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Andre Delport

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  1. Thank you for reading and leaving a reaction. Pleased you enjoyed it.

  2. And Ryan was also on a mission. To find out if Sister Katerina was still at the airport chapel. After they had checked in and on the way to the business class lounge they stopped at the airport chapel and went in. A nun was siting in one of the pews near the front and Ryan approached her, coughing softly to attract her attention. She stood up and walked towards them. "Good afternoon, Sister. I was wondering if Sister Katerina was here? I would very much like to see her" . "Good day to you gentlemen. Sister Katerina is here in the airport somewhere. Let me contact her and get her to come back here. Can I tell her who is looking for her?" "I don't know if she will remember me. My name is Ryan, and she was very kind to me almost three years ago when she gave me comfort and encouragement" Just then the door opened and as Ryan turned he gazed into the kind, lined face of the person he was seeking. "Ah, Sister Katerina. I was just about to contact you. This young man is wanting to see you". Sister Katerina walked down the aisle to them, her gaze questioning. As she neared them, a look of recognition dawned in her eyes and she stopped in front of Ryan, gazing up at him. "I know I have spoken to you. But I'm afraid I cannot recall your name, young man". Ryan took her hands in his. "Sister Katerina, my name is Ryan....... " "Yes, now I remember! It was winter. You were standing at the windows watching an Emirates flight take off with someone you love on board. You were very unhappy, crying" Ryan grinned and turned to draw Andrew closer. "Yes, you remember well. This is Andrew, my husband. The one I was so sad to see go. We are married now, for two and a half years, and these are our babies, Cameron and Elizabeth. I just wanted to thank you for your kind words that day. You have no idea how much they meant to me and how much they helped me.". She reached out and touched his face gently, her hands incredibly soft. "I am pleased I was of some help". She looked at Andrew. "And I can see that you love one another and that you love your children. Why else would you keep them so close to your hearts", placing her hands on the heads of the two sleeping infants. " I would very much like to bless them. May I?" Ryan glanced at Andrew who nodded slightly. "We don't have long. We have a flight to Paris soon. But yes, you may bless them.". She led them to a small font at the front of the chapel and uncovered it. Dipping her fingers into the water, she gently crossed both the twins foreheads, and intoned a blessing on them. "There, all done. I am so grateful that you came looking for me. It is not often we get the see someone we have spoken to again, let alone for them to come looking for us. Thank you and bless you". "No, bless you Sister". He took out one of his business cards and gave it to her along with two envelopes with 500 dollars US in each. "One of those is for you to use on yourself. The other is for the chapel. Andrew and I live in Cape Town, South Africa. We own a hotel and a yacht charter company. If you are ever in our part of the world, please feel free to contact us." She examined the card, then looked up at him. "Thank you. I very much doubt I will be able to travel to Cape Town. But one never knows". They both thanked her again and left the chapel to pass through security and head to the lounge where they relaxed until boarding time was announced. The flight to Paris was as uneventful as the previous flight and a driver from the hotel was waiting for them as they emerged from customs and immigration. He greeted them cordially in heavily accented English and led them to the waiting courtesy car for the drive into Paris. Andrew had reserved a prestige suite at the Intercontinental Paris le Grand Hotel in the 9th Arrondissement area of the city and just a short drive to the Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar to London. The property did not have interleading rooms so Andrew had requested that two cots be placed in the room for the twins. The hotel was well situated to all the tourist sites and the Palais Garnier Opera house was directly across the road. The long, five storey hotel occupied an entire city block and looked very grand as they pulled up at the main entrance. The hotel had first opened its doors in 1862 and was built in the style of the time with a slate mansard roof. It was, and still is, opulently decorated and the grand ballroom, the Opera Salon is the most famous and sought after venue in Paris. The legendary Café de la Paix still operates from its original location today and the centrally located Winter Garden is covered by a graceful glass skylight. The rooms and suites, although fitted with all the modern conveniences, retain their sense of grandeur, and, although their suite was beautifully appointed, Andrew felt it lacked it warmth. The three days in Paris were hectic ones, as Andrew, having never been to Paris, did all the touristy things you could do in Paris. They walked the length of the Champs Elysees from the Place de la Concorde to the Place Charles De Gaulle where the Arc de Triomphe is located, stopping at several stores on the way to browse and buy souvenirs and gifts for the family back home. They rode to the top of the Eiffel Tower and took selfies under the arches at the base, toured the Louvre and Versailles, cruised down the Seine and wandered around the Gothic splendour of Notre Dame. They ate primarily in streetside cafes and bistros, dining at the hotel on the first night only and Andrew shopped until he was ready to drop, buying clothes for him and Ryan and practically emptying out a store that specialised in babywear. He was like a kid in a candy store and there were many instances when Ryan had his work cut out to convince his husband not to buy something. In the end, an additional suitcase had to be added to the list of purchases to pack everything and add yet another item to their, already, mountain of luggage, but Ryan had to grudgingly admit that what Andrew had purchased was amazing and that it made Andrew happy. They checked out after breakfast at the hotel on the morning of the fourth day, and were driven to the Gare du Nord station to catch the Eurostar to London. The driver dropped them at the forecourt in front of the beautiful facade and they entered the bustling building, reputed to be the busiest station in Europe. Their train was due to depart from Platform 4, on the level they were on, but the Eurostar platforms don't have direct access, so they had to go up one floor and cross a balcony to the check in counters and then go down again to actually board the train. Once they had checked in and passed through the security and passport control, they went to the business class lounge for something to drink and give Cameron and Elizabeth some juice to keep them hydrated. Boarding was announced twenty minutes before the departure time of 11h43 and they took the travelator down to the platform to the business class carriages. Andrew had chosen four seats, grouped around a table, facing one another, towards the front of Coach 2, close to the galleys and the baby changing facility. They secured Cameron and Elizabeth in their car seats, placing them on the two seats facing the rear of the train. Ryan and Andrew took the seats facing the direction of travel after storing the luggage in the luggage racks one row forward, just keeping one small bag with things for the twins with them. The non stop service to London St.Pancras slipped out of the Gare du Nord at exactly 11h43 heading for the Chunnel portal at Calais reaching a speed of almost 300km/h, slowing significantly to 160km/h when they entered the tunnel, They were provided with a small but very tasty airline type meal and beverages were offered at regular intervals. Two hours and 30 minutes later, they pulled into St.Pancras station in London, four minutes late. The twins slept for almost the entire journey, waking only when they were pulling into St.Pancras. They disembarked onto the busy platform and found a cab to take them to the London Pullman St.Pancras Hotel where Andrew had reserved a room for the day until the departure of their Caledonian Sleeper Highlander overnight service from London Euston Station to Fort William in Scotland. They just chilled for the afternoon, relaxing on one of the two queen beds in the room, while the twins napped on the other. They also looked at the financial reports that had been sent to them for Blue Bay. The lodge was doing very well, so well in fact, that they were having to turn away business due to not having rooms available, a situation that concerned Andrew a great deal and he floated the idea of either having to expand the building once again or look around for anther property to work alongside Blue Bay. They disused the pros and cons but eventually resolved to look at it again once they were back home. They Skyped with the grand parentals and Rascal, and then did the same with Beth and Nicky in Scotland, giving them their arrival time and where they would be staying. Beth had passed on an invitation for them to stay at Achnacarry Castle, the home of the Lochiel of Cameron, where she and Nicky were staying, but both Andrew and Ryan felt they would rather be on their own for the first visit. When the twins woke up they had some family time and then bathed, fed and dressed them for the night. They ordered a light meal from room service, showered and got dressed themselves and checked out at 8pm for the brief taxi ride to Euston Station. Check in for the Caledonian Sleeper Highlander service opened at 8.30 and departure was scheduled for21h15. Andrew had reserved two Club double rooms adjacent to one another but not interleading. The interleading rooms were all Classic rooms but had twin bunks instead of a bed and only had an in - cabin washbasin. The Club doubles were equipped with en-suite shower rooms and he and a Ryan had felt that the bathroom was more important than the beds, especially for the twins. It meant they would each have to sleep in separate rooms with one of the babies, but as they were right next to one another it was no real hardship for just one night. They spent some time in the departure lounge and when boarding was announced they made their way to the green hued train, stopping on the way to buy some chocolate bars and packets of crisps, to get settled in their rooms prior to departure at 21.15. When they boarded, the babies were still awake, but looking quite sleepy, so as soon as they were in the rooms, Andrew made them bottles with camomile tea and formula and they put them on the one bed to drink the bottles. When they train slid out of the station on time, the twins were fast asleep on the bed, in what was going to be Andrew's room for the night. He turned off the bright overhead light, turning on only the night light, and opened the blind over the window and they watched the lights of London as they flashed past. Ryan's stomach rumbled in the quietness of the room and Andrew giggled at the sound. "Is that your way of saying you're hungry, my love?" he said. "I wouldn't say hungry exactly. More just slightly peckish. We did have those sandwiches and scones and tea before we left the hotel". "I have to admit to being a little peckish myself. Let's see what the menu has to offer", Andrew replied. They ordered two ham and cheese sandwiches and a portion of Macaroni Cheese to share and to satisfy a sweet tooth, two portions of Chocolate Torte and hot chocolate. They ordered it to the room, as going to the Club Car was out of the question due to the sleeping twins and it arrived fifteen minutes later, piping hot, tasty and more importantly, filling. With appetites satisfied, they showered in their own rooms, anticipating that the morning would be quite rushed due to the early arrival at a Fort William just before 10am, and Ryan came back when he was finished to snuggle with Andrew for a while before gently picking up Elizabeth and taking her to his room for the night. Andrew watched with a very full heart as his husband and his daughter left the room. Elizabeth may not have been his biological child, but in Ryan's eyes, she was his daughter and like any dad, his daughter needed to be protected. And Andrew felt exactly the same way about Cameron. Andrew shut the door and carefully moved Cameron to the far side of the bed against the wall, knowing his little sister would be sleeping just on the other side, then got under the covers, falling asleep almost immediately, lulled by the clackity-clack of the wheels on the track. He woke up briefly when they stopped at Crewe at zero dark thirty, and again at Edinburgh Waverley where the train was split into three, the sections going to Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William. He nodded off again almost as soon as they started moving again. He was woken up by Cameron, who had decided that his dad's face needed some serious examination. Andrew peered at the little boy through barely open eyelids, doing his best not to move or dissolve in giggles, as Cameron knelt next to him and touched all the features of his face before tweaking his nose, causing his eyes to water, and to finally lose it and start laughing. Cameron got a fright and fell back, his eyes huge in his face and Andrew was just in time to catch him and prevent him bumping his head on the wall. The little boy was slightly unhappy but Andrew cuddled and soothed him and he was soon back to his normal, sunny self. Andrew could tell he needed changing so he quickly set about doing just that. He was almost done when there was a knock on the door and Ryan called his name. Andrew unlocked the door and kissed Ryan and Elizabeth good morning before turning back to finish changing Cameron. Ryan closed the door and came to stand next him, setting Elizabeth down on the bed as well. "This little lady needs changing as well, my love. Will you do that and I'll get bottles and cereal ready?" "Yeah, sure babe. Any idea where we are?", Andrew asked, just as the train started slowing down. Ryan opened the blind an looked out. "Not sure", he said, "but judging by the landscape, somewhere in the middle of Scotland. Oh, we're just coming into Garelochhead", as the train slowed to a crawl. It was fairly light already and Andrew peered out at his first sight of Scotland. Rolling hills and green pasture dotted with grazing sheep and cattle, with an occasional remote dwelling, as far as the eye could see. To Andrew's eye, it was beautiful and he fell in love with Scotland almost immediately. They got the twins fed and while they had their bottles, Ryan went to shower again, realising they had enough time before their breakfast arrived and brought everything from his room to Andrew's room when he returned, fully dressed for arrival. Andrew quickly showered as well, while Ryan kept an eye on the twins. They passed through Crianlarich, the most remote station in Scotland and shortly after their complimentary breakfast of orange juice, bacon, sausage, scrambled egg, grilled tomato, potato, toast and coffee, was delivered at 8am as requested, and while not a large portion, was tasty. They each had a chocolate bar when the breakfast trays had been collected and another cup of coffee and they were set for arrival in Fort William. About an hour from their destination, they dressed the twins. The seamstress who had made the outfits for the twins first Christmas, had been commissioned to recreate the outfits, just in a bigger size so they would arrive in Scotland dressed in the Cameron tartan. The only difference was that a tiny kilt had been made for Cameron as well. They decided, however, to dress Cameron in the trousers as it looked quite cool outside the train. Ryan moved all the luggage to the lobby of the coach so that it would be easy to unload onto the platform when they arrived and spent the last thirty minutes watching the Scottish landscape go by, with glimpses of lochs and the sea every now and then. They pulled into Fort William just after 10am,slightly behind schedule. Beth and Nicky were waiting on the platform with excited, expectant expressions on their faces, warmly wrapped up against the cool breeze blowing off the sea, despite it being summer. As the train pulled in, Andrew and Ryan stood at the window with the twins and when Beth and Nicky saw them, Beth jumped up and down with glee and waved madly, a huge grin lighting up her face. When they stepped onto the platform, Beth ran up to them and stopped dead in her tracks, staring at Cameron and Elizabeth. She put her hands up to her face and tears rolled down her cheeks. She looked at Andrew and Ryan. "Oh my god. They are so beautiful. They've got so big. And they look so well. You guys do too". They both hugged her and then hugged Nicky, giving the twins to them to hold. Andrew grinned at them. "That's what a week cruising the Mediterranean on a private yacht does for you. How are you?" "Welcome to Scotland", Beth said, her Scottish brogue far more pronounced that it was in Cape Town. "I'm well. All the better for seeing you and these two little angels. God, I can't get over how they look". Beth peered at the twins and then gasped in astonishment. "Oh my god, and they've got teeth" Nicky nodded too. "Yeah, I'm very well, guys. It's good to see you. It's been a while." Ryan stepped back onto the train and started handing down the luggage, the girls eyes getting bigger and bigger with each piece that was added. "Good grief, have you guys got your entire house with you?", Beth asked smiling, giving Elizabeth to Nicky and taking Cameron and cuddling him. Andrew looked at her with raised eyebrows. "You've obviously never had to travel with nine month old babies. Most of this is for them ". "We won't say anything about the extra suitcase that had to be bought in Paris to hold all of my husbands shopping spree", added Ryan, grinning at Andrew, who glared at him darkly. "I'll have you know, my love, most of that is for the babies as well!"Beth giggled. "Boys, be nice! Right, let's get you to your accommodation". She glanced over her shoulder to the station entrance. "I think that is the guy delivering your rental. It looks as if he has some sort of name tag on his shirt". Beth was right. It was the representative from the car hire company and after Andrew had signed all the documents he led them to an almost brand new Land Rover Evoque. Beth whistled when she saw the vehicle. "Wow, you guys don't do things by half, do you?" "You should be used to us by now Beth. We had twins when we could have gone for one at a time". Ryan replied. She smiled at him. "That's true. And I am so glad you did", her eyes misting over again as she gazed at the twins. Nicky and Beth held on to the twins while Andrew and Ryan loaded the luggage into the car and fitted the baby seats. They got the twins and themselves settled and then followed Beth and Nicky to the guesthouse on the edge of town. They got settled in, taking only what they felt was needed to the room and leaving the rest in a storage room downstairs. Taking a decision to just live out of suitcases for the two days, they didn't unpack much and just hung up a few things. Then they all got into the Land Rover, with the ladies sitting between the twins car seats and took a drive along the coast to explore. Andrew had Ryan stop several times to take photographs and film some video and they had a fish and chips lunch at a small fishing village further up the coast, before turning inland and taking a slightly longer route back through green rolling countryside, stopping at the Macduff Hotel for tea. On the short drive back to the guesthouse, Cameron and Elizabeth, who had been very good the entire after-noon, were fretful, irritated at having been cooped up in the car seats for so long. Beth and Nicky returned to Achnacarry when they got back, while Andrew And Ryan went to their room to have some family time with the babies. The two days and three nights in Fort William were a very pleasant end to their travels. The meeting at Achnacarry Castle with Beth's family on the second day was a great success, with her parents and grand-parents present, as well as a number of uncles, aunts and cousins. Some of the other clan members were also present. The only downer was that Donald Cameron, the Lochiel, was not in town, but attending a Clan heads conference in Inverness. They spent the entire day at the clan ancestral home and Andrew took dozens of photographs of the stunning estate, both house and garden and of Loch Lochy and Loch Arkaig,the estate being located on the isthmus between the two bodies of water. They also toured the Clan Cameron Museum on the estate finding out more about the history of the clan from its earliest times, through the Jacobite period and it's aftermath, the destruction by fire of the original castle after the Battle of Culloden in 1746, when the estate was forfeit to the Crown, it's reclaimation by the Cameron's in the late 1700's to the construction of the present castle in 1802. Two events they found particularly interesting was that in 1928 Achnacarry served as the meeting venue for leaders of the global petroleum industry in an attempt to set world production quotas. The meeting resulted in what became known as the Achnacarry Agreement. The second was that the house and estate were handed over to the military during World War 2 and used as a base for commando training. The estate did not escape the war unscathed however, as a fire gutted the central portion and roof of the castle. The army replaced the roof with tin until the castle was fully restored by the 26th Lochiel. They took a walk to the poignant remains of the original castle located close to the old stables, now converted to holiday cottages. All that remained was a tall, square, stone clad chimney stack with four fireplaces, ivy - covered and provided some idea of the size and grandeur of the long gone building. Everyone wanted to hold the newest additions to the Cameron clan, and the twins were stars, accepting all the passing around and manhandling with sunny grace. Andrew was convinced there little faces would be permanently frozen in smiles as they never stopped smiling, except when they started getting hungry or tired and let everyone know it. But once their tummies were full or had had a short nap, they were once again on their best behaviour. and they won the hearts of everyone present. They were showered with little gifts, mostly clothing, and they each got lovely teddy bears dressed in the Cameron tartan, which they refused to let go of. All in all, the Cameron clan were enchanted by the little imps and there were lots of tears as they said their farewells late in the evening as the next morning they would leave Fort William and drive down to Glasgow to fly back to London for their last night in Europe. The trip had been thoroughly enjoyable but both Andrew and Ryan were looking forward to going home and just being in their own space once again. They set out just after breakfast the next morning for Glasgow, not sure exactly how long it would take and what the roads were like. As it turned out, they arrived at the airport in good time and checked in for their short business class flight to London City Airport on British Airways. They had something to eat in the business class lounge and fed the twins and just relaxed until the flight was called. The flight was uneventful apart from the unusually steep descent and heavy braking on landing. The big advantage of arriving at London City Airport was that within twenty minutes of landing they were pulling up outside the entrance to The Dorchester Hotel, their very swish home for the night. They checked in and once again the Kinleys had spoilt them, reserving a two bedroom suite with dinner included. There was a message from them that Andrew tucked into his pocket and he checked to see if his shipment of wine had arrived from Santorini, which it had. Up in the luxuriously appointed suite, they let the twins, who were now definitely starting to crawl, play on carpet, keeping a very watchful eye on them while their dads sat on the sofas watching SkyNews. Andrew took the message out of his pocket, knowing instinctively that it was flight information for the next day. He opened it up and read it with some surprise. They had been under the impression that it would be an overnight flight. Instead they were due to leave at 09h00 from London Stansted Airport direct to Cape Town arriving at appro-ximately 19h00. Breakfast, lunch and and early dinner would be provided on the plane. A driver would pick them up at the hotel at 07h30 meaning it would be a rather early and rushed morning, but it also meant that they would sleep at home at the end of the flight. They Skyped briefly with Janice only as David was at the golf club, advising her of the time of arrival and requesting that they be at the house to open it up for them. Consequently, they had dinner early, ordering from room service and arranged for a wake up call at 5.30am and a pot of tea and coffee at the same time along with toasted bacon and egg sandwiches to tide them over to breakfast. The twins were bathed and fed and they cuddled with them on the huge main bed until they fell asleep and were taken to the adjoining room for the rest of the night. Andrew and Ryan then showered and were in bed by 10, first giving the bed springs a thorough workout before falling asleep, spooned together as usual until the phone rang at 5.30 with their wake up call. Ryan had just hung up the call, when the doorbell sounded indicating the arrival of their order. Fortunately the twins slept through all the activity, so Andrew and Ryan were able to enjoy the early morning snack and beverages, have a shower and get themselves dressed and organised before they woke up. Then it was just a case of giving the babies a quick refreshing wipe down, dressing them for the long flight and packing the last few things. They were all ready when the concierge called to advise that their driver had arrived. The requested porters arrived promptly and followed them down to the lobby where they checked out while the luggage was loaded into a Mercedes Vito people mover. The drive to the Stansted Airport FBO was accomplished with little fuss apart from a bit of early morning traffic and they arrived at 8.30. This time they checked in for their flight like pro's who had been doing it all their life. They walked up to the smiling lady behind the reception. "Good morning, Devlin-Major party departing at 09h00 on N901KL", Andrew told her. "Good morning gentlemen. Welcome! Could I have your travel documents please?" They handed over all the passports. "Please go through to the departure lounge. I will be back in a jiffy with your passports. The porters will take your luggage to the aircraft". They passed through a security check and sat down near the windows overlooking the tarmac. The jet was parked directly in front of the building with the nose turned away towards the taxiway. They could see Colin Beamish and Michelle at the bottom of the boarding stairs waiting for their arrival and watched as Colin walked to the rear of the jet and opened the luggage bin as the trolley with their luggage approached and loaded the bags and the wine into the hold. The receptionist approached them holding their passports. "Here you go all done! They are ready for you. Please follow me" They stood up and followed her to a door leading out onto the tarmac. A large Mercedes sedan was parked at the door, the motor idling and the driver standing at the open rear door. "The car will take out to the plane. Have a pleasant flight", she told them. They thanked her, walked to the car and got in, the driver closing the door with a soft thunk. He then drove them the short distance to the foot of the boarding stairs and were greeted by a smiling Michelle who opened the door. "Hello Ryan, hello Andrew. Good to have you with us again. You all look so relaxed and tanned. Even the little ones seem to have got some sun". Andrew smiled at her "Yeah, it was fun while it lasted. But we're looking forward to being home again" Colin walked back towards them, his hand extended in greeting. "Welcome back gentleman. Do you need anything from your luggage before I close up", he asked. Ryan shook his head. "No, we have everything we need, Colin. Thank you" "Okay good. Shelley will get you settled and we can get going. I heard you say you wanted to get home" he said and turned around to close the luggage hold. Michelle led the way up the boarding stairs into the now familiar interior of the jet. They took the same seats they had sat in on the outward flight, keeping the twins with them for take off. The twins bassinets were already set up on the seats opposite ready for them should they want to nap. Colin stepped back into the aircraft and raised the boarding stairs as the engines began to spool up as they started. He secured the door, took a quick look around the cabin and entered the cockpit, closing the door behind him. Within minutes of boarding the jet moved off towards the taxiway and the end of the runway. The takeoff was short and powerful and they rocketed into the air, climbing rapidly until they broke through the smog layer and pointed the nose south for Cape Town. It took a while to reach their cruising altitude due to the heavy fuel load, but Michelle was bustling about long before that, getting their breakfast ready. The twins were put into the bassinets with camomile tea and formula bottles in the hope that they would fall asleep and the boys settled themselves back in their very comfortable seats for breakfast. Michelle had set the table while they had been busy with the twins and glasses of fresh orange juice and plates with sliced fresh fruit was waiting for them when they sat down. The main course, much to their delight, was Eggs Benedict with roasted tomato and rosti. A basket of croissants and pastries was delivered with tea for Andrew and coffee for Ryan. Cameron and Elizabeth were still wide awake when breakfast was over so they took them out of the bassinets, reclined their seats and lay back with the twins laying in their chests. They pulled out the seat mounted TV screens and watched movies and played games as the babies started nodding off at last. When they were sure they were asleep, Andrew and Ryan carefully stood up and put them back into the bassinets to sleep. Then it was just a case of sit back and relax, watching the TV, napping or watching the ocean below them as they raced over the Bay of Biscay towards the North African coast. Peter Emerson came back to chat with them and joined them for a light lunch of mixed salad with slivered grilled lamb and a tzatziki style dressing. The twins woke up after lunch so Andrew and Ryan took them to their seats and fed them mashed banana and yogurt and then played with them for a while before the little ones started flagging again and they put them down to sleep again. During the afternoon, they both spent some time in the cockpit with Colin while Peter was taking a two hour power nap. Colin took his rest in the late afternoon and returned to the cockpit just before 18h00 when they were over Namibia. They also caught up on emails and had a look at the financial reports that had been emailed to them again, hoping to get some idea of what path they should follow with regard to the expansion. Andrew and Ryan had advised Michelle that they would not have dinner and that she and the pilots should share it instead. They would grab something on the way home. They had woken the twins as Andrew did not want them to sleep too much in case they couldn't sleep for the night and had kept them occupied watching cartoons on the TV's at their seats and feeding them at the same time. They were facinated by the colourful pictures flashing on the screen and sat unmoving next to their dad's, their eyes glued to the screen. Half an hour from Cape Town, the soft roar of the engines spooled down and the nose dipped as they began their descent. The weather in Cape Town was not great. It was cold and raining with a blustery north westerly blowing so they dressed the twins warmly and made sure they had blankets handy to wrap them in to protect them from the cold, wind. and rain. Their final approach was from the south and was quite turbulent and rain drumming on the fuselage, with them being in cloud until just before crossing the freeway that ran along the end of the runway. Colin, who was at the controls, somehow managed to pull off a very respectable landing, touching down with barely a bump and letting the jet coast to a stop, using almost the entire runway instead of using the brakes, before turning off onto the taxiway for the fairly long taxi past all the terminal buildings to the FBO on the southern side of the airport, being buffeted all the way by the wind and rain streaming over the windows. They turned onto the FBO tarmac and Peter opened the cockpit door. "Guys, just sit tight for a moment. We're going to shut down the engines and they're going to pull us into the hanger so you won't have to go out into the rain", he told them and closed the door again. The engines spooled down and moments later, they felt a slight jerk as the tug was attached and they slowly rolled into the shelter of the hanger. When they finally came to a stop, Peter came back out and dropped the boarding stairs while Andrew and Ryan gathered the twins and the cabin luggage having donned warm coats. Colin came out of the cockpit as well and took the cabin bags from them so that they could negotiate the stairs easier with the babies in their arms. A people mover was waiting to take them the entrance of the FBO for customs and immigration. They thanked the crew and Ryan handed Peter three envelopes containing gratuities for each of them and stepped into the vehicle, as porters arrived to unload the luggage hold. They had to wait a few minutes for the luggage and wines to arrive from the jet and once Andrew had paid the duty on the wine, their passports were stamped and they walked out into the lounge to be met by a chauffeur holding a board with their name on it. They approached him and identified themselves and were told that the car was waiting just outside the doors. Surprised, but very grateful they walked through the doors to a limousine that was parked under the portico. The driver opened the rear doors and Andrew slipped in with the twins, while the porters loaded the luggage into the trunk, however two bags had to be put in the car with them as their was no more space in the trunk. Ryan tipped the porters and got into the car, sitting next to Andrew, and took his daughter to secure her in her car seat while Andrew did the same with Cameron. When they were secure, they told the driver and he moved away from the kerb to drive them home. The rain was bucketing down and driving conditions were difficult as it was coming from the direction in which they were travelling so the journey home to was done at a sedate pace. Andrew contacted Janice to tell them they were on the way and find out if they had eaten dinner. They hadn't, so Andrew ordered four pizzas to be delivered, giving them his credit card details for payment. As they turned onto Beach Boulevard, they looked at one another and grinned. It was good to be home. And the house, that they could see quite clearly in the murk, although the rain had ceased for the moment, was lit up like a Christmas tree. As the headlights flashed across the facade, the front door opened and David and Janice stepped out onto the gravel with umbrellas. Rascal ran up to the car barking excitedly and running around the car. Janice yanked open the door and peered inside. "Where are my two angels? Give them to me now ", she demanded. Ryan unbuckled the twins and handed them to his mother and father, who hustled them into the house out of the cold. Ten minutes later after all the luggage had been brought into the house, Ryan and Andrew climbed the stairs to the living area where David and Janice were sitting with their grandchildren. "Thanks for the great welcome mom! It's good to see you! A little help would have been nice!" he said . She looked up from playing with Cameron and smiled. "But I did help darling! I helped you with Cam and Elizabeth". "Not even so much as a Hullo Ryan. Welcome home. Did you have a good holiday" he said, sounding a bit miffed. Janice stood up and walked over to him. " Oh, alright darling. Welcome home. I was just getting back at you two for taking my grandchildren away for so long". She grinned widely and enveloped him in a hug, then turned to Andrew and did the same. "I'm glad you're home at last. We missed you". Andrew and Ryan rook off their coats, threw them over the back of the couch and flopped onto it. "Shit, all we've done today is sit and eat. And fly from London to Cape Town. And I'm frigging exhausted", exclaimed Andrew, picking Rascal up and cradling the little dog in his arms, his tail wagging frenetically. He was so excited to have his family back. The doorbell chimed and Ryan jumped up. "Yess! That must be the pizza. We skipped dinner on the plane and I must admit, I'm quite hungry now". He went to collect the pizza and came back, filling the lounge with the aroma of garlic and oregano. Andrew fetched plates from the kitchen and put the kettle on to boil at the same time to make formula for the twins. The pizza disappeared in double quick time, but their appetites were satisfied. Andrew made coffee and the formula for the twins and David and Janice fed them while drinking their coffee. When the bottles were finished, David and Janice left for home and Andrew took the twins upstairs to bath them and put them to bed, while Ryan brought the luggage upstairs. Poor Rascal didn't know who to follow, Andrew or Ryan. Eventually, Andrew won out, but only because he had the twins with him. When Andrew put them on the bed, Rascal jumped up onto the bed as well, crawling forward on his belly to where the babies sat, looking at them curiously. He gently nudged their feet with his nose, and lay down between them, letting them touch him, and pull on his ears. And he just lay there with his tail wagging, a very happy puppy. When Ryan came into the room with the last of the luggage, he sat down on the bed and fell backwards onto it. Rascal scampered over to him and started licking his face, until Ryan sat up and rolled him over onto his back to scratch his tummy until he rolled over and went to lie between the twins again. Andrew came back into the bedroom having put water into the bath for the twins and he and Ryan took them for a bath, sitting them in the warm, shallow water so they could splash and have some fun while the dad's sat on the edge of the bath watching them. When the babies were splashed thoroughly wet, they knelt next to the bath and washed them, shampooing their hair as well and when they were rinsed off they wrapped the babies in big soft towels and carried them into the warm bedroom where someone had thoughtfully turned on the heating and put them on the bed to dry them off. They dressed them in warm babygrows after rubbing them with baby lotion and powder and then lay on the bed with them while they drank their camomile tea. It took a while for the babies to fall asleep and when they did, Andrew and Ryan gently picked them up and carried them to their cots for the night. The two men stood with their arms around one another's waists, looking down at the sleeping infants, their hearts full of love for them and one another. They turned on the nightlight and the baby monitor and walked back to the bedroom hand in hand. Leaving the unpacking for the morning, they showered together for the first time in weeks, only leaving the shower when the water started getting cool. They dried one another in the warm bedroom, tossed the damp towels on the floor and slipped between the cold sheets, shivering involuntarily, and snuggled close to share their body heat. It was good to be home. It was good to back!
