ordeal. Knowing that Cullen and McCarty were going to stay and help me get my boat to port, my inner fortress of strength had crumbled to rumble and all the adrenaline that had been coursing through my veins disappeared, leaving me fatigued and emotional. The last thing I remembered after that was being held in Cullen's arms as I sobbed into his chest while McCarty steered us into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
As Cullen hovered over me after waking me from my deep slumber, I stared into his eyes and noticed how attractive he was. Gorgeous was probably a better word to describe him. He had the most striking face I'd ever seen. Being this close to him, I could really see the depth of his tropical sea green eyes that were fringed with thick black lashes. His other features were angular and… Mmmmm. His square jaw and lips were… He flashed me a lopsided smirk when he caught me checking him out.
"Welcome back." He sat back on the parallel built-in bench of the cockpit. My two rescuers had removed their life vests, and they were both wearing the same navy blue Coast Guard uniform.
Cullen's uniform had his name in bold white lettering on his right breast pocket, and "U.S Coast Guard" on the other. The top button at his neck was undone so I could see the dark blue T-shirt he was wearing underneath. It was a pretty simple, masculine uniform, but he wore it with an air of authority that made me feel safe with him.
Blinking my puffy, heavy lids while I lay on the other hard, cockpit bench, I felt overheated and looked down at myself. I was bundled with blankets.
Cullen motioned his hand towards me. "You sort of collapsed with exhaustion, so I wrapped you up to keep you warm."
"Oh." I untangled myself from the blankets I'd used on Dad. I sat up and took off my life preserver. Leaving it beside me, I adjusted my pastel pink hoodie and ran a hand over my face and hair. When the summer afternoon breeze blew across the flushed skin of my face, I closed my eyes and breathed in the cool, salty air.
Cullen was watching me.
For some reason, the fact that this handsome man was observing me made my insides tickle.
I stretched my back—popping my chest his way—and felt more alert after what could have only been a couple of hours sleep at the most.
"Hey," I croaked with a nod to McCarty. My voice was still hoarse from trying to shout above the strong winds earlier. He was in the same position I had seen him in last – standing with his long legs apart and his hands on the wheel. He looked relaxed behind the helm.
"Hey, Bella." He gave me a warm smile. "My name's Emmett. It's good to see you're okay. That was one hell of a job you did out there by yourself. Very impressive."
His smile turned into a deep-dimpled grin, and I gave him a fleeting smile in return.
"Thanks. But you guys deserve the praise, not me." They dismissed my esteem with a shake of their heads. I blinked at their modesty after having witnessed their heroic efforts. "Ummm, what's the time? Where are we?" The sun sparkled on the surface of the dark water, and I squinted as I looked around. My earlier assumption was right. We were motoring through a calm harbor which was busy with a lot of smaller crafts coming and going.
"Neah Bay," Emmett said.
I knew from the navigation charts Dad and I had studied, that Neah Bay was just inside the headland and that Dad had decided against stopping here as it didn't offer much as a touristy site.
"It's just after seven o'clock now," Emmett said. "There's only a small marina here, but they've vacated a mooring site for you. It's powered so you won't need to run your generator for electricity."
"Have you heard any news on my dad?" I asked them both, clearing my scratched up throat and tried to ignore the rough feeling. "Is he okay?"
Cullen nodded. "The chopper took him to the hospital, and after he had x-rays, they, ah, they put him under general anesthetic and reset the bone. They were able to get most of the bone fragments out which was good. Apparently the doc said he'll be up for visitors tomorrow and that he's gonna be fine. Your father should be able to come home in a couple of days."
Trusting that Dad's fighting spirit was still going strong, I relaxed, then noticed how my mouth felt as dry as a sandy beach.
I stood and ran a hand over my hair and down my long braid. "Do you guys want something to drink?"
They both nodded. "Water would be great," Emmett suggested with another friendly smile. Cullen said he'd have the same.
"Okay. I'll be back." Stepping down the ladder, my eyes fell on the navigation table to my left, and I recalled the fear, the anxiety, and the heart crushing sense of worry I had felt as I issued the Pan-pan call for help. Had that really only been a few hours ago?
