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I counted nine vehicles: a Maybach, a boxy Mercedes-Benz SUV, a Maserati, a Tesla, a Bentley convertible, two different kind of motorcycle—a crotch rocket and a chopper—a civilian-model military Hummer, and an older-model black BMW, the last the car his father had given him, I assumed. It was an impressive array of vehicles, and I didn’t even want to contemplate how much it was all worth.
On the wall beside the tool chests was a small metal cabinet with a fingerprint-scan locking mechanism. Roth put his thumb to the pad and opened the cabinet when the lock beeped, revealing two sets of keys for each vehicle hanging from hooks. He glanced at me. “Which car do you want to take?”
I was a fairly typical girl in that to me, for the most part, a car was a car. I knew enough to know that these were supremely expensive, top-of-the-line cars, but yet there weren’t any of the usual rich-guy sports cars. No Ferraris or Lamborghinis or Corvettes in this garage, which I found interesting. Those cars didn’t suit him, though, I realized when I thought about it. He was wealthy, but not showy or flashy.
I shrugged and pointed at the convertible. “That one looks fun. ”
Roth grinned. “Good choice. ”
The elevator door opened behind us, revealing Eliza carrying an insulated cooler. “The lunch you requested, Mr. Roth. ”
“Thank you, Eliza. ”
“My pleasure, sir. Shall I expect you for dinner?”
Roth shook his head, taking the cooler from Eliza and setting it in the back seat of the Bentley. “No, I think we’ll find something in the city. You can go, if you like. ”
“Thank you, sir. Tomorrow, then. ” She smiled at me and let the elevator door close in front of her.
A few moments later, Roth was guiding the quiet, powerful car up a ramp and out into the brilliant late morning sunlight. Roth pulled a pair of Ray-Bans from the inside pocket of his coat, pointing with them at the glove box. “I think there’s another pair in there. ”
I opened the glove compartment and found a spare pair of sunglasses, slipped them on, and tied my hair back with the ponytail elastic I had on my wrist. The drive through Manhattan to the marina was brief but pleasant, the wind in my face, sun bright and warm, Roth beside me, holding my hand.
When Roth had said “go sailing,” I’d envisioned a little boat just big enough for the two of us. I should have known better. The boat Roth owned was long and low, a sleek and sexy thing, all gleaming silver and polished wood, masculine lines and smooth curves. I knew less about sailboats than I did about cars but, knowing Roth, it had to be the most expensive and highest-quality sailboat money could buy. Roth carried the cooler by the strap over one shoulder, never letting go of my hand.
He helped me from the dock onto the boat, pointing at a seat beside the steering wheel. “Sit. ”
I sat, watching him untie ropes and coil them neatly on the deck. He sat down, started the engine, and backed us out of the slip and pointed the bow toward open water. When we were clear of the marina, he cut the engine and unfurled the sail, tied the line, and then did the same to the smaller triangular sail in the front of the boat.
“Can I help?” I asked.
He shrugged. “I’ve got it. ”
“I’d like to, if I could. I didn’t come to just sit here and do nothing. ”
Roth nodded, ducking under the horizontal bar of the big sail and taking the wheel. The wind was stiff, blowing at us at an angle, making the sails flap. “All right. First, a quick lesson. The small sail in front is called the jib. The big one is the mainsail. The big bar is called the boom. The ropes are called ‘lines. ’ The next thing is to know that modern sailboats don’t travel in a straight line, and they don’t work with the wind coming from directly behind. You sail in a zigzag pattern, which is called ‘tacking,’ keeping the wind at an angle. So when I tell you we’re ‘coming about,’ the boom, the big bar holding the bottom of the mainsail, is going to swing around. You have to pay attention and make sure the boom doesn’t knock you overboard when we’re coming about. I’ll warn you before I bring us about, but just be aware, all right, love?” He gestured at the line leading to the mainsail. “Untie that, then pull the line until the sail is taut. ”
We were moving slightly, the sail flapping, the bow angled toward the New Jersey shoreline. We were heading south, away from Manhattan and toward Staten Island. I loosened the line he’d indicated, wrapped both hands around it, and pulled hard. As I pulled, the mainsail tightened, and the line grew taut, becoming harder and harder to pull as the wind caught it. A gust of wind blasted the sail, nearly jerking the line from me and pulling me off-balance. I pulled again, but another gust hit, this one pulling me clear off my feet. I wrapped the line around my fists, braced one foot against the side of the boat, and pulled as hard as I could, then wrapped the line around the tie-off bracket thing. The sail was bellied out but firm, not flapping in the wind anymore, and I felt the sailboat pick up speed immediately. I glanced at Roth who gave me a bright grin and a thumbs-up.
“Perfect!” He patted the seat beside his own, and I sat down.
“When did you learn to sail?” I asked.
“I’ve been sailing my whole life. I grew up summering in Greece, and spent nearly every day during the summers sailing with Dad or with my friends when I got older. After I left home at eighteen, I ended up working on a fishing boat in the Aegean for a while. It was fun. Hard work, but fun. That was my first business. I bought that boat, hired the same crew that had taught me the business. Eventually, I bought a second boat, and then a third. I still own several boats in the Mediterranean, actually. Some are commercial fishing boats, some are private charters. Coming about. ” He loosened the mainsail line, held on to it with one hand, and spun the wheel with the other, bringing the bow around, and then he re-tied the line again. He made it look easy, but I remembered how hard the wind had pulled at the sail, and thus the line, nearly jerking me off my feet, yet he’d held it in place with one hand while operating the wheel. “No matter how busy I get, I make time to sail. It’s my one real escape. ”
I watched Roth as he spoke. He seemed relaxed, the lines of tension and stress on his face smoothing away, his posture at ease. The wind ruffled his hair and snapped the edges of his blazer and the white cotton T-shirt underneath it, molding the fabric to his rock-hard body. He had one hand on the wheel, the other stretched out to grip the back of my chair, his knuckles brushing my shoulder blade.
We were silent for a long time, watching the sun rise higher in the sky, watching the cityscape to either side pass by and the open water in the distance grow closer. Eventually, we breasted the opening of the bay and left land behind. I could see why he loved this. The sense of freedom, the salt spray of the water on my face, the wind carrying us away from everything…I’d never felt anything like it. He seemed content to just sail without talking, and so was I. We chatted here and there, mostly me prompting him to tell me stories about himself. I learned he’d sold his fishing business for a profit and gotten into the import-export industry, and then eventually sold that business for an even bigger profit, which had led him, at the age of twenty-one, to Asia, where he’d gotten into real estate and urban development. I got a sense for Roth the man, how he’d made his way in the world by himself. He’d learned the hard way that he couldn’t trust anyone, having survived more than one betrayal in the business world. He’d learned to be ruthless and untrusting, depending on no one but himself, keeping his businesses small, with as few employees as possible. Eventually, he’d moved to New York and tried his hand at several business ventures, building his wealth bit by bit. I couldn’t glean from him what his primary business currently was, despite several leading questions.
I, in turn, told him about growing up in suburban Detroit, summers spent at a cabin on Lake Michigan, trips with Mom to Chicago. The fun and pleasant stories in my life all stopped cold when Dad was killed. We lapsed into silence when my stories reached t