  3. Andrew smiled, remembering that first time they had brought 'Belle Catherine ' home. That had been almost two years ago. They had sailed through the harbour mouth many times thereafter and much had happened in those two years, most good but some bad. The lodge was doing exceptionally well, with the new executive rooms and suites, and spa on the property, being just the boost that it needed to really prosper. The construction phase had indeed proved to be disruptive, with a resulting drop off in business - that winter had been particularly quiet - which had Andrew and Paul slightly concerned for a while, but by the end of the summer season, the lodge had bounced back and was busier than ever. The suites especially, had been a huge hit, particularly with the offered butler service and were very popular with tourists from the USA. Between Paul and Claude, who had proved themselves a formidable team, the lodge had built up an excellent reputation for good service. Paul and Marie had welcomed their son, Jonathan, into the world just before the end of November of the year that Andrew and Ryan had been married and were trying for another one. Claude had taken to Cape Town like a duck to water. He loved the city and he loved his job, but not as much as he loved Francois, a forty something French immigrant, who owned a popular hair salon in a mall, a short distance from the village. He still lived in the same two bedroom cottage and was a well known face about town. The charter business was going well, but the start had not been an easy one. While they had many charters on the books, they had not been made to feel welcome by all of the charter community. The first signs of trouble occurred about two weeks after they had brought 'Belle Catherine' home. They had returned from one of their pre winter mini cruises the day before and arrived at the yacht berth the following morning to find that the yacht had been vandalised. Porthole windows had been smashed, some of the solar panels were irreparably damaged, and the paintwork on the hulls had been defaced with homophobic graffiti. They were devastated when they saw the damage, with Andrew weeping bitterly. But then he got angry and vowed that they would not be intimidated or stopped. They reported the incident to the police and the marina management, who promised to increase security patrols in the area, called their insurance company and cleaned up the mess. They had to cancel the final three day charters as a result, but the clients were very understanding and have since been back twice. The portholes and solar panels were easily replaced, but the paintwork proved more problematic, and they had flown Steve down to give them an assessment. He and the insurance assessor had discussed the options and, against his advice, the insurance assessor decided to remove the graffiti instead of repainting the entire hull. Andrew was furious but went along with the idea eventually. It turned into a disaster when the company appointed by the insurers, removed the graffiti, but also removed the gel coat that protected the paint and gave the hull it's shine. The insurance company was brought in again, with Andrew threatening to take all of his business away from them if the damage was not repaired to his satisfaction.They eventually agreed that the hull would have to be repainted and arrangements were made to pull the yacht out of the water and repaint. Their penny pinching ended up costing them a great deal of money, and Andrew still pulled his business in protest at how they had been treated. A few days before the yacht was due to be lifted from the water, a very severe storm blew in from the north-west. Ryan decided he wanted to go down and check that the yachts lines were secure in the strong wind. The wind was gusting and squalls of rain pelted down, making it really unpleasant out. He left the apartment and an hour later when he had not returned, Andrew became concerned and tried Ryan's mobile which eventually just went to voice mail. He shrugged on a wet weather jacket, and leaving Rascal in the apartment, went downstairs to see if he could find Ryan, thinking their might be a problem with the yacht and that Ryan might need assistance. He arrived at the yacht, taking note that she was secure and not swinging too much. They had dropped the protection screens, so Andrew could not see into the rear cockpit. Standing on the dock he called out to Ryan. There was no reply. Climbing on board, he had a look around but there was no sign that anyone had been aboard. Taking out his mobile, he dialled Ryan's phone and somewhere out on the dark dock, he heard it ring. By now Andrew was beginning to panic. Every instinct screamed that something was wrong. He disconnected, left the yacht and walked a little way along the dock in the direction he thought the phone had been ringing and tried again. A mobile once again trilled in the darkness, closer this time. He walked towards the sound and saw the dim glow of the screen light ahead of him. Running forward, he reached the phone, laying partly wedged in a crack on the dock surface. There was no sign of Ryan! He carefully walked the immediate area, using his mobile as a torch and went cold. Lying on the dock, was a toggle, just like those on Ryan's rainwear jacket. It had a piece of the jacket fabric attached to it as if it had been ripped off. Andrew was now convinced something had happened to Ryan. Fighting to remain to calm, his insides churning, he dialed the marina security and reported his suspicions. Within minutes, two security guards arrived in a vehicle equipped with a searchlight and after speaking to Andrew and viewing the mobile and the toggle, began scanning the dock and the surrounding water. Andrew huddled on a bollard numb with cold and concern. Somewhere out there, he knew, Ryan was hurt and the thought made him fearful. A harbour patrol boat arrived and it too began cruising up and down the basin, searchlight probing the darkness. It had started raining again, which did not make things easier. Andrew's hair was plastered to his head and face and the water was running down under the jacket, soaking his shirt, causing him to shiver. One of the guards suggested he go back to the apartment to check if Ryan had not returned in the interim, and he reluctantly agreed, walking quickly back to the warm, dry apartment, hoping against hope that Ry would be there, but knowing in his heart that Ryan was out in the night somewhere. He decided to stay in the apartment, sitting at the window, cuddling Rascal, who sensing something was wrong, was burrowed close to Andrew's chest. The searchlights continued to flash back and forth until it started getting light. Andrew dozed in exhaustion, jerking awake when the doorbell chimed. He leapt up, his heart plummeted seeing a policeman at the door. He held his breath, expecting the worst. "Mr Devlin, good morning sir. I have come to report that we have not found Mr Major. May I come in for a moment?" Andrew stepped back and the policeman walked into the apartment, looking around. "I am Sergeant Miller. We have opened an investigation into Mr Majors disappearance. I just need you to answer a few questions ". He asked Andrew when last he saw Ryan, why had he gone out, what sort of mood was he in, did he have any reason to disappear without telling anyone, all of which Andrew answered, becoming more frustrated and angry by the second. Eventually he exploded. "Listen carefully to me sergeant! Ryan left here to go and check on our yacht. And has not come back. Nearly twelve, fucking, hours ago. His mobile and a toggle, torn off his jacket that he was wearing, were found on the dock. There is no sign of him. To me it is obvious that something has happened to him. In fact, I know it. I feel it here!", thumping his fist against his chest. "He has absolutely no reason, to want to disappear. We were married in January, we are very happy, we have two very successful businesses. The only problems we have are with a certain element, here in the marina, who have ridiculed us, cast homophobic slurs, and damaged our yacht. I do not know for sure, but my gut tells me they have something to do with this. And my gut is very rarely wrong. Don't ask me how I know, I just do! Just like I know he is out there and needs help!" The policeman then asked Andrew for details on the 'alleged' slurs and became more amicable when he had a look at the insurance report with regard to the damage to the yacht.. He made note of all the details including the police case number that had been opened and left, leaving Andrew staring numbly at the door. A squirming Rascal, wanting to be fed, brought him out of his reverie, and he fed the puppy like a robot. He went and sat on the couch staring down at 'Belle Catherine'. He picked up his mobile and dialed Paul. "Paul, help me", he croaked and started sobbing. "Drew! What is going on? What's wrong?" All he could hear was wracking sobs with no reply. "I'm om my way. Are you at the apartment?" still no reply "Fuck! Okay I' m leaving for the apartment now". Thirty minutes later, Paul burst into the apartment and found Andrew curled up on the couch hugging Rascal. He was crying quietly. He hurried over to Andrew crouching down in front of him. "Drew, what the fuck is going on? Why was the door wide open? Where is Ry?", at which Andrew started sobbing again. In desperation he dialed Marie. "Doll, I need you. I'm at the apartment. Drew is in a state and I don't know where Ry is. Drew won't tell me anything. He's just lying here crying!" He knelt down and looked at Andrew again. "Drew, you need to calm down and tell me what the fuck is going on. I cannot do anything until you speak to me, mate. Has something happened to Ryan?" Andrew stared blankly at Paul and nodded. "Okay, what has happened to him? Is he hurt" Andrew shook his head, crying again,"Don't know " he whispered. "You have to tell me what you know, mate. I'm in the dark here" Andrew made a visible effort and struggled to sit up. Paul helped him then sat next to him, holding his hand. "Okay, take it slowly. Tell me about Ryan" "Went out last night to check Belle. Didn't come back! Found his mobile and broken toggle on the dock. Cops don't know where he is", Andrew managed between sobs. Paul stared at Andrew. "What time did he leave here?" "Just after 9pm. I went to look for him at 10 and found his mobile on the dock near to where Belle is berthed. Then I found a toggle from his rain jacket that had been ripped off. He was attacked, Paul! I know it as sure as you are sitting here". He whispered, starting to cry again. Paul, pulled him into his arms, letting him cry. That is how Marie found them when she let herself in. She looked at Paul with deep concern on her face. "What has happened? Has he said anything?" Andrew had calmed down but was still crying softly. "Ryan has disappeared! He apparently went out last night at about nine during the storm to check the yacht, and hasn't come back. The cops are searching for him. Andrew found his mobile and a torn off toggle on the dock near the yacht". "Oh my god", Marie breathed, bending down and looking at Andrew's ravaged face. "Let me sit with him. Go to the bathroom and wet a cloth. See if you you can find some of those tranquilisers the doctor gave him when his parents had their accident." Paul hurried away to do as instructed, returning a few minutes later. Marie took the cloth and gently wiped Andrew's face then handed him the tablet with some water. "Drink this, it will help you feel better" Andrew took the tablet and swallowed it. "Help me get him to the bedroom, then he can lie down more comfortably " They got him up and walked with him to the bedroom, helping him to lie down on the bed. He immediately curled into ball, clutching at Ryan's pillow, tears coursing down his face. Marie sat next to him, stroking his head until the tranquiliser kicked in and he fell into a restless sleep with Rascal snuggled in the curve of his body. Marie stood up and walked into Paul arms, her eyes filled with tears. "Paulie, if Ryan does not come back, it will kill him. This is worse than when his parents were killed". "I need more details", Paul growled. He went to the kichen, found the number for the security office and dialed. When they answered he said "Good morning, my name is Paul Mason. I am a friend of Mr Devlin-Major , whose husband, Ryan, disappeared from the marina last night. I am at his apartment, and I need to know what is going on. Mr Devlin-Major is under sedation at the moment and sleeping,and cannot tell me anything." The security office said they would send someone to the apartment to speak to Paul. A few minutes later the doorbell chimed and Paul opened the door. "Good morning sir, are you Mr Mason?" "Yes, I am, and you are?" "I'm Sergeant Miller from the police. I am the investigating officer into the disappearance of Mr Major " "Okay, come in Sergeant" He introduced himself to Marie then said, "I believe you need some information about last night. To tell you the truth, there is very little we know, apart from what Mr Devlin told us last night. " Paul held up his hand, stopping him "Okay, let's just get a few details right here. It is not Mr Devlin and Mr Major. When they were married the name was officially changed to Devlin-Major. It is Mr Ryan Devlin-Major that you are looking for. Okay, so you have found nothing else? "We found traces of blood on the side of the yacht and on the mobile phone. I was just on my way here to request a hair sample so we can try get a DNA match." Marie jumped up and hurried to the bathroom , and returned with Ryan's hairbrush. The policeman carefully removed a few strands with a tweezers and dropped them into a plastic bag. "Thank you. Other than that, we have nothing. Mr Devlin.....um Major told us last night that they had problems with some guys who were homophobic and called them names. He also told me that they think it is the same guys who vandalised their yacht. We have not managed to track them down yet and according to the harbour logs, they sailed out of the harbour just after 01h30 this morning. To be honest, I find that just a little suspicious under the circumstances, but we have no idea in which direction they sailed. The coastguard have been alerted and all ports along the southern and western coasts have been alerted as well. Until we find them and question them we can do nothing except keep searching. Boats are on the marina and in the harbour searching the water and under all the piers. If it was them, and they have him on board with them, well, they could throw him over-board, or leave him on some isolated beach, we do not know. We have to find them" Paul gave him his mobile number and said, "Please, if you hear anything, contact me. Do not contact Mr Devlin-Major. He lost his parents not too long ago, and this could kill him. Do not phone Andrew! Phone me. And I will handle Andrew. Please!" "Okay Mr Mason, I will do as you ask. Now I must get these hairs to the lab." And he left. They made some tea, and sat drinking it, staring down at the boats moving slowly up and down the piers, hoping against hope that their friends body was not floating somewhere in the water. Paul phoned Claude to tell him what was going on and that he would not be back for the rest of the day. Claude's cry of anguish when he heard that Ryan was missing was heartrending and Paul wondered if it had been a good idea to tell him. Then he and Marie just sat and waited, numb with concern and grief. Andrew woke up at 4pm and wandered into the lounge like an automaton, looking like shit! His face was drawn and pale. He looked like he was ill. Marie eyes reflected her concern as she glanced quickly at Paul. The good thing was, he was calm . He stood looking at them blankly for a moment before asking, "Has there been any news? Have they found him yet?" Marie answered his questions, "No Drew, nothing yet. Sit down, can I get you something to drink or eat? You've had nothing all day" "Just some water and a few crackers thanks Marie" She went to the kitchen and came back a few minutes later with the items he had asked for. He drank half the glass of water and nibbled on a cracker, before putting his head back with a deep sigh. Very softly they heard him whisper, "Where are you my love? Tell me where you are? Show me?" Tears welled up in Marie's eyes and she walked hastily out of the room. Paul glanced at Andrew and hurried after her taking her in his arms. "I hate seeing him like this. It breaks my heart. It's his parents all over again, only ten times worse." "Maybe you should go home doll, if it is upsetting you. And Jonathan will be wondering where we are?" "No, I'll be fine. He needs people around him right now. And Jonathan will be having a ball with this grandma. Paul, what about Ry's family? Do they not need to know?" "Damn, I had completely forgotten about them. I thought of it this morning and then that cop arrived, and I forgot about it" He hurried back into the lounge. Andrew was still slumped in the corner of the couch with Rascal snuggled on his chest. He had not left Andrew alone since they had arrived, hopping onto the bed when they had taken Andrew to lie down and burrowing into his side where he slept all day. Paul touched Andrew's shoulder and he jerked up. "What? Have you heard anything?" "Easy, Drew, No nothing. Drew, we need to let Ry's family know what's happened. I need their number" . Andrew shook his head. "No, let me speak to them". He took his mobile out of his pocket, scrolled down and dialed. He waited, eyes closed, while the call connected, then stiffened. "Hi mom, it's Andrew " and he started sobbing. Paul grabbed the phone while Marie tried to calm Andrew down. "Janice, it's Paul. Janice calm down. Ry has disappeared. Vanished. There was a very bad storm last night and he went downstairs to check that the yacht was okay, and hasn't come home. No, Andrew doesn't know where he is. He has been under sedation the whole day and is barely keeping it together. They've had search parties out all night and day checking the water, but have found nothing. Andrew found his mobile and a torn toggle off his jacket on the dock near the yacht. That's all we know", refraining from telling her about the blood. He listened for a while the answered, "Okay, I will arrange for the lodge van to pick you up at the airport. We'll get the guest room here at the apartment ready for you, Just send me you arrival time. You have my number." It was approaching 6pm when Rascal wriggled out of Andrew's arms, jumped down onto the floor and sat looking at him with big eyes before walking to the kichen then turning around and sitting in the kitchen doorway. "I think he may be hungry. Let me feed him" said Marie, getting up. She found his puppy chunks and a tin of food in the refrigerator, fed him and filled his water bowl with fresh water. He ate his food, lapped at the water for a while, the came back and jumped back on the couch next to Andrew. Paul, shook Andrew's shoulder. He looked up at Paul with sad eyes. "Drew, why don't you go and have a shower? It will help you feel better, and wash some of the effects of the sedative away as well. Here let me help you." Paul helped him to stand up and he shuffled to the bedroom like an old man. Marie just stared after them with concern all over her face. This was bad! Really bad! Paul came back, looking slightly emotional. "Fuck, fuck, fuck! I feel so helpless. That look in his eyes scares the crap out of me. If Ry does not come home, Andrew will die! Either of a broken heart or he will do something to himself. It scares me". Marie just held him, not revealing that she had similar thoughts. Andrew appeared a short while later, looking refreshed and a little better than he had, wearing track pants, t-shirt, hoodie and sneakers. Rascal scampered after him and headed for the front door. Paul grinned, "Looks like the little guy wants to go walkies? Shall I take him?" "No,"Andrew replied " I'll take him. I need some fresh air anyway. I need to clear my head", sounding a bit more like the Andrew they knew. "You can come with us if you want to". "Yeah, Okay. Will you be okay on your own, doll?" "I'll be fine, you two go walkies". Andrew grabbed a plastic bag, stuffed it into his pocket and they took the elevator to the ground floor, where there was a fairly large patch of grass. Rascal ran out, rolling around on the grass for a while, then did his business and started stalking Andrew and Paul. Andrew scooped up the doggie do in the bag and deposited it in a bin close by. Turning to Paul he asked, "Feel like a short walk?" "Yeah, why not, been cooped up in the apartment all day. Need to stretch my legs" They sauntered along the docks, with Rascal running ahead of them and waiting, then running ahead wagging his tail like crazy. They were almost at the very end of the dock where it ended against the face of the quarry that the marina had been built into. Rascal disappeared into the deep shadow of the quarry face, and started barking and growling. Andrew called him to come and he appeared briefly before running back and barking again. This time there was the sound of scratching on wood and a distinct dull thud. Andrew started running , shouting, "Paul, get the cops! It's Ryan! I'm sure of it! Paul knew Andrew better than to argue and he got on his mobile. Andrew sprinted into the dark shadows, not seeing anything. Then as his eyes adjusted to the gloom, the outline of a shed appeared, built right up against the rock face, and under the overhanging branches of a tree that grew out of the face. Rascal was scratching madly at the door and barking like crazy. Andrew reached the door, noticing that it was latched on the outside. He turned on the torch on his mobile, unlatched the door and slowly pushed it open, lifting his mobile to illuminate the interior. And found Ryan! He was lying on a dirty bed, half on his side and half face down, his face almost hidden by his arms that were stretched out over his head and shackled to the bedhead. His legs were splayed and tied to the frame at the bottom of the bed. He was naked. As Andrew approached, Ryan lifted his head and Andrew saw what the had done to him. He screamed and rushed to Ryan's side, kneeling on the filthy floor and gently touching the bloodied head of his husband. Ryan squinted up at him through battered, half closed eyes, the blue surrounded by red and whispered, "Drew, thank god. You found me! Help me. Please help me" and lapsed into oblivion, knowing he was safe. Andrew was weeping bitterly, sweeping his eyes down Ryan's body, he noticed some of the damage. They had beaten and tortured him, whipping him from neck to calves and shoulders to knees. His body was black and blue, covered in welts and, mostly, dried blood. His beautiful face was swollen and puffy , eyes black and cuts on his cheekbones, chin and lips. And he had been sodomised, the objects used still strewn about along with a small box on the floor which he assumed was what caused the thudding sound. Andrew tried to free him, but the shackles were too strong. Paul stood at the door, horrified at what he saw in front of him., holding Rascal. Tears ran down his face as he phoned for assistance. Within minutes the area was swarming with security, police and medical personnel. The EMT 's rushed in and started examining Ryan, after he had been cut free. Paul held Andrew who clutched Rascal as they watched the scene, preventing him from getting in the way as Ryan was attended to. Paul's phone rang. It was Marie. "Are you guys okay? There's a lot of activity right down at the end of the marina". "Hi doll. Andrew and I are fine. We just found Ryan. Or at least, Rascal did" "Oh my god, Paul, is he okay, must I come down there?" "No doll, don't come down. He's alive, but it's not pretty. The paramedics are with him now. I will let you know if we have any more news." For almost twenty minutes the paramedics stood over Ryan, treating him, then they gently laid him on a stretcher and wheeled him to the waiting ambulance. Andrew walked next to the stretcher gripping Ryan's swollen dirty hand. He was not going to let go even if it killed him. When they got to the ambulance , they tried to stop Andrew from getting in as well. He shook himself free and growled at them through gritted teeth. "He is my husband! Don't you fucking dare stop me from going with him". Paul had never seen Andrew so angry before. He was like a raging lion. The paramedics stepped back and allowed him to get into the ambulance with Ryan. They shut the doors and drove away, siren wailing. Andrew sat beside him holding his hand and talking softly to him, telling him that he loved him and that every-thing was going to be okay. Ryan didn't see Andrew's tear stained face, but Andrew saw the single tear that ran down the side of Ryan's face. And he knew that Ryan was still with them. He would be okay! It would take time, but he would be okay. At the ER, Ryan was wheeled into a cubicle and, in Andrew's opinion, roughly transferred to a bed. Then doctors and nurses swarmed around him, placing an oxygen mask over his nose, putting a drip into his arm and cleaning him up so that the doctors could get a better view of the extent of his injuries. Paul and Marie came rushing in, Marie gasping, holding her hand to her mouth, and bursting into tears when she saw Ryan. "God almighty, what did they do to him?", she blurted. A nurse hurried over, annoyed. " I'm afraid you cannot be here. Please go sit in the waiting room". Andrew was about to protest, when Paul laid a hand on his arm. "She's right, Drew. He's in the best hands possible right now. We cannot do anything to help him" and gently led Andrew away, now weeping silently again. They sat down in the waiting room and Paul went to buy coffee. He came back with chocolate energy bars as well. "Drew, you must eat something. All you've had in the last 24hrs is a few crackers. He's going to need you when he wakes up. And you are not going to be of much use if you pass out on us because you haven't eaten" Seeing the wisdom in his words Andrew nibbled listlessly at the energy bars and drank his coffee. He had to admit, it did make him feel better having something relatively substantial in his belly. He took Rascal from Paul, and the little dog squirmed in Andrew's arms licking his face and burrowing into his shoulder. Andrew kissed him on the head and his fingers stroked him, making his tail wag energetically. "Such a clever dog. You found Ry. Thank you my puppy". He looked up, "Paul, what about Ry's mom, we should contact her?" Paul looked at his watch. "She may already be in the air, but we can try. Then get hold of his dad". He dialed Janice, but the call just went to voice mail, so he left a message. Then he called David who answered almost immediately. "Hi Paul, any news?" "Hello David. We found him. He's been badly beaten and assaulted, but he's alive. We are at the hospital now, they're busy with him. As soon as I know more, I'll let you know.". "Thank god, Janice was in a state when I dropped her at the airport" "David, I've got to go. A doctor just walked in" "Mr Devlin-Major?", she asked, and Andrew stepped toward her and she glanced at the clipboard she held. "I am Dr. Nicola Smith. Your husband has extensive injuries, mainly external but internal as well. From what we can see, they are not life threatening, but they obviously need to be treated. We are taking him into surgery now and it may be a while before we are done." She pulled him away from the group, laid a hand on his arm and said softly , "I have to tell you, he was sexually assaulted as well. With and without objects. We have done a rape kit and it is already on the way to the lab and we have given him medication for HIV. The lab tests will tell us more ". Andrew's eyes were cold and steely as he looked at her. "I hope those fucking bastards who did this get everything they deserve! May I see him before you take him?" She nodded. "Come with me " and they walked down the corridor to the room they had him in. Ryan lay on a gurney, ready to be pushed into theatre. The blood had been washed out of his hair and his face was free of blood except for his injuries. He could not see the rest of his body as he was covered with a sheet. His heart heavy, he stood next to the gurney and picked up his hand, bending down to place a soft kiss on Ryan's forehead. "Ry, babe, I don't know if you can hear me. They are going to take you into the operating theatre now. I love you with all my heart and we will get through this, together, as we always have. I will be here when you wake. I promise you will not be alone, no matter how long it takes. Just get better, for you and for me." He thought he felt a slight pressure on his hand but it may gave just been wishful thinking. He stepped back and watched as they wheeled him away. He walked back to the others slowly, but with firming resolve. He had to get a grip! Ryan was going to need him. Just as Ryan had supported him in his darkest hours, he was going to have to do the same for Ryan now. He had no idea just how hard that was going to be! Janice crashed through the doors like a whirlwind an hour later, Paul having instructed the driver to bring her straight to the hospital. As soon as she saw Andrew she rushed into his arms and he lost all of his hard won resolve. They sobbed together hugging one another tightly. When they had both calmed down sufficiently, she asked, "What's the latest? What are his injuries? How did they find him?" rattling off questions.Andrew led her to a chair and sat next to her. "He's going to be okay, mom. They have him in surgery at the moment to repair some internal damage and to stitch him up. He has cuts and bruises all over his body" he looked at her intently "and, there is no easy way to say this. He was sexually assaulted". Janice's eyes widened in horror, she wailed and threw herself against Andrew's chest, weeping. "My baby, my poor baby!". Andrew held her close, letting her cry, stroking her hair. "He'll be okay mom. It will take some time, but he will be okay" They sat and waited. Marie left for home to put Jonathan to bed and the rest waited. Eventually the door opened and the doctor walked in still wearing her scrubs.. "Mr Devlin-Major". Andrew held up his hand interrupting her. "Please call me Andrew. Devlin-Major can be a bit of a mouthful. This is Janice Major, Ryan's mother. She just arrived from Johannesburg." "Right, okay thank you. Andrew. Ryan is out of surgery and in the recovery ward. He will be there for about an hour so that we can monitor his vital signs just to ensure came through the surgery okay. The injuries to his body are mostly superficial, we have stitched some of the lacerations, and he will be turning all colours of the rainbow before this is over, due to the extensive bruising. They really did a number on him. He went through quite an ordeal. Fortunately he is young, strong and fit. I repaired the internal damage and he should recover completely. He will just be very uncomfortable for a while, especially when going to the toilet. My biggest concern are the injuries to his mind. At this stage we have no idea to what extent his psyche has been affected, but experience tells me that there always is some psychological trauma that will have to be dealt with. Only time will tell. I will tell the nurses to come and fetch you once they move him to his room. He will be in a private room, mainly due to the cause of his injuries, but also due to your medical insurance. Mr Mason gave us all the details. He will have the best care we can give him, physical and mental, I promise. And he is going to need lots of love and care. Now, there is nothing you can do for the next hour. Why don't you go and have something to eat and come back when he is settled in his room. I want to keep him under mild sedation for a while, but I do want him to wake up first so that I can fully assess his post-operative condition." and she turned and walked away. They quietly walked out into the cool night air, found a McDonald's close by and ordered Big Macs and milk-shakes. When they were done, they walked back to the hospital. As soon as the appeared, a nurse hurried to them and asked them to follow her, and she took them to Ryan's room. He caught his breath as Ryan slowly rolled his head to look at them and smiled painfully at them. Andrew and Janice rushed to him, standing on either side of the bed. They had managed to reduce some of the swelling, and he looked more like the Ryan they all knew. Andrew held his hand, being careful of the drip inserted there. "Hi there, my love. We're here", bending down and placing a kiss on his temple. He rolled his head to look at his mother. "Hi mom. Don' t cry. Doctor says the op went well. I will be fine". Janice was too choked up to say anything. She just kissed his cheek. He looked at Andrew. "How did you find me? I thought no one ever went to that part of the marina. I was afraid I was going to die all alone and that they would just find my skeleton", he whispered. Despite his good intentions, Andrew was crying again. "I didn't find you. He did " revealing Rascal snuggling under his hoodie. Ryan reached out and stroked the puppy's head. Andrew could feel his tail wagging. "I was worried sick about you and had been in the apartment all day. He needed to go downstairs, so Paul and I took him, and then we went for a walk to clear my head. He ran away along the dock and we heard him barking and we found the shack you were in. So Rascal was the one who found you". Ryan gazed at the dog, fingers tickling his little chest. "Good dog. Such a clever little puppy. Thank you". Rascals tail wagged madly again. A nurse walked in and looked at the chart at the foot of the bed. "I'm going to have to ask that you leave now. Mr Devlin-Major needs rest and I'm about to give him his sedative for the night." Ryan looked at her, then at Andrew, gripping his hand. "I don't want to be alone. Please don't leave". Andrew looked at the nurse. "I am not going anywhere! I am staying right here! I refuse to leave him alone! You want me out, you're going to have to get security to drag me out, but I assure you, I will be kicking and screaming all the way. I will not leave him!" She looked like she was about to say something, then thought better of it. She injected a liquid in Ryan's drip bag and looked at Andrew sternly. "I will allow you to stay as long as you do not disturb him" Andrew nodded his head. "Thank you" She left the room, and Janice and Paul said their good byes, taking Rascal with them. Paul would drop them at the apartment and then drive home. Andrew got his first inkling of the battle ahead soon after. He moved round the bed to get on behind Ryan, thinking he would lie next to him. Ryan pushed him away with a panicked look. "No, not there! Just sit in the chair and hold my hand". Shocked and hurt, Andrew moved the recliner next to the bed, his heart heavy and emotion threatening to crush his resolve. Then he sat in the chair and held Ryan's hand until the fell asleep. Then he let the tears fall. This was going to be tough. He fell into a listless sleep, waking a couple of times during the night, even though the recliner was very comfortable. He woke for the final time when the doctor came in to check her patient. Her eyes widened in surprise when she saw Andrew. "Morning Andrew, did you stay here all night?. Andrew nodded "Yes, he didn't want to be alone, so I stayed. Your nurse was not happy " "I can imagine. We don't normally allow it, but maybe given the circumstances it was wise " The voices woke Ryan and he tried to sit up. Andrew moved to help him and he flinched away for a moment before allowing him to help him. The doctor checked him over, made a notation on the chart and motioned for Andrew to follow her as she left. Ryan tried to stop him. "Drew, where you going? Don't leave!" "I'm just going to have a chat with the doctor. I'll just be outside in the corridor " Andrew walked out to the doctor, who looked perturbed. "I saw that, his reaction, and it concerns me." "I'm worried as well. Last night, I wanted to get on the bed with him and he pushed me away. I slept in the recliner, just holding his hand. It's as though he's afraid of contact that is too intimate. He has always loved cuddling." She nodded. "It's a reaction to the intimacy of the assault. I was afaid it would happen, but hoped it wouldn't. You're going to have to be very patient with him." "Doctor, I can assure you, getting him back to full health is my primary goal as well. I love him, with all of my heart. And I know he loves me. I will do whatever it takes to do that. Money is not a concern He will get the best help money can buy." "Money may not cut it. It is love, and care and understanding that he is going to need most" "In that case, I am ready. He will get it, not only from me, but from family and friends as well" "Good, I'm happy to hear that. But be warned, it might not be easy!" she walked away looking thoughtful . Janice arrived soon after while Ryan was eating a light breakfast, accompanied by Sergeant Miller. "Morning Drew. Hello darling, you're already looking better. Do you feel up to speaking to the police?" "Good morning gentleman. Mr Devlin-Major, I need to ask you a few questions", the policeman said, moving to the side of the bed. Ryan nodded as Andrew took his hand, rubbing his thumb over Ryan's wedding ring. Sergeant Miller took out a notebook and pen. "Did you see who assaulted you?", he asked. "Yes, I did. It was the four guys from the big day catamaran that always gave Andrew and myself a hard time. We have always suspected that they were also responsible for damaging 'Belle Catherine', but we have no proof of that. I think they come from the Middle East, but they could be eastern European as well". "I know it's not easy, but can you tell me what happened?" Ryan looked mildly panicked for a fleeting moment and the nodded. "When I went down to check on 'Belle Catherine', their boat was docked a bit further down. I could see them standing in the saloon of their boat looking out at the weather and they pointed and laughed when they saw me. I was standing on the side deck of our boat, when they grabbed me from behind. I slipped on the wet deck and hit my head on the side of the saloon. They dragged me off the yacht and started kicking and punching me as I lay on the dock. Then they lifted me up and carried me to where I was found. I was struggling and kicking and the one who seemed to be the leader, punched me in the midriff. Then my phone rang and he pulled my wet weather jacket open to get it out of the inner pocket. He looked at it and threw it away. I think he was trying to throw it into the water, but apparently it landed on the dock" "And they all participated in your assault?" Ryan's grip tightened on Andrew's hand. "Yes they did. Although there was one who appeared to be the leader. They all seemed to defer to him. He was always the first. And he gave all the orders. They called him Prince and once one of them called him Amir or something like that. They dragged me to that shack and tied me up before cutting off my clothing, taking my watch and whipping me and raping me. God, it was horrible. It seemed to go on for ever. I think I must have eventually passed out and when I came to, I was lying on the bed tied up. They left just after that". "Did they give an indication of where they might be going when they left you?" "Not that I am aware of. I just remember them laughing as Amir said "If they find you alive, tell them this is how we treat queers where we come from. Then when they were walking out, one of them said they must kill me. I think it was Amir that said, "No one ever comes here. Hardly anyone knows that this place is even here. Someone might find just his skeleton one day". Tears rolled down his face. "I was terrified that he was right. That I would die all alone!" Janice and Andrew were crying as well. "Thank you sir, I know that was not easy. I can get their identity photos from marina security. One last question! You say they took your watch. Nothing was found at the scene. So I presume they still have it. What make is it?" "It's a Tag Hauer. Platinum with a dark blue face" "Okay, thank you. Please know we are doing our best to track them down" He stood up and left the room. Janice bent down to hug her son who tensed up momentarily before relaxing, then looked at Andrew. "I want you to go home, have a shower, something proper to eat and get some decent sleep. It won't help if you keel over as well because you are not looking after yourself. Your SUV is parked outside", handing him the keys, "and Marie is at the apartment making breakfast. I will stay here with Ryan until you get back, but I do not want to see you before 3 or 4pm". Andrew realised she was in no mood for arguments, so just nodded. He walked to Ryan and stood next to him. "Can I give you a hug?" he asked hesitantly. Ryan looked at him quizzically and nodded "Yes of course you can babe. Why are you asking? You've never had to ask before ". Andrew looked down at their joined hands, rubbing his finger over their rings. "You pushed me away last night. I wanted to hold you while we slept. You told me to sleep in the chair. Then this morning you pulled away from me when I tried to help you sit up. As though you did not want me to touch you" he said softly.He glanced up as he noticed a surprised reaction from Janice. Ryan looked crestfallen. "Did I really do that? Babe, I'm sorry. I had no idea I did that." Andrew leaned forward and placed his arms around Ryan, and he stiffened again for a moment, before relaxing and hugging Andrew back. "I did it again, didn't I", he asked. Andrew just nodded, feeling very sad. "Yes my love, you did" Ryan looked puzzled but said nothing. Andrew picked up the keys and walked out the room, before leaning on the wall, silent tears pouring down his cheeks. Janice came out, saw him and swept him into her arms. "Drew, darling, I can't say I know what is happening. But we must have faith that it will get better" "Mom, I don't know what to do. They took my beautiful, loving husband and when he came back he was no longer whole. The bastards stole part of him" "They didn't steal it Drew. They just locked it away. We just have to help him to unlock it, and if anyone can do it, you can. Now go home and rest, we will see you later". And that was the pattern for the next three days that Ryan was in hospital. They discharged him on the morning of the fifth day since he had been found, and Andrew was there to take him home, Janice had stayed at the apartment. He helped Ryan into the SUV and he turned to his doctor who was standing on the kerb. "Thank you for everything, Dr Smith. Goodbye" She handed him her card. "On the back are three psychiatrists that I recommend. I advise you to get him to one of them asap. The sooner the better and do not take no for an answer". He pocketed the card, and drove Ryan home. He was greeted by an ecstatic ball of brown fur, who ran around his legs in circles, and then yapped and wriggled like a worm when he was picked up and cuddled, licking Ryan's face. Andrew heard him laugh for the first time since the assault. "Hello my little soldier, how are you? You happy to see daddy Ryan? I am happy to see you". He kissed his mother and sat on the couch, cuddling Rascal, his eyes pensive. Andrew went back down to put the car away and Ryan looked at his mother. "Ma, what's wrong with me? Why am I pushing Drew away? God knows, I love him dearly, but I cannot help the feeling of panic when he comes near me. I know it's happening, but I can't do anything to stop it. It's killing him and me. I just want everything back the way it was" She sat down, taking hold of his hand. "Ryan my boy, you have been through a very traumatic experience. One some people do not survive. The physical damage may be healing, but the damage up here" tapping her head "still has to heal. That will take time and effort, from both of you. My advice is to go and see a shrink. They are the best people to help you now. I am going back home today, Your father needs me as well. Andrew has offered to take me to the airport. Do you want to come as well, or are you going to have a rest?" "No, I'll stay. I have some things to think about as well. It will give me time alone" Andrew drove Janice to the airport for her afternoon flight. When he arrived back at the apartment, it was quiet and he walked to the bedroom. Ryan was not there. The guest bedroom door was slightly ajar so he walked to it and pushed it open. Ryan was lying on the bed sleeping, with Rascal snuggled against him. He found it a bit odd, but did not really think much of it and returned to the main bedroom to change into sweatpants and a warm top. He opened the cupboard and stared in confusion. Ryan's clothing was no longer there. Fear roiled in his stomach and he hurried back to the spare bedroom and quietly opened the cupboard. There, neatly folded and hung was Ryan's clothing. He started shaking, pure terror welling up inside him. Ryan had moved out of their bedroom. He stood staring at the clothes crying softly, tears pouring down his face, not realising that Ryan, lying with his back turned, was listening to him weep, with tears soaking the pillow under his face. Andrew quietly closed the cupboard doors, left the room, and threw himself onto the big bed, burying his face into Ryan's pillow, sobbing like his heart was breaking until, exhausted, he fell asleep. When he woke, it was dark. He could see the glow of light from the front rooms, and he could hear activity from the kitchen, probably Ryan feeding Rascal. Andrew lay there for a while and fell asleep again before waking up at 2am with Rascal next to him. His bladder felt like it was about to burst, so he got up, used the bathroom, and undressed, putting on a pair of boxers and a t-shirt. He padded out to the other bedroom and peered in. Ryan was lying on his back, mumbling in his sleep. Andrew moved closer to hear what he was saying. "No, don' t do that. Leave me alone! What are you doing? Aahhhhg, fuck that hurt. Drew where are you? Help me, please help me Drew". He could take no more. So the moved to the bed sat on the side and gently shook his shoulder. "Ry, wake up! You're having a bad dream Ry. Wake up" He came awake with a yell, scooting up against the headboard, holding the sheet in front of him, eyes wild and staring. "Easy Ry, it's just me. You were having a nightmare", softly stroking his arm. Ryan's eyes focused on Andrew, recognition dawning in his eyes. "Drew, help me. I cannot do this on my own! I keep seeing all these images of when I was in the shed. When they were beating me and raping me, all I could think about was you. That if I focused on you, the pain would not be so bad. It hurt so bad, Drew, so bad." He was crying now, deep soul wracking sobs. "When they were all finished and they left, one of them came back and said, "If they find you alive, tell them this is now we treat queers in our country". Drew watched his tear ravaged face so full of anguish, anger boiling in his chest at what they had done to his beautiful, once self - assured husband. "I heard then laughing as they walked away. One of them said they must kill me, but another one laughed and said "Leave him. He will die slowly.No one ever comes here". "It was horrible. I don't know why I'm doing what I'm doing. I just know that right now, I cannot handle anyone touching me. It feels like I'm being restrained all over again. I hate it when I pull away from you or tense up if you touch me. I love you, god knows, I love you. But I do not want to burden you with someone who is broken. You deserve so much better. I don't want to lose you Drew. I need you. Please help me", and he fell into Andrew's arms, great heaving sobs wracking his body. It was a cathartic moment. Rascal hopped up onto the bed, squirming his little body between them, his tail whipping back and forth. Ryan chuckled even while still crying. "Always want to be in on the action, don't you, my puppy". He looked at Andrew, smiling wanly, "Will you help me babe, I really need you" Andrew smiled back at him, feeling that all was not lost. "Ry, there was never any question that you would not have my love and support. It is all in your mind. I don' t profess to have all the answers, but we need people who do. First thing in the morning, we need to find you the help you need. Your doctor gave me the names of some shrinks that she recommends. No, don't pull a face. You know as well as I do that those guys did a number on your brain. Dr Smith has done her part to get your body back to full health. Now we need someone to help you get your mind back to full health as well. We need to get expert help to fight that. That is the only way I know to help you. That and love and compassion and understanding. I promised to love you in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and I intend to fully abide by those vows. And let's get something clear right now. You are not broken. You may have a dent or two, but those can de repaired But you are not broken and never will be. You are stronger than that. Remember, you'll never walk alone!" Ryan held Andrew's face between his hands. "I am so lucky to have you in my life. You give me hope and strength and courage to carry on. So where do we go from here?" "Well, that depends on whether I sleep here or if we go back to OUR room. Do you think you can do that?" "I'll try. I can't promise anything, but I will try" "Okay, so here or our bedroom?" "Our bedroom, I think. I have to get back to some sort of normality" Hand in hand the went into the main bedroom and slipped under the covers and just held one another. Ryan's body was tense at first, but little by little he relaxed and drifted off to sleep. It was the first time that Rascal was allowed to sleep on the bed with them. That night was the true beginning of Ryan's return to full health. The following morning Ryan made arrange-ments to see the psychiatrist, and it was decided that they would both go so that Andrew would be better able to help Ryan in his recovery. There were still occasions when he would zone out, have nightmares and involuntarily pull away or tense up when Andrew put his arms around him. But the sessions with the psychiatrist proved to be very beneficial and by the beginning of the October, Ryan was getting back to normal, as was their relationship. Their sex life was still an issue, or rather the lack of it, but Andrew was determined to give a Ryan all the time he needed and never pushed him at all. That decision would have to come from Ryan. One morning, a week after Ryan came home, they received news that the men who had kidnapped and assaulted Ryan had been arrested. They had been hiding out in a small secluded bay on the southern coast and when a local noticed, what he termed, a suspicious looking vessel, he reported it to the police who investigated. There was a shootout and one of them had been killed while the remaining three were in custody. One of them had Ryan's Tag Heuer watch on his wrist. When confronted with the evidence, they confessed and were currently awaiting trial. Because of the DNA evidence and the confessions, it would not be necessary for Ryan to appear in court, unless he wanted to. The case came to court in early October and encouraged by his psychiatrist , Ryan appeared at the sentencing hearing to give a victims statement. He had not yet fully recovered, and would carry a few small physical scars for life, but was doing very well and on the advice of his psychiatrist that facing his attackers would bring final closure, he agreed to appear accompanied by Andrew, his parents and Paul and Marie. When the presiding judge invited him to give his statement he stood, tall and proud, with the others, and stared his assailants in the eye. "My name is Ryan Patrick Devlin-Major. I do not know if you knew my name on the night you kidnapped and abused me. And quite frankly I don't care. I just wanted you to know the name of the man, who caused your dead friend to be rotting in hell, and who hopefully", glancing at the judge, "will be the cause you you rotting in hell on earth in prison for the rest of your miserable lives. How did I cause this? Because I survived what you did to me, instead of suffering the lonely death you wished on me. How did I survive? I may be gay and be married to a man, this man sitting here next to me, but no matter what, I am a man and will always be one. I chose to love a man because God made me like this, in his image and you tried to destroy it. God will damn you for that, I believe". The three men squirmed and lowered their eyes when he said that. Ryan raised his voice slightly, "Look at me, dammit ! You thought that because I am gay, I was weak. Well I am not. I am strong, stronger now than I have ever been. I cannot say what you did to me did not affect me, because it did. And I will always have scars, physical and mental, from the abuse I suffered at your hand. But with the love and support of my husband, family and friends those scars have faded. You will have no one. You will spend your time in a miserable jail cell, living miserable lives. I believe they do not treat rapists well in our prisons and I hope you get everything you deserve. You tried to destroy me and you failed. All you did was make me a stronger, better, gay man and you destroyed yourselves. Thank you for your time, Your Honour" He sat down to thunderous applause from the public sitting in the gallery. Shortly thereafter, the judge sentenced them to 25 years without parole, for kidnapping and aggrevated assault, in a maximum security prison, deeming them dangers to the public. He also ordered that the catamaran that they had tried to escape in, be awarded to Ryan in lieu of compensation. He subsequently sold the 73ft vessel to a day charter company, after having a few bullet holes repaired and windows replaced, who sailed it to Mozambique to be utilised there and added a healthy sum to their joint bank account . The following morning, they sailed 'Belle Catherine' out of the marina, the first time she had been out to sea since the attack. She had still not had the damaged paintwork on her hulls repaired as Andrew had delayed the work due to everything else that was going on. They headed up the West Coast, spending five days visiting some of the small ports and fishing villages on that coast. The weather was not great and they spent most of the week dodging from port to port, sheltering from the squalls that were typical of late winter. But it was a week, where they could be alone, reconnecting and strengthening their bond. And where they finally shared their bodies with one another again. It was also a week, where they made a tumultuous and life changing decision. Two in fact. First, they would purchase a house. And second, they wanted a baby. Adoption was an option , but they preferred to find a surrogate who would be prepared to carry the baby to term. The plan was to contract the surrogate for two babies, two years apart, one for Ryan to father and the other for Andrew. They desperately wanted the babies to, at least, have the same mother. It would be difficult, but not impossible. It would mean there would be some changes to their lifestyle, but both felt they they were ready for the challenge and they could work it all out and they decided to consult with a medical professional as soon as possible. The return sail to Cape Town proved to be rather exciting. Winter had decided to go out with a bang, and produced a huge north westerly storm, that had them racing for Cape Town just ahead of it. Table Bay was an angry grey expanse of white water, and the wind from behind them was approaching gale force. 'Belle Catherine' handled it like the thoroughbred they knew she was and flew across the bay at close on 15 knots, her projected top speed, even with the mainsail reefed. Andrew was amazed that, even though there was still an element of pitching and rolling, due to the ferocity of the wind and the wave conditions, she still remained a relatively stable platform, which gave them both a huge confidence boost, both in the yacht and in themselves. They flew through the harbour mouth, almost causing harbour control to have apoplexy, before Ryan dropped the sail completely and turned sharply to starboard, kicking in an engine and motoring into the calmer water in the lee of the breakwater. They looked at one another with shiteating grins. "Woohoo, that was awesome," yelled Ryan, grabbing Andrew and spinning him around. They sailed into the marina and had barely tied up to the dock when the skies opened as the first rain squall heralded the arrival of the storm. It was raining so heavily, they decided to stay on board for the night as just walking the short distance to the apartment would mean getting soaked to the skin. There was more than one storm in the marina that night! As the winds raged around 'Belle Catherine', passions raged in her master cabin as Andrew and Ryan reaffirmed their restored connection, both physically and emotionally.