I ducked into the tiny bathroom. After relieving myself, I stared at my face in the mirror, horrified that Cullen had seen me earlier with blotchy skin and red, puffy eyes. I figured that if Cullen wanted to check me out, I may as well give him something to look at. After brushing my teeth and splashing my face with cold water, I undid my braid, shaking my hair out using my fingers. I fluffed and combed my fingers through my hair until it fell in waves down my back and chest. Braids were the best thing, I found, for keeping my hair out of my face while we were sailing, but now that there was a handsome man onboard… I applied a few strokes of mascara to enhance my eyes and a little clear lip gloss to my dry lips. If he didn't like it, at least my lips would benefit from the moisture.
Feeling more confident about my appearance, I carried three glasses of water to the cabin stairs and expressed my gratitude when Cullen leaned inside the entry hatch and grabbed two of the cups from me making it easier to walk up the ladder with just my own.
Sitting back on the cockpit bench opposite Cullen, I smiled. "So what's your first name, Cullen?" I let my eyes drift over his tall, toned body. His reddish-brown hair wasn't as short as Emmett's, so it had enough length to make it appear windswept and chaotic. I liked it.
Before answering my question, his eyes travelled down my long, brown hair only to linger for a moment on my chest. My insides erupted with flutters under his examining gaze, and I was praising myself for improving my looks.
"My name's Edward. Sorry I didn't introduce myself earlier." He leaned forward across the cockpit to shake my hand, but he was interrupted by Emmett.
"I'm sorry to tell you, but the marina was only able to make room for you because of the emergency situation, so you have to move on tomorrow. You can anchor out here in the bay until they have room, but I thought you'd want to move closer to your father since he's in Seattle. Do you know anyone that can help you sail there?"
Answering him, I shook my head no. I didn't know anyone around here since our home port was in Los Angeles, close to where my mom was living. For a second, I thought about calling her, but then I decided against it as she'd only want to come up and stay with me. I knew how sea sick she got, even when we were moored at the marina. I was better off on my own. I was eighteen and more than capable of taking care of myself.
"My dad planned on us making it to Port Angeles marina tonight."
But how could I sail there by myself?I had no autopilot to help me. Having no autopilot meant that every time I would leave the helm the boat would divert by itself, meaning I was practically tied to the damn helm.
White Swan was a decent 39 foot sailboat, and even though Dad and I found her easy enough to handle together, and I could look after her during my shift at the helm while Dad slept, I had never felt comfortable taking her out by myself for a long period.
After a moment, Edward cleared his throat and looked at me. "Emmett and I talked about this while you were sleeping and… I'll help you sail to Port Angeles, if you want."
My eyes widened in surprise.
Was he serious? That'd be expression showed how sincere his offer was, as his steady gaze held mine.
Edward "I could sleep on deck if you don't…" he trailed off and ran his hand through his hair. "But I'll help you sail down to Port Angeles tomorrow. If you want, I could even help you get to Seattle. It'd be hard for you to do it alone."
Containing my enthusiasm, I managed to keep my calm and gave him a heartfelt smile. My stomach filled with nervous anticipation as I realized I'd be spending so much more time alone with him. "That sounds good. Thanks."
His face was controlled into an almost blank mask, but the corners of his mouth twitched with a smile. "My pleasure."
"I'd offer to help, too," Emmett said, his tone apologetic. "But one of us needs to debrief the team, and my wife might get the wrong idea, so…"
I chuckled. "Yeah?" He nodded, but I understood. I'd just assumed them to both be single. Of course they'd be taken. They were gorgeous. Edward probably had a blonde bombshell waiting for him at home. Wanting to know if he had someone who might get jealous if he stayed with me, I turned and my stomach erupted in tingles when I caught him studying me. Granted we were in close quarters and sitting only a few feet from each other, but it seemed that he was always looking at me.
I didn't mind one bit.
"Oh don't worry about Eddie boy," Emmett assured me, chuckling with a deep throaty laugh. "Although he's as free as a jaybird, Edward will be a perfect gentleman."
Well that answered my question.
"Shut up, you dickhead." Edward looked embarrassed. His response only encouraged Emmett to laugh harder.
I chuckled at their bantering, smirking as Edward met my gaze. My heart rate increased, and I felt both nervous and excited that Edward was single.
