Freshwater Kisses: A Billionaire Love Story

By: Krista Lakes

For my son's Grammy:

I am lucky to have someone so wonderful in my life who also reads my books.

Chapter 1

Eleven Years Ago...

The bright sunshine sparkled on the blue water, turning the sea into a giant twinkling gemstone; the waves shushed against our small boat in loving caresses, begging us to stay out on the ocean just a little longer. I wanted to stay out on the water with Robbie forever. Today was my last day with my best friend.

I played with the end of a rope, hoping that the day would just freeze and that I wouldn't have to leave. My dad had quit his job with DS Oil and Gas to start out on his own and now we were having to move. I didn't understand why he wanted to quit; things were good the way they were. I was happy. I liked my middle school, I liked this neighborhood, but mostly, I liked being with my best friend. Moving was going to take all of it away.

The other boats from our sailing class were already tied at the docks and the students and instructors were getting ready to go home. Robbie and I sat out in our sailboat, sails down and bobbing gently on the waves, pretending that the class wasn't over yet. Our instructor, Mr. Henderson, was still out on the water in the boat next to us, but he understood why Robbie and I didn't want to go back to shore. This was the last time we were going to sail together. Mr. Henderson just sat in his small dinghy, pretending not to see us dawdling. There was a reason he was my favorite teacher.

"Hey, Robbie, come here! You have got to see this fish!" I cried out, peering down at the water. There was no fish, but I knew Robbie couldn't resist. He fell for this every time.

"Really? Coming!" Robbie hurried over, his skinny frame brushing against mine as he came to see what I was looking at. As soon as he leaned over the edge, I gave his shoulders a strong push, and he toppled into the blue water with a yell.

"Yup, it's a Robbie-fish!" I yelled, laughing as he surfaced. He sputtered and wiped the water out of his green eyes. He made a face at me and started swimming to the rear of the boat where he could climb back up. Our boat was a simple two-person sailboat. It didn't have a motor and was just the right size to teach two kids how to sail.

"Hey, help me up," he called from the side of the boat. I knew what was coming, but I reached my hand out toward his. This was tradition with us. Our hands met, his hand cold and wet as he wrapped his fingers around my wrist. His small arms yanked down hard; Robbie was much stronger than he looked, and he easily toppled me off the boat and into the water.

The cold water made me gasp; my mouth filling with cold, salty brine. I surfaced and wiped my eyes, spitting out a mouthful of ocean at Robbie's face. The two of us looked at one another and giggled. As we tread water, he splashed me and I splashed him back. I loved this; I didn't want it to end.

"Come on, you two, it's time to head back in," Mr. Henderson called. I sighed. Robbie lifted himself out of the water and into the boat. I followed, wringing the water out of my blonde ponytail, and leaving a trail of water across the deck.

Robbie raised the mainsail, keeping the smaller jib sails down. It was easier to manage the tricky maneuver into the dock with only one sail to worry about. I took the tiller and began steering the boat back to shore.

The wind was just right to sail smoothly into the wooden dock. Robbie had the dock lines ready and he jumped easily to the dock and tied up the boat. I started bringing down the sail and tying everything up to prepare the boat for the night. Our instructor sailed in easily behind us, Robbie catching his ropes and trying him to the dock as well.

"Good job, you two," Mr. Henderson praised as he watched us carefully. "Pop quiz: Sam, what are the names of the sails and what do they do?"

"The sails are the mainsail and the jib. The mainsail is the big sail that gives most of the power and the jib is the smaller sail in front that increases speed and improves handling," I answered.

"Very good. Now, Robbie, tell me about rigging and sheets."

Robbie finished tying off one of the ropes that held the instructor's dinghy to the dock before standing and answering.

"The rigging is the cables and ropes that support the mast and sails. The lines that control the sails are called sheets, and they are held in place by cleats and winches. You use a winch to tighten the sheet to trim, or adjust and position the sails to go faster." It would have been the perfect answer, if his voice hadn't cracked, dropping him from boyish soprano to a manly bass mid-sentence. I managed to keep the smile off my face since I knew he hated when that happened. Robbie ran his hand through his hair, sending little water droplets flying through the air as he tried to look nonchalant about it.

The instructor gave us both a big smile, completely ignoring Robbie's puberty crisis. "Very good, you two. Everything looks all tied up here. Good job today." He paused and put his hands on my shoulders. "Sam, I'm sorry that this is our last class together. You are an amazing sailor and I'm so glad I got to have you as a student. Keep at it, and I'll be cheering for you at the Olympics in a few years."

I leaned forward and gave him a hug, feeling my wet clothes soaking his dry ones. He hugged me back before letting go.

"I'll see you next week, Robbie. Sam, good luck with everything," he said as he pulled away. He gave us both smiles and turned and walked away. I watched him go down the dock like I had after every sailing lesson, but today I felt my heart sink because it was my last lesson. As soon as my dad arrived to take me away, this would all be over. Now that I was off the boat, the fact that I was leaving was suddenly very real.

Robbie must have sensed my sadness, so he grabbed my hand and pulled me down the dock. "Come on, let's go rinse off," he said. His hand was warm in mine, and I hoped he wouldn't let go. He was my best friend. We had been paired up as sailing partners when we first started sailing, and now, I didn't want to sail with anyone else. I didn't want to leave and have to start over. I wished again that Dad wasn't quitting his job. This sucked.

At the end of the dock was a small spigot with a banged-up white bucket next to it. Robbie let go of my hand and turned it on, filling the bucket with freshwater. I watched the clear liquid sparkle in the afternoon sun as it filled the pail. It seemed to take forever, but I was glad. I wanted to stay here forever. I wanted to stay with Robbie.

"Do you have a house in Texas yet?" Robbie asked. His eyes stayed on the bucket, watching it fill up slowly. Our hands had found their way back together again.

"No. He's not even sure if we'll actually end up there. I don't know why he can't just keep working for your dad. He says he's wanted to start his own company for a long time and this is the best opportunity, but... I don't care. I don't want to move," I said. Robbie squeezed my hand.

"My dad doesn't want yours to go, but there isn't anything he can do about it. You promise you'll keep in touch? Maybe you can come back to New York for Christmas or something?" Hope raised Robbie's voice an octave.

"I hope so. That would be great." It was my turn to squeeze Robbie's hand. "I'm going to miss you."

"Me too," he said softly. There was a note of hurt in his voice that made me feel even more awful. Despite being a billionaire's son, Robbie didn't have a lot of friends. It was usually just him and me. Sometimes Gavin would join us, and we'd be the Three Musketeers, but Gavin didn't like to sail. Robbie and I lived for sailing. I wasn't sure what I was going to do without him.

Robbie turned off the water, and then dipped a finger into the bucket to test the temperature.