  4. The summer season proved to be a very lucrative one for all of the Devlin-Major interests. Both lodges were running at occupancies of between 90% and 95%, and Belle Catherine was averaging three charters every two weeks, which Andrew was very happy with. All the guests were very happy and the only concern was several comments from guests at both lodges over the festive season being disturbed by persons unknown requesting to complete surveys. Andrew initially thought it might have been staff members being a bit over zealous in getting guests to complete the normal questionaire which all guests were requested to complete prior to departure, but upon investigation, this proved not to be the case. The guest questionaires were forwarded to him, unopened, at the start of each month and he, and Ryan if he was not on charter, would meticulously go through every questionaire. Any problem areas were addressed with Paul or Claude, compliments were passed on and where necessary, the guest was contacted and the issue dealt with. Nothing was ignored. He visited both lodges to see the general managers, who essentially told him the same thing. It seemed to have started just as the festive season began and about the same time as the opening of The Cameron. A few guests at each lodge had complained about being hassled, but in all cases the culprits were never discovered. It was a bit of a mystery as to exactly who they were and what they were up to. Andrew drew up a letter to every guest they had over the season and apologised to them should they have been inconvenienced in any way. Apart from that, the season had been very successful. Ryan, Darren and Kerry carried the burden of the charters, while Andrew was kept busy with overseeing the overall operation. His other big project was a personal one - making the arrangements for Cameron and Elizabeth's christening. He and Ryan had discussed the christening in depth before Ryan left on one of the charters and Andrew was tasked with organising the event. They had ultimately decided to hold the christening at the house as they both felt that there were too many guests for 'Belle Catherine', and both felt they didn't want to have it at either of the lodges, although both would have a hand in the catering and set up. And so, on the first Saturday of February, the big day finally arrived. The service was scheduled for 11am, followed by a buffet lunch. The weather was stunning - an almost wind free, cloudless day, so typical of the latter part of summer. A marquee that Paul had purchased for a company function at The Cameron held during the week after the opening, had been erected in the garden beside the pool, and was where the meal would to be served. Andrew and Ryan had elected to leave the sides open with the support poles draped in white fabric to allow what little breeze there was to cool things down and the garden was relatively private anyway. Round tables seating eight guests, borrowed from The Cameron were arranged in the marquee with comfortable upholstered banqueting chairs, the tables covered with a white tablecloth and a baby blue overlay. Posies consisting of pink roses with sprigs of baby's breath formed the centrepieces with specially printed and laminated placemats with a collage of photographs of the twins and a message of thanks for those attending the event. The crockery from Blue Bay was plain white and the cutlery was the silver plated service from The Cameron. The chairs were covered in white covers with alternate chairs having either a baby blue or pink sash. The buffet table was set up at the end closest to the pool, completely draped in white. The lounge, dining room and patio seating was informally arranged in the living area, where the actual christening would take place with a podium from The Cameron at the guest room end of the room. A small table stood beside the podium on which stood a delicate crystal flask containing water from the River Jordan that the pastor would use to anoint the toddlers. As per the pastors request, no alcohol was served before the service, so sparkling grape juice was available for the guests on arrival and sparkling wine would be served afterwards before lunch. The guests included mom and dad Major, Donna and Craig, who flew down from Johannesburg for the weekend, Beth and Nicky, Paul, Marie and Jonathan, Claude and François, Yvonne, her husband Jeremy and her two children, Darren and Kerry and Kevin, Vanessa and Simone from down the road. The pastor and his wife would also stay for lunch. A nice surprise was that Dan and Joan had contacted Andrew and requested to be Skyped in for the service even though it would be 2 am in Miami. At 11am, with everyone gathered in the living room, Andrew and Ryan came downstairs with Cameron and Elizabeth. They had decided to let them walk rather than carry them and the twins, somehow instinctively knowing that the day was all about them, were on top form. The walked between there dads, both holding a finger, towards the podium and the waiting pastor, smiling at everyone and when Janice waved at them, they enthusiastically waved back and their arrival was greeted by many 'aaah cute's'. Cameron was dressed in pair of white satin short pants, short sleave shirt and a baby blue satin waistcoat with mother of pearl buttons, white socks and tiny, very shiny, black shoes. Elizabeth was in a pretty white satin dress with pale pink lace bodice and underskirt. She had white socks and white babydoll shoes on her feet. Paul and Marie, and Donna and Craig who had agreed to be joint god -parents were standing with the pastor, all smiling happily and Darren stood to one side with Andrew's laptop to keep the Kinleys up to date. When they got to the podium, they turned to face the guests and the twins promptly both got stage fright. They took one look at all the people and turned to their dad's, their arms reaching out to be picked up. They quickly recovered their composure once they were safe in Andrew and Ryan's arms and the service commenced. It was very short, just a brief address, and a run through the responses to the order of service that Andrew had printed, then after the charge to the godparents and the congregants to always watch over them, the pastor uncorked the flask, drizzled a little of the water into a small silver bowl, dipped his fingers into the bowl and made the sign of the cross on each of their foreheads, intoning the blessing at the same time. He closed the service with a prayer and it was all over. As everyone stood up, two waiters appeared with trays of sparkling wine and grape juice and everyone gathered around Andrew, Ryan and the twins to congratulate them, as well as Dan and Joan who signed off immediately after to go back to bed, Everyone began moving out to the marquee for lunch where James, the executive chef from The Cameron was keeping an eye on things along with one of his staff and two from Blue Bay. The Cameron was responsible for the hors d'oeuvres and the main course vegetables, while Blue Bay had the main course meats and desserts with the exception of a large goblet shaped bowl of cranachan that Andrew had insisted on. James had done his signature whisky cured salmon, a cold avocado and langoustine soup and a warm biltong quiche as well as a selection of cold meat cuts with a selection of garden salad ingredients for guests to compose their own green salad and a potato salad. There was homemade health loaf and bagettes to go with it. The entrée consisted of a carvery with roast lamb and chicken, jacket potatoes, roasted butternut, green beans, and cauliflower mornay, a lasagne and a chicken breyani with all the accompiaments. Desserts had been kept to a minimum with the cranachan, fresh fruit salad, ice cream and a christening cake consisting of chocolate sponge cake with a filling of chocolate mousse and glazed with a chocolate ganache. Lunch was very leisurely, no one seemed to be in a hurry to go anywhere, and it was late afternoon before the catering staff began packing up with James leaving the waiters to assist with drinks service and tea and coffee, but eventually everyone said their thanks and goodbyes and the house returned to normal. The twins however were very tired and more than a little grouchy. Both were very unhappy while Andrew and Ryan bathed them and they barely managed to get some dinner into the little munchkins before they started nodding off, their little heads drooping even while they were being fed. Andrew made them each a bottle of camomile tea with formula and he and Ryan sat cuddling them while they drank their bottles and until they fell asleep, before laying them on one of the other couches with a light blanket over them. He and Ryan sat close, leaning in slightly towards one another and Andrew had his head on Ryan's shoulder. Neither of them were particularly hungry, yet, but they both knew they would need to eat something at some stage or wake at zero dark thirty with grumbling stomachs. But for now they just sat and relaxed, watching the TV that was showing one of the featured matches from the English Premier League for the day and chatting quietly about the day. As much as they both enjoyed entertaining and having family and friends around them, these were the times they cherished most. When it was just them and the twins. It was even better when the toddlers were awake and interacting with them, but just hearing the soft breathing and occasional snuffling noises emanating from the other couch gave them both great comfort and joy. Over the next two mornings they received two surprising bits of news. Andrew was sitting at the desk he had used when planning The Cameron, once again studying the financial reports. He had moved the desk from the guest room after the lodge had opened and it was now in a corner of the lounge with a fantastic view of the bay and Table Mountain. It was a sight that never got old and when he needed to think something through, he would just sit and stare at it as he mulled things over . However, he was finding it rather difficult to concentrate due to the noise from the area in front of the couches where Ryan was cavorting with Cameron and Elizabeth who were squealing in excitement accompanied by laughter all the way from their bellies and growls from Ryan as he played with them. Rascal was adding to the din, barking as he joined in the game. So much for a peaceful Sunday morning. His mobile activated, indicating an incoming call and he reached for it noting that the call was from Paul. "Morning mate, how's it going? Are you working?", Andrew said "Morning Drew. No, I'm weekend off for a change", he replied "Good, I'm very glad to hear you're taking time off and spending time with Marie and Jonathan. So if you're not at work, what are you phoning me on a Sunday morning for?" "I've got you on speaker so Marie can hear as well. We just wanted to thank you for a lovely day yesterday and tell you that we are pregnant". "Oh my god, guys. Wait, let me get you on speaker so Ryan can hear. Say that again". "We wanted to thank you for yesterday and to tell you that we are pregnant" Ryan extricated himself from two bundles of energy and walked over to Andrew with two squirming, squealing toddlers in his arms. "That's amazing news you two. Congratulations. When is the baby due?", Ryan asked. Marie replied. "Morning, Ry. Morning Drew. It's due around the second half of August. So with Paul's birthday on the 17th and the twins on the 16th they might be getting to share birthdays". "We're both so happy for you. Why didn't you say anything yesterday? Wait, I noticed you weren't drinking wine yesterday. I should have realised then", Andrew said. "We didn't say anything, because it was Cam and Elizabeth's day. We didn't want to steal the spotlight off them", Paul said. "Well thank you. We appreciate your sentiments. But it's fantastic news. And thanks for sharing it with us," Andrew told them. Marie came on again. "There's something else!. Would you two mind being the godparents?" Andrew grinned happily at Ryan who nodded vigorously and answered for them. "It would be our pleasure and honour, Marie. Thank you" "Okay, great. Thank you guys. Love you both. Bye, see you soon". Andrew closed his laptop and stood up. "I'm way too keyed up now, and I won't get anything constructive done with all the noise you four are making,", Andrew said looking pointedly at his husband, children and Rascal, "So if I can't beat them, I might as well join 'em" The rest of the Sunday was spent just having fun as a family, interrupted only by the maintenance team from The Cameron coming to dismantle the marquee and Craig and Donna popping in to say goodbye on their way to the airport to take their flight back to Johannesburg. The second bit of news came on the Monday morning, also in the form of a phone call, this time from a number Andrew did not recognise. Ryan had gone to buy fresh milk and taken the twins and Rascal with him." "Andrew Devlin-Major, good morning", he answered when his mobile rang. "Good morning Mr Devlin-Major. This is Michael Gibson. I'm the editor for Lodge Inn magazine" "Yes, I know it. What can I do for you, Mr Gibson". "Please call me Michael. Do you mind if I use your first name?". "No, not at all. How can I help?" "I was wondering whether I might be able to do an interview with you for an article in the next edition?". "I'm very flattered, Michael, but why would you want to interview me?" "Not only you, but your partner Ryan as well. Your two properties have been nominated for awards in three categories in our annual review of lodges and B&B's, and we want to do interviews with a few of the powers behind the thrones so to speak". "Wow, that is a nice way to start a Monday morning. What categories have we been nominated in?" "Blue Bay has been nominated in the 'Best Luxury Small Lodge', that's 30 rooms or less and 'The Cameron" has been nominated in the 'Best New Lodge' category." "That's fantastic news. You mentioned three categories". "Yes, If they win their category, they are automatically eligible for the 'Lodge of the Year' Award "Heavens, I had no idea. We're honoured. How are the establishments nominated?" "In two ways. The first is by first hand experience. I, and a panel of reporters and contributors, visit the various lodges, spending a couple of days at each one. We have a score sheet which covers every aspect of the operation from the initial impression of the exterior, right up until the final farewell. All the score sheets except mine are gathered by our auditors, the highest and lowest scores are discarded to prevent favouritism, and the points are tallied. Then for two weeks leading up to Christmas, we do a guest survey which I cannot reveal the details of in the interests of maintaining secrecy. The replies on surveys are transposed onto a score sheet and tallied, added to our score and the top six lodges in each category are nominated. Which is the point we are at now. "Ah, so I have you to blame for complaints we received from guests about being harassed to do surveys", Andrew told him. "Oh dear. I really must apologise. We had no intention of making your guests feel harassed. Our people were specifically told to keep it as low key as possible. The establishments are not supposed to even realise what is taking place. So I apologise profusely. I hope there was not major problems". "No, nothing major. Just a handful of guests who mentioned it in our own in-house surveys. So when do the awards take place?" "The awards will be presented at a gala evening on 29th March at the CTICC (Cape Town International Convention Centre) and the week before, my scores, which our auditors have in safekeeping, will be added to the scores on the guest questionaires for each nominated lodge and the winners names placed into sealed envelopes, Oscars style, to be announced on the gala night. Of course you and your team will be sent invitations to attend". "Thank you. It all sounds very exciting. As to your request for an interview. I cannot see any reason why not. Allow me to just confirm it with Ryan when he returns and I will be in contact asap. But I really don't think it will be a problem. The only request I have is that Paul Mason and Claude Dubois, our two general managers, are included in the interview, as the success of the lodges is as much due to them as myself and Ryan" "That will not be a problem. However we intended interviewing both of them for a separate article, but if you feel you want them to be present, then sure, no problem". "Thank you. As soon as I have spoken to Ryan I will confirm a date and time with you. Your publication appears every two months if I remember correctly, so I assume this is for the April edition". "Yes, that is correct. It will appear in the same edition as the feature on the winning lodges, so you can be assured of maximum exposure to the industry". "As long as the lodges get the exposure, I'm satisfied. Michael, I will be in touch shortly to confirm with you. And thank you for including us in your surveys". "You're welcome. I look forward to hearing from you. Goodbye for now". Andrew put his mobile on the desk and moved to the sliding doors staring pensively out at the bay and the mountain, his hands in his pockets. He watched as Ryan's SUV turned into the driveway, and walked down to meet him and help him get the twins out of their car seats. Andrew filled Ryan in while putting on the kettle to make tea. "I just had a very interesting phone call from the editor of Lodge Inn magazine", he began. Ryan glanced at him with raised eyebrows. "Oh yes, and what did they want?" "They want to do an interview with us for the April issue. But even bigger news is that they run an annual competition for lodges and Blue Bay and The Cameron are both in the running for awards. Best Luxury Small Lodge, Best New Lodge and possible Lodge of the Year" if they win their category. Ryan gaped at Andrew and then broke out in a huge smile. "Oh wow, babe!. That's amazing! You deserve it after all the hard work you've put in. We'll done!" "Ry, my love. Not me, we! You, Paul, Claude and all the staff deserve just as much credit as me. It's a team effort". Ryan took Andrew in his arms and held him, looking at him. "If you say so my love. But we all know that without you, both places wouldn't exist. Now, what about the interview?" "Well, I told Michael, the editor, I would check with you and get back to him". "Thank you, I appreciate the thought, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a no-brainer. Of course we must do the inter-view. It's fantastic exposure and free advertising." And so, just over a week later, they sat with Michael at home and did the interview. Paul and Claude were also present and Michael had taken some photographs of them together and with the twins, who had been taken for a walk by Yvonne while the interview was being conducted. They covered everything from the beginning up to the present day, mentioning 'Belle Catherine' and the yacht charter arm of the company. They made it quite clear that they were gay, as did Claude, joking that Paul was the thorn among the roses. Yvonne had set the coffee table for with tea and coffee and two platters with savoury and sweet snacks before she left and the interview was conducted in a light, convivial atmosphere. It took almost an hour and Yvonne returned just as Michael was leaving. The four men sat back down , discussing the interview and the upcoming awards night. Michael had brought their invitations with him, advising that an entire table had been reserved for their party, which would include Marie, François, David and Janice. Andrew had also insisted that the twins attend as well, enforcing his belief that they would never be neglected due to business. In the run-up to the awards night, Andrew and Ryan met with all their staff at both lodges to tell them about the nominations and thanking them for all their hard work in making it possible and that they would be back after the ceremony, no matter what the outcome, to see them again. Andrew had requested, and received, a list of the lodges that had reached the final three in each of the categories they were nominated in, and having studied the list, felt they were in with a very good chance. The event was due to take place on a Friday night, so on the Tuesday before, they both had their hair cut and on the Friday morning, the entire delgation were treated to facials and manicures at the spas. Andrew had arranged a limousine for the evening that picked them up at the house, along with David and Janice, before collecting Claude and François at Blue Bay, and Paul and Marie at The Cameron. He had arranged it this way so that everyone at the lodges could also feel involved as well. At both venues the staff who could, sent them on their way with good luck wishes and applause. The conference centre was ablaze with light when they coasted to a stop at the main entrance, a long red carpet laid out from the curb to the doors. There was a large contingent of press in attendance and they were blinded by camera flashes as the emerged from the vehicle. They were all in formal dress including the twins who became the centre of attention. Cameron was dressed in black pants with a soft white shirt and a black satin waistcoat, while Elizabeth wore a pretty long white dress with pale green lace over the skirt. At first they seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the hubbub and light flashes and after momentarily clutching at their dad's trouser legs, accepted their fingers and walked slowly up the red carpet next to them. They had arrived just before dinner was due to be served, so they went straight in, were shown to their table and settled down. A waiter came to take a drinks order and when the hors d'oeuvres of goats cheese and roasted baby tomato tartlets was served a few minutes later, they had their aperitifs in front of them. The dinner was a bog-standard banqueting meal with a choice of roast beef or grilled fish for the entrée and a creme brulee for dessert. After coffee had been served, the lights were dimmed slightly and Michael stepped up to the podium on the stage to begin the proceedings. There were roughly a dozen categories with B&B's done first, then the lodges, and the first category they were nominated in, Best New Lodge, came up halfway through the ceremony. A montage of the three candidates was shown, and even though they appeared relaxed, the occupants of the table were tense as they waited for the winner to be announced. The envelope was handed to Michael and he opened it with agonising slowness. He looked at the card in the envelope and grinned. "And the winner is.......... The Cameron, a Devlin-Major Portfolio Lodge of Distinction" The table erupted as the room broke out in cheers and applause. They were hugging one another with huge grins and one or two watery eyes. As Andrew, Ryan and Paul made their way to the podium, acknowledging the congratulations of their peers along the way, Michael continued "The Cameron is elected winner in this category for the sympathetic remodeling of the original structure, to the execution of the overall theme and upmarket decor in what is fundamentally a family focused establishment, that has raised the benchmark for all new projects in the country. The guest surveys were astounding. There was not one single negative comment. For an establishment that had barely been operating for two weeks, that sort of response was, in my opinion, nothing short of extraordinary and speaks volumes of the three men you see coming up here now. Ladies and gentlemen, Andrew and Ryan Devlin-Major and their general manager, Paul Mason" Andrew pushed Paul ahead of him to accept the award and stepped up to the microphone, stunned to see the entire room on their feet. He waited for them to all settle down and took a deep breath. "Oh wow, this is amazing. I want to thank Lodge Inn magazine and Michael for acknowledging all the hard work that went into the conception and opening of The Cameron. It was a project that became a part of our lives and continues to do so. Thank you to Paul and our dedicated staff. We appreciate you all" He lifted Paul's arm, raising the award into the air. "This is for all of you. Thank you" They left he stage to more warm applause and returned to the table where champagne had already been poured. The evening continued and three categories later came the 'Best Luxury Small Lodge' in which Blue Bay was nominated. Once again there was expectant silence as Michael said, "And the winner is Blue Bay Lodge, Bloubergstrand, a Devlin-Major Portfolio Lodge of Distinction". Andrew stared at Ryan, astounded and mouthed " Oh my god!". Ryan hugged him and when he pulled Ryan to take him up with him, he shook his head. "No Drew, Blue Bay was your baby. You accept the accolades" So Andrew and Claude made their way to the podium as Michael said , "Blue Bay is awarded this honour for its outstanding consistency and for striving to always improve every aspect of the guest experience. The lodge has become a destination in Bloubergstrand and runs at an annual occupancy of 90%, almost unheard of in the category. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Andrew Devlin-Major and Blue Bays general manager, Claude Dubois." Once again Andrew urged Claude to accept the award and took the microphone. "Blue Bay was our very first baby, as Ryan just said to me. My first thank you must go to my parents, who, even in death, provided the means for me to buy Blue Bay". He was quiet for a moment as emotions threatened to overwhelm him. Claude stepped up to him and laid a hand on his shoulder. He continued quietly, "Thank you mom and dad. I wish you could have been here for this. Then to Paul who joined me to run Blue Bay for her first two years. Thank you my friend for all you did and are doing at The Cameron now." He looked at Claude and drew himm forward. "And huge thanks to our present GM, Claude Dubois. We stole Claude away from a resort on Mauritius and have never regretted it. He originally came to Blue Bay to head up our VIP Butler service in the new suites and took over as GM when we moved Paul to the new lodge. It is his continued commitment and training of the butlers and staff at Blue Bay that has enabled us to win tonight. Thank you Claude and thank you to all my loyal staff at Blue Bay. This award is well deserved". As Andrew and Claude turned to leave the stage, Michael stopped them. "Please don't leave gentlemen. We'll go straight into the 'Lodge of the Year'. Would all the category winners please join us on stage?. It took a few minutes for everyone to get organised while a montage of all the winners appeared on the big screen at the back of the stage. Ryan and Paul joined Andrew and Claude as Michael announced, "Friends, I give you all our winners tonight. Give them all a huge round of applause". The room erupted with applause and they were given a standing ovation. When the applause subsided, Michael listed the winning lodge in each category and drew a big breath. 'I want to reiterate that even I do not know who the winner is. The only people in this room who know are our auditor and his assistant. Peter can I have the envelope please". The auditor walked on stage and handed the envelope to Michael. He took another deep breath and said, "And the award for Lodge of the Year goes to..................... ", he opened the envelope and partly pulled the card out to read the name. "The Cameron!" Andrew found himelf swept into Ryan's arms and he whirled him around with joy. "Yes! We did it." Michael continued. "The Cameron is in my opinion, the new star of our hospitality universe. I had the honour of being able to attend the official opening, and from the outset, I was impressed. For those of you who have not been to The Cameron, I urge you to take a drive and pay them a visit. You will not regret it. We were told at the opening that it had been inspired by a castle in Scotland. Let's just say, that inspiration was perfectly transplanted from Scotland to Cape Town. As one guest commented, "I felt, and was treated, like a duchess, staying as a guest in a Scottish baronial hall. The decor although modern, managed to convey the aura of olde Scotland, and nothing was too much trouble for the staff"Michael continued, "My wife and I managed to get one of the last available rooms for a few days just before Christmas and I can confirm the sentiments of the guest I just quoted. As I said earlier, the quality and level of service we received, for an establishment to had been open just one week, one week, was nothing short of extraordinary. We returned a week later to experience the New Year Hogmanay celebration and were astounded. The evening will reside in my memory until my dying day. The only thing missing was the snow. Otherwise, I was in Scotland. For a lodge aimed squarely at the family, it is luxuriously comfortable without being stuffy or pretentious. And the size of the rooms are simply awesome. Ladies and gentlemen, the man with the vision, Andrew Devlin-Major" When Ryan put him back on his feet, he accepted the trophy from Michael. Once again he stood behind the micro-phone. "Will someone please wake me up. I think I'm dreaming!. Wow, just when I thought the evening couldn't get any better, this happens. I would have happily gone home with our first two awards". He took a deep breath to compose himself. "The Cameron, for me was a fun project, even though it was a lot of hard work. When we first saw the building it was a sad empty place, ultimately destined for demolition, but something clicked in my brain and I could instantly see what it could be. We were lucky enough to get it at a bargain price on auction and our architects and builders transformed my vision into reality perfectly. Our twins, Cameron and Elizabeth have Cameron blood flowing in their veins through their mother who is the grand niece of the head of the Clan Cameron or the Lochiel of Cameron as we call him. And the Cameron tartan is used quite extensively in the decor, particularly in the lobby and restaurant. But that is only a small element of what The Cameron has become. Our biggest asset is our young staff and their enthusiastic dedication. Our staff are more than just employees. They are part of our extended family. I know that sounds trite and contrived, but it's the truth. Not just at The Cameron, but at Blue Bay and on "Belle Catherine", our charter yacht as well. Almost every member of staff at Blue Bay have been with us since day one. And I have every confidence that I will be able to say the same for The Cameron. And the reason is this. At Blue Bay, everyone of them, except two at this time, are entitled to 1% of the profit at the end of the financial year. And the same will be done at The Cameron within the next week. Why you ask? Simple! They have an invested interest in the company. They get a little bit extra every month and just before Christmas we pay out a lump sum of 40%. We look after our staff. That is our secret and one I urge you all to consider. How many teaspoons and dessert spoons have you had to write off in the last year? At Blue Bay, I can tell you right now, it was three. Why? Because they know that every replacement that has to be purchased means just that little bit less for them in their 1% payout, so they look after the operating equipment. So care for your staff. They are your biggest asset. Treat them like the hired help, and they can become a mill-stone around your necks. If any of you want to find out more, feel free to contact me. You can see me afterwards to get my mobile number and Email address. I thank you all for listening". It was a very euphoric group who finally left the conference centre just before midnight. The twins were dead to the world, cradled in their dads arms and they accepted the accolades from so many people, they would never remember all their names. Anyone who wanted to chat about what Andrew had said, were referred to Janice and Marie who took their details and told Andrew would be in contact with them during the following week. When the limousine arrived at The Cameron, it was obvious that word had somehow already got out, as all the late shift staff, who should already have left for home were still there waiting for them. Many of the guests were still up as well, also having been told the news and the lodge was ablaze with light. Richard, who was the Duty Manager had wisely kept them in the lobby to cut down on the noise factor for the other guests and surrounding area, so Andrew and Ryan went in to speak to them. They were greeted by applause and dancing from the men and ululating from the women. Andrew held up his hand for silence. "I want to thank you all for waiting up so late. You have all obviously heard the news that The Cameron won two awards tonight including the top award, Lodge of the Year. For those of you who are here now, we want to thank you all for your hard work. The win tonight would not have been possible without you. Most, if not all of you would have spoken to your colleagues at Blue Bay while you were training and are aware of the incentive scheme the company has with them. That same scheme will be implemented here at The Cameron, but we will meet with you all during the coming week, to explain it fully. But right now, you need to go home and rest. I have a feeling some of you will need to be back here for the early shift. So go home and thank you again. Sleep well" With a final round of ululating and dancing they headed for the waiting transport to go home, passing Paul and Marie on the way and admiring the two award trophies they held. Andrew and Ryan returned to the limo for the short drive to Blue Bay, where a similar scene waited for them. Once again, Andrew briefly addressed the staff and sent them on their way before heading home themselves., still somewhat shell-shocked by the evenings events. They gently undressed the twins, opting to just leave them in their vests and diapers instead of manhandling them into night clothes and threw an extra blanket over them to compensate. Ryan went downstairs to lock up and turn off the living room lights and came back with a bottle of sparkling wine and two flutes. Andrew let Rascal out into the garden through the bedroom patio door while Ryan popped the cork and poured the bubbly into the glasses, handing one to Andrew with a grin. "To you, to us, to The Cameron and Blue Bay. Happy days!" They clinked glasses and took a sip of the bubbly. "What a night!. I cannot believe it really happened", Andrew said, sitting down on the side of the bed. I knew our product was a good one. I just didn't realise it was that good", he added looking up at Ryan. "You better believe it, my love, Because it did happen!. It's going to be interesting to see the results of what you said tonight in your speech. I think you made a lot of friends, but there were some who were less than happy. I could see it on their faces. Maybe it was just sour grapes from losing, but I have a feeling a lot of it had to do with greed and not wanting to share their profits". Andrew shook his head sadly. "If only they realised how it can revolutionise their businesses". "Drew, what's the old proverb - You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink". "I know. I know". "I have a feeling that after tonight, things are going to get a little crazy around here. Plus, just to add fuel to the fire, the magazine will be shipped to all the subscribers next Monday. So I vote we get as much R&R as we can this week-end so that we're ready for whatever next week has to throw at us" "Good idea. Our son and daughter are probably going to want attention within the next six hours, so I think some sleep is called for.". They undressed and used the bathroom, moving around one another with the practiced ease that comes with familiarity. Ryan let Rascal in, making sure he was comfortable for the night in the nursery, activated the alarm and crawled into bed behind Andrew, spooning his body against Andrew's, breathing in his unique scent. "Thank you, my love", Andrew spoke softly. "For what", Ryan asked, his smile evident in the timbre of his voice. "For being their for me when I most needed it and believing in me. That week we spent on Santorini after my parents were killed was a life changing time for me, even more so than losing my parents. I felt so lost and never thought I could be happy again. But here I am, with a man and two beautiful children whom I love more than anything in the world, and a company that at this very moment is at the pinnacle of success. Without you my life might never have been the same. You made it all worthwhile. And I know, with you , I will never have to walk alone". Andrew was quiet for a moment then he whispered, "I love you", squeezing the hand that rested on his stomach. "And I love you more" came the whispered reply. THE END.
  5. CHAPTER 27 They sailed into Arniston just as the sun touched the horizon, and found the berth that they had reserved in a peaceful corner of the small harbour with three other monohulls, all but one deserted. Andrew and Darren had to leap ashore to tie them up, side on with inflatable rubber buffers to protect the hull from chafing on the quayside. Prior to arrival, Andrew, Kerry and Darren had been feverishly cleaning and preparing the crayfish and had a large tray piled high ready to be put on the grill. After a long day at sea, they were all sticky and sweaty so their guests headed for their cabins to shower and change while Ryan took the twins and Rascal for a short walk and Andrew got busy in the galley. Andrew put a pot of rice onto the burner and when it started to boil he turned it off, covered it with a lid to let it steam to fluffy perfection and when his family returned from their walk, went to have a shower, taking Cameron and Elizabeth with him to bath them, but Ryan decided to get the grill lines on the crayfish first and then have a quick shower while they were finishing in the covered grill. Andrew left the twins playing on the bed and watching 'Despicable Me 2' while Ryan was in the shower, and went out to check the crayfish, which were steaming nicely . He made bowls of plain melted butter, garlic butter and lemon butter and kept them warm while making a big green salad, and Kerry arrived back to chop parsley and stir it into the rice with a bit of butter. They had dinner as soon as everyone was present. Andrew and Kerry plated the crayfish on a bed of rice, each person getting one and a half tails. He removed the heads, keeping them to make crayfish bisque for dinner one night, but added the legs, a sprinkling of chopped parsley and served it to the table for them to help themselves to salad and whichever butter they preferred. They were encouraged to just eat with their fingers and Kerry delivered finger bowls and a pile of disposable serviettes to clean their fingers, although all of them licked the buttery juices off their fingers first while popping the succulent white flesh in their mouths. Tessa and Julie showed their offspring how to crack the legs and remove the flesh and before long all that was left was a small pile of empty crayfish legs and tails. While Kerry cleared the table, Andrew got busy in the galley, whipping up a triple batch of choc chip brownies that he baked and then served warm with ice cream and custard, producing more smiles all round. When the table was cleared, they broke up into three teams and played Charades until late, which resulted in much laughter and more than a few tears of mirth. They retired to bed just before midnight , the parents having to carry their sleeping children to their cabins. Cameron and Elizabeth woke them just after 6am and as they seemed to be happy playing in their beds, Andrew and Ryan tried to ignore the constant chatter from the two toddlers. That was until their eyes flew open when they heard a very distinct "Dada. Dada". They sat up and looked at the twins who were both standing in their cribs looking intently at the big bed. When the toddlers saw their dads were awake they got very animated, chattering away and bouncing on the mattresses. Elizabeth held out her arms and said "Dada", followed almost immediately by Cameron who said "Dad" although it actually sounded like "dahd". Andrew and Ryan stared at their babies and then looked at one another in amazement. "Oh my god", Andrew breathed, "They're talking. Our babies just called us dad". He scrambled out of bed, picked them up and put them on the bed, and reclined against the headboard. The little ones crawled to their dad's looking for cuddles which they both quickly got. It always amazed Andrew how Elizabeth automatically gravitated to Ryan and Cameron came to him. The adorable little boy pulled out of his hug and looked at Andrew with a very serious expression on his face. He gently reached out a fat little finger and touched Andrew's mouth. "Dahd", he said. Tears welled up in Andrew's eyes and he swept the tot into a hug resulting in a squeal and a gurgle of laughter. "Oh god, I love you my baby boy. Thank you. You're so clever." Andrew pointed at Ryan and said, "There's your dad as well". Cameron turned his head to look at Ryan and broke out in a huge smile. He pointed and said, "Dada" Andrew stared at his son and then at Ryan "He knows the difference, or am I just reading what I want to" Ryan passed Elizabeth to Andrew and sat his son on his midriff. Cameron leaned forward until his nose was almost touching Ryan's and stared at his dad intently. It was so cute and Ryan fought to stay serious as well, but it was obvious he was amused by Cameron's antics. His breath caught when Cameron again said "Dada", sitting up and pointing at Ryan, looking very pleased himself. Ryan pointed at Andrew and asked, "Cam, who is that?". Cameron looked at Andrew and paused his brow furrowing as though he was thinking. Then he pointed at Andrew and said, "Dahd", then looked back at Ryan with an expression that seemed to say "See I know what I'm talking about" Elizabeth had been quiet during her brothers display, but suddenly started to chatter away waving her arms, but the words "Dada" and "Dahd" were quite discernible amongst the excited chatter. The munchkins were cuddled a bit longer by their dads and when Andrew had to get up to shower they both went and snuggled on either side of Ryan as he turned on a video for them to watch. Andrew was dressed and sitting with the twins, when he heard a vehicle on the quayside followed by a short hoot. He peered through the porthole and saw the minivan he had reserved. Behind was a small sedan that was obviously the drivers ride back to the rental office. He called to Ryan who was in the shower. "Babe, the van is here. I need to sign for it. Will you keep an eye on Cam and Elizabeth?" "Yeah, no problem. I'm almost done anyway" Andrew went up the stairs, deactivating the alarm as he passed the keypad, slid open the door and unlocked the security gate to step into the cockpit and onto the side deck. The agent moved closer and handed Andrew the rental documents to sign and then handed over the keys. Andrew stepped onto the quay and walked around the vehicle, checking it's condition and making a note of a small dent on the one side on the rental documents as well as a tiny chip on one corner of the windscreen. He signed the documents and handed the rental agent his copy, advising him that the vehicle could be collected late that evening or no later than 9am the next morning as they would going to sea at that time, and stepped back on board. The excursuion for the day would take them to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa and where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean met. Andrew would not travel with them, but had decided to remain on the yacht with the twins and Rascal for the day to get some work done. Ryan was in the saloon with the twins and after checking that the gates were all closed, let them run around the saloon and cockpit, while they got on with breakfast. Ryan started setting out the cereals, fruit juice and fresh fruit, preserves and condiments while Andrew grilled bacon and pieces of boerewors in the oven. Kerry arrived to help, having been alerted by the sound of their voices in the saloon, and halved tomatoes to grill as well and made some hash potatoes with left overs from the fridge, adding chopped onions and sliced mushrooms as well. Andrew cracked and beat eggs and began making a pot of scrambled egg, stirring it on a low burner so that it would be soft and creamy. Kerry opened two small tins of baked beans for anyone who wanted, and started making toast when the Kinleys began making their appearance. The excursion group all had big breakfasts, then piled into the minivan and drove away with Ryan at the wheel. Andrew tidied up and packed the dishwasher, keeping an eye on the twins who were watching 'Cars' on the TV and then sat down with them to have breakfast at leisure and feed them off his plate at the same time. He had a bit of a tough time as they were determined to help themselves and he eventually got up and cut up some sausage and bacon, adding some egg, and put it in separate bowls for them to eat. Rascal also got some left-overs. When they were all finished, he made them all some tea, including Rascal and while the twins continued to watch the movie, he turned on his laptop to check emails . He cleared all the spam mail, read a handful of mails requesting reservations on 'Belle Catherine' or wanting further details and then opened emails from Paul and Claude with the December financials for the two lodges and projected figures for January. Blue Bay had done very well over the festive season, having exceeded budget by a significant amount but the surprise was how well The Cameron had done in what was effectively only an 12 day month. The projected figures for the new month looked very good and Andrew was very satisfied with the results. The bookkeeper who did the books for 'Belle Catherine' had not yet sent the December results, but Andrew knew he would have them by the time they arrived back home. It had got very quiet while he was busy with his laptop and glanced down to see both the toddlers had fallen asleep, as had Rascal who was snuggled between them. He stood up, shut the security gate to secure the saloon and went down into the guest cabins to do some dusting, general cleaning and tidying up, mopped the floors and companion ways and checked that the bathrooms were fully equipped with guest amenities. He pulled all the linen off the beds and tossed it all in a locker they used for the purpose and remade the beds with fresh linen. He opened all the overhead hatches and left the doors open to allow fresh air to circulate. He crossed over to the starboard hull, checking on the twins as he passed, and did the same with the master cabin. He didn't do anything in Darren and Kerry's cabin, except to remove the bed linen and open the overhead hatches, as they were aware that it was their responsibility to ensure the cabin was neat and tidy. All that took most of the morning and when he heard the gate above the stairs down into the hull rattle, he found two forlorn looking, baby faces and one canine face staring at him through the bars. When they saw him the twins faces transformed into huge smiles and Elizabeth began chattering away as though scolding him for leaving them alone. Andrew carefully opened the gate and stepped through, closing it behind him. Cameron and Elizabeth immediately latched onto his pants with Cameron bouncing up and down saying "Dahd! Dahd". Andrew's heart swelled at the words and he knelt down on one knee to cuddle them and to stroke Rascal who was scampering around them. He picked the babies up and carried them to the galley counter where he sat them down and started preparing lunch, keeping a watchful eye on the two imps. He just made himself two cheese, ham and tomato rolls, and diced up ham, cheese and tomato into small blocks for them. Rascal got two slices of ham as well. He sat them on the seating at the saloon table, found another movie for them to watch, this time 'Monsters University', and sat down next to them to eat. He ate quickly and left them to watch the movie, going to the galley to start with the bisque he wanted to serve for dinner that night using the heads from the crayfish and wondered how the excursion was going. Well, it was going just fine, thank you very much! They had driven on a road that mostly hugged the coast, only heading inland when they got close to Cape Agulhas to get to the entrance of the national park, following the narrow winding route up the side of the headland on which the marker stood. Ryan parked in the visitors parking area at the bottom of a small hill and they climbed the long flight of stone stairs to the top where a carved granite block on a concrete plinth proclaimed them to be at the most southern point of Africa. A line down the centre of the concrete plinth indicated the divide between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and they all took photographs of them straddling the line with one foot on the Indian Ocean side and the other on the Atlantic Ocean side. They were all amazed to realise that, as they stood staring out to sea, the entire continent of Africa was behind them and that there was nothing except empty ocean between them and Antarctica. They spent almost an hour at the windblown site, the Kinleys awed by the vista to the south and the thought of what lay at their backs. They took a drive through the park and saw ostrich, some small buck, and a troop of baboons and then drove to the visitors centre where they viewed some relics from shipwrecks around the point, had burgers for lunch, then retraced their steps for the drive back to Arniston. When they got back, Andrew was sitting at the saloon navigation desk tapping away on his laptop as the replied to Paul and Claude's emails and adding his comments, observations and thanks. The galley was redolent with the aroma of the simmering bisque and Joan sniffed appreciatively when she stepped into the room. "Hmmm, something smells good. I hope that's for dinner tonight?" Andrew closed his laptop and stood up, smiling. "Hi guys, welcome back". He looked at Joan and said, "Yeah, it's crayfish bisque for the starter tonight". "Well, if it tastes as good as it smells, it's going to be amazing" "How did you enjoy the excursion? " "In one word, mindblowing", Joan told him. "The view up there is incredible and the thought of the whole of Africa being behind you, just awesome. But right now, even more awesome would be a mug of your gorgeous coffee and something sweet". "I'll do it Andrew", Kerry interjected. She got the beverage order from everyone and set about getting it all together. Andrew pulled out some muffins, cookies, rusks and other bits and pieces for them to nibble on and Ryan picked up the twins and sat at the saloon table to spend some time with them. Rascal also got into the action by jumping up and sitting next to him. When they had all had something to drink and to eat, they did there own thing for the rest of the afternoon. Joan and Dan went for a siesta, while the younger Kinleys all went for a walk to explore the town. Darren and Kerry went for a short nap as well and the boys sat in the saloon drinking tea and coffee and Andrew went through the financials with Ryan while the twins napped as well. When they wrapped up, Ryan put on the TV to watch some SkyNews and Andrew started the remainder of the dinner prep. The bisque, which was now ready, had two tots of sherry added to it. It had already had brandy added right at the beginning when Andrew flambéed the roasted crayfish heads before adding the flavouring and stock. It would be served with some chopped crayfish tail and fresh cream. The entrée was the simplest one he would prepare during the entire trip and was more homely. Crumbed chicken breasts with a creamy mushroom sauce, saute potatoes, glazed butternut and creamed spinach. Dessert was a large malva pudding which would be served with ice cream or custard, or in Ryan's case, with both. Kerry got busy on the vegetables when she came up after her nap, and Andrew put the malva together, puting it into the oven to bake and then made the sauce to pour over as soon as it came out of the oven. He waited until he was sure everyone was up and about before flattening the Chicken breasts so that they were evenly thick, and then crumbed them and put them into the refrigerator until it was time to cook them. He prepared the sauce as well. With just the meat to cook, he had time on hand to spend time with Ryan and the twins , so they also took a short stroll, taking Rascal with them on his leash leaving Darren and Kerry to look after their guests. The got back just before sunset to find Darren and Kerry had organised sundowner cocktails and small canapés for everyone to snack on. They were simple but tasty and just what was needed to tide them over to dinner. They all sat or lounged on the foredeck, sipping the cocktails, nibbling at the canapés, chatting and enjoying the waning sun is it sank below the horizon. The evening was very quiet, the small harbour being virtually empty as most of the fishing boats had sailed earlier in the afternoon. There were faint children's voices in the distance and the slap of the swell against the quay and the hull accompanied by a muted clink, clink from one of the remaining monohulls as a line touched the mast as the boat rocked on the swell. They were briefly interrupted by the rental agency coming to collect the minivan, which Ryan attended to, and once the sun had disappeared, the Kinleys starting heading for their cabins to shower and change. Ryan turned on the underwater lights and the deck lights and Andrew turned on the saloon and cockpit lights when he went in with the twins to start their bath. Kerry set the table in the cockpit for dinner, dropping the quayside mesh screens for privacy and then went down to freshen up herself. Andrew and Ryan came back into the saloon after their showers and while Ryan occupied the twins, Andrew fried off two chicken fillets and cut them up for the twins, adding some vegetables and sauce as well. And then he and Ryan sat with them while they fed themselves. They were getting better at it every day and weren't nearly as messy as they had been. When all the Kinleys were there, Ryan and Darren poured pre dinner drinks while Andrew and Kerry cooked the chicken breasts and put them into the warm oven to rest and keep warm. When he called dinner, he waited until everyone was seated before serving the bisque for which there were accolades from everyone. The entrée was plated with a wedge of lemon, the sauce served separately, and although simple, was thor-oughly enjoyed. There was seconds for those who were still hungry and the offer was readily taken up by both Brandon and Tanner while Tessa and Julie shared another chicken breast. Ryan and Darren had seconds as well. The malva pudding was still warm and disappeared in no time at all as well with almost everyone having both ice cream and custard with Ryan's encouragement. Andrew gave the twins a little malva and custard as well, and they loved it. Tanner Jnr and Cassie wanted to watch a movie after dinner so Andrew took them to the cupboard to have a look at what he had there and also showed them the titles he had downloaded onto the yachts entertainment system. After much discussion, they settled for 'The Lion King' so Andrew loaded it and they settled down to watch it on the saloon TV. Kerry kept coffee coming and a bottle of Amarula was passed around to refill glasses. They went to bed just after the movie finished, a bit tired after the trip to Cape Agulhas and the hot day, but also in anticipation of the day ahead which was going to be a highlight. In the morning they would sail around Cape Agulhas, into the Atlantic Ocean, to Gansbaai, where they would go shark diving, before sailing to Hermanus where they would stay for two full days. The excitement on board 'Belle Catherine' the next morning was palpable. Everyone was up and about fairly early and the noise level was generally quite high as everyone talked about the day ahead. At least everyone except Tanner Jnr and Cassandra. They were still too young to be permitted to do the shark dive and were not happy campers. They would stay on board 'Belle Catherine' with Andrew, the twins and Rascal. Andrew was not going due to the fact that, quite simply, since watching 'Jaws' as a child, he had no desire to swim with the predators of the ocean. He didn't mind seeing them in their natural habitat - he had seen many of them while sailing on 'Belle', but to get into the water with them was another matter altogether. In a break from the norm, the company who handled the shark diving had agreed to meet them at the diving location instead of the participants departing from the harbour at Gansbaai. Once at the site, the divers would transfer to the tour boat and enter the water from there. It also meant that they could sail for Hermanus directly afterwards instead of having to wait for the tour boat to return to Gansbaai with their guests. They sailed out of Arniston before breakfast, heading almost due south along the eastern side of Cape Agulhas and then rounded the point and headed northwest for Gansbaai. On rounding Cape Agulhas, as they approached the 20° East meridian that was the official meeting point of the two oceans, Ryan dropped the sails and slowly motored along until were straddling the meridian. He carefully kept them on station and then turned to his companions. "Okay guys, according to our instruments we are exactly on the dividing line. Stern on the Indian Ocean. The bows are on the Atlantic Ocean" The Kinleys all gathered on the side deck and Andrew stood on the saloon roof to capture the moment on camera. Then Ryan hoisted the main sail and Darren raised the spinnaker and they were basically in home waters They rendezvoused with the shark boat at 11h00 as arranged and the group were transferred to the boat. The sea was calm with just a slight breeze blowing and Ryan had moored to a nearby buoy. The dive would take place in a cage close to the side of the shark boat, with the divers all in wetsuits and wearing masks and snorkels. There were already several sharks in the area, their dark shadowy forms clearly visible below the surface with the occasional fin breaking the surface. When they had all signed the required waiver forms and were kitted up, they were given a safety briefing and then they were assisted into the cage and it was lowered below the surface. It took a few moments for them to settle down and get their bearings, and it wasn't long before the feared creatures began swimming around the cage, their razor sharp teeth visible in gaping mouths. It was all captured on camera and they were in the water for nearly thirty minutes before being assisted back onto the shark boat. It was a cold, but very exhilarated group who boarded 'Belle Catherine' a few minutes later. While Ryan and Darren stowed the dinghy, Andrew served bowls of hot meaty bean and vegetable soup with cheese rolls for lunch, with most of the Kinleys sitting on the foredeck in the sun to dry and warm up. Ryan and Darren hoisted the sails and they continued on their northwesterly heading towards Hermanus where the arrived in the late afternoon. The first order of business once they were safely tied to the dockside was to collect their transport to drive around in. Feeling lazy, Andrew Ubered to the car rental company in the centre of town, picked up the air-conditioned Mercedes Vito he had reserved and drove it back to the harbour, stopping off to buy a large bag of fresh mussels from the fish market and three French bagettes, a couple of punnets of fresh strawberries, meringue cases and fresh cream. The mussels were the hors d'oeuvres for dinner that night with the bagettes and the rest was for dessert. He was able to drive the Vito onto the dockside and parked right next to 'Belle Catherine'. When he got back on board, the Kinleys were all in their cabins freshening up and Darren and Ryan were firing up the BBQ to do the mussels on it. Kerry was in the galley, preparing yellow rice with raisins, pumpkin fritters, and green beans with potato and onion. They would be the side dishes to accompany bobotie, which Andrew was still to make. When he had prepared the dish for Joan and Dan the previous year, they had thoroughly enjoyed the lightly curry spiced, egg topped dish and had requested that he make it again. The only other accompiament would be a bowl of chutney. It was also one of Andrew's simpler meals, but it packed bags of flavour. The mussels were prepared in the classical way, with juilienned leeks, carrots, celery and garlic, white wine and cream. It was another successful dinner and would be the last dinner on board the yacht before arriving back in Cape Town. They spent the remainder of the evening watching another movie before retiring for the night. After another continental breakfast the next morning, they all, including Rascal, boarded the Vito and went out for the day, visiting several of the wine estates in the region. The first stop was the Wildekrans Estate where, once again, they were given a personal tour and tasting by the vintner. Four cases of wine were loaded into the Vito on departure. From there, they drove to the small Beaumont Estate situated on the Houwhoek Pass, where they tasted and purchased two cases of excellent cabernet sauvignon and spent some time at the lookout area on the pass admiring the view. A highlight was when an old steam locomotive at the head of a line of passenger coaches passed noisily just below the lookout. They continued up over the top of the pass to the historic Houwhoek Pass Hotel, originally built as a coach stop on the journey from Cape Town into the interior, and supposedly haunted, and had a buffet lunch, after which, it was back down the pass to the estate that Andrew was most looking forward to visiting. The home of his beloved pinot noir, Hamilton Russell. They had a tasting, inevitably buying a few cases of the pinot noir and then wandered around the garden of the beautiful estate. The final stop was at Southern Right, where another of Andrew's favourite wines was produced, their Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc, not only because it tasted great, but part of the price of each bottle is donated to whale conservation. In the late afternoon, with a dozen cases of wine packed in the luggage bay of the Vito, they drove back to the yacht where they relaxed for a while, had some refreshments, both alcoholic and non alcoholic, and then showered and changed before going out to dinner to at a local steakhouse, which was close enough that they could walk. It was a pleasant stroll which gave the Kinleys the opportunity to explore the town. They passed a venue that was advertising live entertainment later in the evening, and so after dinner, they walked back there for coffee and take in the entertainment, which turned out to be a young male singer who was, in everyone's opinion, very talented. It was quite late when they strolled back to 'Belle Catherine' for the night, ahead of an early start the next morning for the hour long drive to the Caledon Casino Hotel and Spa., where they would also spend the night. They left at 7am, after securing 'Belle Catherine', turning everything off apart from the intruder alarm and the refrigerators, advising the harbour security that they would be away for the night. The drive was very scenic, taking them past farms on either side of the road cultivating wheat, maize, canola and lupins. They arrived at the resort just after 8am and with having a confirmed reservation for the hotel, were allowed to enter without having to pay an entrance fee. Ryan parked the vehicle and they went straight to the hotel to check in, even though their rooms wouldn't be ready until 2pm, and have a buffet breakfast in the Country Kitchen Restaurant on the patio overlooking the river at the bottom of the hill that the hotel was built on. Breakfast was relatively leisurely and afterwards they strolled through the casino, entering the venue via a door directly from the hotel. It was quite intimate, being not very big, but was perfectly suited for purpose, having banks of slot machines against the walls and arranged in rows near the doors. Blackjack and roulette tables stood beyond that with a small Salon Prive in the corner at the back with a bar and coffee shop in the opposite corner. On a mezzanine level overlooking the casino was an intimate whisky and cigar bar and another restaurant. Leaving the casino through the main entrance, a long, wide flight of shallow steps led up to the parking level, skirting it and levelling out in a pathway across a tree shaded swathe of grass with a shorter flight of stairs going up to the Victoria Baths and the spa complex. They entered the spa reception and presented their key cards to the young lady at the desk. Again, due to them being hotel guests, there was no admission fee. To the right was a corridor which housed all the treatment rooms and on the left, full length glass windows and sliding doors provided views and access to the water features. A stone paved pathway led to the Victoria Baths past the rock pools through which the hot spring water cascaded down before ending in a small waterfall that fell into a large stone lined pool. The Victoria Bath, being of historical importance, had been preserved in its original design, just restored to its former glory. Thankfully, it was not very busy, most of the holiday season crowd having already departed for home to return to work, and they had the place pretty much to themselves for a while. They exchanged their key cards for towels, then changed into bathing suits and found loungers to lay their towels on. When they all headed for the warm water, Rascal wanted to get in on the act as well, but Ryan took him to his lounger, telling him to stay, which he did very reluctantly, laying with his head on this paws, staring at them reproachfully. However, at one stage when it was only them in the area and the attendant had momentarily disappeared, Ryan took him for a quick paddle . They spent a very relaxing morning in the spa complex. Joan, Tessa and Julie opted for some pampering, having facials, manicures and pedicures before all going back to the hotel for lunch, where they were advised that their rooms were ready for them. A porter took them to ground floor rooms, all next to one another, with direct access to a private guest garden, hotel pool and pool bar. They got settled, then went for lunch on the pool deck and spent the afternoon swimming in the pool, soaking up the sun next to it on sunbeds. After freshening up and changing, they had a buffet dinner in the Country Kitchen and then went to the casino to play the tables. Andrew and Ryan had the twins in the chest harnesses, while Tanner Jnr and Cassandra opted to stay in their room to watch movies. Initially, the twins were wide awake, facinated by all the new sounds and the flashing lights of the casino, but it was not long before they were both fast asleep, snuggled against their dad's chests. Andrew and Ryan played blackjack for just over an hour, accumulating almost one thousand rand, before calling it a night and heading for their rooms, leaving the Kinleys sitting at blackjack and roulette tables enjoying themselves. After a good night's sleep, they had yet another buffet breakfast and checked out to drive back to Hermanus and Ryan set sail for Cape Town less than an hour after getting back to the yacht. A southeasterly wind pushed them along at a good clip, and by the time they rounded Cape Point, the wind had picked up to a brisk southeaster so typical of the Cape summer, and 'Belle Catherine' revelled in the conditions with her spinnaker billowing taut directly off her bows. Off Camps Bay, the Kinleys went below to pack and gather their belongings and Andrew retrieved Joan's painting from its storage locker. When Ryan made the starboard turn off Granger Bay they lost the wind so the mainsail and spinnaker came down and they proceeded on one engine. Andrew called Paul to advise that they would be mooring in an hour and to dispatch The Cameron's guest transport vehicle to collect the Kinleys. They had to wait for a cruise liner to clear the harbour mouth before they could enter the harbour and tied up in the marina just over an hour later. The driver from The Cameron was waiting on the dockside and Darren and Kerry went below to fetch the luggage and help the driver to load it into the van, then joined Andrew, Ryan, the twins and Rascal on the dock at the end of the passerelle to bid their guests farewell. They were all given hugs by the family and Joan's eyes were bright with tears as the kissed the boys and the twins on both cheeks and hugged them "Thank you my darlings, we had a wonderful time. As usual you went above and beyond. We're going to miss you all . Look after yourselves and these two little munchkins. I can't believe how quickly they are growing up." Andrew smiled at her. "Thank you Joan. You are very welcome". "Enjoy your night at The Cameron and have a good flight back", Ryan added. "I'm sure we will. Thank you again. For everything". She thanked Darren and Kerry, shook their hands, walked regally to the bus and got in. Dan shook all their hands, thanking them as well. "You have got a wonderful product here. Keep doing what you are doing. Thank you, all of you. We had a great time.", he told them. "Thanks Dan", Ryan said. "It was our pleasure. Have a good trip home and we hope everything sorts itself our over there". "Thank you boys. Look after yourselves. We'll be in touch", and he also boarded the bus. They all waved as it pulled way and with that, the epic trip was over. All that was left was to give 'Belle Catherine' a good clean and get her ready for her next cruise the following week, which Darren and Kerry would handle. But that was a job for tomorrow. They went back on board to secure 'Belle Catherine' for the night and found two envelopes on the saloon table, one for Andrew and Ryan, the other for Darren and Kerry, both containing a $700 tip and a note of thanks. Darren and Kerry were over the moon. "Wow we were not expecting that", Kerry exclaimed. Ryan just smiled and said, "We are not surprised. We knew they would leave something in appreciation. They are a very class act" "Ryan is right. They are. But they are not the only class act around here. Thank you for taking us along and for all you have done for us. We appreciate you guys. We really fell with our bums in the butter when we met you", Darren added. "You're welcome, both of you", Andrew replied. "We may not often say it, but you are both an important part of the operation, and to Ryan and I as well". They quickly got 'Belle Catherine' buttoned up for the night and after agreeing to meet again at 10h00 to do the cleaning up, both couples left for their homes.