Oh, the possibilities!
With the marina quickly approaching, Edward insisted that they had everything under control and for me to stay seated in the cockpit while they brought the boat in. I should have been offended, or insisted on helping, but I trusted that they knew what they were doing and so took the opportunity to watch him instead. I couldn't help but be impressed by how decisive and authoritative Edward was when he was focused on the job at hand. It was a massive turn on, watching him bend over to pick up the ropes as his pants pulled tight against his firm ass, hinting at the perfection beneath.
Feeling flushed, I gulped the rest of my water.
The Coast Guard lifeboat had gone ahead of us, waiting at the vacant marina site were three men in the same dark blue uniforms, ready and waiting to catch the ropes that Edward was preparing to throw. The few closest boats that were already moored at the marina appeared to be day-tripping fishing boats, not live-aboard vessels like mine. Within minutes, we were stationary and tied off securely to the marina. The moment Emmett turned off the noisy engine I could hear the sea-gulls and the gentle pinging of the ropes hitting against the numerous aluminum masts as the gentle wind moved through the many sailing boats at the marina.
I kissed Emmett on the cheek and gave him a quick hug. "Thanks so much for helping. You're one hell of a brave man."
Looking embarrassed, he patted me on the head and gave me another dimpled grin. "You're welcome, girly."
He was adorable.
What was it about these men feeling awkward when receiving praise? I looked over and saw Edward watching me with his lips pressed together in a pathetic attempt to hide his amusement.
After repeating my thanks, until I made the whole crew embarrassed, they all made their departure, boarding their Coast Guard boat and heading back to Port Angeles Harbor. Soon it was just Edward and me remaining. On my boat. Alone.
Looking over at him, he was standing on the foredeck, looking incredibly delicious in his uniform.
Hmmmm. I could think of a few things we could do.
"You hungry?" I asked after a moment of awkward silence, stepping into the cockpit and waiting for his answer.
He smirked. "Starving. I'll just connect your power first, so that–"
"Oh. Yeah, thanks." I assumed I already had power. That was usually Dad's job. Poor Dad…
I walked down the ladder and into the cabin, washing my hands in the small galley sink before lifting the lid on the fridge and pulling out two bottles of beer.
After Edward plugged in the boat's extension cord to the power unit on the marina, he came inside and washed his hands in the galley sink, too.
I handed him one. "Beer?"
I could see he was tired so told him to relax in the salon. He collapsed in the 'U' shaped dining booth and lounge area and twisted the top off his beer. I remained leaning against the galley counter, watching him.
Even though I was only eighteen, Dad let me have a beer with him now and then, and right now, there was nothing I wanted more after my shitty day. Thankfully, Edward didn't question me on whether I was old enough to drink when I used the hem of my hoodie to twist the cap off my beer.
"To the sea," he said, raising his bottle to me. "May she always keep us afloat and be kind to the boat."
I chuckled at his corny toast and stepped towards him. "To the sea," I repeated, leaning over the table and clunking the neck of my bottle with his. He nodded, satisfied, and we both took a pull at the same time, our eyes locked together. The beer tasted good, but I was sure it was that much sweeter because I had someone to share the moment with.
Clearing my throat, I went about preparing us a simple dinner of sausages and French toast in the galley.
I flipped the bread in the shallow bowl of egg batter. "You know…" My back was to him, but I could feel his eyes on me. "If you don't want to sleep on deck, there's a spare cabin in here." I laid the bread into the ready pan and looked over my shoulder at him while it sizzled in the heat.
"Only if you're sure…" he checked, being polite, but I could see he was relieved with the promise of a comfortable mattress.
There were three double sized bed cabins all together. Two cabins, side by side, in the stern of the boat, while Dad slept in the large forward cabin in the bow. With White Swan being 39 feet long, Dad and I had plenty of room to move, and we even had our own bathrooms. It was precious privacy that I was so grateful for.
"Of course I'm sure," I sang, turning my attention back to the sausages that were letting off a delicious, barbeque aroma. "Like I'm gonna let you sleep on the cold, hard deck after all you've done… after all you're doing for me."
His lips lifted into a cute smirk. "Thanks."
Hey! Thanks for reading :)
Feel free to check out my other story; Bella? Marie?