  6. Ryan dropped anchor off Lookout Beach, a short distance from the breaker line. Darren had woken from his nap and helped Ryan secure the yacht and then started deploying the water toys. The first item of business was to lower the swimming platform and get the dinghy into the water, the operation closely observed by Dan, Tanner and Brandon with enthusiastic commentary from Dan. The water tube was retrieved from its storage locker, inflated and left to float tied to a cleat on the starboard scoop, as were the inflatable paddle boards. The waterskis and towing rope were also pulled out and the water scooters, face masks and snorkels were laid on the deck. When everything was ready, Darren stepped into the dinghy with the water tube rope in his hand and secured it to the towing bar on the dinghy, then slowly motored round so that the tube was floating at the starboard scoop. Dan boarded the dinghy as well to act as spotter. Brandon, Tanner and TK were the first to go for a spin and Ryan assisted them to board the tube, making sure that their life vests were properly fitted and that they were secure in the seats on the tube. When he gave the all clear, Darren slowly motored clear of the hull and gradually opened the throttles until they were skimming over the water. The squeals and shouts of exhilaration could be heard clearly as he turned the dinghy round at speed to head back in the direction of the mother ship. After about half a dozen passes, he brought them back alongside to fetch Tessa, Julie and Cassie. Tanner replaced his dad as spotter, and off they went again. Brandon was grinning from ear to ear when he stepped back on board. "That was awesome! It's the most fun I have had in a long time. We have got to get one of those for 'Texas Lass'." The rotations continued through the afternoon with each of the childen going with their grandparents as well. They attracted a bit of attention from the beach and a number of surfers paddled out to float around them to observe the activity. Ryan took the opportunity to don a facemask and snorkel and use one of the water scooters to dive under 'Belle Catherine' and check her hull, propellers and rudders. The rudders had a small amount of seaweed attached to them, as had the bow thruster housings, which he cleared. The water was quite clear and he dived down towards the sea floor to see what it looked like. There were a number of small colourful fish about and the sandy seafloor was strewn with small black boulders.. When he surfaced, he was also observed by the surfers who were obviously commenting on the scooters. When they had all had their fill of the tube, Tanner and Brandon each went water skiing, showing more than average ability on the skis. The conditions were perfect, with absolutely flat seas and the wind had dropped as evening approached. Andrew grinned as he sensed the energy levels on board surge and was pleased that their guests were having fun. After the skiing, they all took turns to use the scooters and paddle boards which were cause for much hilarity as they all took tumbles into the water. Late in the afternoon, tired but very happy, they clambered back on board and Dan took great pleasure in demonstrating the fresh water showers in the deck head. They all grabbed something to drink and a snack from Andrew's basket of goodies and found somewhere to relax in the still warm sun. Andrew had a feeling it was going to be an early night. He had planned a braai for dinner based around skewers. The rump sosaties had been a hit on New Years day, so he had more of those. Then there was chicken kebabs and bite sized pieces of boerewors on skewers as well. As side dishes, he and Kerry had potatoes which would be cooked over the coals as well, with sour cream, chives and butter, a big green salad, with avocado of course, and a coleslaw with apple and cheese. There were several loaves of garlic bread as well. As the sun started sinking below the horizon, Darren and Ryan fired up the grill on the transom with Dan once again expounding the virtues of the yacht, and while the coals were burning down, their guests disappeared into the port hull to shower and change out of their bathing suits. When they all reappeared a short while later, two surprises awaited them. The first one was the green glow that surrounded the hull from the underwater lights that Ryan had turned on. "I thought I noticed a greenish glow through the escape hatch while I was showering", Tanner commented. "But I thought it was just light reflecting off the water. It's really cool. We have underwater lights on 'Texas Lass' as well, but they only seem to illuminate the waterline. They don't spread out like these do. Very cool" The second one came as Andrew was organising pre dinner drinks. A large rubber dinghy approached 'Belle Catherine' and slid alongside. Ryan stepped out onto the side deck and retrieved four large flat boxes, before the dinghy raced away back to the beach. Tanner Jnr was the first to realise what had just arrived. "Ryan, is that pizza?", he asked eagerly, with a huge grin on his face. "Got it in one TK. For us to snack on while the meat cooks". "How the hell did you arrange that ", Dan asked in amazement. "Very easily actually. Andrew just found a local pizzeria on line, ordered and requested they deliver. There was a bit of a problem when he told them where he wanted it delivered, but with a bit of extra incentive, the manager arranged for a mate to bring it out for us. QED!", Ryan explained. Dan roared with laughter. "You guys never cease to amaze me. That's why I like you so much. You are both perfect gentlemen, but when you need to, you have loads of gutzpah" Ryan put the boxes on the transom shelf as Andrew bought side plates. "Help yourselves folks, don't let it get cold". After all the exertions of the afternoon, they attacked the pizza with gusto. The ladies settled themselves at the table while the guys all stood around the grill, each with a beer in hand as Ryan and Darren were allowed to have alcohol as they were at anchor. Dinner was essentially ready except for the meat, the garlic bread was in the oven to keep warm and the potatoes wouldn't take long as Andrew had par boiled them before wrapping them in the tin foil. Kerry set the table, more informally than the previous night , with a navy blue and white checked cloth, navy blue serviettes, rattan placemats and the less fancy dinnerware. The cutlery was the the same, apart from the knives that were steak knives. Andrew opened bottles of his favourite Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir and Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc and had sodas on hand for the children. While they waited for the meat to cook, Andrew fed the twins with Joan assisting. They tucked into the beef strips left over from lunch with some slivers of baby tomato and cucumber and he gave them a little ice cream for dessert. He was pleased that they hadn't been bathed yet as their hands and faces were smeared with ice cream by the time they were done. With time to spare, he quickly took them for a bath and to dress them for the night before bringing them up to the saloon again. Andrew put them into the playpen, turning on another cartoon on the TV to occupy them. Tanner Jr and Cassie also gravitated into the saloon to watch the movie. His timing was flawless and a few minutes after, Ryan announced that the meat and potatoes were ready. Andrew helped him to put it on platters and onto the warmers and Kerry fetched the bread from the oven, popping in four pecan nut pies to warm up, and dinner was served. Once again there were rave reviews with everyone again commenting on the unique flavour of the boerewors. The meal was far simpler than the cuisine of the previous night, but was enjoyed just as much, if not more, judging by the way everyone was licking their fingers. There were compliments on the wine as well with both Tanner and Brandon wanting to get some to take home. When Andrew told them that the two wine estates were on the excursions list once they got further down the coast, they were ecstatic. He, Kerry and Darren cleared the dinner table and when he emerged with the pecan pies and a large tub of vanilla ice cream, there were groans. "Oh my god", Tessa exclaimed."You're going to have to roll me off this yacht by the time we get back to Cape Town." "That's fine by me love", Tanner replied with a cheeky grin."You know I love more bounce per ounce", he said, wiggling his eyebrows at her and eliciting roars of laughter from the others at the table. His wife glared back at him and giggled. "Don't I know it! But you're gonna get just as tubby the way you are eating". "Now, now, children!", Joan interjected. "Behave yourselves"Despite all the protestations, everyone had pie and ice cream followed by coffee. And Andrew was proved right. By 10pm, their guests were all in bed. He told Ryan and Darren to go their cabins with Ryan taking the twins with him and he and Kerry did a good clean and took out the breakfast ingredients. Andrew did a quick check around the decks, checking the anchor as he passed. He was a bit concerned about the dinghy and water toys that were still deployed, but widened the view of the movement sensors on the security system to cover the area over the stern, turned off all but two interior lights, secured the security door, activated the intruder alert and went to join his family in the master cabin. The next day was spent at anchor off the beach. Breakfast was muesli, fresh fruit salad and yogurt parfaits, and flapjacks with maple syrup, bacon and link sausages. There was the usual toast and pastries and, of course, fresh juice and tea and coffee. The Kinleys were on or in the water for most of the morning until almost lunch time although they were transferred to the beach immediately after breakfast to take a stroll along the shore line. Following the success of the wraps the day before, Andrew decided to do a 'Build your burger' lunch. When Darren transferred the family to shore, Andrew had him run up to the nearby bakery and buy two dozen fresh hamburger buns. He made up his own meaty patties and had a plethora of goodies to go with it including the usual lettuce, sliced tomato and onion, gherkins, cheese slices, guacamole, crumbled bacon from breakfast and a range of store bought dressings and sauces. Kerry's task was to produce a lage bowl of French fries. Andrew kept all the fixings in the saloon, as it was cooler there with the air conditioning activated. The sun was beating down once again and although the cockpit was cooled by the soft breeze, items like the lettuce would wilt and the cheese would have become oily. He seared the patties to a medium rare and when it was apparent that the hordes were heading back, he popped them into a fiercely hot oven to heat through. The burgers and fries went down a treat, even the twins had some. Kerry felt like living dangerously and offered to produce milkshakes for dessert. Darren jumped in to help her with them using both the normal blender and a stick blender. They didn't have milkshake glasses, but Kerry had found some large polystyrene cups with lids and straws that had been purchased for Ivan's annual Christmas year end office event and used those. The Kinleys loved it. After lunch, they all decided to go ashore again and explore the seaside town, so Darren took them to the beach and stayed with them as a guide. As much as they enjoyed the interaction with the guests, Andrew and Ryan enjoyed the quiet peace that descended over the yacht while they were gone, although they were far from idle. Ryan checked all the mechanical elements especially the water maker, air conditioning, the generator and solar system and was pleased to find everything functioning perfectly. He also pulled all the toys from the water, hosing them down with fresh water before deflating the tube and the paddle boards and storing them in their lockers. He also rinsed off the scooters, snorkeling gear and the water skis and packed them away as well. Andrew and Kerry did a quick run through the cabins, checking on anything that required replenishing or needing attention, did some tidying up, refreshing bathrooms and straightening bed linen. By the time their guests returned in the late afternoon, 'Belle Catherine' was neat and tidy once again and looking good. Joan noticed it the moment she stepped into the saloon.. "Don't you ever just relax Andrew. I see you and your elves have been busy while we were gone" she commented. Andrew shrugged. "It just gave us the opportunity to do a bit more than tidy up, that's all" "Well thank you, it is much appreciated" "You're welcome. There was plenty of time because there was no dinner to prepare. We're dining at the hotel tonight", Andrew informed her. "Oh, that's nice. Does that mean we have to dress up?', she enquired as the family gathered behind her. "No, just smart casual. It is a resort hotel after all. We have a table reserved for 7.30pm. So I think we should aim to leave 'Belle' by 7pm. If we're too early, we can always have a drink in the bar. And I think to be on the safe side, we should transfer to the beach in two groups. If we all pile into the dinghy, we might get a little damp." And so, promptly at 7pm, Darren left 'Belle Catherine' with Tanner Snr, Tessa, Tanner Jnr, Brandon, Julie and Cassandra, dropped them on the beach below the hotel and returned for Joan, Dan, Kerry, Andrew, Ryan and the twins. Andrew's heart nearly broke when he spotted Rascal watching them leave from inside the saloon. The trip was not as easy as Andrew thought it would be, as Darren had to judge the breakers very carefully before attempting to proceed to the beach and Andrew thought the trip back was going to be interesting. Once on the beach, he looked back to see 'Belle Catherine" gloriously lit up with every possible light turned on and her mast light indicating she was at anchor. They trudged carefully over the beach to the road and strolled the short distance to the hotel. They entered the impressive foyer and walked down the stairs to the Coral Reef Restaurant where the maitre d' welcomed them and showed them to a long table next to the windows with an awesome spotlit view of the ocean and the rocks below. 'Belle Catherine' was also clearly visible. The dinner was thoroughly enjoyable with great food and even better company. Ryan and Darren kept to sodas as they would be piloting the dinghy back to 'Belle Catherine'. Andrew had one glass of wine. As they were preparing to return to the yacht, Ryan got up to go settle the bill and returned a short while later with a strange look on his face. Andrew noticed immediately and when they stood up to leave asked, "What's the matter babe? You look, I don't know, slightly miffed" "Just a little irked, for want of a better word. When I went to settle the bill, Dan had already paid it. I know he has far more money than us. It's just....... This is part of our service to them that he has already paid for. Now he pays for dinner. I know he means well and that it doesn't faze him. But it fazes me. Or am I just being petty?". "No my love. I totally agree with you. We'll just have to find some way of compensating him. Without him realising it. Don't let it worry you. It's done and we can't change it. We just carry on as normal and thank him". The transfer back to the yacht proved to be a lot easier than expected. The breakers has calmed considerably on the waning tide so they had no trouble getting over the breaker line. Andrew and the twins were in the first group to return so that he could open up the saloon door and security gate and deactivate the alarm. Kerry helped him get the little ones to the cabin and while he got them into bed, she went and made more coffee for the rest of the returning group., who all had a cup and a nightcap before heading for their beds. Ryan and Darren weighed anchor just after 08h00 the next morning, waiting until they saw Julie come up to grab two mugs of coffee and a small cup for Cassie, and doing their best to make the anchor retrieval as quiet as possible. 'Belle Catherine's' system was not too bad, but there was always a certain amount of noise as the anchor came on board and the guests in the forward cabins were always the ones most affected. Darren was at the helm and swung the bows west heading for Knysna just a morning sail away and 'Belle Catherine's' birthplace. The light southeasterly breeze made for slow but steady sailing on extremely calm seas that looked like a huge millpond. The sun was already well above the horizon and it was going to be yet another swelteringly hot day. The blessing was the sea breeze which helped to mitigate the blazing sun. The Kinleys all seemed to be in no rush to make an appearance which meant that Andrew and Kerry could take their time with breakfast preparation, but it wasn't long before the aroma of freshly baking muffins made them appear from their cabins, all dressed in shorts and t-shirts or golf shirts, and barefoot. . On the menu was the usual selection of cereals, fresh fruit - sliced and in salad form - fruit juice, yogurt, creamy scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, chives and spring onion, grilled cherry tomatoes and toast. There was also the muffins, Danish pastries and croissants. The family all felt they had had too much sun the day before and would therefore take it easy for the day. Consequently, after breakfast, Ryan and Darren rigged up a large tarpaulin over the foredeck to provide more shade for them to chill under. It disturbed the windflow to the mainsail a bit, so they deployed the spinnaker and although the conditions were not ideal, they were sailing. The pods of dolphins that accompanied them for most of the morning was an absolute bonus that had all their guests enthralled. Andrew and Kerry ensured that the refreshment cooler in the cockpit was kept well stocked and also set up a portable cooler on the foredeck so that everyone could keep well hydrated and not have to move back and forth between the foredeck and the aft cockpit. Andrew planned a slightly delayed lunch due to breakfast having been later than normal and also the most exciting part of the journey would occur at what would have been the usual lunch time. The transit between the Knysna Heads into the lagoon! Even with calm seas and light winds, the narrow channel between the two promontories was not to be taken lightly. Their timing would have to be perfect to take advantage of the rising tide rushing into the lagoon. The current was very strong, and there were always breakers to negotiate, with rocks very close to the channel. The approach to the entrance was well marked and aided by the wind now almost from directly astern and both engines ticking over, Ryan guided them through, seemingly effortlessly, but Andrew could see he was very tense. There was a bit of rolling and pitching as they passed through the breakers and eddies, but once past that, it was smooth sailing once again. Ryan found a quite cove and hove to so that they could have lunch of cold meats and salads, followed by a large platter of koeksusters for dessert. When lunch was over, they set sail once again across the lagoon. Andrew's mobile rang and he moved onto the foredeck to take the call, smiling happily as he spoke. As they approached the entrance to the small harbour, Darren lowered the spinnaker while Ryan furled the mainsail using the electric winch, engaged one of the engines and they cruised slowly into the harbour under power. Andrew came back to stand next to him and pointed. "There they are!. Steve says we can use their berth right where they're parked". Ryan saw Steve and Neil standing on the dockside next to a Mercedes Vito people mover with the company logo on it and a Mercedes sedan. They were both grinning widely and waving as he pivoted 'Belle Catherine' around and carefully moved astern towards the dockside. Steve and Neil walked to the bollards while Andrew and Darren took up positions at the top of the scoops with the mooring lines in their hands. When they were about three metres from the dockside, Ryan stopped the yacht and Darren and Andrew tossed the lines to the men on the shore who quickly looped them over the bollards and stood back. Darren hurried forward to deploy the anchor and they all watched as Ryan engaged the winches that slowly tightened the mooring lines and drew them towards the dock. When he was happy with their position, he gave Darren a thumbs up and he engaged the anchor winch to tighten the anchor chain to prevent the bow from swinging too much.. There was applause from Steve and Neil, and from Dan, who had been observing the docking manouvere with interest and patted Ryan on the shoulder. "Very nicely done, my boy. You guys continue to impress me with your professionalism" With them safely tied up, Darren deployed the passerelle from the top of the starboard scoop onto the dock, fitted the handrails and placed the thick navy blue rug with 'Belle Catherine' on it. Steve and Neil watched the activity and nodded when they saw the rug, both giving Andrew and Ryan a thumbs up. When Darren was done, he stepped onto the dock and invited them on board which they did and were met by Andrew, Ryan, the twins and Rascal as they stepped onto the deck. "Hi guys", Ryan greeted, "Good to see you again" There were handshakes all round and Steve replied. "Thank You. You too! Nice docking moves there, by the way. And I like the rug. Another idea I want to steal for future builds if you don't mind". He glanced around. "She's looking really good. We were watching you with binoculars when you shot the heads. She looks impressive when she's flying her spinnaker. It's always special to have one of our boats pay us a visit. And we have a soft spot for 'Belle Catherine". Andrew turned and said, "Steve, we're being very rude. Allow me to introduce the Kinley family from Dallas and Miami. They are our clients for this charter, but have also become very good friends. We were privileged to cruise on their motor yacht, 'Texas Lass' in the Mediterranean in June. Dan and Joan, Tanner, his wife Tessa and their son Tanner Jnr and sitting down are Brandon, Julie and Cassandra. You already know Darren and Kerry". Steve and Neil greeted the Kinleys and Dan joined the conversation. "So you are the outfit that built 'Belle Catherine'. I can't tell you how impressed I am with her. The build quality is superb. If I was looking for a boat in her category and size, I would definitely come calling". "Thank you Dan. Your comments are appreciated. A lot of the honour should go to Andrew and Ryan though. Although there was no interference with the actual build, they were very exacting clients who knew exactly what they wanted." "Steve, I really appreciate you helping us out while we are in Knysna. Having the Vito to get round in will make our stay a lot more comfortable", Andrew told him. "No problem at all, Andrew. I'm glad we could be of assistance". He gestured to the vehicle on the dockside. "She's had a good valet clean, and the tank is full. All I ask is that you fill her up again before you leave. I assume you're heading for Oudtshoorn". "Correct. The Cango Caves and an ostrich farm". "Good. Well, we'll love and leave you. Here are the keys. Let me know when you're leaving and one of us will come and collect it". And they disembarked, got into the sedan and drove away. Andrew turned to their guests. "Okay, guys. It's too late to drive to Oudtshoorn now. It will be a full day trip. I suggest we all go ashore and explore. I need to get a few things for dinner tonight". There was general agreement all round and the Kinleys were soon on their way. Ryan chose to say on the yacht with the twins, and Andrew, Darren and Kerry went to get what they needed returning about two hours later laden with parcels. Ryan just shook his head in resignation. Andrew and Kerry got going with dinner, while Ryan and Darren dropped the bug protection screens to give the cockpit some privacy but still allow some airflow through although Andrew had nevertheless decided to serve dinner at the table in the saloon. While out shopping, Andrew had purchased six dozen fresh Knysna oysters for the hors d'oeuvres. The entrée was whole roasted beef fillet, sliced and served with a choice of sauces. Either green peppercorn or mushroom. It was paired with chunky potato wedges and a vegetable medley. Dessert was strawberry and shortbread stacks with Creme Anglaise, which Kerry would prepare. The oysters he prepared a few different ways. Four dozen of the juicy morsels would be kept absolutely natural and served on ice, with freshly ground pepper, tabasco and fresh lemon. A dozen of the remainder would be topped with fresh breadcrumbs combined with garlic butter and parsley and baked while the final dozen were dipped in a tempura batter, deep-fried and served with a dipping sauce. When the Kinleys arrived back in the late afternoon, they had several parcels with them as well, including an oil painting that Joan had fallen in love with at one of the local galleries, which Ryan carefully stored in one of the lockers behind the saloon seats. While they were all together Andrew called for attention. "Okay guys. Just a bit of a heads up on plans. I suggest we have an early night, as we have an early start tomorrow. We need to be away here by no later than 08h00. It's a good one hour drive and the caves and ostrich farm will be busy. We'll do the cave tour in the morning, have lunch, and then go the the ostrich farm afterwards. We might get back quite late in the afternoon, so I want to suggest we just get take outs for dinner. Can we get a consensus on what to order? I have a brochure here from Mr Delivery with a whole range of restaurants to select from. I would suggest we limit it to three restaurants. Or you can leave it to me to just order what I think everyone would enjoy. Or we can go out to eat. Speak to me!" Julie was the first to speak. "I think we just get take outs. We'll more than likely all be tired after a full day excursion, and I for one will not feel like dressing to go out to dinner. And I'm happy to let Andrew make the menu decision" Tessa nodded. "I agree with Julie. The kids will most definitely by tired. So they would be able to go to bed whenever they feel like it, instead of having to wait until we got back from dinner". Dan made the decision. "Okay, so we get take out. Andrew, we'll leave it in your capable hands. And I promise I won't butt in and pay for it", he added looking meaningfully at Ryan and grinning. "Alright, I'm happy to do that. Dinner tonight will be ready at 7pm" The Kinleys once again scattered, some grabbing a drink and going onto the deck, while others just sprawled in the cockpit with their drinks. Dan and Joan went down to their cabin to rest and freshen up. With Kerry busy making shortbread cookies for dessert, Andrew set about laying the saloon table, keeping the centre as open as possible. The idea was to just put the platters of oysters in the middle of the table and everyone just help themselves to whichever preparation they preferred. Ryan took the twins for their bath and to get them into bed clothes and freshen up himself and Andrew followed shortly after to shower and change. Then he went up to relieve Kerry, who went to do the same, and while Ryan fed the twins, and gave Rascal his chunks, Andrew quickly seared the tenderloins and put them in the oven to roast, keeping a watchful eye on the clock so that they wouldn't overcook. He took them out to rest and prepared the sauces using the juices in the pan as a base and popped the par boiled wedges into the hot oven to roast as well. The vegetables, a mix of julienned carrots, leeks, zucchini, green beans and sweet red peppers were already sliced and would be stir fried just before the main course was served. When Kerry came back, they spent a while building the strawberry stacks. Kerry had laboriously sliced strawberries in half, cutting pieces off the bottom when necessary to get them more or less the same height. The bits had been mixed with whipped cream, a dollop of which was placed on a white chocolate glazed cookie and halved fruit arranged around it on the edge of the cookie. Another cookie was placed on top and the process repeated until they had two layers of strawberries between three rounds of shortbread. The stacks were placed on side plates and dusted with icing sugar. All that had to be added was the creme Anglaise. The twins were given some strawberries, broken biscuits and creme Anglaise as well which they loved. Andrew dimmed the saloon lights, placed candles strategically around the saloon and turned on the sound system to play some KennyG. When the Kinleys arrived for dinner, they seated themselves immediately and Andrew opened two bottles of his Santorini sparkling wine before placing the platters of oysters on the table and inviting everyone to help themselves. There were ooohs and aaahs as they examined the spread in front of them. The kids were not keen on the raw oysters, but enjoyed the cooked versions, particularly the deep fried one. The sparkling wine complimented the oysters perfectly. The entrée and dessert were met with similar appreciation, with Ryan surreptitiously feeding Rascal bits of meat under the table. Andrew and Kerry served coffee with the remaining shortbread and by 10.30, everything was neat and tidy, the yacht was secured and they were in bed. When morning came, Andrew and Kerry were up early and had fresh coffee ready and water boiled for tea when everyone came up from their cabins. They had also grilled bacon and set about producing bacon and egg rolls for breakfast. There was slices of cheese for those who wanted and fruit juice was available as well. Before they all piled into the Vito, Kerry made several flasks of coffee and tea, and Andrew packed two boxes of buttermilk rusks into the insulated container with the flasks and some mugs and disposable serviettes. Kerry then told everyone that she would not be going on the excursion as she wasn't feeling 100% and thought she might have a migraine coming on. Darren said he would stay as well, but she assured him she would be fine on her own and that he should go. Andrew was secretly quite pleased as it meant the yacht would at least have someone on board and Rascal would not be alone the entire day, both of which he had concerns about. With Cameron and Elizabeth in their car seats, they all piled in and the excited group drove away. Ryan was at the wheel with Dan in the passenger seat up front. Andrew has chosen to sit on the seat directly behind with Joan and the twins whose car seats were secured to the drivers and front passenger seats. They had to cross over a range of mountains to get to Oudtshoorn and as they approached the mountain pass they encountered some thick mist which forced Ryan to drive a bit slower. They arrived at the Cango Caves just after 9am and there was already a short queue of people waiting to purchase tickets for the guided tours. Ryan went to purchase the admission tickets and Andrew hauled out the tea and coffee for everyone to have a cuppa and some rusks to tide them over until they emerged from the depths of the caves. Their group was taken into the caves at 9.30 led by a very friendly and knowledgeable guide and they all thoroughly enjoyed the tour. Andrew had visited the caves with his parents when he was still at school, so it was with some nostalgia that he walked with Ryan and the twins who were in the harnesses on their dad's chests. He and Ryan opted to stay with Dan and Joan while the other members of the family went down the tight confines of the Jacobs Ladder which would not have been possible with the twins and instead sat in the little coffee shop and enjoyed some tea and scones with cream and jam. They all eventually emerged back into the bright sunshine two hours later to find the cool early morning mist had burned off and had been replaced a blazing hot sun. The temperature in the caves had been cool as well, so warm sweaters were rapidly discarded and in very short order , everyone was in board shorts and short-sleeved shirts. They all piled back into the Vito and drove back to the town for lunch which Andrew had arranged at one of the local guest houses. The obviously well heeled suburb it was located in on the edge of the town had beautiful, large, old houses, the so-called 'feather palaces' built in the day when the ostrich feather industry had been at its height and Oudtshoorn had been at the centre of it. The guest house was housed in one of these houses off a shady street lined on both sides with massive trees. They entered through impressive wrought iron gates and parked on the gravel area near the front door. The owner, a large lady wearing a bright flower print dress greeted them as they stepped onto the covered veranda that ran round the front and sides of the house. Speaking in heavily accented English, she showed them to a long table set up on one of the side verandas, over which two large fans turned lazily. The magnificent wood table was polished until it gleamed and was set with white tablemats on which a place setting of white crockery, heavy silverware and a wine and water glass stood, with a large white linen serviette tucked into the wine glass. A huge flat arrangement of proteas and local vegetation, known as fynbos, lay in the centre of the table. She gave them directions to the cloakrooms for anyone who wanted to freshen up or wash their hands and bustled away to get their lunch while a young lady took a drinks order. The proprietress returned with two breadboards with thick slices of, still warm, farm bread, butter and chunky apricot preserve, all homemade, which everyone had at least one slice of. Lunch was a typical South African country style meal. Thick meaty blocks of slow - roasted beef short rib, cooked until it was almost falling apart, potatoes that had been roasted with the meat, green beans with onion and a sweet dried peach compote. It was hearty, filling and utterly delicious and the plates were almost clean when they were done. It was followed by large slices of milk tart with lightly whipped cream dusted with ground cinnamon, and strong coffee. They sat back for a while after the meal and after Ryan had settled the bill, they continued on to the next stop, the ostrich farm. They were taken on a drive through the arid landscape to view the stately birds in their natural habitat before going back to tour the hatcheries and care centres. They all had photos taken of them standing on an ostrich egg and then went out to watch the 'jockeys' race the birds around a track. Tanner and Brandon both wanted to try riding on the birds, and to everyone's surprise, they actually did quite well before both being dumped in the dirt. The Kinleys all bought something from the curio shop and then it was into the Vito for the drive back to the yacht arriving back in the late afternoon. Dan asked Ryan if he could use the satellite phone to call Robert and get an update in the situation back home and he talked to Robert for almost twenty minutes before disconnecting and reporting that although the fire had done some damage and that part of the facility would be out of action for a while, there had been six workers injured, mainly with burns in various degrees, but no one had been killed, much to his and Joan's relief. Kerry was feeling better, having taken some medication and had long cold refreshments waiting when they all came back on board with Rascal scampering around their feet excitedly until Ryan picked him up and he and Cameron promptly both got their faces licked. After giving the twins something cool to drink as well, Andrew took them to the cabin to have a short nap and then turned his attention to the dinner he had to order. After studing the take out menu, he decided he would just order items that could be eaten with their fingers or a fork and ended up with pork spare ribs, lamb cutlets, chicken wings, and beef rissoles with French fries, deep fried onion rings and a large salad from one restaurant and butterflied prawns and sweet and sour pork with rice from a Chinese eatery, along with some sushi. He placed the order for delivery at 6.30pm, paying with his credit card and then took the opportunity to just sit back and chat with the family who were all gathered in the aft cockpit, discussing their day. When Andrew wanted to set the table, Joan told him not to bother and just leave everything on the counter. The food arrived on time and it all went onto the counter as well where it was set upon with alacrity despite them having had a fairly substantial lunch. When the feeding frenzy died down, there was still a fair amount left over and Andrew packed it away to put out the next day for everyone to snack on, but it wasn't long before Tanner Jnr asked Andrew shyly, "Andrew, may I have some ice cream?" Andrew knelt down and put his arm around the boy and grinned at him. "Of course you can have ice cream. Why don't you go find out if anyone else wants some?" Naturally everyone did, so ice cream was scooped onto sugar cones in any flavour the recipient wanted. After dinner, Darren and Kerry took the younger members of the family to explore the night life in town and Andrew and Ryan kept Dan and Joan company as the two elderly people were feeling a little weary. They just sat drinking coffee, chatting and going over plans for the next few days. The revellers arrived back just before 10.30pm carrying Tanner Jnr and Cassie who had both fallen asleep, and after having coffee, all retired to their cabins for the night. The Kinleys all slept in the next morning and a continental breakfast was waiting for them when they trickled up for breakfast. Andrew called Steve at 8am to tell him they sailing within the hour and that he could collect his vehicle. He arrived about twenty minutes later with Neil, and after coming on board to say goodbye, Andrew handed him the keys and thanked him again for all his help. They slipped their mooring ten minutes later, motoring across the placid lagoon towards the channel to the ocean. The exit was hairier than their arrival and Ryan had to use both engines at almost full power to negotiate the strong current flowing into the lagoon and the fairly substantial waves. They all had to brace themselves and Andrew and Kerry had a tough time ensuring there were no breakages, but once through, it was plain sailing again with the next stop being Mossel Bay just on the other side of the bay and a light southeasterly propelling them along. Ryan took them on the scenic route, sailing into the bay and hugging the coast instead of just cutting straight across as the crow flies, so they were able to see the many beautiful beaches, seaside hamlets and dwellings, small and large, built on and above the beach along the way. They dropped anchor off a lovely pristine beach and ferried ashore for a picnic lunch on the beach and a swim. They took the four body boards with them and where thrilled when a pod of dolphins joined them to surf the breakers, with the friendly creatures even following them into the shallows and allowing them to touch them. It was a magical experience that none of them would ever forget. Dan captured it all on video and promised Andrew that he would download a copy onto the yachts entertainment system for them to use on the website. Back on board, it was only a two hour slow cruise to Mossel Bay where they were met by the commodore of the yacht club who was very happy to see them again. Due to space constraints, they had to, once again, tie up stern on, Mediterranean style. He and one of the other members watched with interest and approval as Ryan skillfully manouvered 'Belle Catherine' and positioned her so that Andrew and Darren could toss the lines ashore. They had been given a berth right in front of the yacht club, and with 'Belle Catherine' being the largest vessel in the marina, and the only catamaran, she attracted a great deal of attention. Ryan and Darren took the Kinleys to see the Bartholomeu Dias Museum and the Post Office tree, to explore the town and collect the minibus that Andrew had reserved. Andrew and Kerry strolled down to the fishing harbour to see if they could buy some fresh fish off the boats for dinner and were able to find some nice big prawns, and some plump red snapper. The fishermen and their wives were extremely friendly and helpful and offered to clean and fillet the fish and devein the prawns and deliver them to the yacht when they were done. Andrew accepted in a heartbeat as it was the one thing he hated about cooking - cleaning fish. He and Kerry returned to 'Belle Catherine' and began preparing for dinner. The prawns were going to be the star of the hors d'oeuvre, with an avocado fan, fresh orange segments and drizzled with an orange spiked dill dressing. The entrée was his version of a dish he had eaten on board 'Texas Lass'. A pan seared fillet of red snapper on a bed of ratatouille with the addition of marog, an African wild spinach, and buttered new potatoes. Kerry was making pastry for lemon meringue tarts which would be dessert. Once again, due to the privacy issue even though the bug screens were down around the aft cockpit, Andrew elected to set the big table in the saloon. They set it with the 'good' china and glassware and when the others returned very late in the afternoon, there were murmurs of appreciation for how the saloon looked and a comment from Brandon summed it up. "Wow, looks like we're going fancy tonight!" They all went to their cabins to shower and change and Andrew spent some time with Cameron and Elizabeth, who had been with Ryan the whole afternoon, bathing and feeding them while Ryan freshened up and fed Rascal. Back in the saloon, Ryan and Darren poured pre dinner drinks while Andrew and Kerry plated the prawn salad and seared the snapper to go under the oven grill to finish cooking later. With the salads on the table, Andrew called dinner and everyone sat down to eat. To accompany dinner he had opened some Sauvignon Blanc and Blanc de Noir wine. Andrew popped the fish under the hot grill to cook through and for the skin to crisp up while he and Kerry plated the thick, unctuous red sauced ratatouille. The wild spinach had been sliced finely, flash fried and added to the ratatouille at the last minute so that the spinach retained it's deep green colour. The contrast of the red and green against the brilliant white plate was lovely with the buttery yellow potatoes. The fish was placed on top of the ratatouille at the last minute and served immediately. The dish was a triumph, tasting as good as it looked, and Andrew and Kerry basked in the compliments they received. Before dessert was served and while the table was cleared, they just sat back and chatted, enjoying good wine and the company. The lemon meringue was served with coffee and was also thoroughly enjoyed. After dinner, everyone gravitated to the aft cockpit to relax, Ryan swivelled the saloon TV to face the cockpit and turned on the 'Avengers - The Winter Soldier' movie to watch. Later, Andrew made more coffee and took out some choc chip cookies for them to nibble on. The yacht club marina was quite busy, with several monohulls also docked there, so there was a fair amount of activity around and people walking by with many of them slowing to have a look at the big catamaran floating in its pool of hull lights. The Kinleys started heading for their beds soon after the movie ended and when the marina started quietening down. By 11pm all was quiet around them, and they were buttoned up for the night. After breakfast the next morning everyone, including Rascal, piled into the minibus to go zip lining. Kerry's fear of heights meant she did not take the ride, staying instead with Andrew who, having been on the zipline before felt it wasn't necessary to go again, and had the twins and Rascal to watch as well as Tanner Jnr and Cassandra who were too young to go on the line. They left the zipliners at the top of the cliff and drove down to the end point to wait for their arrival. Andrew had his video camera and filmed them as they approached the lower platform, their faces a mix of exhilaration and sheer terror and their screams audible from some distance away. It was very funny and Andrew would not have missed it for the world. Better yet, it had all been captured on film. Another upload to the website. Andrew had to give Dan and Joan credit for attempting the hair raising trip across the water on the zipline, but both were very proud of themselves when they arrived and enjoyed the experience tremendously. They drove through the pretty seaside town and toured the older part of town with its narrow cobbled streets and quaint white painted houses. The kids spotted a McDonald's and pestered their parents for 'South African' Big Macs. They eventually relented and they all ended up having fast food for lunch. Then they visited the Inverroche Gin School@ Cafe Gannett where the Kinleys had great fun crafting their own bottles of gin to take home with them. On the way back to the yacht club, they stopped off at a carnival to let the kids have a few rides to compensate for the zip line the adults had been on in the morning. For dinner, Andrew opted for quick, easy and tasty and went with curry, making a chicken and prawn curry with basmati rice, poppadums and condiments. It was spicy as apposed to hot, even the twins had some for their dinner - he had a small bowl of finely chopped chillies for anyone who wanted it hotter. For hors d'oeuvres and in keeping with the theme for the evening , Kerry deep fried samoosas - chicken, beef, vegetable and cheese and onion which she arranged on a big round platter with a bowl of chutney to dip them in. There was creamy trifle for dessert. The meal was different to anything the larger family had eaten in their time on board, but polished their plates, so it seemed they enjoyed it. They said farewell to the yacht club after breakfast, setting a course for Still Bay, a little way down the coast where they would spend the night. They arrived while having lunch and received a huge surprise. Instead of anchoring off the beach, Ryan guide 'Belle Catherine' through an estuary and into a wide river, taking them through a lagoon and motoring about 12km upstream before dropping anchor with farmland all around them. There was nothing and no one near them and the tranquillity was awesome. Just the gentle lapping of the river against the hull ,the twittering of birds and crickets, and the rustle of the wheat in the wind. The river was also wide enough for them to deploy the tube and to go water skiing. On the first of the excursions down the river with the tube, Andrew had Darren drop him off below the town and then called him on his mobile to pick him up an hour later. In the town, he had gone to the butchery and purchased some of their signature boerewors, some large, thick rump steaks and marinated chicken drumsticks and stopped off at the bakery for some long French loaves. In the evening, everyone ferried ashore to a sandy beach where Andrew had a huge bonfire going as well as a fire to braai meat over. There were large logs arranged around the bonfire and braai fire and he had thrown blankets over and in front of the logs with scatter cushions from the yacht for everyone to sit on. The Kinleys were gobsmacked and thanked the crew for all the trouble they were going to to make the trip a memorable one. Kerry had stayed on board to make some salads - green, potato, and a carrot, orange and red onion and mix some dough for griddle bread that would be cooked over the coals,and Darren eventually ferried her to the beach with everything going on a folding table nearby. Darren also collected his guitar from their cabin and brought it back as well. There was beer, wine and soft drinks available and once everyone had a drink and had found a spot to sit, Darren picked up his guitar and began strumming some tunes and singing in a surprisingly good voice. When Darren got up to help Ryan with meat, Brandon took over from him and played and sang some country and western music, which had them clapping and singing along in no time at all. When dinner was ready, they all filled their plates, and almost by agreement, ate quietly enjoying the profound stillness around them. The twins were wide awake and facinated by the dancing flames and even Rascal, after also getting some meat to eat, just lay down between Andrew and Ryan's stretched out legs and stared at the fire. After dinner, Darren and Brandon took turns playing the guitar while Andrew and Kerry prepared dessert which consisted of a whole banana, in its skin but with the skin sliced open and filled with roughly chopped chocolate, marshmallows and nuts. Everything was then enclosed in tin foil and placed over the coals to heat through and melt. The parcels were then opened, placed on a plate with a ball of ice cream added to finish it off. It was sweet, rich and utterly decadent, but it disappeared in no time at all. On the way back to 'Belle Catherine', they all felt a slight hesitation as the dinghy powered to the side of the yacht, and Ryan's eyes widened in alarm. "Oh, dammit! I didn't think of that". They all looked at him quizzically . "I think we may have just a small problem", he said. "We may be aground. I hadn't thought about the tide going out". He was proved right when they got to 'Belle'. Although there was water around her hull and evidently just sufficient for the dinghy to sail on, ''Belle Catherine's' keels were firmly in the mud . When the Kinleys were on board, he, Andrew and Darren motored slowly round the hulls to check that everything was okay, using a spotlight to illuminate the hulls. Ryan was particularly concerned about the rudders and the propellers so had a good look at them and was relieved to find they were still well clear of the bottom, mentally thanking Steve for recommending the feathering propellers that folded into the slipstream when they were not in use to reduce drag. After satisfying themselves that she was safe and secure, they clambered back on board and faced their guests. "Sorry about this folks, my bad I'm afraid. The tide skipped my mind completely. But she's all sound so there's nothing we can do until the tide lifts us clear again. I suggest we all get a good night's sleep and see what our situation is in the morning". Before going to bed, Ryan turned off the water maker so that it wouldn't suck up any mud and took a walk around the deck, running his hand over every surface he passed, in his own way of apologising to 'Belle Catherine ' for getting her into a difficult situation. Ryan jerked awake at the instant 'Belle Catherine' broke free of the mud, his body attuned to her every movement. The bedside clock told him it was almost 5.30am and he slipped out of bed and padded through the saloon onto the side deck, deactivating the alarm as he went. He peered over the side and breathed a sigh of relief. They were indeed afloat but the water was still so shallow he could clearly see the bottom. He glanced around noting the soft tendrils of fog hanging over the water and a thin mist on the fields on either side of them. He sat at the helm, opened a locker, removed the tide charts for the area and studied them, seeing that high tide was at 7.40am. He wanted to set sail at that time and get them out of the river, slightly embarrassed that he had got them aground. It had never happened to him before and was not an experience he wanted to repeat. He jumped as a hand landed on his shoulder and turned to find Andrew next to him. "Drew! You scared the crap out of me" "Sorry babe. Didn't mean to. How we looking?" "Well, we're afloat. We just have to wait for high tide to get out. Which happens at 7.40. I'm sorry", he said, looking at Andrew sadly Andrew kissed the side of his head and hugged him. "What for?" "Running your beautiful yacht aground! I feel like an idiot. It's something I should have thought of" "Ry, my love. It's okay. What happened goes with the territory. It was bound to happen at some time. Now we know to be more careful. Don't let it hassle you. I'm not." "Thank you. I think I must go shower and get ready. As soon as possible I want to check that she sustained no damage and then get us out of here. I'll have to go into the water to be absolutely certain". "Okay, if it makes you happy. But rather shower when you come out of the water. Cam and Elizabeth are still fast asleep. I'll get some coffee and boiling water going while you get into your swimming gear so you can have a hot cuppa when you're done." He went to the cabin to get his costume and Andrew turned on the urn and the coffee machine. The brew was half done when Darren came into the saloon. "Morning boss. I thought I heard Ryan's voice?" "Morning Darren, Yes you did. He just went to change. He wants to go into the water to check our hulls. We're afloat and the tide is rising, so he wants to get us out asap". "I sensed we were free. What can I do?" "Not sure actually. Check with Ry when he comes up. Oh, here he is now". "Morning Darren. Yeah, could you check the bilges in the starboard hull for me. See if there are any leaks. Particularly the bows and the bow thruster locker. I sensed that she settled slightly bow down. When the Kinleys come up, we'll need to check the port hull as well. I'm going overboard to have a good look and check the bow thrusters." "Okay boss, will do. Are we going to need the dinghy again?" "You can make a quick run to the beach after you've checked the bilge to check that we haven't left anything behind and that the fire is properly extinguished. Then come back and stow the dinghy for departure" Ryan walked down the starboard scoop and slid into the water which was just below his shoulders and Darren vanished into the depths of the starboard hull and re - emerged ten minutes later. "Good news, I don't see any leaks Andrew. She's as dry as a bone down there" "Thanks Darren. That's great. You going ashore now?" "Yeah. Just want to check where Ryan is. I don't want to run over him with the dinghy". He went out onto the deck and walked around peering over the side and found Ryan examining the port bow thruster. When Ryan noticed him standing above him he surfaced and spat out the snorkel mouthpiece. "How she look down below Darren? " "No leaks at all. Not even a trace of moisture" Ryan nodded. "Good. I'm very relieved very to hear that. We seem to have dodged a bullet. She looks perfect down here as well". "Great. I'm goIng to check the beach" "Okay, see you in a few" and Ryan dived back under the yacht. Darren stepped into the dinghy and after checking again that Ryan was nowhere close, started it up and motored slowly away to the beach. Finding nothing except footprints, he came back seeing Ryan boarding via the scoops again. He slid the dinghy expertly up to the swimming platform, stepped out with the mooring rope in his hand and secured it to a stanchion. Then he extended the boom crane and lowered it over the dinghy, leaning over it to attach the clips to the dinghy and then raised it from the water. Leaving it suspended, he washed the exterior of the hull down with fresh water and then lowered it onto its cradle on the transom and secured it to the cradle, then stowed the crane back into the boom and entered the saloon where Ryan was downing a mug of coffee before going to have a hot shower and get dressed for the day. Darren poured two cups as well and took them to his cabin for him and Kerry, and Andrew followed Ryan down to the master cabin, taking some baby cereal with him and two bottles of formula in anticipation of the twins waking up soon. When they woke up, the doting dads spent some time playing with them and then fed them and got them dressed. At 7am, the all went to the saloon and after checking that all the safety gates were closed let them run around the saloon and cockpit, until they settled down with their toys. By request from Tanner Jnr, Andrew started preparing maple pancakes with bacon and link sausages. Kerry came to help, setting the table in the cockpit and putting out the cereals, fruit juices and yogurt andthen sliced up a selection of fresh fruit for a fruit platter. She also mixed two batches of muffins and put them in the oven to bake. At 7.30am Ryan and Darren took a walk around the deck and judging the water deep enough, decided to up anchor and head for the ocean where he was far more comfortable. The anchor came up with its inevitable rattle, alerting Dan who appeared at Ryan's shoulder looking slightly dishevelled as if he had just thrown on his clothing. Ryan turned on the engines and let them run at idle for a few minutes, monitoring the instruments to ensure that they were okay. When he was happy, he slowly engaged the port bow thruster, ready to turn it off at the slightest hint of trouble. The bow swung around to face downriver and he advanced the throttles until they started slowly heading back towards the estuary and the safety of the ocean. Darren was standing in the bow with one of the walkie talkies keeping a watchful eye on the river ahead of them and warning Ryan of any sandbanks or obstacles lurking below the surface. It took almost an hour to thread their way downriver and Ryan breathed a huge sigh of relief as they passed out of the river mouth and 'Belle Catherine's' bows rose to meet the ocean swell. They motored the length of the headland and then swung round to starboard. The winch whirred as the mainsail rose on the mast and Darren let the spinnaker fly. Ryan cut the motors and 'Belle' sailed serenely on a southwesterly heading on course for the next stop at Arniston. His concentration had been such that he had not even noticed that the rest of the Kinleys were up and already starting breakfast. He turned and grinned at them as Darren came to put the walkie talkie in its locker. "Good morning everyone. My apologies. I was a bit zoned out there. I hadn't even realised you were here." They all greeted him and he set the autopilot and joined them at the table leaving Darren to monitor their passage and reactivate the water maker. The moment he sat down, two small human bodies and a four legged canine one descended on him, clamouring for attention. He picked up Cameron and Elizabeth, standing them on the seat on either side of him and bent to scratch Rascal under his chin. Not to be outdone, the little dog promptly jumped up onto his lap and made himself comfortable. Joan just shook her head and smiled saying, "When I die, I want to come back as a dog in your home" Between the twins and Rascal, Ryan had his hands full until Andrew arrived to deliver the mountain of pancakes when he took Cameron. They both helped themselves to some pancakes, bacon and sausages, and ate break-fast, being obliged to share it with the twins and Rascal who nudged Ryan's arm when he felt he was being neglected. They day passed under sail, with the family mainly relaxing on the foredeck or in the cockpit. In the afternoon, after a hearty lunch of subs made using the French loaves with a variety of fillings, Dan asked if would be possible to launch the dinghy and sail alongside the yacht so that he could film her at sea under sail. Ryan agreed to take him and they spent almost thirty minutes filming 'Belle Catherine' from various angles. When they viewed it later, it was fantastic so it was uploaded onto yachts system to be used on the website. In the late afternoon, on approach to Arniston, they encountered a number of fishing boats also headed back into the small harbour. They hailed the boats and carefully moved alongside and Andrew asked if they had any crayfish to sell. There were two who had crayfish and after a bit of haggling, managed to get twenty of the crustaceans at a very good price. They would dine like kings that night.
  7. The next day, Christmas Eve, was a relaxing one and in the evening everyone gathered at The Cameron for dinner. Apart from Andrew, Ryan and the twins, the guests included David and Janice, Donna and Craig, Paul, Marie and Jonathan, Darren and Kerry, and Beth and Nicky. Once all the greetings were done, they made themselves comfortable at a table situated against the windows with a great view of the gardens, beach and the city across the bay. They were all given a complimentary glass of sherry, medium cream or pale dry, and Paul and David ordered bottles of wine for the table. They all ordered whatever other drinks they wanted and then it was time to consider their meal choices which, for the night, were vast. The full buffet was available as was the normal a la carte menu. But they were all there for James' special Christmas Eve set menu consisting of a choice of two starters, two entrées and two desserts, plus coffee. . The starters were either a warm salad with scallops and bacon on a bed of flash blanched spinach with a dressing made using the juices from the scallop and bacon pan or a Scottish pink salmon terrine, wrapped in smoked salmon with all the usual accompiaments. The split was fairly even over the table. Andrew and Ryan ordered one of each and changed plates halfway through and pronounced both hors d'oeuvres excellent. For the main meal, there was a choice of pink salmon on a bed of buttered leeks, wrapped in puff pastry, baked in the oven and served with creamed spinach and new potatoes, or a roast turkey roulade which both Andrew and Ryan selected, The whole turkey had been deboned and all the dark meat removed. The breasts were butterflied and a stuffing of pork sausage meat, the diced dark meat and chopped gammon spread over the breasts before it was all rolled up, enclosed in the skin, tied with kitchen twine and roasted in the oven. It was served sliced with pan jus, cranberry sauce, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts with walnuts and sweet glazed carrots. In Andrew's opinion, the turkey was a triumph being moist, flavoursome and very moreish. Andrew had a fork full of Janice's salmon and it too was absolutely delicious. The desserts were a choice of Christmas pudding which was flambéed at the table before being doused with brandy custard or traditional Scottish cranachan, toasted oats with whisky, honey, whipped cream and raspberries. Once again they ordered one of each and shared it and as expected, both were delicious. Just before coffee was served, Andrew slipped away to the kitchens and found James at the pass controlling the dinner service like a general. When he spotted Andrew he smiled and walked over to him. "Evening boss, what brings you to the kitchen?", he asked. Andrew shook his hand and smiled as well. "I just came to compliment you on our dinner. It was superb. I'm not a great lover of turkey, but your roulade was fantastic. My compliments to the chef". James grinned and lowered his head, slightly embarrassed. "Thank you. I appreciate you coming back here. Did everyone else enjoy their meal?" "I only heard good things. It was very well done. I don't want to get in the way, but may I thank your brigade personally?" "Yes sure!". He turned around an clapped his hands. "Kitchen brigade, listen up!" he said loudly. When he had everyone's attention he said, "Okay, for those of you who don't know, the gentleman with me is Mr Andrew Devlin-Major. Yes, one of the owners! He has something to say!" "Thank you chef. I and fourteen of my family and friends have just had the set menu dinner in the restaurant. I want to thank you all for a superb meal. Everything was tasty and beautifully presented. Well done, all of you. And Merry Christmas. I know most, if not all of you will be working tomorrow. But I know you will give your best and when you get home, I hope you enjoy your time with your families. Thank you". Andrew grinned at them as they all started applauding and singing , and then turned a walked back to the restaurant with the words of 'For he's a jolly good fellow' ringing in his ears. When he sat down, Ryan looked at him quizzically. "Where did you disappear to, my love?" "Just popped into the kitchen to pass on our compliments to James and his staff". Ryan grinned and shook his head. "You never miss a trick, do you? No wonder your the staff at Blue Bay love you so much. And it looks like this place is going be the same. And just one of the many reasons I love you so much. You're thoughtful and caring, but you don't allow people to take advantage of you". "Thanks babe. I just give credit where credit is due. And let's face it, the food was amazing tonight. I just felt that James should be told". He pick up his cup of coffee and sipped, grimacing as he put the now cold liquid, down and pushed it away. Less than thirty seconds later, a fresh cup of coffee was placed in front of him. Andrew looked up at the waiter. "Thank you ", he said, smiling. "You're welcome Mr Andrew!", he replied, smiling. "Enjoy". Ryan leaned into him. "See what I mean! Already they will do anything to make you happy". Just then, the lights dimmed as lighters flickered and candles were lit. Voices broke into song around them as waiters and busboys scattered through the room began singing 'Silent Night'. Then more staff, consisting mainly of house-keeping personnel appeared at the entrance to the restaurant, each one holding a lit candle. They walked slowly into the room and the restaurant staff joined them in front of the buffet, where they finished the well known carol, before singing 'O Holy Night' and 'Rudolph the red nosed reindeer" They returned to their posts amid appreciative applause as Andrew turned to Paul. "Did you know about that?" Paul grinned at him. "Yes, I did. They approached me a week ago to sing tonight and tomorrow at lunch. It's the first time I've heard them and I must admit they sounded really good". They left for home shortly after, making arrangements with the in laws to meet at the house at 10am to open gifts with Cameron and Elizabeth. Christmas Day proceeded as expected. Andrew and Ryan had freshly brewed coffee ready with muffins, Danish pastries and fruit mince pies when the family arrived. Ryan had removed the 'security fence' around the tree and the twins were already having a ball amongst all the parcels. They all sat and watched as Cameron and Elizabeth opened their pile of gifts, tearing the paper apart to reveal the contents. Most of the gifts were educational, but Elizabeth got a Raggedy Anne doll and her first Barbie. They each got a toy to ride on while Cameron got a sturdy red Ferrari and a battery operated tipper truck that made all the appropriate noises. And they got lots of clothing. By sheer coincidence, Andrew and Ryan bought one another exactly the same gift. The latest I-Pod, mainly to use on 'Belle Catherine' when they were standing watch alone. Fortunately Andrew's was black and Ryan's was silver. Once all the gifts had been opened, Andrew and Ryan went upstairs to change and when they were ready, Janice and Donna took the twins to dress them for lunch. The Blue Bay was very busy when they arrived. They were slightly early but the parking area was almost full and when they entered the lobby after being greeted by Thomas in his usual fashion, they were met by a hum of conversation from guests gathered in the lobby, drinking their complimentary sherry and waiting for the doors of the restaurant to open. Claude and his management team moved amongst them checking their names off against the reservations sheet and advising their table numbers. When the doors opened, the guests moved through with the waiters showing them to their tables either in the room itself or on the patio. The party chatted with Claude while they sipped their sherry and waited for the remainder of their tablemates to join them. It was almost the same group as the previous night, with the ommission of Marie and Jonathan who were with Paul at The Cameron, and the addition of François and Claude. Andrew looked around the lobby, once more observing the differences and subtle similarities between the two lodges. As proud as he was of The Cameron, Blue Bay Lodge definitely had the more genteel ambience and would always be a special place to Andrew. Blue Bay had a far more upmarket feel than The Cameron, which, while upmarket, had a more resort feel about it. Beth and Nicky were the last to arrive and they moved into the restaurant to the usual table positioned at the windows. Claude and the Food & Beverage team had chosen to go with white and gold decor and the table was covered with a white damask cloth and a gold, tasselled runner down the length of the table. Centrepieces consisting of white or gold candles, gold tinsel and pine cones, both natural and tinged with gold spray paint rested in the centre of the table. Gold Christmas crackers and cardboard hats lay on the usual white crockery and the matching white serviettes stood in the red wine glass. The only splashes of colour came from the hats that were decorated with circles, diamonds, triangles and squares in blue, red, green and silver. The lunch was superb, as usual, with the buffet groaning under the weight of the foods on offer. No one would be deprived of choice on this Christmas Day. The twins had their first Christmas lunch after Andrew patiently cut up a piece of turkey into tiny pieces and mashed it together with a potato, carrots, peas and gravy and fed it to them with Kerry's help which they thoroughly enjoyed, followed by some chocolate mousse. After lunch, he, Ryan and Claude circulated through the tables checking that every-one was happy. Andrew was surprised and very pleased to discover that almost 70% of the tables were return guests from the previous year and that for 50%, it was their third Christmas lunch at Blue Bay, meaning they had been every year. It just reinforced his knowledge that Blue Bay had garnered a loyal following, not only locally, but internationally as well, with many guests returning at least once a year. As usual, Andrew requested the kitchen to arrange a platter to take home and they left in the mid afternoon to pop in at The Cameron to see how lunch had gone there. At The Cameron, all the guests had finished their meal and some had already left when they arrived, and Paul and his management team were just about to sit down and have some lunch themselves, so Andrew and Ryan joined them at the table. Marie and Jonathan were also there, but had already eaten so Marie just had coffee, while Andrew and Ryan tucked into a slice of James' cranachan filled pavlova. Paul reported that the lunch had been very successful and that all the guests had enjoyed themselves. Most of the lunch guests had been non residents, and many of the in house guests would be dining on a similar buffet that evening. They didn't stay long as it looked like the twins were sleepy, just ate the gateau and had some coffee, and left for home. The twins did fall asleep on the short drive home and they gently carried the toddlers into the house, being careful not to trip over Rascal who was running around them as they walked. They put the twins on the bed in the guest bedroom and while Andrew packed the platter into containers, Ryan went upstairs to change into shorts and a t-shirt before coming back so that Andrew could do the same. They both sprawled on the couch with Andrew leaning against Ryan and before they could blink, both were asleep as well. Andrew became dimly aware of of something soft exploring his face. He opened his eyes and was momentarily startled to find Cameron standing next to them touching his ears, mouth and nose. He sat up, trying not to wake Ryan, but failing, and swung his feet onto the floor as the toddler gazed at him with a very serious expression on his face. "Hello my little man, how did you get here?", he said to his son, picking him up. Andrew stood up and, carrying Cam with him, walked to the guest bedroom and peered in to see Elizabeth still asleep on the bed. Ryan came up behind and wrapped his arms around them. "What are you two up to?", he enquired as Cameron lifted his hand to touch his other dad's face. "This little imp managed to get off the bed by himself and come to find us on the couch. I woke up with him poking his finger over my face", Andrew replied. Ryan's eyes widened. "You're kidding! By himself?" "Yes my love. It seems out little boy is getting more confident. We're gonna have to keep a sharp eye on him. We don't want him getting hurt" "You're telling me. Put him back on the bed and see what he does". Andrew put Cameron back on the bed next to his napping sister. He looked at her and decided to let her sleep, moving instead towards the side of the bed. Ryan involuntarily stepped forward to help him, but Andrew stopped him. "Just chill babe. Let's see what he does. If he gets into difficulties then we'll help him". The intrepid toddler crawled to the side of the bed and peered over the edge. Then he gripped the duvet cover and squirmed over the edge allowing himself to slide slowly down until he was standing on the floor. He turned and looked up at his amazed parents with a very pleased grin on his little face as if to say "See! Easy!" Ryan scooped him up into the air and the little boy chortled with glee. "Such a clever boy! All by yourself. Well done ", Ryan said, hugging him and then clapping his hands. Cameron giggled again and copied his dad, clapping his hands as well. All the activity woke Elizabeth and she too crawled to the edge of the bed before raising herself on her knees and holding up her arms to be picked up, which Andrew quickly did. "Hello daddy's girl. Come to dad. Did you have a good nap? Come let's get you and your brother some juice to drink". They carried the babies to the kitchen and poured apple juice into their bottles, adding a bit of water as well, then put them down on the rug with some of their new toys. The southeaster that had been just a pleasant breeze in the morning and during lunch, had picked up considerably while they napped, and was now blowing strong enough to whip up whitecaps on the water of the bay and blow spindrift off the breakers, so there would be no paddle in the pool that afternoon, so instead, when they got bored at playing with their toys, their dad's sat them in front of the TV and turned on an animated movie for them to watch while they each gnawed on a teething biscuit. The movie was 'Sing' which both toddlers loved, and when the music played, both of them would move their arms and bodies, much to Andrew and Ryan's amusement, especially when one of the characters, Ash, an aspiring porcupine rock star, stamps her foot on the stage to get the audience to start clapping to the beat. Then both the toddlers would get very excited and go and stand in front of the TV and stamp their feet and clap as well. It was very cute! The remainder of the week between Christmas and New Year was very laid back, spent mostly at home and having family and friends pop in and out for visits. The highlight of the week occurred on the Friday. Andrew received a call from Claude to advise that the Kinleys were checking in that day and had confirmed an arrival time of around lunch. Ryan suggested they go to Blue Bay for lunch and be on hand to meet them when they arrived. They invited David, Janice, Donna and Craig to join them and Friday found the family sitting on the patio, in perfect weather, at Blue Bay Lodge. Andrew had selected a table where he could keep an eye on the lobby. Shortly after their plates had been cleared off the table, he observed a flurry of activity at the main entrance to the lobby, and Thomas appeared, pushing the wheeled luggage cart, piled high with pieces of luggage, followed by Joan, and behind her the remainder of the Kinley family. Andrew touched Ryan's hand and stood up. "They're here babe. Let's go". Ryan glanced at his parents. "Will you guys excuse us for a few minutes", and they moved to the patio door to the lobby. The Kinleys were all gathered close to the reception desk and Andrew was pleased to see that Claude was already shmoozing his VIP guests. He saw them approaching, smiled and said something to Dan and Joan, who turned around, both beaming in pleasure when they saw them. Joan hurried toward them, her arms open to envelope them in a hug. "There you are my darlings. How kind of you to be here to meet us. It is so good to be back." She air kissed them on both cheeks, continental style and looked up at them as Dan joined his wife. "Hello Joan, hi Dan. Welcome back. It's good to see you too. Have you had a good vacation so far?", Andrew enquired. Dan shook their hands in greeting. "Hi guys. Yeah, it's been really good. We flew into Lanseria Airport to clear customs and immigration, and then flew to Pietermaritzburg and helicoptered to a resort in the Drakensberg for a week. Just relaxed and played golf every alternate day", Dan informed them, before Joan added, "And then we flew up to a private nature reserve for a week. Absolutely mindblowing. Our rooms were the most amazing tents I have ever seen. Absolutely beautiful with every mod-con you could think of. Except TV and air conditioning because they only work on solar power. But at night, you could hear the animals moving around between the tents. And the game drives...... We saw the big five every day we were there. We even had breakfast out in the bush, with rhinos grazing just 100 metres away. The kids were so excited. And now we're here until the 4th when we go cruising with you, which we are all looking forward to." Ryan grinned at her. " Well, we're going have to pull out all the stops to top what you've already done. But we're looking forward to it too." "Okay, lets get you guys into your rooms and settled", Andrew suggested. "Talking of rooms, we hear you guys have been busy . How's the new lodge doing?", Dan asked them. "It's going really well, thanks Dan", Andrew replied. " The Cameron is almost fully booked until the end of February, and forward reservations after that are looking good. The guests all seem to be happy and we are thrilled with the outcome. Actually, what are your plans for dinner tonight?, watching as the rest of the family headed for their rooms with the porter. "Well, we were just going to have dinner here and chill out. Why?", Joan asked. "At the risk of being shot by my general manager here, would you care to join us at The Cameron for dinner? Our treat!" Joan held up her hand. "We cannot expect you to stump up for all of us. You cover Dan and I, and we'll pay for the family", she suggested. Andrew shook his head. "If you insist, but then we split the bill 50/50. What time would be convenient for you?" "Not too late. We have an early cable car up the mountain in the morning. How about 7pm? It gives us time to unpack and relax a little before dinner", Joan said. "7pm it is then. How are you fixed for transport? Can we pick you up?", Ryan asked them "We have rentals. So we can make our own way. Where is The Cameron?", Dan enquired. "You actually drove past it on the way here. Drive back on Beach Boulevard and take the second slip onto the side road above the boulevard. The Cameron is on the left heading towards the city", Ryan explained. "Great, see you at 7. Time to get sorted out, Daniel. Let's go" Andrew and Ryan watched them walk up the stairs to their suite. "They really are special, aren't they? ", Ryan said. "That they are, my love. That they are" Andrew and Ryan arrived at The Cameron early and were standing in the lobby with Cameron and Elizabeth when the Kinleys two vehicles rolled to a stop at the bottom of the stairs. Dan and Joan led the group through the doors into the lobby and Joan beamed as she spotted them. "Darlings, there you are! This is amazing. It's beautiful!" "Hi Joan, Dan. Thank you. And welcome to The Cameron" Joan studied the lobby, pivoting in place as she did so. "It's so different from Blue Bay. I feel like I'm in a grand mansion in the Highlands of Scotland", she commented. "When I saw the building for the first time, it reminded me of a castle we saw in Scotland. That was the inspiration", Andrew told her. "Would you like to go straight through to dinner or take a quick tour? Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, because we are so full at the moment, the only room we can show you is the penthouse suite." "I would like a quick walk through please." Joan replied. "Oh shucks, I'm being rude. Can I introduce you to the rest of the family", she said, turning towards the people behind her. "Kinley family, this is Andrew and Ryan Devlin-Major, dad and my very good friends and the owners of this establishment, the lodge we are staying at and the yacht we are going cruising on next week. The little ones are their twins Cameron and Elizabeth. She indicated as she spoke. "Andrew, Ryan. This as our family. Our eldest son Robert and his wife Amanda. Next to them is Tanner, his wife Julia and their son Tanner Jr, or TK as we call him. He's 4 hrs old. And finally our daughter Tessa, her husband Brandon and their daughter, Cassandra. Cassie is 3 years old" Andrew and Ryan greeted each one with a handshake and welcomed them and Ryan asked, "Okay, who is joining us for the walk through". They all nodded and Andrew turned back towards the lobby and described the thought process behind the room and it's decor before leading them back past the turret vestibule to the elevator to go to the top floor. They stepped out of the elevator and he swiped his key card to open the penthouse door. "This is our largest room. Three double bedrooms, all en-suite, lounge, separate dining room, kitchen and outdoor patio. All our rooms are actually apartments ranging in size from bedsitters to this one. Feel free to have a look around", Andrew told them, stepping to one side and opening the electrically operated curtains and blinds at the same time. The group split up wandering around the large space and while they were looking at the bedrooms, he opened the sliding doors to the rooftop patio. Dan and Joan reappeared from the bedrooms with Joan smiling widely and pointing at the boys. "Now I feel like I'm back on 'Texas Lass'. It definitely has the feel of a superyacht, especially the bed plinth in the main bedroom. And these doors onto the patio. It could almost be the aft main deck. Did you plan the decor as well?", Joan remarked. Andrew grinned and nodded. "You did really well", Joan said. "I don't think a professional interior designer could have done any better. You've carried your tartan theme through from the downstairs areas, but it's far more subdued and restrained. I think it's very successful". Andrew blushed at her genuine praise. "Thanks Joan. That means a lot coming from you. We're very happy with how it all turned out". When everyone had had a good look around, Andrew closed everything up again and they returned downstairs via the turret staircase with everyone ooohing and aaahing as the descended to the lobby level and turned right towards the guest lounge/bar and the restaurant. They all had the buffet after having a good look at what was on offer. James had once again not disappointed with a mix of local, Scottish and international dishes and their guests all raved about the food and service. The evening passed by quickly and before anyone realised it, it was 10pm, the restaurant was almost empty, the kids were fighting to keep their eyes open, and the Kinleys were preparing to head back to Blue Bay and their beds. Andrew and Ryan walked them to the vehicles to see them off. Joan hugged them both. "Thank you my darlings. That was lovely. I wish you all the best for your new venture. Now I have one request". They looked at her questioningly. "What might that be?", Ryan asked. "Well, I want to stay here for the one night we are in Cape Town after the cruise, instead of at Blue Bay. Would that be possible? " Andrew nodded. "It's no problem. I'll just have to check if we have rooms available. I know the penthouse is vacant for you and Dan. Can I confirm with you tomorrow?" "You got it. No problem. I know it's short notice and you're in your peak season" "We'll see what we can organise ", Andrew told her and they departed for Blue Bay while Andrew, Ryan and the twins returned home. Andrew contacted Paul first thing in the morning to check on availability for the Kinleys and all they had available was the penthouse and one other executive suite. He called Dan's mobile and he caught them on the top of the mountain enjoying tea and cream scones. After exchanging pleasantries with Dan, he handed the phone to Joan. "Good morning Andrew darling, what have got for us?" "We only have the penthouse and an executive suite available. Would you be prepared to share the penthouse?" "Yes, no problem. We will sort it out between ourselves. Reserve the two rooms for us please?" "Will do. You can take that as confirmed. I will get reservations to send you a formal confirmation." "Thank you darling. I knew we could rely on you. Will we see you before we sail?" "I was thinking about that. If you have nothing planned for New Years Day you can come here to the house for lunch. Make it 12.30 for 1pm. We can have a proper South African braai. Bring your bathing suits and anyone who wants to swim can use the pool. The long range weather forecast is predicting a perfect day. If anyone has had a rough night before, they can crash in one of the bedrooms" There was a pause and the heard Joan consulting with the family. "Okay, it's on for New Years Day. Will you send me your home address?" "I'll send it as soon as we finish our call. Have a good day. See you on New Year" "Thank you dear. See you soon". When the call ended, he immediately Whatsapped the address and directions on how to get there. Ryan came downstairs from the bedroom having just finished showering and getting dressed. He grinned as he saw the twins playing with some decorations from the Christmas tree. "Hi babe, who were you talking to?", he asked Andrew. "That was Dan and Joan. I was just letting them know rooms are arranged at The Cameron. I've also invited them very on New Years Day for a lunch. I thought we could braai. We should invite mom and dad, and Donna and Craig as well. Ryan grinned at his husband. "Oh, yeah, no problem. So much for not wanting to entertain this season. Are we going shopping today or on Monday" "I'd like to go today, there is no way I want to be running around the mall on New Years Eve. I think we must get some boerewors and I want to get some sosaties. And maybe some king prawns that I can put on skewers as well. The side dishes, I think, we must keep to cold salads, but I want to keep them as local as possible. Maybe a potato salad, a garden salad, sousboontjes and corn on the cob. A small pot of stiff mealiepap with tomato and onion sauce. For dessert, I'll just pop in to the home industry and get some koeksusters, milk tarts and herzoggies. And I might make a small malva pudding that we can serve with ice cream or fresh cream". Andrew giggled at Ryan's astounded face. "I know it's a lot, but it is New Year and it's time to celebrate. And it's actually not that much work, if you think about it". Ryan just grinned at his husband. "If you say so, my love. Okay, let's have some breakfast and while we're doing that, I can contact mom and dad about New Years Day. Then we need to hit the supermarket. I want to relax this afternoon and watch the Liverpool- Manchester United game. So we'll need some snacks as well". While Andrew got busy with preparing breakfast, Ryan contacted his parents who accepted the invitation to lunch, as did Donna and Craig and after giving the twins some of the scrambled egg with some finely chopped ham that Andrew had made for his and Ryan's breakfast they got them into the Andrew's SUV and went shopping. They arrived home just before lunch with everything they needed plus, at Ryan's insistence, several flavours of ice cream, a box of sugar cones, and the prerequisite snacks for the football on TV later in the afternoon. While Ryan got the toddlers organised, Andrew quickly grilled some chicken breasts which he would use in a salad for dinner, but cut some up in small pieces for Cameron and Elizabeth for their lunch. Ryan sat with them while they ate, keeping an eye that the food went into their stomachs and not into Rascal's. The twins had recently started showing that they wanted to feed themselves, but either Andrew or Ryan were always on hand to prevent accidents or if one of them should choke. Andrew, meanwhile, was rustling up man sized sandwiches of hot pastrami on rye with mustard and pickles which they ate while sitting on the couch The twins guzzled down the chicken, and concerned that they may still be hungry, Andrew cut up some cheese into small blocks with some baby tomatoes which they also seemed to enjoy. When they were no longer interested in the food, Ryan used the face cloth from the guest bedroom to clean their faces and hands and they let them play with their toys for a while, before taking them for a splash in the pool. Instead of just sitting on the step with them, their dad's took them into the main body of the pool, slowly pulling them through the water. They were turning into two little water babies and squealed with happiness which, of course, led to bouts of coughing when they swallowed some water. But they loved it nevertheless and were a bit unhappy when they returned to the house, but it wasn't long before both were fast asleep on the mattress in the playpen, which allowed their dad's to relax and enjoy the much anticipated Premier League match. Ryan sprawled on the couch, Andrew reclining against him with bowls of crisps, popcorn and finely sliced biltong close at hand. The relaxing Sunday afternoon was exactly what they both needed, what with a hectic New Years Eve and New Years Day ahead of them and the weekend after they would both be on charter with the Kinleys. Ryan unfortunately woke the toddlers up when he got excited about a last minute goal that robbed Liverpool of a win and they had to spend some time pacifying Elizabeth who was very indignant at being woken so rudely. Ryan took them upstairs to get them bathed and dressed for the night, while Andrew prepared their dinner and formula bottles. Andrew made his and Ryan's salad at the same time and popped it into the refrigerator and when his family came back downstairs, he was able to spend some more quality time with them while they fed themselves. When the little ones had eaten, they got settled on the couch and Ryan put on their latest favourite video, Despicable Me, while they drank their formula. Less than halfway through the movie, their little heads started dropping to their chests, so they were put into the playpen to fall asleep, which didn't take long at all. The following day, New Years Eve, Ryan helped Andrew with the food prep for New Years Day, and while they were busy, the doorbell chimed. Ryan went down to the front door, returning a few minutes later with two large boxes. Andrew stared at him quizzically and asked, "What the hell is that? We're not expecting anything are we? Ryan grinned and Andrew's eyes widened in surprise when he replied, "We are actually. I don't think we thought it would arrive in time. It's from Donald. Our new Cameron kilts." Andrew beamed. "Oh wow, thank you Donald! Just in time. We can wear it tonight", he said, moving to take one of the boxes from Ryan and starting to open it, while Ryan started on the other. As it turned out, they had one another's boxes so after changing them they expectantly peeled back the tissue paper that covered the contents. Andrew gazed down at the box in awe. Donald had not only sent them kilts, the boxes contained the complete Cameron formal regalia! A black Barathea Prince Charlie jacket lay folded on top with a silver sgian dubh and kilt pin nestled on top. He reverently lifted the jacket out of the box and revealed the white wingtip collar dress shirt, black bowtie , sporran, flask, kilt hose and tartan flashes on top of the 16 oz worsted wool Cameron kilt. In another box was a pair of Ghillie brogues and in a small black box, a pair of silver cufflinks with the Cameron crest nestled on black velvet. Andrew pulled out his mobile, flicked through his contact list until he found Donald's number, and called him. The Lochiels broad Scottish brogue resounded through the speaker. "Andrew, me laddie. How are you? I take it you received your parcels?" "Hello Donald. We are all well. Compliments of the season to you!. Yes, they were just delivered. You've outdone yourself. The regalia is beautiful.. We're attending the Hogmanay celebration at The Cameron tonight and guess what we'll be wearing. Thank you so much!" "It is my pleasure laddie. You and Ryan are going to bowl them over tonight. How are my wee bairns?" "They are well, Donald. Growing up far too quickly. What are you doing tonight?" "We are celebrating Hogmanay here at Achnacarry Castle. The clan traditionally meet here on New Years Eve if they are able". "Well have a great time and thank you once again. From myself and Ryan. It's much appreciated". "Don't mention it laddie. And you and your family have a good time tonight as well" "We will, I'm sure of it. Keep well and goodbye" He put his mobile down and looked at Ryan. "We really have special people in our lives. That man is such a gentleman". Ryan nodded "Yes , he is. Maybe next year we must think about going to Achnacarry for New Year. It would be great to be with the rest of the clan". "Good idea. We can definitely think about it. We better check if this stuff all fits.". Preparations temporarily abandoned, they gathered up the twins and the boxes and went upstairs to try on the clothing. Amazingly, everything fitted perfectly with only the shirts needing to be pressed. They fed the twins at their usual time and got them bathed and dressed, then showered and got dressed themselves. The doorbell chimed shortly after, announcing the arrival of David, Janice, Donna and Craig. David let them in with the key he and Janice had and were waiting in the lounge when the boys descended the stairs in all their finery. Donna's face was a picture as she gaped at her brother and his husband. Janice pulled out her camera and snapped a few pictures as the came down the stairs, both smiling broadly. "Oh my god", Donna exclaimed, lifting her hands to her face. "You guys look amazing. Where on earth did you get those outfits?" Andrew air kissed her on both cheeks and shook Craig's hand saying, "This is the Clan Cameron official formal regalia. It arrived from Scotland this morning". Andrew greeted David and Janice while Donna replied, "Well it's certainly impressive. Are you two following tradition?, she enquired, wiggling her eyebrows. Ryan grinned at her after greeting her. "That my darling sister is for us to know and you to find out", wiggling his eyebrows back at her. "You boys are going to cause quite a stir tonight. Donna is absolutely spot on. You both look incredible. The outfits suit you.", Janice added, taking Elizabeth from Ryan while Cameron held out his arms for David to take him. They turned as voices were heard at the bottom of the stairs and Nicky, Beth, Darren andKerry appeared. Kerry stopped in her tracks when she saw Andrew and Ryan, her jaw dropping. "Wow", she breathed, staring at them. "You guys certainly know how to get into the spirit of something. You both look very sexy, if you don't mind me saying so. You're going to have half the women and more than a few guys swooning over you tonight" Andrew chortled. "The only person I am interested in is the man standing right next to me, thank you very much". Beth grinned at them. "Donna is absolutely spot on. You both look very dashing". They greeted the new arrivals and then prepared to leave for the event, making sure they had everything they needed for the twins. They all piled back into the vehicles and drove the few blocks to the lodge. When Ryan turned into the driveway off the boulevard, Andrew gasped at the scene before him, his chest swelling with pride. The garden lights had all been turned off and instead, the driveway and garden were illuminated with dozens of flaming torches, giving off almost the same amount of light as the electric lights would have, the only difference being the flickering of the light on the garden and the building. Every window of the building was lit with light, some bright, as in those from the bedrooms, and others more muted, like those in the lobby and restaurant. A platoon of Scots guardsmen playing pipes and drums marched on the lawn beside the driveway and roundabout at the main entrance, the skirl of the bagpipes clearly heard. They emerged from the vehicles as Abel, who had in the interim been appointed Head Porter, and his team descended on the cars to drive them round to the parking garage. Andrew and Ryan stood on the deck outside the main doors and took in the atmosphere, listening to the bagpipes and drums. The rest of the party moved into the lobby with Cameron and Elizabeth as Paul came out to meet them. He grinned when he saw them. "Good grief! Talk about the lords of the manor surveying all they see. You two certainly look the part." "Hi Paul", Ryan replied, shaking his hand. "We feel the part too. What's the saying about clothes maketh the man? " "Hi Paulie", added Andrew. "We were not expecting our kilts to arrive so fortuitously, let alone formal regalia. But it certainly looks impressive" "That's for sure. You do realise you two cannot win the best dressed competition tonight. Even though you deserve it" Andrew threw back his head and laughed. "No, that certainly will not do. Who is judging the competition anyway?" "Well, I had asked the captain of the guardsmen to do the honours. They will be our guests tonight and will be staying on until after midnight. But maybe you guys should join him, seeing as you are not eligible". "Yeah, okay. No problem. Just fill us in on the details later" Andrew and Ryan moved through the main doors into the lobby, to be met by a barrage of camera flashlights. It seemed the local press were taking a huge interest in the happenings at The Cameron. As they had done on the opening night, the main lights in the lobby had been dimmed to a mere glow, with illumination once again being provided by the standing candelabra with their fat white candles. The musak had been turned off and replaced by the sounds of the pipes and drums in the garden, which could be clearly heard through the open windows and sliding doors. The restaurant lights were also dimmed and each table had candlelamps providing light with the tables for two and four having one each, the tables seating six having two and the tables of eight and ten having four. Their long table of twelve, close to the windows had six candlelamps. Dinner would be a buffet and dancing would take place on the outside deck where a dance floor had been placed and a DJ had set up under an open sided marquee. Looking around the room, they noticed that the vast majority of the guests had done as requested and worn tartan of some sort with many of the men in kilts and the women with sashes across their bodies or around their waists. There were, however, none who were as opulently decked out as Andrew and Ryan, who both drew many admiring, and in some cases, envious glances. The only other people coming close to their formality were the guardsmen in the band. Just before dinner was announced, Paul indicated that Andrew and Ryan join him and the guards captain in the lobby where he introduced them to what they considered to be the stereotypical Scotsman. Tall, broad - shouldered with red hair and a huge handlebar moustache. "Guys, this is John McLean, the captain of the guardsmen. John, may I introduce Andrew and Ryan Devlin-Major, the owners of the lodge and the other judges for tonight" John grinned down at them from his lofty 6ft5in, reaching out with a huge paw of a hand. "A pleasure to meet you laddies. May I compliment you on a beautiful hotel and your superb dress. That is the Clan Cameron formal tartan if I am not mistaken". They both shook his hand and Ryan answered. "Pleased to meet you too John. And thank you for all you are doing tonight. Yeah, we are wearing the Cameron tartan. We are very fortunate. It arrived from Scotland only this morning, sent to us by the Lochiel". John's eyes widened at the mention of Donald's title. "You gentlemen move in exalted circles. Tis indeed an honour to receive a tartan from the head of the clan. Let alone full formal regalia". "The Lochiel is great uncle to our twin babies. Their mother, who is here tonight, is his niece. He was in the country two weeks ago to officially open the lodge for us" "I had heard a rumour that he paid a quick visit. I had no idea it was to be here. Right, Paul here has some instructions for us I think", he said, turning to Paul. "Yeah, okay. The best dressed competition. We have best dressed man, woman and couple. The prizes are two nights, subject to availability, here at The Cameron with breakfast and dinner and the runners up win dinner for two. We'll announce the winners at about 11.30, so if I can have your results by 11 it would be great. It also gives you enough time, John, to get your guys together in time for midnight" "Perfect, no problem. How do we identify the candidates?, Andrew asked. "Just give me a table number and a general description and I will do the rest", Paul explained. "That's what I need that half an hour for between 11 and 11.30". The buffet opened at 8pm when, led by two pipers playing 'Scotland the Brave", James and his assistant entered the restaurant, each bearing a platter with two haggis on them and placed them on the carvery station, for anyone brave or interested enough to try. Also on carvery was a huge haunch of beef, roast chicken and gammon with all the usual starches and vegetables. There was also a lamb curry, and several vegetarian dishes including a lentil and butternut bobotie. For fish lovers, there was whole baked Scottish salmon. There was also a range of starters and salads and a large dessert buffet. Dinner was a very leisurely affair with everyone taking their time which helped Andrew and Ryan when it came to judging the best dressed competition as they could clearly observe everyone going to the buffet or returning from it. They had the added advantage of having Beth to consult with which made the selection process a lot easier. The dinner was superb as usual and, surprisingly, there seemed to be many takers for the haggis including everyone at their table. While Andrew and Ryan enjoyed it, they decided that it was definitely an acquired taste, which was the general opinion of the other guests at their table, including Beth. The DJ was playing soft background music during dinner with two pipers replacing him when he took his break for dinner, but as soon as he had eaten, he began playing more upbeat tempo music and guests began gravitating towards the dance floor and by 10.30 the celebrations were in full swing. Paul came to fetch their best dressed choices just before 11pm, having already received the list from John and were pleased to see that they were very much in agreement. At 11.30 there was a drum roll and Paul announced that it was time for the winners of the best dressed competition to be revealed and then came a surprise. "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to request that Andrew and Ryan Devlin-Major join me up here at the podium to hand out the prizes". As Andrew and Ryan rose from their seats, Paul continued. "For those of you who may not know , Andrew and Ryan are my bosses and the owners of The Cameron. So I guess they are your hosts tonight." The room broke out in applause as they walked across the dance floor to were Paul was standing. Andrew took the microphone from Paul. "Ladies and gentlemen. We weren't planning on being up here tonight, but as we are, I need to just thank you all for being here tonight and for entering into the spirit of the occasion. I hope you have all enjoyed the evening so far and will continue to do so as we approach midnight and beyond. If I know our General Manager, he still has some surprises in store for us. Thank you". Paul then called up the candidates for the three categories and the two couples, two men and two woman walked up and stood on the dance floor. He then announced the winners in each category and Andrew and Ryan congratulated the winners and runners-up, handing them the vouchers for their prizes. The music resumed, a pumping upbeat number leading up to midnight and the dance floor was packed with gyrating bodies. A spotlight came on, pointed at the big clock on the wall and everyone counted down to midnight. As theclock stuck 12, amid the shouts of 'Happy New Year', there was a skirl of bagpipes as four pipers standing in the corners of the room began playing 'Auld Lang Syne' and everyone on the dance floor crossed their arms and linked hands to sing the traditional farewell to the old year. Simultaneously, roman candles on the edge of the deck erupted in fire, spewing red and white sparks out over the garden. When the song ended, there was another crackle out in the garden as a huge fireworks display began, sending skyrockets soaring into the sky, while waiters circulated with trays of sparkling wine or grape juice. Andrew was slightly misty eyed as he and Ryan observed the elation and excitement around them, their bodies pressed close with their arms around their waists. Sensing his emotion, Ryan squeezed his waist, holding him even closer and when Andrew looked at him, he gently wiped away the moisture at the sides of Andrew's eyes before kissing him deeply. "Happy New Year, Drew. I already love you more than I did last year", Ryan whispered "Happy New Year to you too my love. I so lucky to have you and our babies in my life. I really hope that this year will be as happy and as fulfilling for us as what last year was". Ryan smiled lovingly at the love of his life and traced a finger gently down the side of his face. "Can we just try to have a quiet, peaceful year this year? We've had a big project every year since before we were married" Andrew buried his face into Ryan's chest and laughed. He looked up at him and grinned. "I won't promise anything, but I'll try my best. You can't deny it hasn't been fun". "True dat. But a quiet, boring year would be nice for a change. Then we can just concentrate on ourselves, our babies and our family and friends". "Okay, we'll make a concerted effort. Cam and Elizabeth are going to need more of our time as well with them growing so quickly". A hand rested on Andrew's shoulder and he turned his head to find Beth and Nicky smiling at them. "What are you two looking so serious about. You're supposed to be happy. It's a new year!", Beth asked. Andrew turned so that he was facing them, still standing close to Ryan who replied. "Just talking about expectations for the year ahead. Happy new year you two. I hope it will be a good one. For us all!", and he leaned forward and kissed them both on the cheek. Andrew wished and kissed them as well and Beth grinned at them again. "Oh, I'm sure it will be. Especially as Nicky and I are getting married!", she announced, flashing an engagement ring on her finger. Andrew enveloped her in a hug as Ryan did the same for Nicky. "Wow, ladies, congratulations. When did this happen? Have you decided on a date yet?, Andrew gushed and moved across Ryan to hug Nicky while he congratulated Beth, who giggled happily. "A few minutes ago, while the fireworks were on. You guys are the first to know. And no, we haven't set a date yet. But it will probably be sometime after June". "Well, congratulations again. We wish you both lots of happiness", Ryan added. Nicky held Beth's hand and gazed at her happily. "If we can get half the happiness you guys have, we'll be content. You two have set a very high bar and if we can get some of what you have, then we know we'll be happy". "I'm sure you will be", Andrew told them. "If we can assist with anything, we're a phone call away" "Thanks guys, you're both absolute stars", Nicky said. "You're both very special and mean a lot to us. Now, my wife-to- be and I are going home to celebrate. Thank you for a wonderful evening. It was superb as usual". "Thanks Nicky, it was our pleasure. What have you got planned for tomorrow, or rather today?", Andrew enquired. "Nothing really", Beth replied. "For once, Nicky is pulling rank and has taken some time off. She is on call for emergencies though." "Would you like to join us for lunch. We're going to braai. We've got the Kinleys, the couple who we were in the Mediterranean with, coming over as well".Andrew asked them. Beth and Nicky looked at one another and Beth replied. "Are they the charter guests you've got coming up? We don't want to impose" "They are, but you really won't be imposing. We'd love to have you join us", Ryan told them. "Okay, thank you. We'll be there. 12.30ish?" "Yeah perfect. See you later" They said their good byes and after returning to the table to greet everyone else, they left for home. Andrew and Ryan didn't linger either, gathering up the twins and leaving soon after, along with David and Janice. Donna and Craig stayed on with Darren and Kerry who offered to drop them at the house later. Arriving home to an excited Rascal, happy to have his favourite humans back home, they put the twins to bed and Ryan opened the bedroom patio door so that Rascal could go out into the garden, then, once he was back in, undressed and fell into bed, falling asleep almost immediately, but not before finding their usual positions spooning against one another. They slept late, only being woken up by their protesting offspring, which resulted in the morning being quite hectic. Fortunately, most of the preparation for lunch had been done the day before, but while Andrew did the last minute things, Ryan wizzed through the living area with the vacuum cleaner and mopped the tiles. When Andrew was done, he made sure all the bathrooms were clean and tidy and properly equipped and then started arranging the crockery, cutlery and glassware for lunch. Ryan added the extensions to the pool patio table so that they could accommodate sixteen people and two toddlers and then Andrew set the table while Ryan started the fire. The Majors arrived just after 12 with Donna and Craig, and Beth and Nicky arrived about five minutes before the Kinleys who arrived just after 12.30. After everyone had been introduced, Andrew and Ryan, with the assistance of David and Craig, made sure everyone had a drink before all the men moved out to the fire, while the ladies settled down in the lounge. On spotting the swimming pool, the two Kinley children, Tanner Jnr and Cassandra wanted to swim and eventually pestered their dad's to join them. Andrew showed them to the guest bedroom and one of the bedrooms upstairs to change. The shouts and shrieks from the pool soon drew the ladies out onto the patio and they settled themselves around the lunch table. Of course, Rascal was in his element, excitedly running around the pool, yapping and wagging his tail. The kids loved him and Tanner Jnr picked him up and took him into the water to paddle around after asking permission to do so. The twins were determined to get into the action as well, getting dangerously close to the pool edge, although everyone was keeping a close watch on them. Ryan finally relented and took them for a paddle on the step. The two older children who both seemed quite comfortable in the water paddled up to the step and played with them as well, much to their delight. After a while, Beth and Nicky came out as well and took over from Ryan while he went back to tend to the fire. Andrew was in the kitchen when Joan came in and put an arm around his waist. "Is there anything I can do to help, Andrew darling?" "Actually, you can Joan. If you could move the bowls on the breakfast counter to the dining room table, that would be a great help. I'm just getting the maizemeal porridge and the sauce into bowls and then we're about ready to eat. I'm told the meats are almost ready. Then if you can get everyone out of the pool that would be great". She did as requested and while she was busy, Andrew moved the porridge and sauce to the food warmers on the sideboard and took some platters out for Ryan to plate the meats and the corn. When everything was ready and everyone was dried off they all stood around the dining room table, linked hands and David said grace before they all began dishing up. Julia and Tessa helped Tanner Jnr and Cassandra, with the adults following after them and Andrew giving any explanations that were necessary. Andrew had opened a selection of wines from his Greek collection, wanting to give his South African wines a bit of a break, and most of the adults topped up their glasses on the way back to the patio. A brief period of quiet descended as they all took their first few mouthfuls of food, before the conversation chatter started up again. Andrew and Ryan had the twins seated between them on booster seats and had carefully cut up some meat into small pieces for the twins along with some baby tomatoes and potato salad which they tucked into using their little fingers. The American guests were effusive in their compliments and most of them went back for seconds. When they had all had their fill, Janice, Donna, Beth and Nicky cleared the table and packed the dishwasher, leaving the leftovers covered on the breakfast counter should anyone get peckish later. Andrew arranged the koeksusters, milk tartlets and herzoggies on two tiered cake stands and the ladies helped him carry them to the table along with the still warm malva pudding, a jug of softly whipped cream and the ice cream and sugar cones. The kids were helped first, both going for chocolate ice cream cones, of course, and the twins each got a small bowl of chocolate ice cream. "Oh boy, I recognise all this from our first trip", gushed Joan. She indicated the malva pudding to her family. "That is malva pudding. Just divine. You've never tasted anything like it. And those are milk tarts. Similar to our custard tarts but softer and creamier. With cinnamon on top. Those are koeksusters", she said, pronouncing it perfectly. "A bit like a very crispy donut, but not as cakey. It's dipped in ice cold syrup as soon as it comes out of the oil to soak up the syrup. Sweet as sin but utterly moreish. And those are with apricot jelly and a coconut topping. I hope we're going to see more of these on board 'Belle Catherine'?. Andrew grinned at her and replied, "Well done, you remembered everything I told you last year. And yes, you will be seeing more of them" They all helped themselves to the pastry items while Ryan just had malva and ice cream. He and Andrew had to keep a wary eye on the twins who were fighting with their teaspoons, getting more ice cream on their faces, clothes and the tablecloth than in their mouths. Rascal, naturally, was in close attendance, lapping up any ice cream that found its way to the tiles under the table, which was actually quite a bit. Andrew grinned at Ryan. "We're either going to have to take these two back into the pool after lunch or bath them. They're covered in ice cream". "Let them enjoy it, Andrew", Joan advised. "A quick dip in the pool will do the trick and it's hot enough that they can just run around in their diapers until bath time. I still can't believe how they've progressed in just six months since you were with us in the Mediterranean" The two proud dad's beamed down at their chocolate covered toddlers. The table erupted with laughter when Cameron picked up his, thankfully empty, bowl and started licking it out. Beth's comment didn't help either. "Hmmm, we can definitely see whose child Cam is. A man after his father's heart." Ryan glared at her on the other side of the table. "Quiet you. He's half you anyway", he retorted, followed by more laughter. Joan looked puzzled at them for a moment and then the light came on. "Wait, you are the twins mother", she asked pointing at Beth. Beth grinned and nodded "Yes I am". "Oh my word, I didn't make the connection. I mean, the boys just introduced you as Beth and Nicky. May I say, you produce beautiful babies, my dear. And they are so well behaved". "That's all Andrew and Ryan's influence. Although we see quite a lot of them, I have absolutely nothing to do with how they are brought up. Drew and Ryan are fantastic fathers and it's thanks to them that they seem to be so well adjusted", Beth explained. "And you don't feel like you're missing out on seeing them develop. If you don't mind me asking?", Joan asked. Beth glanced quickly at Nicky, who nodded. "No I don't mind at all. The agreement with Andrew and Ryan was that I provide breastmilk until the end of December of last year and then step back completely. To their credit, they have chosen to keep me far more involved than what I thought or hoped, and I thank them for that. But Nicky and I got engaged last night and after we get married, our time will come. Both Andrew and Ryan have stored sperm in the sperm bank and we have an agreement that when the time is right, we will be able to make use of their sperm to have babies of our own. I don't think it will be twins, but you never know until the time actually comes and we make that decision. But Cam and Elizabeth will eventually have a brother or sister, hopefully both". Joan shook her head. "Wow, the four of you are so young, but you're making amazingly adult decisions. We've had total admiration for the boys since we first met them. And now I know why they chose you to be the mother of their children. You're kindred spirits". "It was thanks to Nicky that we were introduced to Beth", Ryan added. "I was involved in a rather unfortunate incident where I was badly beaten up a few months after we were married. Nicky was the doctor who treated me and returned me to perfect health. It was a few months after, that we met her in a coffee shop again and we mentioned the possibility of having children. And it all started from there. And we have never had any regrets". "Ryan is absolutely right", Andrew added. "Look, let's face facts. It hasn't been easy. What social life we had has been massively curtailed, not that I'm complaining. I wouldn't change what we have for anything in the world. Ryan and their faces are the first things I look forward to seeing in the morning. I know it sounds crazy, but there nothing like walking into the nursery in the mornings and seeing the utter delight on their little faces. As tiny as they are, the utter devotion and trust that they have is mindblowing and incredibly humbling, quite frankly". He nodded to Beth and Nicky as he continued, "You will see what I mean when you have your own to love and cherish and care for. We want to have them christened soon. It would have made my own mom and dad happy, and I know it will make mom and dad Major happy. But it will make Ry and I happy too, because it will be our public commitment to love and to care for these two little mites" Andrew looked around the table and stood up. "Okay, this conversation has got waaayyyy too serious. Coffee or tea for anyone?. And then you guys can all congratulate Nicky and Beth on their engagement." After getting the hot beverage order, Andrew disappeared into the kitchen to fire up his fancy coffee maker. Joan followed him and offered her assistance. She kissed him on the cheek and held his face between her soft hands, gazing at him. "You, young man, have no idea just how special you are. You are wise beyond your years. And your capacity for love, and life, is enormous. Life gave you lemons when your parents were killed. But you made lemonade. And great lemonade at that too". She kissed his cheek again and grinned at him. "Right, my big serious moments are over. Show me how to operate this contraption". The remainder of the afternoon was spent just relaxing. The pool got more use than it had ever had. Craig and Tanner Sr found an old, but perfectly serviceable volley ball net in the garage and managed to rig it up over the pool so that they could play water volleyball, which kept everyone entertained for a while, but soon there were prone bodies laying on the grass on towels or on the sunbeds, all soaking up the warm sun with many of them napping as well. The twins had also succumbed to all the excitement and their batteries had finally run down and they had fallen asleep in their dad's arms and were now resting in the playpen with Rascal napping with them. Andrew, Ryan, Joan, Beth, Nicky and Tessa remained sitting at the table and chatted the afternoon away while sipping at glasses of wine and nibbling at what was left of the dessert. It was a thoroughly enjoyable start to the year. Their guests began leaving in the late afternoon, with Beth and Nicky leaving first when Nicky was called into the hospital for an emergency. The Kinleys left a half an hour later, some of them slightly sunburnt and would suffer the next day. Andrew told Tanner Snr where to find the emergency pharmacy to get something to soothe the sunburn and they headed off to the small mall close to The Cameron. They were planning on visiting the winelands the following day and on the Thursday they wanted to do the drive to Cape Point , driving along Chapmans Peak Drive to the point before returning to the Blue Bay via Muizemberg, Fish Hoek and Simonstown. Then they would board 'Belle Catherine" on Friday morning for the cruise along the southern coast. For Andrew and Ryan, the couple of days before departure were spent at the marina preparing the yacht for the trip. With Darren and Kerry's help, 'Belle Catherine' was given a thorough clean inside and out until she gleamed like new. They opened every hatch, porthole and door to air the interior and laid all the mattresses on the deck to air as well, before remaking all the beds. On the Thursday morning, armed with an impressive shopping list, Andrew and Kerry went to get all the remainder of the supplies that had not been delivered and then spent the better part of the after-noon, packing it all away and in the evening, Andrew and Ryan went to dinner at the Cape Grace Hotel to celebrate their 3rd wedding anniversary, taking the twins with them. After a great deal of discussion, it was decided that Darren and Kerry would be on board as well to assist Andrew and Ryan with the large group. Kerry would help Andrew on the hotel side of things while Darren would help Ryan with the actual sailing duties He was also the designated dinghy driver. There was unfortunately no cabin for them, but were quite willing to bed down on the cockpit bed, formed when the table was lowered and covered with cushions. With the weather predicted as being perfect summer sailing weather, they were even willing to sleep under the stars on the foredeck. They would use the bathroom in the master cabin for their ablutions. At 10.30am in Friday morning, the four crew members all stood on deck in their blue knee length cargo shorts, white golf shirts and deck shoes, when the two Kinley vehicles drew to a stop on the dockside. Ryan and Darren stepped off onto the dock to assist their guests on board and to collect all the luggage. The passerelle from the deck gate to the dock was almost level and in a surprise move, Andrew had produced a thick navy blue rug with 'Belle Catherine' woven into it, which he laid at the foot of the passerelle. With the slight downward angle on the passerelle, Andrew stood on the deck next to the gate to help from there as well. Joan came aboard first followed by the two children. Knowing the drill, she immediately moved into the aft cockpit to keep the side deck clear and the rest of the group came aboard in short order. They were, however, missing two family members - Robert and Amanda had not arrived with the family. Kerry was in the cockpit offering welcome cocktails of sparkling wine and/ or fresh fruit juice and Andrew followed Dan, who had boarded last into the cockpit where Joan turned to him. "I'm afraid Robert and Amanda will not be joining us. There's been a fire at one of the plants back home and he is needed there. They are flying out on the jet as we speak", she informed Andrew. "Oh what a pity! I'm sorry to hear about the fire. How serious was it? Do you know?" "Not too serious, fortunately", Dan said, "But as CEO, he needs to be there. Goes with the territory I'm afraid. He told Amanda to stay, but she was determined to fly back with him to support him, which I admire her for. So until Robert gets there we won't know the full details. And that will only be tomorrow afternoon SA time. In the meantime, we continue as planned". Ryan and Darren had returned on board, having loaded all the luggage and parked the vehicles, and stood listening as Dan was talking. "Good morning everyone, welcome on board and welcome back on board, Dan and Joan", Ryan said "Sorry to hear about your hassle back home. I hope everything turns out okay. Was anyone hurt?" "There were apparently some casualties but we don't know the details. We're just praying no one was killed", replied Dan. "Yeah, I hope so too. If you need to use the satellite phone, please feel free to do so. It's in the small locker next to the helm if you need it", Ryan told him. "Thank you, my boy. I'll let you know if I need it" "Okay, let's get everyone organised", Andrew suggested. "With Robert and Amanda not here, we have an open cabin. Can we put Tanner Jnr and Cassandra in a cabin on their own? As you can see, we're not 'Texas Lass', so it would give you more room in your cabins. Or would you prefer to have them with you?", Andrew asked, looking at the children's parents. "We'll keep them with us in our cabins, thank you", they replied. "Okay, no problem". Andrew turned to Dan and Joan. "With your permission, I would like to request that we use the free cabin for Darren and Kerry then. We decided to keep them on board and were going to bed them down in the cockpit. We will refund you a portion of the charter fee, of course" Dan shook his head. "I won't even entertain the thought of a refund. Of course they can use the cabin. We didn't pay for cabins, we paid for the use of your lovely boat, which is exactly what we are getting". "Thank you Dan, we appreciate it. Right, now that we settled that, let's get you to your cabins and then we can set sail. I'll do the safety briefing when we cast off." He looked at Ryan and Darren. "Ry, Dan and Joan are in the port aft cabin again, Tanner, Julia and TK are in the port midships cabin and Brandon, Tessa and Cassandra are in the port forward cabin". Ryan and Darren proceeded to take the luggage to the cabins and when they returned, Andrew and Kerry led the family to their cabins, showing them all the features, in particular, the escape hatches in the bathrooms, then returned to the saloon to start preparing lunch. Andrew nipped down into the starboard hull to check on the twins and Rascal who were still napping peacefully and took the baby monitor with him when he returned to the galley. He felt the engines rumble into life as Ryan and Darren prepared to set sail and he saw Darren walk past to the bows to release the lines, then hurry back to do the same at the stern as Ryan kept them on station with the engines. Ryan kept them where they were for a short time while checking that everything was operating as it should. Their guests began appearing from below, gathering in the saloon and when they were all there Andrew allowed Kerry to run though the safety briefing. When she was done, the ladies all made themselves comfortable in the aft cockpit, while Dan took Tanner and Brandon onto the foredeck with Tanner Jnr and Cassandra following them. Dan turned to his son and son-in-law. "I want you guys to see this. She may not be 'Texas Lass', but damm if she hasn't got all the gizmos! Watch this!", he told them and leaned over the starboard bow as the water boiled and the bow pivoted away from the dockside using the bow thruster. Dan grinned at them. "Can you believe it? She even has bow thrusters! And wait till you see them launch the dinghy", he told them excitedly. They stayed on the foredeck as Ryan advanced the throttles and spun them around to head towards the bascule bridge to exit the marina into the harbour proper. Tanner Jnr and Cassie made themselves comfortable on the dolphin seats on the tip of either bow. They quickly sailed into the harbour basin and turned to starboard to motor towards the entrance, having to slow down to allow an arriving container ship to clear the entrance so that they could proceed. With a southeasterly wind blowing, it meant that the wind would be almost dead on the bows, so the engines would have to be used for the initial part of the cruise. The wind was predicted to become southwesterly overnight, which would enable them to hoist the sails and really enjoy was sailing was all about. Other than that, the weather was a typical Cape summers day - clear blue skies, hot sun beating down and just a few wisps of cloud on top of the mountain. Ryan left Darren at the helm as the sailed up past Sea Point, moved onto the foredeck and started taking the sunbeds out of their storage locker and setting them up. When Tessa and Julia saw what he was doing,they quickly nipped back to their cabins to change and emerged a few minutes later wearing bikinis with sarongs tied around their hips and, mindful of the safety briefing, carefully headed to the foredeck holding on to the safety railing on the saloon roof. They chatted to Ryan, Dan and their husbands for a while and there was a sudden flurry of excitement as a pod of dolphins were spotted just ahead of the bows. Within seconds they were all prone on the trampolines, and Joan had also hurried forward, peering over the edge down into the water as the dolphins proceeded to jump out of the water and give them a show. The children were ecstatic, squealing in amazement with each appearance of the beautiful mammals. Brandon had his video camera handy and quickly began filming them and the kids reactions. The dolphins provided an escort all the way to the city end of Chapmans Peak Drive, where they disappeared into the deeper water, much to the disappointment of all. At the other end of the yacht, Kerry had taken the opportunity to lay the cockpit table for lunch which Andrew was finishing off in the galley. Lunch was just a simple cold meal consisting of a trio of smoked snoek. A terrine, a traditional blend of flaked snoek with spring onions, sweet peppers and a touch of chilli, and a small tranche of the fish, the bones laboriously removed, with an apricot jam and mustard glaze. To accompany the meal, there was a fresh green salad with his favourite ingredient, avocado, and fresh seed loaf he had picked up the bakery earlier in the morning. He had white and rose wine to go with for those who wanted wine. They ate lunch as they motored along the steep cliffs below Chapmans Peak, now on one motor onlywith Ryan and Andrew joining them at the table and Kerry joining Darren at the helm while Tessa and Julia took their plates and wine to the sunbeds on the foredeck to eat and get a tan at the same time. When Andrew heard sounds emanating from the master cabin on the baby monitor, he hurried down to see to the twins who needed changing, and then brought them upstairs. Brandon was amazed when he sawthem. "Good grief, I had no idea you had the babies on board with you. I thought you may have left them with Ryan's parents", he exclaimed. "There is no way Andrew and Ryan would leave them behind", Joan told him. "When we were here last year, they were only three months old, and they cruised with us. Never heard them. Not once" "Joan is right", Andrew added. "We could never envision leaving them, even with mom and dad. They are very unhappy if Ryan or myself are away on a charter. They definitely know that one of us is not around. Lord only knows how they would react if both of us were suddenly not around. And quite honestly, they seem far more chilled when we're on 'Belle Catherine'. Like today. It's been a while since they napped this long in the morning. I think it has something to do with the motion and the sea air. They definitelysleep longer on board than at home". Joan took the twins and made a fuss of them, while Andrew went to prepare some food for them and when he came back, Joan and Julia, who had come back from the foredeck, were happy to watch over them while they ate to make sure there were no accidents, finishing their own lunch at the same time. Rascal also got his fair share of attention. Tanner Jnr and Cassandra were delighted to see him, and he them as he seemed to remember them from all the fun they had on New Years Day.Dessert was a large caramel and peppermint tart and there was coffee or tea for those who wanted a cup. After lunch, Dan and Joan went and lay down in their cabin, while Julia and Tessa were on the sunbeds forward. Brandon and Tanner Snr sprawled on the seats in the cockpit chatting to Ryan and Darren and observing the operation of the yacht. In the mid afternoon, they rounded Cape Point and turned on an easterly heading to cross the wide mouthof False Bay, heading for Cape Hangklip at the far end. With the bay being so deep, in both depth and size, they were essentially well at sea, so strict safety protocol was put into effect. Ryan took two life vests and harnesses to Tessa and Julia and requested that they wear them when the returned to the cockpit and everyone was advised that the protocol was in place. Ryan and Andrew were fully aware that some guests were irked by the safety protocol, but felt the irritation was worth for the sake of safety. Just after the turn off Cape Point, the wind started backing to the south and Ryan decided to hoist the mainsail and the spinnaker. The electric winch whirred as the mainsail rose in its tracks to the top of he mast and then with the engine throttled back slightly and 'Belle' on autopilot, he and Darren went forward and hauled the spinnaker out of its locker and let it fly, with Tanner and Brandon interested observers. The spinnaker billowed out over the port bow, filling with wind and looking impressive. Darren returned to the cockpit and killed the engine, and serene quietness surrounded them, with just the sigh of the wind and the hiss and bubble of the water against the hull and at the bottom of the scoops. Tessa looked up from the book she was reading, pushed her sunglasses up onto her head and squinted up at Ryan. "Now I know what the allure of sailing is. It's so quiet. Even on 'Texas Lass', as well sound and vibration proofed as she is, you are still aware that you are under power". Dan appeared on the side deck heading towards them, examining the mainsail and spinnaker. He heard what Tessa had said and stopped next to her. "There is nothing like being under sail on a sailing yacht. To me, it's one of the most peaceful things on earth." Due to the direction from which the wind was blowing, their speed was not fantastic,, but as the afternoon progressed and the wind backed more to the southwest, their speed through the water increased and by sunset they were approaching Cape Hangklip. The plan was to spend the night at Hermanus before pushing on to Mossel Bay the next day, but they would only arrive after dark. They wanted to try and get as far as Plettenberg Bay before turning around and hopping back along the coast. Ryan went to see Andrew who was in the galley with Kerry preparing dinner. All the guests were in their cabins getting refreshed except for Dan and Joan who were enjoying sundowners on the foredeck, having showered after their nap. "Drew babe, we're still about two hours from Hermanus. I was thinking of just pushing on through the night to get to Plettenberg Bay as early as possible. Darren and I can spell one another at the helm so it shouldn't be too much of a problem and the sooner we get to Plett the better" "That's cool with me. Let's have a chat with Dan and Joan. When do you think we can be at Plett?" "The wind is supposed to pick up a bit during the night. So we will more than likely arrive off Plett tomorrow afternoon". They walked out to the foredeck and approached their clients. "Dan, Joan can we have a quick word?" Ryan asked. They looked at Ryan and Dan replied. "Not a problem, I hope? You sound serious" Andrew and Ryan grinned at them. "No not really a problem. Maybe just a bit of a dilemma", said Andrew. "We had planned to spend the night in Hermanus, which is still about two hours away. That was before we decided to have Darren and Kerry with us. Ryan wants to push on through the night to get to our turnaround point at Plettenberg Bay as quickly as possible. Then we play hopscotch down the coast back to Cape Town. It will give us more time to do things at the stops" "When is our expected arrival at, what was the place, Plettenberg Bay?", Dan queried. "We fully expect to be off Plett by tomorrow afternoon", Ryan told him. "We just don't want you guys getting bored. We can stop off on the way, Witsand or Still Bay, and give you some time on shore or using the water toys. We were thinking of spending at least one full day off Plett for you to go ashore and have some fun on the water. Plett is well known as the millionaires playground in summer. There are a large number of very luxurious holiday homes located there. There is also a superb hotel that we want to take you to dinner at". "Okay, here's my decision. We push on to Plettenberg Bay for our first stop. And we take it from there. We're in no particular hurry. We have a few days to spare anyway", Dan told them. "Fantastic, thanks Dan. We didn't want to arbitrarily take the decision without consulting you" Ryan said. "Darren and I will push her as hard as we can during the night to get us there as early as possible. If the wind co-operates we should be good to go". "Thanks guys. We appreciate you keeping us in the loop. As captain and owners, you have every right to make a decision, so the fact that you came to speak to us is appreciated. I might come keep you company during the night if you don't mind. Which watch are you taking?, he asked looking at Ryan. "Well now that we've cleared things with you, I'm going to have a short nap and take over from Darren at 23h00 until 03h00 then relieve him at 07h00 again in the morning" Dan nodded. "Great. I'll see how it goes. Like your little ones, I tend to sleep very well on board 'Belle Catherine'. It seems she's a very peaceful boat. Not sure what it is". Andrew grinned at him. "I know what you mean", Andrew said. "And I've come to the conclusion it's my mother watching over the boat. She feels with it being named after her, she must protect it and all on board" "Well, you may well be right. All I know is that when I'm here with you guys, I'm more chilled than any where else except my home in Miami.. Now you go off and take a rest. You've got a long night ahead of you. And thank you again. Both of you". "It's our pleasure", Andrew said. "And I better be getting back to the galley or dinners not going to be ready on time. Dinner will be at 19h30. Will that be okay, or do you want it earlier for the children". "No 7.30 will be fine. TK and Cassie are used to dining later", Joan replied. "Great. If they do get hungry, let me know and we can organise something for them". They left Dan and Joan on the foredeck and returned to the cockpit where Ryan updated Darren on the plan for the night, then taking the twins from the playpen in the saloon, went down to the master cabin to bath and dress them for the night and then bring the back to the saloon for Andrew to feed them while he went for his nap. Andrew and Kerry managed to get dinner done with time to spare, so while he fed the twins, she popped down to their cabin in the starboard hull to shower and change into her evening uniform of navy blue skirt and pale blue buttoned shirt. When she came back, Andrew left the twins in the playpen while he went to shower and change as well and while he was away, she set the table in the cockpit for dinner. When he returned, he grinned when he saw the table and came to stand next to her. "The table looks beautiful. Thank you. There's just one small problem". Bewildered, Kerry looked at him. "What haven't I done?" "You've done absolutely nothing wrong. So relax. You just need to set another two places. Dan and Joan will insist that we dine with them. I did the same thing the first time they cruised with us and I was told very firmly that we would all dine together. So I don't expect this cruise to be any different. Darren will obviously have to eat at the helm, and Ryan is resting. But you and I will have to join them. It will probably only be for breakfast and dinner. But we'll be play it by ear and see". "Oh, okay. No problem.", and a few minutes later it was all done.. Andrew gave the twins their bottles of formula and they lay on the mattress in the playpen to drink them. He went out to chat to Darren and noted that he had dropped the bug screens on the port side and behind the table to make the area cosier, but still allowed the soft balmy sea breeze to circulate through the cockpit. Kerry had added the table extension and the table could now comfortably seat twelve, but it was set for ten. The overhead lights had been dimmed and the soft warm glow lit the table beautifully. It was covered with a white damask cloth and set with the yachts good white china, silver plated cutlery and matching damask serviettes. A crystal wine glass and water or juice glass stood above each place setting and three candlelamps were arranged down the centre of the table with two low glass bowls each containing three floating red carnations and white pebbles on the bottom. Andrew gave a small pleased grin. The table setting looked just as good as the one on 'Texas Lass', if not better. He returned to the saloon and turned on the music system to play some soft background piano music, and was both surprised and pleased to see the twins, having finished their bottles, had fallen asleep. Dan and Joan appeared from below first and Andrew offered them a pre dinner drink, which they declined, preferring to go directly to the table and have wine. The rest of the family followed soon after and joined them, and dinner commenced. Andrew had considered giving them a choice, but due to his space constraints, that was not possible. The hors d'oeuvres consisted of James' whisky cured Scottish salmon, rolled in finely chopped dill and parsley and thinly sliced with horseradish cream, paper thin onion rings and capers and served with brown bread. It was garnished with micro herbs . A pepper grinder was on hand for those who wanted it. The entrée was a rolled and roasted loin of lamb with red wine jus, crispy roast potatoes, butternut puree and green beans. There was both mint jelly and mint sauce to go with it.. Dessert was a sublime blend of dark and white chocolate mousses separated by a layer of crushed shortbread and a raspberry coulis. There had been murmurs of approval through the meal, but when it was over, Julie slumped back against the cushions of the backrest. "Oh my god, that was soooo good. I'm completely stuffed. You're gonna have to carry me to the cabin. How the heck do you produce that sort of meal in the space you have. I was impressed with what Mark does from his galley on 'Texas Lass', but, wow, you sure give him a run for his money" There was laughter all round and Andrew smiled at her as he replied. "Thank you. We're pleased you enjoyed it. It all boils down to good planning and organisation. It would have been far more difficult if Kerry hadn't been here. But we try our best with what we have.". Joan huffed next to him. "Don't let him fool you Julia, darling. This young man is an amazing chef. He may not have the qualification that Mark has, but he has natural talent. Wait till we have some of the more exotic local dishes like the curries or bobotie. Simple, but so full of flavour. But Julia is right. It was delicious Andrew. Your South African lamb tastes completely different to our lamb". "That's because its Karoo lamb. They are bred in the semi desert part of the country called the Karoo. It's the bushes and grasses they feed on that give the meat it's distinctive flavour", he explained. "Later on in the trip, we'll be going into the Klein Karoo, or Little Karoo, on one of the excursions we have planned, which it the most southerly part of the area. Right, who wants coffee?" Andrew and Kerry cleared the table and took everything back to the galley and while Kerry packed the dishwasher, Andrew brewed the coffee and dished up a plate of food for Ryan which he left in the microwave with a note saying "Because I love you", and a dessert in the refrigerator He also made up a couple of meaty sandwiches and two flasks of coffee for Ryan and Darren to snack on through the night along with some choc-chip cookies. Kerry started to tidy up the galley when Andrew took the coffee to the table. He also took out a bottle of Amarula liqueur and some glasses which Joan immediately pounced on. Kerry excused herself and retired for the night, as she would be up early to start the breakfast preparation so that Andrew could deal with the twins morning ritual. They sat around the table chatting until just after 10.30 when every one except Dan headed for their beds. Dan elected to stay up and keep Ryan company for a while, while he was on watch and went to sit with Darren at the helm. While waiting for Ryan to relieve Darren, Andrew pulled out the linen for the breakfast and placed it on the galley counter for Kerry in the morning. He also took out a half dozen croissants and a dozen Danish pastries and popped them into the still warm oven to prove overnight, leaving a note for Kerry to bake them off in the morning. He also took out from the freezer, bacon and pork sausages and left them on a tray to thaw. When Ryan came up, hair still damp from his shower, he bent down to kiss the twins softly on their foreheads and then kissed Andrew. "Hi my love. How did you sleep?", Andrew asked him. "Quite well actually. I was initially only vaguely aware of voices and movement above my head in the cockpit, but once I fell asleep, I heard nothing". "Good. There's a plate of food in the microwave for you. And mousse in the refrigerator. There's also sandwiches, coffee and some biscuits. Don't eat it all. Leave some for Darren when he relieves you. Dan is still up. He's going to keep you company for a bit. He's with Darren now. And Kerry will be up early to make more coffee and get breakfast started. Will you just help me get Cam and Elizabeth to the cabin before you take over?" Andrew went to say good night to Dan and Darren, before turning off most of the lights in the saloon and he and Ryan gently picked up the twins and took them to bed in the master cabin. Ryan lingered briefly to hold Andrew in his arms and kiss him goodnight before going up to the helm and sending Darren to join Kerry for a few hours. Andrew had a quick shower and was asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow. He was dimly aware of Ryan getting into the bed with him during the night and spooning against his back, but woke up when Ryan rose just after 6am to get ready to relieve Darren again. When Ryan opened the cabin door to go up into the saloon, he heard Kerry's voice and the sounds of activity in the galley. The twins were also showing signs of waking up, so he donned a robe and went to the galley to prepare bottles for them and mix up some cereal. When he got back, they were both awake, sitting quietly in their cribs and when he saw him broke into radiant smiles and holding out their arms for him to pick them up. He sat them on the bed and fed them and then gave them their bottles to drink, turning on the TV for them to watch a cartoon while he had another quick shower, before dressing himself and them and then scooping them up and carrying them up to the saloon with Rascal following on his heels. He put them in the playpen to play and turned on the saloon TV to show the animated movie 'Sing' and then greeted Kerry and helped her with breakfast. The pastries were still baking in the oven, filling the saloon with wonderful aromas, which were soon joined by frying bacon and sausages. Andrew moved the warmers onto the counter in the cockpit and plugged them in and as food was cooked, it was put on platters or into bowls and placed on the warmer. When the pastries came out of the oven, the halved tomatoes went in to grill along with some large black mushrooms drizzled with melted butter, salt, pepper and fresh oregano. The was also sweetcorn fritters. When the family began showing up, they all grabbed a mug of coffee before going into the cockpit or on to the foredeck. Tanner Jr and Cassie sat on the seats at the saloon table and watched the movie with the twins. Dan and Joan came up last, Dan having slept in after his late night, Andrew took the last items out to the counter and Kerry started making toast. Andrew got two pans onto the burners with a tray of eggs close by and announced breakfast. While the family helped themselves to fruit juice, cereals and yogurt, Kerry took orders for their eggs and told Andrew who proceeded to do the eggs to order. As the eggs were cooked, Andrew plated them and Kerry took them out to the table where they then helped themselves to the other hot items. It all went quite smoothly and, in very short order, everyone was once again feeding their faces. Ryan ate at the helm, and Darren grabbed a plate of food and took it to their cabin to eat and to freshen up before having a nap after his watch. Andrew and Kerry just grabbed something in the galley as they worked, but eventually managed to sit down at the table for coffee and pastries. The morning was beautiful with a cloudless sky, calm seas and a good following wind, which gave some relief from the sun, which was already quite hot. Dan leaned back against the cushions with his arm on top of them and looked up at Ryan. "How are we progressing, Ryan", he queried. Ryan swiveled the helm chair to reply to him. "Very well actually. We're closer to Plett and I thought we would be. The wind last night was great. We should be off the beach just after lunch, with a bit of luck. We should be able to deploy the water toys this afternoon and you guys can have some fun". Brandon rubbed his hands. "Good to hear. Mom and dad told us about your supertube. I cannot wait to try it out." After breakfast, Andrew and Kerry tidied up and started on lunch while their guests scattered around the yacht with a warning from Andrew to use lots of sunblock and to cover their heads, as it was not only getting very hot, but the reflection off the water was quite bad as well. The younger members of the family and the children were all on the foredeck, either on the sunbeds, on towels on the trampolines or sitting in the dolphin seats. Dan and Joan stayed in the shaded cockpit, relaxing and chatting to Ryan. Andrew or Kerry made several trips onto the foredeck with sodas, beers and water to ensure that everyone stayed hydrated. He also left a basket in the cockpit with packets of crisps, popcorn, pretzels, peanuts, raisins, biltong and a few chocolate bars for those who may be peckish. Lunch was wraps with a choice of sliced grilled chicken with a light curry mayo dressing, or seared beef strips with a sticky BBQ sauce. Everyone was encouraged to make their own wrap and there was crisp fresh lettuce leaves, sliced tomato, cucumber, peppers, red onion, avocado and sweet juicy mango to go with it. Dessert was simply vanilla ice cream with either chocolate or butterscotch sauce. About an hour after lunch, the rounded Robberg Point and the sparkling white edifice of the iconic Beacon Island Hotel came into view. They had arrived at the turnaround point, the beach resort of Plettenberg Bay.
  8. The three men took the turret staircase down to the lobby, amazed at how the larger windows had opened up the once dark and dingy staircase, leaving it filled with light and now very much a feature of the building. They stepped into the turret vestibule just as David and Janice came through the main doors carrying the framed artworks she had been doing. A dozen or so already stood against one wall. Andrew took the painting she was carrying and kissed her on the cheek. "Hi mom, you should have contacted us. We could have come to help you carry all this in". She grinned up at him. "It was no problem Drew, we had plenty of help from young Abel. Shall we get these hung?" "Yes definitely. Let's go". They spent the next hour hanging the paintings that showed a number of landscapes around Fort William and the Lochaber district including two different perspectives of Loch Arkaig, Ben Nevis, the ruins of Tor Castle that Clan Cameron had apparently once captured from Clan Macdonald, and Achnacarry Castle which is today occupied by the head of Clan Cameron. or the Cameron of Lochiel. A number of artifacts were also dotted around the lobby, including a framed print of the Cameron coat of arms, a set of bagpipes and a mannequin wearing full Cameron regalia. The five day 'soft opening' was a great success, with all the members of the media seemingly very impressed with what had been achieved and very happy with their short stay. And then the big day was upon them 18 December , official opening day. All the guests who had stayed the previous night had to be checked out and the rooms prepared for all the opening night guests, including a number who would be staying until after Christmas. The cocktail party was due to start at 5pm with the official opening occurring at 6pm, and the overnight guests being advised to check in from 2pm onwards. Those staying the night included the City Mayor and his wife, a few local politcians and councillors with their partners and the CEO'S of all the contractors who had worked on the project. Andrew and Ryan had a quick lunch in the restaurant and nipped upstairs to their two bedroom standard suite to spend some time with the twins and Rascal, who were being cared for by Janice and David while their dad's were so busy. They both made sure to spend time during the day with the little ones and they would be at the celebration that evening in their fathers arms, dressed in their Cameron tartan, without Rascal, of course. As requested, the guest's started arriving just after 2pm, and Andrew, Ryan and Paul worked the lobby, greeting everyone as they stepped through the doors. Among the first to arrive were Beth and Nicky, with Beth grinning from ear to ear as she looked around. She hugged Andrew and gushed, "Oh my god Andrew. It's fantastic. I feel like I've just walked into a Scottish baronial hall. You' ve done the Cameron's proud." "Thanks Beth", he replied. "We're very pleased with how it all turned out. Welcome to The Cameron, you two" Nicky hugged Andrew and Ryan, smiling. "Thank you for the invite! Beth has been so excited to see the place, I was hard pressed to stop her from arriving here at 7am this morning. But it was worth it. It is lovely. So different from Blue Bay" Andrew and Ryan escorted them to the reception desk and handed them over to the front desk staff to get them checked in and up to their room, returning to the turret vestibule as yet another vehicle stopped at the bottom of the stairs. Ryan had noticed his husband surreptitiously checking his wristwatch every now and then, and just after 4pm, Andrew stiffened as a black limousine appeared at the bottom of the driveway and drove slowly up to the steps. Andrew took Ryan by the arm and whispered, "Our surprise VIP has just arrived" and guided Ryan out under the portico. The driver opened the rear door of the limousine and a distinguished, grey haired gentleman stepped out. He glanced up at Andrew and Ryan before mounting the steps, his hand extended in greeting. ''You must be Andrew. It good to meet you at last", he said with a distinct Scottish brogue. Andrew shook his hand and turned to Ryan. "Ry, allow me to introduce Donald Angus Cameron of Lochiel, the 27th chief of the Cameron Clan. Donald will be performing the official opening tonight" Ryan's gaped at Andrew and then at the older man. He eventually regained his composure and held out his hand. "Please forgive my rudeness sir. Welcome to The Cameron. My dear husband here refused to tell me who our VIP guest was. Hence my surprise". The Lochiel beamed at Ryan. "Don't fret yourself young man. I was aware that my presence was a secret. You honour me and Clan Cameron by inviting me here today". He turned to Andrew. "And thank you for the invitation and the very comfortable flight. And please, call me Donald. I don't stand on ceremony" . Andrew took his elbow and shepherded him into the lobby, where he stopped and looked around. After a few moments he smiled and looked at them. "Well, this is indeed a surprise. I feel as if I'm back in Scotland". As they walked towards the reception desk, his eyes were examining everything. He stopped to examine Janice's painting of his home, Achnacarry Castle. "Where did you get this painting? I'm not aware of ever seeing it before". Ryan moved to stand next to him. "It was painted from a photograph I took during our trip to Scotland in July. In fact, all the oils were done from photo-graphs Andrew and I took during our trip. My mother is the artist". "It's beautifully done. The lighting is superb. You have a very good eye. And her talent is obvious. I would like to commission copy if I may?." Ryan stared at the man, flabbergasted. "Yes sir. No problem sir. Thank you". Once he was checked in, Andrew escorted Donald up the the penthouse suite where he would be staying for two nights before flying home again and after making sure that he was comfortable and that he would make his own way downstairs for the opening ceremony, Andrew left him to relax and freshen up. In the lobby, most of the overnight guests had arrived and been taken to their bedrooms, so Paul sent Andrew and Ryan upstairs to start getting ready, while he dealt with the stragglers. They quickly showered and after bathing the twins, and feeding Rascal, changed into dress suits, both wearing Clan Cameron cumberbunds and bowties, as would Paul. Then they got the twins dressed in their little outfits, with Andrew being pleased he had ordered them slightly bigger for the trip to Europe, as they now fitted almost perfectly with the twins growing so quickly. They had not started walking on their own yet, but were moving around supporting themselves on furniture or a convenient adult leg. They left the room andknocked on David and Janice's room door, next to theirs. Janice looked amazing, dressed in a deep blue cocktail dress with matching heels and a double string of pearls around her neck. She wore pearl earings as well. David wore a black suit and white button down shirt and a Clan Cameron tie that they had brought back from Scotland for him. They stepped into an elevator and descended to the lobby, which had been dressed for the cocktail party while they were upstairs. The lights had been dimmed quite low, but to compensate, several large standing candlabra with fat while candles were arranged around the room, providing additional light. Soft music played in the background, provided by a quartet on violin, cello, harp and piano, grouped around the piano. Tall cocktail tables had been placed between the pillars, dressed in long white damask cloths A bar had been set up against the wall that backed onto the elevators and a squad of hired function waiters dressed in black trousers, white shirts, bowties and white aprons stood in a line next to the bar waiting for the word to start service, which Andrew did. They scattered and took up positions around the room, ready to take any orders. At 5pm exactly, some more waiters emerged from the kitchen with the first trays of snacks and began moving around the room, while a chef in pristine whites took up position behind a table that displayed an entire side of Scottish, whisky cured, wild salmon served on rounds of brown bread or oat cakes with the usual accompiaments of black pepper, horseradish, thinly sliced spring onion and capers. David and Janice moved into the room proper, while Andrew and Ryan split up and began circulating, chatting to the guests that had already arrived. Out of the corner of his eye, Andrew saw Beth and Nicky emerge from the elevator lobby, both dressed on black cocktail dresses. Beth also wore a Clan Cameron sash, held at her waist by a Cameron crest clip. Andrew moved towards them and saw Ryan doing the same and they met just inside the main lobby, where they each took a glass of sparkling wine from a waiter. They chatted for a while before Donald appeared as well, in full Cameron regalia of Clan Cameron 16oz worsted wool kilt, Black Barathea Prince Charlie jacket and vest, white wingtip collar dress shirt, black bowtie and cufflinks, dress sporran and flask, Ghillie brogues, kilt hose, tartan flashes, kilt pin and sgian dubh, the small single edged knife traditionally worn with a kilt. He looked every inch chief of the clan. He smiled as he approached the group, holding his finger to his lips, but as he neared them Andrew couldn't resist the temptation. He smiled and said, "Hello Donald, you look incredible." Beth turned to see who Andrew was addressing and choked on her drink. "Uncle Donald, what are you doing here? When did you arrive?", she spluttered. Donald chuckled and hugged his niece. "Hello lass. Good to see you. I arrived this afternoon. Your young friend here has invited me to officiate at the opening ceremony tonight.". Beth stared at Andrew. "Andrew Devlin-Major! Full of surprises, aren't you?" Ryan chuckled as well. "You have no idea, Beth. I'll tell you the story about our engagement and wedding one day.". Beth turned to hug and kiss her uncle. "It's good to see you too, Lochiel. I cannot believe you are here". "Believe me, lass, when I say I am very pleased to be here. I have taken a good stroll around and I can safely say, these two young men have done a good thing here. I am very impressed. They have done Clan Cameron proud . Now, can someone get me dram!?" Andrew lifted a finger and a waiter appeared with a tray, 5 lead crystal glasses, a silver ice bucket, a small crystal jug of water and a bottle of 21yr old Ben Nevis single malt Scotch whisky. Donald's eyes widened when he saw the bottle. "Now that's what I call a dram! Who is going to join me?" They all nodded in assent and he poured a double tot into each glass, added a single ice cube and a small splash of water and handed them each a glass. "Slange var", he said lifting his glass. They all raised their glasses and repeated the toast. "Slange var. To The Cameron". Donald moved to Andrew and Ryan and looked at the twins. "And I take it this is my great grand niece and nephew. Hello there my wee bairns. Ye are both so beautiful". They turned Cameron and Elizabeth to face him and Andrew introduced them. "Donald, this is our son Cameron, and his sister Elizabeth. Beth's son and daughter. They are just over a year old". "They are lovely. Our Cameron babies are always beautiful. I must apologise for not being home when you visited Fort William. I was at a conference of clan heads in Inverness and returned the day you left" "Well, you've made up for it by being here tonight. Now can I prevail upon you to do the honours? " "With pleasure. Lead the way". A piper appeared next to them and began playing 'Scotland the Brave' as he began a slow walk down the passage towards the reception desk, where a microphone had been set up. Andrew and Ryan flanked Donald as he followed the piper down the passageway. The guests moved to the sides as they walked and waited quietly until the music stopped and Andrew stepped up to the microphone. "Ladies and gentlemen, for those of you who may not know, my name is Andrew Devlin-Major. Thank you all for being here to celebrate the opening of The Cameron. Please indulge me as I give you a bit of history. Why The Cameron you may ask?". He turned and beaconed Ryan closer holding Cameron. "Allow me to intoduce Ryan Devlin-Major, my partner and my husband. These two little munchkins are our twins. I am holding Elizabeth and Ryan has got Cameron. Beth, or Elizabeth, their mother is here tonight as well. Her surname is Cameron and she is a member of the Clan Cameron from the Lochaber region of Scotland. You will all have noticed the tartan that plays a big part in our decor. The tartan is one of the Clan Cameron tartans and the distinguished gentleman standing behind me, whom I would like to introduce, to perform the official opening, is Donald Angus Cameron, the chief or Lochiel of the Clan Cameron, who has travelled all the way from Scotland to be here tonight. Ladies and gentleman, Donald Cameron, the 27th Cameron of Lochiel." Donald stepped up to the microphone and held his hand up to still the applause. "Ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure to be able to be here tonight. I have already told Andrew and Ryan, but I wish to tell you all as well. What they have achieved here, is wonderful and an enormous tribute to Clan Cameron and I thank them not only for that, but for wanting to ensure that their two children are aware of their heritage, which can be traced back hundreds of years and this establishment will ensure that Cameron and Elizabeth do not forget, because this lodge, as far as I am concerned, is a little piece of Scotland. Now , without further ado, and taking a phrase out of the maritime world, that Andrew and Ryan also know much about, I declare The Cameron officially open. May God bless all who stay and work in her. Thank you". He stepped back amid enthusiastic applause as the piper began playing 'Rose of Scotland' and walked back towards the elevator lobby, where he stopped and turned to face the room until the song was finished. To polite applause he bowed and walked out the main doors as the musicians resumed playing. Meanwhile, waiters were once again circulating with sparkling wine and more snacks were being carried into the room.The group around the microphone moved back into the room and began circulating, sampling some of the food along the way. So far the guests had eaten cold foods, a mix of traditional Scottish and South African fare. - the smoked salmon, venison carpaccio, snoek pate, shredded biltong and cream cheese on oat biscuits and crayfish canapés. The hot snacks that were now being passed around included demitasse cups of Scotch broth and Cullen Skink, miniature Scotch pies, pieces of boerewors encased in cooked maizemeal with a tomato and onion dipping sauce, and small bowls of bobotie and rice, and smoorsnoek. There was also fingers of sweet and buttery shortbread, small shot glasses of cranachan and cocktail milk tarts to finish. By 8pm most of the guests who weren't staying over had left and those that were left we're heading to the restaurant for dinner, as was Andrew, Ryan, Donald, Beth and Nicky, David and Janice and Paul and Marie. They enjoyed a very pleasant dinner, made easier when David nipped upstairs to fetch the twins baby seats so that they could sleep and Andrew and Ryan could use a knife and fork. They didn't linger too long after dinner, as Andrew realised Donald must be tired after his flight, and that they had had a big day, so they went upstairs early. The Cameron was open for business. The following morning, they came down to breakfast at 9.30 to find the restaurant quite busy. It seemed a large number of the guests who had stayed overnight has also decided to have late breakfasts, which meant that checkout was going to be later than expected, which in turn, meant that housekeeping were going to have their work cut out to get all the departure rooms ready for the new arriving guests. Andrew knew that there was no room at the inn for the next two weeks, except for a couple of nights between Christmas and New Years eve when the penthouse was available. They were going back to the house after breakfast, as Andrew felt that Paul was quite capable of handling the new operation without having him breathing down his neck all the time. Andrew had done his bit by getting the lodge to its official opening, and now it was up to his manage-ment team to run with it. As with Blue Bay, he would have monthly financial meetings with his general manager, but other than that, he would be hands off unless his assistance was requested. In the restaurant, Beth and Nicky were just finishing their breakfast with Donald. Andrew and Ryan walked over to the table to say good morning. Beth had mentioned the night before that she wanted spend some time with her uncle and show him some of the sights. It was going to be a whirlwind tour as Donald was flying out the following evening on the 8pm British Airways flight to London Heathrow and then on to Glasgow. Andrew invited them all to dinner at Blue Bay that evening, which they accepted. It would also be an opportunity for Donald to see the other property. After a delicious breakfast, where Andrew took note of the food and service, Ryan went to fetch his SUV and bring it round to the main doors, taking, Cameron and Rascal with him, while Andrew popped in to see Paul and say goodbye. Paul had James, the executive chef with him and indicated for Andrew to come in when he poked his head around the door. "Morning Drew, I was just thanking James for the great spread he put on last night". "Morning Paul, morning James. Yes, absolutely. I would like to add my compliments and thanks as well. Everything was just perfect. You got the balance just right. And I certainly enjoyed everything I tasted. So thank you . Good job" James blushed and shook Andrew's hand "Thank you sir. It was fun and different. I'm pleased you enjoyed the food. How was your breakfast?" "Excellent, thank you. Your food is great. Our service needs a bit of polishing, but it's early days yet. Not that there is anything drastically wrong. The waiters are just a little too eager, but I think it may be be that they just want to please the guests and possibly because Ryan and I were in the room. I think they'll settle down soon, once they have more experience and confidence. Paul, can you pass that on to Richard in a Food & Beverage. He can just keep an eye on it. I know you will too. And please, its not a criticism, just an observation." Paul nodded. "Thanks Drew, I'll pass it on. Have you checked out already?" "Not yet! That's my next stop. Ryan has gone to bring the car around. Thanks again for all the hard work, both of you. I will be sending out a memo to all the staff thanking them. If I get time, it will be today sometime. If not, definitely tomorrow. I'll be alone at home until the 23rd. Ryan, sails on 'Belle Catherine' tomorrow morning for four days with Darren and Kerry, so I'll have plenty of time on my hands." "Okay, I'll circulate your memo as soon as I get it. I hear you're dining at Blue Bay tonight". "Yeah, we are. With Donald , Beth and Nicky. And I felt I've neglected Claude and Blue Bay over the last two or three months. So I need to go and make peace". Paul grinned. "Claude will understand. He knows all about openings. Give him my regards" "I will. Have a great day you two. And thank you again" Andrew hurried to reception and signed his bill, just as one of the porters appeared with their luggage and his mobile rang in his pocket. "Where are you? I was wondering what happened to you", Ryan said. "Sorry Ry, I was chatting to Paul and James. By we're all sorted. I'm on my way". The porter loaded the luggage into the car, while Andrew got Elizabeth into her car seat and then they drove down the driveway onto the beach boulevard heading for the house. Yvonne was in the kitchen when they appeared at the top of the stairs in the living area. Rascal scampered to her in greeting, dancing around her feet, and she picked him up to scratch his chin and tummy, getting a lick in the face as well. "Hi Vonnie. How are you,?", Ryan greeted enthusiastically. "Morning Mr Ryan, morning Mr Andrew". She turned and walked to them smiling, taking both babies in her arms. "Hello my little angels. Vonnie has missed you", she said. Both Cameron and Elizabeth were excited to see her, chattering in baby talk, reaching out to touch her face and smiling. Andrew smiled at her. "Well, we can make it up to you over the next few days. Ryan is going to be away on the yacht, so we're at home with you". "Good, so we can have some fun, my babies" "We have a surprise for you as well". Ryan took Cameron from her, set him on his feet in the floor and held his hands until he was secure on his feet, then stepped back a little, letting go of the little boys hands. His little face took on a look of intense concentration and he looked at his dads hand before taking a tentative step forward, followed by three more until he had his hands in Ryan's. "There's a clever boy. Well done!", Ryan praised him and he clapped his hands. Cameron clapped his hands together as well, smiling and gazing adoringly at his dad. Yvonne stood, clasping her hands to her chest, eyes bright with tears. "Oh my word. He's starting to walk. Is Elizabeth walking yet?" "No, not yet. But she's not far away. Any day now, I think", replied Andrew. Yvonne clapped her hands. "Right, let's get this family back to normal. Where is the dirty laundry? And do you need anything for your trip, Mr Ryan?" "Laundry is all in the soft blue bag, Vonnie. I don't think there's anything in there that I need" She picked up the bag and took it through to the laundry, and Ryan and Andrew went upstairs with the twins and Rascal to unpack. They closed the door and set the twins down on the carpet do do their thing while they unpacked and changed into shorts and t-shirts. Back in the lounge, Ryan made sure all the safety gates were closed, mindful of the fact that Cameron was more mobile and would have to be watched like a hawk and they let the toddlers play on the rug with some toys. Andrew had a quick look through the cupboards and fridges before going shopping, knowing it would be difficult to do while Ryan was away. To get to the supermarket, he had to drive past The Cameron, and couldn't prevent himself from grinning widely as he looked at the lodge as he drove past, feeling a huge sense of accomplishment. There were vehicles parked in the roundabout at the main doors and guests using the swimming pool and sunbeds. Children were playing on the grass and generally just having fun. When he got back, Yvonne put together a very tasty chicken pasta salad with a light, slightly sweet, curry dressing which they ate with homemade rotis and in the late afternoon they took the twins for a paddle in the pool, enjoying the cool water and warm sunshine. While they were in the pool, Beth had called Ryan and asked to make dinner early, as they were all quite weary after their drive around the peninsula. Ryan called Claude and changed their reservation to 6.30pm and as it was already 5pm, they went upstairs to bath the twins. Then they showered and dressed before feeding the twins, keeping the bottles of formula until they were at Blue Bay, so that they would hopefully go to sleep after having their bottles. Then they dressed the twins in their bedclothes, so that they would be comfortable, packed the baby bag, got them into the car and drove a short distance to Blue Bay. Thomas was at the door when they arrived and he beamed widely as they parked in the executive parking area. He hurried to open the back doors so that Andrew and Ryan could get the babies out with their chairs. "Good evening Mr Andrew, good evening Mr Ryan. Congratulations on the opening of the new lodge. Abel tells me it is very beautiful". They greeted him and Andrew replied, "Thank you Thomas. It is beautiful. Have you been to see it yet?" "No, not yet Mr Andrew. We have been very busy, so I haven't had the time to go. Abel showed me some photographs on his cell phone and of the opening last night. It was very nice, I think". "Yes it was Thomas. Have Miss Beth and Miss Nicky arrived yet?" Ryan replied. "Just before you did Mr Ryan. With an older gentleman". "Yes. He is the man who opened the lodge for us last night. He is the chief of a big tribe, or clan as they call them there, in Scotland. He is Cameron and Elizabeth's great uncle", Ryan told him. "So he is an important man. Heh heh", he chortled, "But you are important as well. Without you and Mr Andrew our family would have nothing. Me, my wife and Abel would not have jobs. We would not have a home or food on the table. Yes, you are important. To all of us" Andrew and Ryan were very touched by his words. Andrew took the old man's hands in his. "Thank you Thomas. And you are important to us. Every one of you". He picked up the baby bag and walked ahead of them to the doors and opened them. He handed the bag to Ryan as he passed him. "Enjoy your dinner gentlemen" "Thank you Thomas. We'll see you later". Andrew studied the lobby of his first lodge and was gratified to see it was business as usual. The floors gleamed, furniture was squared exactly as it should be and all the light bulbs worked. Soft piano music filtered through the lobby while a handful of guests examined Janice's artworks on the wall. A quiet but steady hum of conversation drifted in from the restaurant and patio, interspersed with the clink of cutlery on crockery. A tall fresh Christmas tree stood in it usual place in the centre of the room in front of the landing, decorated in Blue Bays signature blue, white and silver balls, bells and stars and strings of tiny white lights. They found their dinner guests at a secluded table on the patio, overlooking the pool, garden and beyond that, Table Bay and Table Mountain. They greeted them and sat down, placing the twins on two spare chairs next to the table. A waiter came to bring menus and take a drinks order from Andrew and Ryan, another scotch for Donald and topped up Beth and Nicky's white wine. Andrew studied the patio and restaurant, which was quite busy with lingering sun-downers and early diners. He had not been to Blue Bay in weeks, and was pleased to see that under Claude's guidance, things were still operating like clockwork. It seemed the general management transition had taken place without a hitch. The waiter came back with the drinks order followed by Peter, the Maitre 'd. Donald had liked the look of the offerings on the buffet so they all ordered the buffet and Andrew was both amazed and impressed when Donald proceeded to sample every dish on the buffet, albeit small portions, but all two dozen items on the buffet. While they were eating, Claude came to the table to say hello and they introduced him to Donald, who proceeded to rattle off to Claude in flawless French. After a few moments, they grinned at the other occupants of the table. "My apologies, we're being rude", Donald said to them. "No problem, Donald. Claude took over from Paul when he moved over to The Cameron and we stole Claude from the Paradise Beach Resort on Mauritius where we stayed for our wedding. We've been so busy concentrating on The Cameron, that Claude has been somewhat neglected and dumped in the deep end. Not that he hasn't managed fantastically. Blue Bay is looking, and running as she always has. Perfectly!", Andrew said." As soon as Ryan is back from this charter, we must have a meeting, okay" he said, turning to Claude. "Thank you, Andrew, I would like that. Please continue your dinner, your food is getting cold". After dinner, they were drinking coffee when Ryan passed a small wrapped gift to Donald. "Just a small token of our appreciation for your presence at the opening last night". Donald opened the box and smiled, looking up at Andrew and Ryan. "You laddies don't do things by half do you. These are magnificent." Beth craned her neck to see what was in the box. "Well don't keep us all in suspense, Uncle Donald. what is it?" "Black onyx cufflinks set in 24carat gold with a gold inlay of the Clan Cameron crest", Andrew answered. Beth's eyes widened and she stood up to have a look. "Oh wow, that's amazing. It's magnificent. Now you can wear those when you're in full regalia, Uncle Donald". "Aye, lass. That I surely can. Thank you gentlemen. I will treasure them. As short as my stay has been, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself. It's been an honour to meet you and your two gorgeous children. Please know that the resources of Clan Cameron are always available should you or your children ever require them. And if ever you are in Scotland, you have an open invitation to stay at Achnacarry". "Thank you Donald. We appreciate the offer and would love to take it up at some stage. Which brings me to the details for your journey home. Your flight departs from Cape Town International at 20h00 tomorrow. You are booked business class, unfortunately there is no First Class on the Cape Town route, so you have to check in two hours before departure instead of three. A limo will pick you up at The Cameron at 17h00 and take you to the airport. Beth, would you like to go to the airport with Donald? , Andrew asked. Beth nodded. "We'd both like to go if it's possible. Thanks Andrew" "No problem, I'll arrange it with the limo company and they will drop you back at The Cameron. So be there before 17h00 to leave with Donald. I'll arrange for the limo to wait for you until you are ready to come back". "Thank you Andrew. You just proved again why I knew you and Ryan would be good fathers to the twins. You're both caring and thoughtful and nothing is to much trouble.". Donald nodded, looking thoughtful. "I agree with Beth. Clan Cameron has always been known as the fierce clan. But ferocity is not only aggression, it is also passion. Which you two young men have in spades. And that makes you Cameron. I am officially extending an invitation for you and the wee bairns to come to Scotland in our summer. The best time is around the same time you were there earlier this year. And, you may not have Cameron blood, but I want to acknowledge you both as honorary clan members. We will make it official when you come to visit us at Achnacarry. And I give you both official permission to wear the Clan Cameron kilt. I will courier kilts to you as soon as I return home. Now me laddies, this old man is feeling quite weary. It's been a long day and tomorrow will be even long er. Beth lass, will you take me back to The Cameron. I need a good night's sleep" They all stood up and Andrew and Ryan thanked Donald again for coming all the way from Scotland for the opening. Then he, Beth and Nicky left after softly kissing Cameron and Elizabeth on their foreheads. Andrew and Ryan ordered another coffee as it was still fairly early and just sat quietly taking in the view spread out before them. Claude appeared at the door to the lobby and Andrew called him over. "Claude, come join us. Would you care for some coffee?" "Oui, thank you. Coffee will be great" The attentive waiter hurried away to get another pot of coffee and a cup and saucer for Claude, who held out a newspaper. "I don't know if you have seen this. Page 5" Andrew opened the newspaper and page 5 revealed the social page and read out loud. 'A little piece of Scotland.' These were the words of the chief of Clan Cameron, Donald Angus Cameron, the 27th Cameron of Lochiel, when he officiated at the opening ceremony of The Cameron last night. The new accommodation establish- ment is the second lodge to be opened by Andrew and Ryan Devlin-Major, two rising stars in the tourism community of Cape Town, where they already operate the well known Blue Bay Lodge in Bloubergstrand, and a luxury charter catamaran, ''Belle Catherine", working out of the Waterfront Marina. The new lodge was inspired by a visit the couple made to Scotland in July to introduce their twin babies, Cameron and Elizabeth, whose mother is the niece of the clan chief, to the family in Scotland. This reporter was privileged to be invited to spend two nights at The Cameron as part of the soft opening a week ago, and it truly is a small piece of Scotland. The building, originally an abandoned apartment building, has been thoughtfully refurbished with much the of the original structure being preserved. Almost all the changes are confined to the ground floor reception lobby, lounge and restaurant where several columns in, what was, a parking garage, were removed, after a very careful inspection by a structural engineer, to open up the room to make it airier and more user friendly. The concrete columns that remain are now clad in warm, stained oak to waist height and cream and gold striped wallpaper. A stunning brown and gold veined cream granite cover the passage-ways in the lobby with thick carpets woven in the Clan Cameron tartan fitted on either side with comfortable leather couches and high backed chairs. Bespoke wrought iron chandeliers hang from the double volume ceiling and a black baby grand piano dominates one corner. While the tartan is a very big statement downstairs, it is used very sparingly and thoughtfully in the apartments. Yes, these are still apartments not merely hotel bedrooms. The developers have cleverly aimed the lodge at both full service and self catering business with all the apartments, from the one bedroom bachelors to the three bedroom penthouse on the top floor, retaining their lounge/ diners and kitchens. The two bedroom executive suite which this reporter stayed in was spacious and luxuriously appointed, having twodouble bedrooms and two full bathrooms, an open plan lounge, dining area and kitchen and a small balcony with wrought iron railings with a view over the pool and gardens to the beach just over the road. The establishment is highly recommended for those who want the best of both worlds - cooking your own meals or having a full service stay and is a welcome addition to the options available in the Tableview/Bloubergstrand area. Andrew put the newspaper down and looked at Ryan and Claude. Ryan smiled and nodded. "Very nice write up. Just remains to be seen if we see a result from the reservations. This column is normally syndicated nationwide if I remember correctly", he commented. "It's early days yet. The test will come once we move out of the holiday season". He turned to Claude. "How are you doing Claude. I really must apologise for neglecting you and Blue Bay recently" Claude waved his hands in typical French fashion. "Non, mes amis. It is all okay. Claude and Blue Bay are fine. Everything just carries on as normal. The only thing that has changed is me, the general manager. It helps that we are busy. We are fully booked until the end of February. And the year end office parties have been very good this year too. This Saturday will be our last big one, a dinner dance in a marquee on the front lawn. The staff seem to have accepted the change in management. It is not like I am a stranger to them and it helps that all the staff are happy. The shares they have give them a feeling of pride, not only in the lodge, but in themselves as well. And they are all looking forward to their dividend cheques. We will be paying on Tuesday so that they have extra finances for Christmas". "Good. You've done very well. I want to be here when they get their cheques in case there are any queries. I have a copy of the spreadsheet on my laptop. I'll just bring it with me.". Andrew glanced at Ryan. "Tuesday is the day you are due back, so you won't be there. I'll leave Cam and Elizabeth with Yvonne for a couple of hours while I'm here." Ryan nodded. "Unless you can make it in the afternoon, no I won't be able to make it. Speaking of which, I have an early start tomorrow. I think we must get going. I need my bed and so do our munchkins." Andrew called for their bill and Claude said good bye before returning to his office. They paid the bill, gathered the twins and headed for the car, saying goodbye to Thomas on the way. Back home, they got the twins down for the night, sitting with them until they settled down. Andrew went downstairs to make some hot chocolate, while Ryan packed the few items he needed. When Andrew came back, they undressed and got into bed naked, sitting with their bodies touching from shoulder to foot, sipping at the hot chocolate and watching SkyNews on the TV. It was a routine that they had got into before either of them left on a charter. When the mugs were empty, Ryan put the mugs on the dresser and turned off the lights, getting in next to Andrew again, where they cuddled for a while before flipflopping and reaffirming their love for one another. Afterwards, sweaty, but happy and satisfied, Ryan spoonedagainst Andrew's back and they slept. The next morning, Ryan was up early, needing to be at the marina at 06h00 to do all the last minute checks to "Belle Catherine". He told Andrew to stay in bed and fetched the twins, still sleeping, to put them in the bed with Andrew. When he was ready to leave, the three centres of his life were all sleeping peacefully, so he just kissed each of them tenderly and quietly left the house. Andrew woke just after 7am and was instantly aware that Ryan was not there, that a part of him was missing. He often marvelled at the intense connection between them and how they 'felt' one another, even when miles apart. While Ryan was away, Andrew kept himself busy pottering around the house and spending time with Cameron and Elizabeth. The first thing he did was call the limo company to make the arrangements for Beth and Nicky and fired off an email in confirmation. Then he got the Christmas tree and decorations out and set it up. Normally, the tree would have been up a week ago, but with having been at The Cameron, that had not happened. He had a sudden thought and called Paul on his mobile. "Paul, hi. Andrew" "Morning boss, what'sup?" "Have you given any thought to putting up a Christmas tree? I'm doing the one at the house so thought I would check. I know I had forgotten about it until I saw the tree at Blue Bay last night". "As it happens, I have. We'll have a fresh tree this afternoon . Richard and Lisa, the housekeeper and Marie have offered to do the decorating. Marie and Lisa are out at the mall now buying decorations.". "Thank you my friend. I knew I could rely on you. Ry and I will pop in to see it when he gets back. Have you seen Donald this morning?" "Yes I have. He had an early breakfast and the girls picked him up to take him up the mountain and lunch in Camps Bay. Then they're all coming back here to relax and change before the airport pickup". "Yeah, about that. I've arranged for Beth and Nicky to travel to the airport with him. The limo will bring them back to you after he has left". "Okay, I'll brief the late duty manager." "Thanks Paul. Have a good day" "Thanks Drew. Same. Bye". When Andrew disconnected his call to Paul he discovered he had a problem. Two of them actually. The twins, attracted by all the sparkles on the tree were both standing next to it, removing all the lowest decorations that he had put on and were in danger of pulling the tree over onto themselves. Fortunately, he had help close by. 'Yvonne, help!", he yelled. Yvonne hurried down the stairs from the bedroom wing. "Mr Andrew, what's the matter. What has happened". "Sorry Yvonne, can you get the playpen for me. These two little vandals are destroying my Christmas tree. I need to find something to keep them away." Yvonne giggled at his predicament. "Yes, now the fun starts. With them starting to walk, we are going to have to watch them all the time". She walked to the guest room to fetch the playpen, carried it into the lounge and opened it on the rug. Andrew picked up the twins, who were not happy at having an end put to their fun, and put them in the playpen, both throwing a tantrum. Andrew left them to cry and went to the garage storeroom to see if they had anything he could use as a barrier. After a look around he found a few lengths of sturdy ornamental fencing, the type that you just push into the ground around flowerbeds.He grabbed a bunch of cable ties and took everything back upstairs where he tied the lengths together then encircled the tree with the lengths and tied the two ends together. It wasn't perfect and it certainly wasn't pretty, but it would do the job. He tidied up the bits and pieces and turned to the playpen. And his heart broke! Two forlorn, tear-streaked little faces gazed at him from inside the playpen where his son and daughter stood holding onto the bars., both with runny noses and hiccupping from crying. He went to the guest bathroom and fetched a box of tissues and a warm face cloth and gently cleaned their faces before picking them up and cuddling them, sitting down on the couch. Once in their dads arms, they quickly calmed down and it wasn't long before they were both asleep. He gently put them on the couch, one on each side of him and fetched his laptop to check emails and do a bit of work. Late in the morning, he heard the faint sound of a familiar horn and stepped out onto the balcony to see 'Belle Catherine' cruising under sail just beyond the breakers. By his estimates, they were opposite The Cameron and heading towards the beach below the house. He could see someone standing on the starboard bow and guessed it was Ryan. Five minutes later, he could positively identify his grinning, waving husband and the horn sounded again as the yacht sailed past the house. Andrew waved back and moments later, 'Belle Catherine' jibed to port and sailed away from the beach out to sea. Ryan made his way back to the stern, waved and blew a kiss before moving into the cockpit where Andrew could see the guests sitting while sipping cocktails. It never got old, watching 'Belle Catherine' at sea. Catamarans could never be considered pretty boats, but to Andrew she was beautiful and she was theirs. For the rest of the time Ryan was away, Andrew just took time out to relax and spend time with the twins, after the hectic past few months in the run up to the opening of The Cameron. One thing he did do was move anything breakable up high out of the toddlers reach. The only time he went out was for his meeting with Claude and the staff at Blue Bay. Ryan was not back yet, 'Belle Catherine' having been delayed due to very light winds. Claude had arranged the meeting with the staff from 3pm onwards so that Andrew would be there for the shift change and therefore would see as many as possible. Andrew could hear the buzz of conversation as he and Claude walked towards the staff dining room where the meeting was being held. The staff had not been told what the meeting was about, so speculation was rife. When he and Claude walked into the room, there was immediate silence . "Good afternoon everyone", Andrew said as he greeted them all. "Good afternoon Mr Andrew", they chorused. "I don't want to keep you all to long. So we'll do this as quickly as possible. I know it's not payday yet, but I have your payslips here with a small bonus and cheques for the 40% of your dividend payout for the past financial year for those who are eligible. As your are aware, part of the dividend has been paid to you monthly with the balance due now, and the rest will be paid as normal with your monthly salaries. If you have any queries, please stay behind afterwards and Mr Claude and I will do what we can to answer your questions. Now, I suggest we do the late shift first as you all have to get to your work stations and there are guests to look after. I would think Food and Beverage, and Reception are the most critical points at the moment, so if we can get two of you from each department on the late shift to come up, you can sign for your payslips and get to your stations. After that, I want the remainder of the late shift and then we will deal with the early shift. I promise not to keep you early shifters long. I know you have transport waiting and want to get home. Okay, let's do this" It all went as planned, with only two having queries about their payslips. There were however a handful who had started after Blue Bay had opened and wanted to know if they would ever be eligible for the dividend payment. Andrew told them that the dividends were paid out to staff that had all been employed at the lodge before he had bought it, and had stayed on after he took over. He then explained that dividends were only paid to those who were still working at the lodge and that those who had left were no longer eligible. The members of staff who had been employed in their place would become eligible after two full years of employment at the lodge. They were all satisfied with his explanation, knowing that, in all the cases except two, they would be eligible at the end of the current financial year. The remaining two would have to be patient for another year. By 4pm, it was all over with everyone thanking Andrew for looking after them. After the meeting, he and Claude discussed the arrangements for Christmas and New Year and then Andrew left for home to allow Yvonne to catch her transport to her home and hoping that Ryan would be home as well which, to his delight, he was. His SUV was in the garage. Except he was fast asleep on the bed, flat on his back, with the twins nestled on either side of him in his arms and Rascal stretched out at the foot of the bed. He padded to the bed and gazed lovingly down to the most important people in his world. Smiling, he bent down and gently kissed them and Ryan opened his eyes. "Hi there, love. How was your meeting?", Ryan asked, drowsily. "It was good. Everyone seemed to be happy. Come the new year, we must sit down with Paul and put together a similar scheme for The Cameron", Andrew replied. Ryan carefully extricated himself from the twins, stood up, took Andrew into his arms and kissed him deeply. "Hmmm, you can go away more often if that is the welcome home I get", Andrew said when they came up for air. "I just missed you, that's all", Ryan replied. "And you get kisses like that at least once a day! So you're not exactly starved , my love" "Wrong, my love! I haven't had a kiss like that in four days", Andrew countered. "Okay, point taken. I'll make it up to you, I promise" "You better! How was the trip?" "Not bad. Only had one day of decent wind though, which was a bit of a disappointment. We had to do a lot of motoring to keep to the schedule. Then coming back, the wind was dead ahead so we tacked out to sea to dog-leg it back, and the wind died on us way out to sea, so it was more motoring. Which is why we were late arriving back. Plus, of course, it cost us money for the extra fuel used. Wind is free!." "Well, we win some and we lose some. Goes with the territory" Andrew heard a sound from the bed and peered over Ryan's shoulder. Elizabeth was showing signs of waking up. Rascal was also on high alert, standing looking at them enquiringly his tail wagging madly. He walked to the bed, picked her up and came back to where Ryan was standing watching them. Andrew kissed her softly on her cheek and she gazed at him, still not quite awake. When they reached Ryan, he bent his head and kissed her as well. "Hi there daddys little angel. Did you enjoy your nap?" The instant she heard Ryan's voice she became more alert and smiled up at him. He ran his finger gently over her cheek and then she lifted her arms up to him. Ryan stared at Andrew in stunned amazement and he lifted her out of Andrew's arms, "When did she start that?" Andrew shook his head, grinning. "First time I've seen her do it. Methinks she missed her dad too", turning his head as he spotted movement on the bed as Cameron started waking up. It was uncanny how they would both wake up within a few minutes of one another. Cameron was wide awake when Andrew bent to lift him off the bed, kissing his cheek as well. "Hello there little man. Come to dad". He moved toward Ryan and Elizabeth, glancing at the bedside clockradio. "It's almost time for their bath and dinner. Speaking of, what do you feel like for dinner tonight?" "Let's not go to too much trouble. It's too late to take something out of the freezer now to defrost, unless Vonnie took something out", Ryan said."If she hasn't, I want to suggest one of us nip out to the supermarket for some meat and we can throw it on the BBQ. Maybe just buy a few salads as well". They carried the twins downstairs to the kitchen where they found Yvonne had taken out two large chicken breasts on the bone to defrost. Ryan nodded towards the Christmas tree. "What's with the security fence?", he asked Andrew with a grin. "Our darling children were destroying my Christmas tree as fast as I was putting it up. It's to keep little inquisitive hands far away". Ryan nodded, still grinning at him. "Okay, we can still put the the chicken on the coals, but I'm in the mood for some red meat as well", Ryan told Andrew. "Will you run to the shops while I get the fire started. I see your car it still out. And while you're out I'll run the bath for our two munchkins and we can bath and feed them while we wait for the coals. How's that sound?", Ryan suggested. "You have everything all worked out, don't you, Mr Devlin-Major ? Yeah, we can do that. What meat shall I get?" "What about some of those marinated steak kebabs, or some spare ribs", Ryan replied "Okay, sounds good. I'll debone the chicken breasts when I get back and get some marinade or spices onto them." Andrew put Cameron into the playpen, reached for his wallet and car keys on the counter and headed for the stairs to the front door. "Don't forget something tasty", Ryan yelled as Andrew went downstairs. Andrew's resigned voice came up from the entry foyer. "Yes my love, I will get something tasty". Ryan heard the door close behind his husband and he put Elizabeth into the playpen with her brother, then stepped onto the patio to get the BBQ fire going, which only took a few minutes. Then he ran upstairs to start running the twins bathwater before coming back to fetch them and carry them to the main bathroom. He let them stand next to the bath while the tested the warmth of the water and when he was happy he undressed them and put them into the bath with some toys to play and splash. Rascal hopped up onto the laundry basket next to the bath and sat watching them, his tail swishing from side to side. They loved their bathtime and within minutes both of them were wet from head to toe, squealing with delight as the water splashed them, and Ryan loved watching them play, which he did for a while before turning on the spray attachment and reaching for the baby shampoo and washing their hair. Then he gently washed them with a soft cloth and them let them play again while he fetched two big fluffy towels to wrap them in and carry them into the bedroom, where he put them on the bed, cosy in their towel nests. He heard Andrew arrive back and a few minutes later he came into the bedroom. "Oh, wow, you got them all bathed already. Do you want some help or can I go down to the kitchen?", "I'm cool, thanks babe. I'll bring them downstairs for their dinner when I've got them dressed" Andrew went downstairs and checked the fire which was still too hot and not quite ready, then got busy in the kitchen with the chicken breasts, letting them marinade in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and fresh oregano. The other meat he had bought was thick meaty, precooked pork spare ribs that just had to be grilled to become sweet and sticky and unctuous. He had also bought a potato salad, a Greek salad and some beetroot in a balsamic and honey dressing. For Ryan's something tasty, he had two large slices of baked cheesecake with a sachet of strawberry coulis and there was ice cream in the freezer. When Ryan came down with Cameron and Elizabeth, Andrew had a big jar of chicken and vegetables baby food warmed up and two bottles of formula ready and he fed the twins while Ryan got the meat onto the coals and fed Rascal. Ryan fetched the pillows out of the guest room and put the twins into the playpen to drink their bottles. Andrew decided not to set the table and brought out two lap trays that he set with tray cloths and the silverware and just set all the salads out in the containers he had purchased them in. When Ryan came in with the cooked meat, they quickly helped themselves and sat on the couch to keep an eye on the twins and watch the sun go down. Ryan turned on the TV, keeping the volume low and they ate their dinner in comfortable, companionable silence while watching an English Premier League soccer match. When dinner was over, Andrew put the leftovers away and packed the dishwasher while Ryan made coffee and plated the cheesecake. His plate got a ball of ice cream as well. Ryan reclined on the couch, his back against the armrest with his legs on the cushions. Andrew reclined between his legs with his head on Ryan's chest and Rascal lay between Andrew's legs. The TV was still on but with the volume turned down. Andrew giggled as he heard and felt his husbands murmurs of contentment as he ate his cheesecake. His plate was balanced precariously over Andrew's head. "Babe, if you drip ice cream on me you're dead", he warned. Andrew felt Ryan's chest move as the laughed. "Ha, it will just give me an excuse to lick it off you", he teased. "As much as the idea might appeal to me, no thanks. No ice cream!" "Okay babe, I'll be careful". They were quiet for a while, then Ryan spoke again. "Drew, do you realise that with the opening and me being away, we haven't done any Christmas shopping yet. We have three days to Christmas". "I know. I thought about that when I was at the shops earlier. Maybe we should go to the mall in the morning", Andrew replied. "Good idea. Let's go early before it gets mad. We can get some breakfast at Mugg & Bean and then hit the stores", Ryan suggested. "I'm cool with that. Actually, it's good if we go tomorrow. Monday is Yvonne's last day before she takes her Christmas break. We need to get her gift before she leaves. By the way, I'm going to tell her to come back on the 10th. We're going to be away on the Kinley charter from the 5th until the 12h. It's no good her coming back if the house is going to be unoccupied for a week. She's still going to get her full monthly salary, so she won't be losing out", Andrew said. "Works for me!", replied Ryan. "We have really left things very late this year". "Yeah, things seem to have caught up with us. But with Donna and Craig staying with mom and dad, things won't be quite so hectic this year. And I'm taking the easy way out this festive season. We're having Christmas Eve dinner at The Cameron and Christmas lunch at Blue Bay. And New Years Eve at The Cameron. No entertaining here at home! We can't miss The Cameron's first Hogmanay celebration. Paul is refusing to reveal what they have got planned, except to say that all guests have been requested to have tartan somewhere on their clothing. You and I can just wear our cummerbunds I think with black pants and white shirts and we can dress the twins in the outfits they wore for the opening". "Who is joining us this year?" "Just the usual. Mom and dad, Donna and Craig, Marie with Jonathan, Beth and Nicky and Darren and Kerry will be joining us this year as well. I invited Kevin and Vanessa but they have a family thing on". When they had finished their dessert and coffee, they packed the dishwasher and locked up the house, gently lifted the babies out of the playpen and carried them upstairs to the nursery and put them into their cots and Rascal made himself comfortable on his bed. Ryan went for a shower as he was smelling a bit smoky from the grill so Andrew joined him, leaving the bathroom door open in case the twins woke up. They stood under the rainshower, letting the warm water cascade over them as they kissed and allowed their hands to roam over one another's bodies. Andrew had Ryan sit on the built-in seat in the shower, poured sandalwood shampoo into his hand and lathered up his short blonde hair, giving his scalp a sensual massage as well. He rinsed off the shampoo and pulled Ryan up onto his feet and started soaping up his body, working the soap into a good lather in the fur on his chest and belly. Andrew turned him around and did the same to his back, and Ryan groaned when Andrew massaged his back, shoulders and neck. He knelt down and soaped Ryan's feet and legs, moving up to his buttocks where he worked the soap into the cleft of his butt, and he groaned again when Andrew's fingers caressed his butthole. He slid his hand around Ryan's waist and found his husbands erection, stroking it up and down its full length. Andrew was leaning against Ryan, his own hard cock sliding through the soap in Ryan's crack. Ryan pushed back, allowing the head of Andrew's cock to rub against his butthole. He turned his head and found Andrew's mouth, kissing him deeply but tenderly. When they broke apart, Ryan said breathlessly, "Babe, I want to feel you inside me. Make love to me, my love" Andrew needed no second bidding and pushed gently against Ryan, his cock slipping into him easily due to the lubrication of the soap lather. Ryan bucked back again taking the full length of Andrew's cock into him. Andrew found Ryan's cock again and started stroking him in rythym to his own thrusts , his other hand teasing one of Ryan's nipples. The intensity of their lovemaking meant neither of them would last long. Andrew felt the muscles clench around his cock as Ryan erupted against the tiled wall of the shower, and he grunted as he came as well, thrusting all the way into Ryan's body. They kissed again, both breathing heavily as the water still washed over them. Andrew's cock slipped out of Ryan as he turned and took Andrew's face between his hands, kissing his eyes, nose, cheeks and mouth. "That was amazing. Maybe I should go away more often", he whispered, emphasising the should. "Now its my turn to wash you". Which he proceeded to do, with very similar results, only it was Andrew whose butt was getting a good workout. By the time they were all cleaned up again, the water was just lukewarm, but they hardly noticed as they turned it off and started drying one another and then slipped into their bathrobes and padded back into the bedroom. They checked on the twins and then turned off the lights, reclining on the bed with Andrew's head on Ryan's shoulder, the fingers of their hands interlinked, just being quiet together. Andrew gave a deep sigh of contentment and whispered "I love you, Ryan Devlin-Major. With all my heart" Ryan turned and kissed Andrew's head "And I love you, Andrew Devlin-Major. For ever and ever". They sat like that for a while until Andrew's regular breathing told Ryan that he had fallen asleep. He smiled at the dark head on his shoulder and moved away, guiding Andrew's head onto the pillows. Not wan ting to wake him up, he left Andrew in his bathrobe, but just straightened him out a little before fetching a blanket out of the cupboard, throwing it over the bed and getting under it with Andrew. Almost as soon as Ryan was settled, Andrew rolled closer, still fast asleep, to nestle against Ryan, his hand on Ryan's chest and his head on his shoulder. Ryan gazed at the sleeping man beside him, smiling softly, his heart bursting with pride and love. He moved his head against Andrew's , breathing in the scent of sandalwood from the shampoo and seconds later he too was fast asleep. The next morning, after another shower, separately this time while the other watched the twins, they fed the toddlers their breakfast cereal and headed for the mall, letting the twins drink their bottles of formula in the car. They arrived just after the mall opened its doors and were among the first tables in the restaurant for breakfast, taking a large banquette against the wall, placing the baby seats between them. After the exertions of the night before, they were both ravenous, so full house breakfasts were the order of the day accompanied by sides of potato wedges. Two cups of coffee and a shared custard Danish later, they were ready for their Christmas shopping with the first stops being the toy shops and toy departments of the various chainstores. Just over four hours later they emerged from the mall to head for home having managed to get gifts for everyone, and several for the twins, but not as many as the previous year. They had also each managed to slip away and buy gifts for one another. It wasn't a moment too soon as the twins were getting niggly from being cooped up in their chairs. They let the rugrats, and Rascal, loose on the lounge rug to get rid of their pent up energy as soon as they arrived home, keeping a watchful eye on them as they crawled and tottered around the living area, but eventually they returned to the rug and sat quietly playing with their toys, while watching some Coco Melon kiddies videos that Andrew had downloaded on the TV. They were facinated by the bright colours and catchy tunes, Cameron took a shine to 'The wheels on the bus go round and round' while Elizabeth enjoyed "Old MacDonald'. Andrew fed them some mashed banana and yogurt and then gave them their bottles of formula to drink, while Ryan carried everything up from the car. Within fifteen minutes, peace had returned to the house, as they had fallen asleep. After a quick lunch of ham, cheese and tomato rolls and a big mug of tea, they spent the rest of the afternoon wrapping and tagging the gifts and placing them under the tree behind 'Andrew's security fence' as Ryan called it.. They had just finished wrapping the final gift when the twins woke up. It was still quite hot outside even though it was past 4pm, so they took them for a splash in the pool, covering the toddlers heads with sunhats and rubbing on some sunscreen. Rascal ran around the pool, yapping excitedly and jumped on to the step into the water every now and then. The weeks leading up to Christmas had been quite hot, so the water was slightly warmer than normal, but still refreshing and the little ones had a blast, splashing and squealing and getting themselves and their dads thoroughly wet. Time passes quickly when you're having fun and before they knew it, they had been in the pool for an hour and with the sun now heading towards the horizon, the air was starting to cool, so they wrapped the twins in towels and took them back into the house to put on fresh diapers and just let them play like that until it was time for their bath. Andrew suspected that Cameron and Elizabeth might be drowsy after their swim, so he wasn't as all surprised when Elizabeth's head suddenly drooped onto her chest. She snapped her head up looking around, eyes wide as if say WTF, but less than a minute later her eyes closed and her head drooped again. A grinning Ryan bent down to pick her up, cuddling her. "Come to daddy, my angel. Are you exhausted from your swim? Let's go get your bathwater ready!, he crooned to her. She just nestled against his chest looking very sleepy.He stroked her head gently as he carried her upstairs to run the bath Not wanting to be left behind, Cameron tried to follow them but found his way blocked by the baby security gate at the bottom of the stairs and made his displeasure known by first jabbering loudly and then starting to cry. Andrew picked the unhappy little boy up and carried him up the stairs to the bathroom. He left Cameron with Ryan and returned downstairs to heat up the Lamb and Butternut baby food for dinner that night and make formula and start preparing their own dinner, which was going to be grilled lamb cutlets with a roast vegetable couscous and a Moroccan carrot, red onion and orange salad. When Ryan came down with the freshly bathed babies, he and Ryan fed them and put pillows on one the couches for them to lie down, drink their bottles and hopefully fall asleep, which they did before they had even finished the bottles. The two men stood, arms around one another's waists, gazing down at the two precious bundles that that been entrusted to them. Ryan shook his head and said softly, "You know, as much as they have changed our lives, I would not change it for anything. Had no idea what my capacity for love was, until these two munchkins came along. They never fail to amaze me. Watching them grow up and start developing personalities of their own is the most awesome privilege.". "I know exactly how you feel. I feel the same way. I thought that my love for you was all I had. And quite honestly, that was enough . And then they exploded into our lives. And I suddenly found I had sooo much more. And yes, they turned our world upside down but I can honestly say it doesn't matter one bit. Sure, we probably miss out on some social life, but for me, between the two lodges and "Belle Catherine", it more than makes up for it. And from the beginning of the year, if you are happy with it, I want to spend one day a week at both Blue Bay and The Cameron on Paul and Claude's days off to cover for them. We really need to appoint deputies for them but until then, I would like to do it. And maybe once a month, cover for one of them for a weekend. We could always move into a room for the weekend. What do you think?" "That's fine with me. What will that mean as far as the charters go?, Ryan asked. "Nothing, as far as I am concerned. I still want to do my share of charters as well. I enjoy them far too much to give them up. We'll just have to coordinate everything". "You seem to it all worked out, babe. We can only try it and see how it goes. Now how about we get our dinner going. What can I do to help?" "It's such a stunning evening, can you set up for us on the patio. When you're done , come to the kitchen and I'll find something for you to do", Andrew replied with a grin. "Such a slavedriver!" Ryan said and ducked as Andrew took a swipe at the back of his head. He hurried away, giggling to himself. Andrew had earlier cut some butternut, onion, red, green and yellow peppers, baby marrow and aubergine into a medium dice, drizzled it with olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander and some chilli flakes and popped it into the oven to roast. The aromas wafting from the oven were mouthwatering, which told him the vegetables were probably done, so he took them out and covered them with foil to steam for a while. The carrot salad was already made and in the refrigerator. He put a cast iron grill pan onto the stove the get smoking hot and when Ryan came back, he fed Rascal and then took the couscous out of the cupboard. "Okay, so how do I do this?, Ryan asked, holding the box of couscous in his hand. Andrew handed him a measuring cup. "Fill the cup with dry couscous and put into in a bowl. Add two cups of boiling water, give it a quick stir and cover it with clingwrap. Then when the cutlets are almost ready, you can fluff it with a fork, add the veggies and all the juices, mix it all together and it's ready to go. We may just have to pop it in to the microwave to heat up a bit more. But it's just as good at room temp." They set to their tasks, moving around one another with surprising ease and ten minutes later everything was ready. Andrew tasted the couscous, added a bit more seasoning and offered a taste to Ryan. Do you want it any warmer? I like it as it is" "No its great just like that. Let's eat, I can't handle all the lovely aromas any more. They're Moroccan aren't they". Andrew nodded. "Yeah, they are. Cumin and coriander spice are the backbone of North African cuisine. That's mainly what you are smelling. It's on the lamb cutlets as well." They filled their plates in the kitchen and carried them out to the patio to enjoy their meal. The night was windless with just a touch of heat remaining from the day, leaving the night air calm and slightly balmy. When the plates were empty, Ryan packed them in the dishwasher and put the leftovers into the fridge while Andrew rustled up a salted caramel sauce to pour over ice cream. Afterwards they lay on the couch in front of the TV, facing one another, watching a movie, or at least Ryan was. He glanced at Andrew who was deep in thought. He tapped his foot on Andrew's leg. "Okay, I know that look! What are you planning now?" he asked his husband, grinning. Andrew looked at him and snickered. "You know me too well, my love! I was thinking that I want to have Cam and Elizabeth christened early in the year, maybe end of January of early February, if it's okay with you." "How will it work with us not attending a church?", Ryan asked. "I don't want to do it in a church. We can do it here at home or at either of the lodges. I think Paul has a cousin or an uncle who is an ordained minister. We could ask him if he would be willing to officiate at the ceremony. It will just be the usual crowd, maybe a few extras, maybe twenty in total. Come to think of it, we could even do it on 'Belle Catherine'. She's got seating for twenty. It just means the guests will be split up between the saloon and the cockpit. But it could work", Andrew said, expounding on his idea. "I like that idea. It's something different" Ryan said, adding, "We could leave mid morning, sail round to Clifton or Blouberg and anchor off the beach, have the christening and lunch, spend the afternoon and sail back. Make a day of it. If all the guests are willing of course and it's a nice day. We want wind, but not a howling southeaster". Andrew nodded. "I'll contact Paul tomorrow to get the ministers number. I think we must aim for the end of January. If we decide to do it on 'Belle Catherine', it will obviously have to fit in between charters". He stood up and picked his laptop up from the dresser. "If I remember correctly, there is a free weekend at the end of January", he said, opening up the laptop and booting it up. He went into the reservations app and studied it. "Okay, the free weekend is the first one in February. I'm going to show it as 'Reserved'. Darren and Kerry get back from a four day on the Thursday before. So we have time to get her cleaned and squared away for the weekend. Come to think of it, we could do it on the Saturday. It doesn't have to be a Sunday" "Let's wait and see what Paul's minister has to say before we make a decision. He might have services to do at his own church on Sunday", suggested Ryan. "Just one thought though. If we do have it on 'Belle', what about life vests? Everyone will have to have one.!" Andrew looked thoughtful for a moment. "I think we may have enough. Remember, each of the cabins have two in the lockers at the foot of the bed. Then we have enough for a full complement in the locker under the helm seat. We may have to get a couple of smaller ones for the kids. The twins have theirs. And we bought one for Jonathan when they sailed with us the last time. I want to invite Yvonne and her family, and Kevin, Vanessa and Simone as well. So we would need to have another three kiddies sizes. We can tell everyone when we see them at Christmas and I'll contact those who aren't there once we know about the minister". Having missed half of the movie, they decided to call it a night and locked up, carrying the twins upstairs and getting them to bed before getting into bed themselves and watching the replay of the English Premier League featured match of the day on TV. Andrew nodded off just after half time, but Ryan watched to the final whistle with the volume down low. Ryan set the security alarm and then turned off the bedside light and cuddled against Andrew, throwing his arm over Andrew and holding him close. It wasn't long before sleep claimed him as well. Andrew woke in the morning the moment Yvonne entered the house, the 'thunk!' of the front door closing and the muted beep, beep, beep, beep of the alarm control pad as she entered her code, penetrating his subconscious. He peered at the bedside clock and scowled at it. It was already 7am. He and Ryan were still spooned together and he turned his head to listen if the twins were awake. He didn't hear anything, but paternal instinct had him slipping out of the bed to check on them. To his surprise, they were both wide awake with Cameron standing in his cot at the end adjacent to Elizabeth's, watching her play with a teddy bear. When Andrew came into the nursery, he got very amimated, moving his legs up and down as if he was marching in place and broke into a huge smile. Elizabeth looked up to see what he was getting so excited about and on seeing Andrew, she abandoned the teddy bear and also stood up, holding onto the side of the cot. "Morning daddy's angels! You've been so good this morning". Cameron was so excited, he was trying to climb up the bars on the side of his cot. Andrew picked him up and the toddler squirmed in his arms, so happy to be with his dad. Andrew kissed him on the side of his head and bent to take Elizabeth out of her cot, kissing her as well. His nose told him they both needed clean diapers, so he lay them down on the changing table in the nursery, just as Ryan walked in, yawning. "Morning my love, have you been up long?, he asked Andrew. "Morning babe. No just a few minutes actually. I couldn't hear any sounds when I woke up, and found them awake and keeping themselves amused. I woke up when Yvonne arrived. Can you go downstairs and ask her to make them a bottle. And get their cereal. They must be hungry. And some coffee. Please! I'll get them cleaned up in the meantime". Ryan pulled on a pair of track pants and a t-shirt, then hurried downstairs. Yvonne was just making herself some coffee. "Morning Vonnie. How was your weekend?" "Oh, good morning Mr Ryan. It was very nice thank you. Restful!" "Good to hear. Could you make bottles for the babies while I get their cereal and make coffee. We're a little late this morning. They didn't wake us up so Andrew and I overslept" Yvonne giggled. "Yes sure Mr Ryan. Why don't you go back and help Mr Andrew and I will bring everything up as soon as it's ready. Give me five minutes". "Thanks Vonnie. You're a star", he replied as he turned to go back to the bedroom. He helped Andrew get the twins cleaned up and they were dressing them when Yvonne knocked on the door. "Come in Yvonne", Andrew called and poked his head around the doorframe of the nursery."Morning. Thank you. Just put the tray down on the dresser. We're almost done getting them dressed" "Morning Mr Andrew. It's a pleasure. I put some rusks on the tray for you and Mr Ryan as well. Can I take the laundry basket while I'm here? "Yeah, just go through to the bathroom. It all in there", Andrew replied. She went into the bathroom and reemerged moments later with the basket, leaving the room and closing the door softly behind her. Ryan gazed after her and shook his head. "That woman is an absolute treasure. I don't think I have ever seen her in a bad mood". Andrew smiled. "You're absolutely right. We're lucky to have her. And Cam and Elizabeth love her to bits. She's a part of the family as far as I am concerned". They fed the twins their cereal and while they were drinking their formula on the bed, Andrew and Ryan got them-selves showered and dressed, before carrying them downstairs and leaving them in the playpen to play while they had breakfast. While they were eating, Andrew called Paul but he was in a meeting with his department heads going over arrangements for Christmas lunch and he was told Paul would call him back. When he was disconnected, Andrew looked up at Ryan and said, "Do you felt like a bit of exercise, babe?" "What do you have in mind, my love?", he asked with a grin, wiggling his eyebrows. "Behave yourself, Ryan Devlin-Major, there are children present. I was going to suggest we take Cam and Elizabeth for a walk on the beachfront and go pay Paul a visit. His meeting should be over by the time we get there and I can speak to him about the pastor", Andrew explained while battling to keep a straight face. "You should know not to ask loaded questions. But yeah, okay. A walk would be good. We actually haven't walked with them for ages." "Let's go then. The harnesses are in the drawer of the dresser downstairs", Andrew told him. "I'll just run upstairs and grab the backpacks and their sunhats". Ten minutes later, after telling Yvonne they were taking the twins for a walk and would be back for lunch, they were out the door and heading for the beachfront and The Cameron. It was a stunning day with just a light southeasterly breeze and the beach was already getting quite busy with large numbers of holidaymakers and locals already sitting under umbrellas and gazebos on the sand. Several windsurfers were taking advantage of the light winds to skim over the water and a number of surfers and waveskiers were floating just beyond the breaker line. They encountered the usual, joggers, walkers and cyclists along the way, both young and old, with everyone getting into the spirit of the season with smiles and greetings. It took them almost thirty minutes to walk the few blocks to The Cameron, stopping several times to watch a windsurfer or a surfer do their thing. They were also thrilled to see a school of dolphins sharing the waves with the surfers, their bodies clearly visible in the face of the waves before they broke. Abel swept the door open with a flourish as they ascended the stairs on arrival at The Cameron, his usual smile of welcome lighting up his face. The boys stopped dead as they stepped into the turret vestibule, taking in the scene in the lobby. The space at the centre of the two granite passageways where the oak table and flower arrangement had stood, was now occupied by a large, fresh Christmas tree, decorated in the traditional colours of red, green, and gold using gold bells in different sizes, red and green balls and bows in the Cameron tartan. Strings of tiny white lights spiralled down the length of the tree that was topped by a large angel in a cream dress with a Cameron tartan sash. Dozens of boxes of various sizes, wrapped in several different patterns of paper were arranged under the tree. It was very different to the one at Blue Bay, but it was equally beautiful. As they were admiring the tree, Paul appeared from the stairs to the basement conference room and walked towards them smiling. "Morning guys, I got your message. I was just on my way to my office to call you back", he told them. "Why were you calling, Drew?" Andrew and Ryan shook his hand and they walked down the passageway towards the reception desk Andrew said, "Firstly, your tree looks amazing. And I really like the pine cone and poinsettia wreathes around the wall sconces" "Thank you. It was all Richard and the housekeeper, Lisa's work. What were you wanting to speak to me about?" "We want to have these two munchkins christened in the new year", Andrew explained, indicating the now sleeping twins. "We don't want to do it in a church and I seem to remember you had a family member who is a pastor". "Yeah, that's right. My uncle. He's retired now, but still preaches when he gets invitations to so". "Do you think he would do the honours for us?, Ryan asked Paul. "I don't see any reason why he would refuse. Do you have a date in mind?" "First Saturday or Sunday in February. We haven't decided where yet. The options are either at home, here, Blue Bay or on 'Belle Catherine'. It will be a mid morning thing with lunch after and we expect to have roughly twenty guests", Andrew told him. "Okay, I'll contact him and get back to you. I must admit I don't have his number. I'll have to get it from my mom". "Great, thank you. We won't keep you. You're busy. We'll see you tomorrow night for Christmas Eve dinner anyway. You are joining us aren't you? " "Yeah, I'll be there. Richard is duty manager tomorrow night, so I am free". "Good, see you then mate. Have a good day ". Paul walked away to his office and Andrew and Ryan headed towards the main entrance, taking note of how the lodge was buzzing with activity and feeling a huge sense of satisfaction. Instead of turning right to the main doors, they walked straight ahead past the elevator lobby and lounge, to the restaurant and strolled through to the end, taking note of the small trees on each table, in place of the usual slim vase and flower, decorated with tiny tartan bows. They exited the restaurant onto the sundeck which was quite busy with late morning guests, some having tea and scones, while others were having an early lunch or just a snack to tide them over to lunch. They stepped down onto the grass and strolled around the pool deck and then took the pathway across the garden to the bottom gate and back onto the beach boulevard. Andrew looked back and broke into a wide smile. "You know Ry, I'm really proud of what we achieved here. Not that I'm not proud of Blue Bay. On the contrary, Blue Bay will always have a special place in my heart. She was the first. But when I bought her, the basics were already there. I just had to refine it. The Cameron was a sad, derelict building in danger of being demolished. And we saved it and turned it into something, I think, is very special. I truly believeit was money well spent". Ryan put his arm around Andrew's waist and held him close. "You put a lot of hours and yourself into it, babe. So don't sell yourself short. It's thanks to you and your insight that The Cameron is what it is today. You saw the potential from day one". "True, but I had lots of support along the way". They retraced their route back down the beach to the house, making sure that the twins were protected from the sun that was now beating down as the day headed towards midday. The beach was much busier, with the car parks adjacent to the beach being fully occupied and some cars even parked on the sidewalk. The twins woke up when they were halfway home and they gave them bottles of diluted grape juice to drink to keep them occupied and hydrated, that had been kept cool in the insulated holder in one of the backpacks. Yvonne had a simple salad wrap lunch ready when the arrived home, just utilising the left over meat from the BBQ two nights previously which they tucked into with gusto on the pool patio. Immediately after lunch, Andrew told Yvonne that she could go home and enjoy her festive season and short break while they were away on charter with the Kinleys. They gave Yvonne two Christmas gifts. One for herself and the other was a huge food hamper including a turkey and a gammon that they had in the freezer. In addition Andrew transferred her salary for the month and a double 'cheque' as a bonus which she got very teary eyed about and embraced them both tightly in thanks. Once she had left, they spent time with the twins, letting them open an early Christmas present which were little pull-carts that they put the toddlers into and pulled them around the garden, much to the little ones delight and then having a paddle in the pool. Paul called back in the mid afternoon to inform them that he had spoken to his uncle and that the christening was on for the first Saturday in February and that he had given his uncle their mobile numbers to call them and make all the arrangements. Paul also passed on his uncles number to Andrew. David and Janice also popped in for a visit, but didn't say long as they were on their way to the airport to collect Donna and Craig.
  9. Eventually, their time alone drew to an end and dawn on Sunday morning found them approaching the tiny harbour at the foot of Hermanus, a small seaside town on the southern Cape coast. They were a few hours ahead of schedule and they quietly found an anchorage in the harbour. Then they both went to lie down. Just after 08h00, Andrew's mobile buzzed in the locker next to the bed. At first, befuddled with sleep, he was puzzled by the sound. They had not heard the sound of a mobile for four days. Just as he realised what the sound was, it stopped, before starting up again seconds later. Before he could speak, a voice excitedly said, "Is that you guys on that aircraft carrier in the harbour? The big blue and white cat?" Andrew grinned. "Morning Paul, and yes, that us. We got in at about 05h00 this morning. Where are you?" "Still at the B&B. Just woke up, opened the curtains and saw the yacht. Just knew it had to be you guys. God, she's huge. Much bigger than I imagined. How are we going to get to you?" "We cannot get a berth in the harbour, so we've had to tie up to a mooring buoy. We'll have to drop the dinghy and fetch you at the bottom of the boat ramp. Do you know where that is?" "Yeah, I can see it from here. When can we expect you?" "I think let's stick to the plan for 10am. We're both quite tired, so we just crashed after we had tied up to the mooring bouy. We have a few things to do on board before you arrive and we have to go the harbourmasters office and pay for the mooring. Then pick you guys up." "How about I go the harbour master and sort out the mooring, then you can just come and collect us when you are ready. From what I can see from here, the harbour masters office is just adjacent to the boat ramp." "That would work. Have breakfast, check out, and come down to the harbour. Give me a call when you get to the harbour masters office and we'll come to fetch you." "OK, see you later" "I take it that was Paul", muttered a gravelly voice beside Andrew. "Yes, it was. He woke up, opened the curtains, and wondered," Andrew giggled, "if we were the blue and white aircraft carrier in the harbour? We're not that big are we?" Ryan looked sideways at Ryan. "Are you sure he's not gay? He can be a real drama queen sometimes." Andrew giggled again, getting out of bed at the same time. "Paul! Straight as a dye. Best friend a guy could wish for. Loves Marie to heaven and back! Right, priorities! We need to get our butts out of bed and get showered and changed. We have guests coming aboard in two hours. I need coffee and something to eat, and the cockpit table and seating needs to be changed back from a bed. Fortunately, the cabins are ready. We just need to open the hatches so that they can get some fresh air. Paul is going to sort out the mooring buoy payment, and we need to collect them and Donna and Craig at the bottom of the boat ramp at 10am or whenever Paul phones and says they're ready. As soon as you are ready, can you get the dinghy in the water and I'll rustle up some breakfast. How's that sound? Have I left anything out? "No, don't think so. Proverbial model of effeciency," muttered Ryan sarcastically. "Except, I didn't get my morning kiss and cuddle." "How about we share the shower. You might just get more than a kiss and cuddle," said Andrew, waggling his eyebrows. That got Ryan out of bed fast and they scurried into the bathroom for a shower that took slightly longer than normal. Freshly washed and dressed, both in the uniform of navy blue board shorts, white polo shirt and blue deck shoes, they both left the, now tidy, cabin and climbed the stairs into the saloon. Ryan went out on deck, did a check and walkaround and then launched the dinghy into the water, securing it to the stern. Breakfast was just bran cereal, fresh fruit, toast, preserves and cheese with tea or coffee. They quickly cleared up, changed the aft dining area back from bed mode, plumped up all the cushions and put out some brightly coloured scatter cushions that, up until now, had been stored in a locker. They had decided to present the yacht as it would be presented for any guests on arrival. For the arrival of their first 'guests', they had prepared the aft and midships cabins in the port hull, so the two cabins had been fully equipped with all the standard guest requirements including the fluffy white bathrobes. By 09h30, they were ready. They both stood in middle of the aft cockpit and looked around at their efforts.Andrew nodded, grinned at Ryan. "I think she looks great, don't you?" "Yeah, you were right about these coloured cushions. They add a nice splash of colour." "Ry, can you do the pickup. Then while you're gone, I'll get the welcome drinks organised" Part of the proposed package that they would offer arriving guests would be champagne, fruit juice or mimosas on boarding to welcome them followed by a quick list of do's and don'ts and a walk around, before being shown to their cabins. While they did the walk around with one of them , the other would move the luggage to the appropriate cabin. Andrew looked over to the harbour and saw a cab pulling up, four people emerging and removing bags from the trunk. He nodded in their direction. "I think that's them. Time to rock n' roll" Ryan pecked Andrew on the lips. "Be back in a few," before turning to walk down the scoop steps. He stepped into the dinghy and started the motor, after attaching the 'kill switch' to hix wrist, while Andrew untied the mooring rope and tossed it to him. The dinghy floated free and Ryan slowly motored away from the side of the yacht, before gunning the motor and racing away towards the boat ramp. Andrew quickly got all the champagne, juices and glasses, arranged it all on silver tray and set it down on the cockpit dining table. Then he went to the main control board and turned on the entertainment system, and selecting some instrumental music, pushed play, adjusting the volume so that the music could just be heard over the background noise. Then he walked back into the cockpit to see what was happening at the ramp. At the ramp, Ryan raised the motor and allowed his momentum to ride the bow of the dinghy up onto the ramp so that the front third of the dinghy was clear of the water. He pulled out the 'kill switch' and the motor stopped immediately, and then he stepped out onto the ramp before tethering the dinghy to a nearby stanchion. As he walked up the ramp, a young woman detached herself from the group at the top, running down towards him. He opened his arms and she ran into them. "Ooof sis, take it easy. You nearly knocked me over there." He hugged her to him. Donna lifted her face, smiling, but eyes swimming with tears. "I haven't seen my little brother since he got married. I think I'm allowed a suitable greeting." Ryan grinned down at her. The resemblance was evident to see. Both blonde and blue eyed. But where Ryan was tanned and robust, she was small, fair skinned and almost fragile. "Hello Donna, it's great to see you. How you doing?" She sniffed. "I'm great. All the better for seeing you though. I've missed having you around. You come back from the Med, we don't see you and suddenly, I am in Mauritius watching you get married, now here I am at the bottom of the country, about to board a yacht that you have a share in with your new husband" "Well, I'm pleased you're here. Things have been rather hectic since we got back, as you can see behind me. And I haven't met Craig either." He looked at her. "Does he know your little brother is gay and married, and that his partner is on the yacht as well?" She nodded. "Yes, he does. And he's fine with it. His sister has a partner. His parents are not happy about it, but he sees her often and we go out together." Ryan glanced up as Paul emerged from a doorway above and to the left. He looked down at Ryan. "Moorings paid for, we're good to go. How do we do this?" Ryan put his arm around Donnas waist and together, they walked up the ramp. Ryan shook Paul's hand and hugged Marie in greeting. Then turned to the other male in the group. Donna took Craig's hand and drew him closer. "Ry, this is my boyfriend, Craig Kenton. Craig, my brother Ryan." They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Then Ryan said, "Right, let's get you all on board and we can get going. Andrew's probably watching and wondering what we're chitchatting about. Is that all the luggage?" looking at the bags next to them. Without waiting for a reply, he grabbed two of the bags and started down the ramp. The others all followed, with Paul and Craig each carrying the remaining two bags. "You all get on board, just leave space for me at the controls. Then we can arrange the bags in the spaces left. Craig, could you get in first. Then you can support the ladies as they step in. Paul, could you just hold onto the handhold on the side of the bow to prevent her sliding back." Ryan pushed the dinghy back slightly until it was just beached on the ramp, then assisted everybody on board and made sure they were safely seated. Then, he shoved the dinghy clear of the ramp, and hopped over the bow immediately after. His shoes did not even get slightly wet! He seated himself at the controls, and inserted the 'kill switch' before starting the motor. Then he opened the throttle, and turned back to the yacht. As he approched the yacht he turned and slowly motored around the yacht, so that the guests could have a good look at her exterior, with Andrew keeping pace with them up on the deck. Then Ryan swung round and slowly edged up to the stern and tossed the mooring rope to a waiting Andrew, who swiftly secured it to the cleat on the side of the hull. Moving down the scoop steps, Andrew paused while Ryan gently nudged up against the scoop, then held the dinghy in place, as Andrew assisted everyone onto the yacht. Ryan then killed the motor and hopped aboard himself. He stepped up into the aft cockpit, where everyone was gathered and greetings were being exchanged. Ryan walked over and encircled Andrew's waist with his arm. Andrew did likewise. Ryan looked around at the faces. "Craig, have you and Andrew been introduced?" Five heads nodded in the affirmative and Andrew said "Yeah, I introduced myself to Craig as he came aboard." "OK guys, welcome aboard SV Belle Catherine." Andrew reached out and picked up the tray with the glasses and handed it to Ryan. "Welcome aboard guys. Champagne, juice or both? A bit of a confession here. As we are going to be doing charters, we've invited you on board test the waters, and act as guinea pigs, in a way. Hope you don'tmind? But most of all, we want you to have a good time and enjoy the cruise. OK, who wants what?" Once they all had a drink in there hands, Ryan cleared his throat and everyone quietened down. "OK, we don't want to be stuffy and regimented, but just a couple rules. Most of them are for your own comfort and safely, so listen carefully." "On the counter behind you are non slip loafers. Please wear them when on board or you can go barefoot whichever you feel more comfortable with. The deck you are standing on is flexiteak. It is a synthetic product that looks like real teak, but is softer underfoot and stays cool in the sun. It also marks very easily, so please, no dark soled shoes to be worn. If you are out on the side decks or the bow, wearing the loafers or being barefoot will prevent you from slipping. The yacht is very informal. And comfort is important. If you would prefer to be barefoot, no problem at all. Andrew and I are dressed in the uniform that our charter guests will see us in, at all times, except if we are at anchor and the water toys are out. Because you are family, and we consider you all as such, once we've got you settled, we'll change into less formal gear. We just wanted you to experience what paying charters will be getting." "Now while the yacht is very stable, we are still subject to the whims of the ocean and the wind. Andmotion can sometimes be erratic and unexpected. There are handholds all over the yacht so you should be OK. But, and it's a very big but - if you are going to go onto the side decks or the bows, we insist that you wear the safety harnesses that are in your cabins, especially if we are at sea. The harnesses have built in flotation devices. If you go out on deck, before you step out of this space, attach your harness to the rail in the roof. You can detach once you are on the bow deck. If you want to sit in the dolphin seats, attach your harness to the rail next to you. If you do happen to fall overboard, the harness will prevent you from becoming detached from the yacht. You can remove the harness if you want to sunbathe, but please keep them close and use them. Remember, this is for your own safety. Third, no open flame except in the galley or behind us on the BBQ. Now, this one is for the guys. I've already mentioned the unexpected movement. If you need to pee, I would suggest you sit down to do it." Marie and Donna burst out laughing at the look of horror on Paul and Craig's faces. "Ryan's not kidding guys", Andrew added. "If you're standing holding your dick and the yacht moves strangely or unexpectedly, not only could you get hurt, but you're going to be spraying all over the place." The two women, were by now chuckling so hard, they had tears running down their cheeks and were clutching at the counter behind them. Donna looked up with a very unladylike snort, "Oh my God, has my day just been made. The look on your faces. Priceless. No, make that my year. It's the funniest thing I've heard and seen in a long time. Oh man, am I going to dine out on this one", she giggled. The guys didn't seem to find it quite so funny, and Andrew and Ryan were both battling to stay serious. "It's just some friendly advice guys. Take it or leave it. But, if you make a mess, you clean it up." "Right," Ryan said, "let's give you the two penny tour. Right now, we are in the aft cockpit. Over on the right, forward is the helm station. No one touches anything there unless I say so. We will also probably take most of our meals here and will be the main gathering place. You came aboard via the stern scoops. The scoops are where most of the water toys will be deployed from. Under the seat over on the right is a cooler. It is topped up with beer, sodas, coolers and water. Help yourselves. If you want to cool down after being in the sun or wash off salt water, there are two hot and cold water showers at the top of the scoops in the overhead bimini. The taps are on the side of the top step." Ryan paused for a sip of juice and Andrew took over. Leading the group forward, he entered the saloon. "This is the main saloon, galley and over there, the indoor navigation station. Wine is in the cooler next to the door. The TV can pick up satellite TV, and there are numerous dvd's in the cupboard beneath the TV. Generally, one of us will put on some music. Let us know if you want anything in particular. I can't promise we will have it, but we could always try YouTube on the TV. To the left and right are stairs down into the hulls and the cabins. We gave five cabins in total, all with bathrooms, small, but perfectly functional. Your cabins are in the port hull, this way please." and Andrew led then down into the port hull. "Paul and Marie, we've put you in the aft cabin, Donna and Craig are in the midships cabin. Babe, will you show Donna and Craig to their cabin?" The guys showed everyone to their cabins, pointing out the TV and remote, the bathrooms, and how the electric flush worked on the toilets, the air conditioning controls and fans and most importantly, the escape hatches in an emergency. They all dumped their luggage and everyone returned to the cockpit where Ryan prepared to get them underway. He hoisted the dinghy from the water and stored it in it's cradle. Then he fired up the starboard motor, and after some manoeuvring, retrieved the mooring line, then slowly motored out of the harbour after advising the port captain that they we departing. Paul and Craig joined Ryan at the helm, while Marie and Donna kept Andrew company as he started preparation for lunch and dinner. Lunch would be Andrew's take on the chicken and mango salad from the lodge, while dinner was a seafood BBQ, with salads and garlic bread followed by pecan nut pie and ice cream. Andrew put some potatoes on to boil for potato salad and then grilled the chicken breasts and sliced the mango. Then he made a dressing using sweet chilli, buttermilk, and yogurt and arranged salad greens on a large platter, added baby tomatoes, cucumber, sliced peppers, spring onions and avocado - Andrew firmly believed that a salad was not a salad without avocado. Then he sliced the chicken breasts and poured a little of the dressing over them and arranged the slices on the platter, before adding the mango and some chopped cashews and silantro. This was served with a chunky seed bread and farm butter. The ladies assisted him with the table settings, the food was brought to the table and lunch was served. The southern African coastline slowly slid by as they sailed - Ryan had raised the spinnaker soon after leaving harbour. The wind was fresh and cooling and drove them forward at 10 knots towards Cape Town. Ryan sat back in the helm seat and looking at everyone said, "I have a suggestion. I think we should stop overnight in Gordons Bay. Then tomorrow, we sail around False Bay and spend the day anchored off Strand or Muizemberg. The water there is a bit warmer and we can deploy the water toys and have some fun. Maybe even go ashore for lunch. Stay where we are for the night, then set sail early Tuesday morning, to get onto Table Bay by 10h00 with breakfast at sea and then on to the marina by 11or 11.30. How does that sound? It will just give you the opportunity to get out and use the water toys." Andrew nodded. "That works for me. What time will we have to leave to get to Cape Town?" "Probably at about 04h00 to be safe. I don't want to get into Table Bay too early." "I like the idea, mainly because we won't be doing any night sailing, so no watches. It's easier on both of us." "I like the idea as well. I for one would love to get onto that tube and go for a spin," added Paul and everyone else agreed to the plan After lunch, the two new couples, retired to their cabins to unpack and get settled. Meanwhile Ryan and Andrew put out the deck loungers on the foredeck. Donna and Craig reappeared first, Donna in a swimsuit and sarong and Craig in a knee length costume and vest. They both had their harnesses and asked Ryan to assist them with wearing them. Andrew was relaxing on the sunbed at the side of the cockpit. "Ry, do you think the harnesses are necessary. The sea is calm, we have a following wind so she's not pitching or rolling. If they're careful and just make sure to hold onto the safety rail, I think it will be OK." Ryan looked at the sea and considered the movement of the yacht, then nodded. "Alright, I'll go along with that. Just hold onto the hand rail and be careful. Here, let me go with you the first time." and he led them along the side deck, showing them how to hold the rail and move forward until they were on the foredeck. He then repeated the demo with Paul and Marie who had by then appeared back on deck. Andrew filled a cooler box with drinks and took it forward for them to make use of and to minimize the risk of moving between the bow and the aft drinks locker. Then just before 4pm there was a flurry of excitement as a pod of dolphins was spotted in front of the yacht. As they got closer to the pod, the dolphins became more inquisitive and approached the yacht before taking up positions right in fr ont of the bows and swimming with them. Andrew went forward and showed their guests how to lie on the trampolines and watch the dolphins. After about twenty minutes they suddenly disappeared. Everyone was elated at what they had seen and it was a very happy group who eventually disappeared into the port hull to freshen up and change. Andrew and Ryan took the opportunity to prepare the BBQ and lay the tablefor dinner. Andrew then went down to their cabin, had a quick shower and changed, before coming back up to the saloon. Ryan wanted to shower and change as well, so with Andrew at the helm, keeping an eye on the autopilot, the two ladies offered to do the salads for dinner. When Ryan returned to the helm, Andrew took over duties in the galley. He made up a jug of cocktail for sundowners and set to work on the garlic bread, before starting on the seafood. They would be having crayfish tails, that they had bought off a trawler they had met at sea just before sunset the previous day, basted with lemon herb butter, fish parcels with tomato, onion, peppers, butter and white wine, and a mussel pot with garlic, white wine and cream. To go with dinner, he had done a potato salad with bacon and chopped hard boiled eggs, and a green salad with the inevitable avocado, this time in as a dressing. Once it was all ready, with just the seafood to be done, Andrew joined everyone else at the aft table, where conversation was lively and convivial - not that he had been completely excluded while in the galley, as the sliding windows in the rear bulkhead had been slid open so that he could participate in the conversation at the table. Just as the twinkling lights of Gordons Bay appeared ahead of them, Andrew fired up the BBQ and fetched the seafood from the galley. Once the grill was fiercely hot, he started the mussel pot and placed the fish parcels on the flat top grill. Then he placed the crayfish tails onto the ribbed grill and soon, mouthwatering aromas wafted around the table. He went back in and carried out the salads and the bread and placed it all on the transom top next to the grill.. When the seafood was ready, he called everyone to help themselves and went to collect the wine that he had chosen for dinner - his favourite Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc. By the time dinner was over, they had almost arrived at their night stop, the Gordons Bay Yacht Club. Andrew delayed dessert until they were tied up to the dock at the club and all the formalities had been dealt with. They were plugged into shore power, so the generator was turned off and the air conditioning turned up full, easing the muggy heat that had decended on them soon after lunch. Andrew served dessert and they sat chatting at the table until Ryan announced that he was turning in to be up for the early departure the next morning.Having had an almost full day of sunshine and sea air, they all decided it was a good idea and headed for their respective cabins. The boys secured the yacht, turned off all the unnecessary lights and went down to the master cabin where they showered to get rid of the BBQ smells and hopped in bed
  10. The purchase of the new property galvanised Andrew. Not that he would ever be considered lazy. But the project was just the sort of thing he thrived on and he jumped into it with both feet. By the end of the following week, he was already receiving quotes for the demolition and reconstruction phases. The guest bedroom was cleared and turned into the project office and Andrew could be found there on most weekdays poring over samples, from paint, to tiles and wood to curtaining and furniture to lighting. One wall had been turned into a whiteboard where he could see his choices for each area. The one thing, or rather two things that could draw him away, were the twins. 10 to 10.30, 12.30 to 1.30 and 3 to 3.30 were play time with Cameron and Elizabeth to be shared only with Ryan if he was home. They were a week away from their first birthday and every day they facinated and amazed Andrew more. And he loved them more. He knew without a doubt that the two little beings were the centre of his and Ryan's world. Everything else faded to insignificance against the twins. Transfer of the property deed had still to take place but, after a long call to the executors of the estate, and in light of the full purchase price already having been paid, they had been given full immediate access to the building, so the workmen could start. The first jobs that had to be done were to gut the rooms back to bare walls and floors. Most of the fixtures and fittings were in good condition so Andrew had a second hand dealer come in and salvage as much as he could. What was left was sent to the dump. The other was to have the air conditioning units, stripped and reconditioned to new status. Andrew appointed the same architects who did the additions to Blue Bay to draw up plans for the alterations and a building contractor was appointed as well. Their first job, under Gavin's watchful eye was to remove the two inner rows of columns to open up the lobby on the ground floor and some walls in the three bedroom apartments that would become the executive suites.. They also cut four openings in the turret where bigger windows would be installed. Work on the project started in earnest in the second week of August and before they had time to blink, itwas time to celebrate the twins birthday. Andrew and Ryan had discussed it and decided that because they were still so small and were unlikely to remember the event, they would not go overboard for the event, but rather keep the big splash for their 2nd birthday. The twins were going to be attending a nursery school from the beginning of April of the following year, when they were 18 months old. So there would also be more little ones who would be able to attend. Right now, the only other children they interacted with was Jonathan, Paul and Marie's little boy who was a couple of months older than the twins, and Simone, the daughter of Kevin and Vanessa, a young couple who lived two doors down with whom they had become friendly. Simone was almost the same age as the twins. so they were invited to the little celebration. The other guests were all the adults who had been involved in their first year of life, David and Janice, Beth and Nicky, Claude and François, and Darren and Kerry. Also invited was Yvonne who came with her husband Jeremy and their two children. Their birthday fell during the week, so Andrew and Ryan organised a lunch BBQ on the Sunday before, mainly for the adults, but there was also the usual birthday cakes, one for each of them, candy and chocolate, cheese puffs, crisps and ice cream. There was also two 'smash cakes' that the twins would be allowed to really get their little hands into and get messy. And lots of fruit juice to drink. The weather played along, giving them a warm, sunny, wind free mid winters day, so the party was held on the grass next to the pool. They put down a rug and fashioned a low table that the kids could sit at easily. The table was covered with a Disney characters cloth with a bunch of helium filled balloons attached to each corner. Each child was given a party bag that contained one of the Disney characters, the chocolates and candy, as well as a whistle and a party blower. The kids parents had been told not to dress them in good clothes and it proved a wise decision, because by the time the party was over, all the children, one or two of the parents, and Rascal, had evidence of cake frosting, ice cream or chocolate on their clothes. Cameron and Elizabeth got stuck into their smash cakes with much enthusiasm, pushing their hands into it and smearing it all over their clothes and faces. The other four decided it looked like a lot of fun so they got stuck in as well with the same result. By the time the proper birthday cakes came out, the smash cake was strewn over the lawn and Rascal was having the time of his life, eating it and rolling in it. The parents all knew they were going to have hyper kids that evening. They all sat in the warm sun between the kids and the pool while Ryan and David grilled the meat and they all ate on their laps when the food was ready. Andrew opened some of his Santorini wine which everyone commented on. The parents all had ice cream cones when the kids had theirs. The party was a great success and broke up when it started getting cooler in the late afternoon. David and Janice stayed to help clean up and then helped get the twins and Rascal cleaned up. As expected, they were both very hyper, like two little Duracell bunnies, but eventually their batteries ran down and they were out for the count. Rascal was also man down, having had far too much cake and he suddenly became Ryan's dog when he got sick and it had to be cleaned up. He was feeling very sorry for himself and slunk off to the nursery to sleep as well. When David and Janice left, Andrew and Ryan just had leftovers for dinner and were in bed early, quite exhausted by the days events. Their munchkins were growing up. They were one year old Work progressed well on the new lodge site. The contractors were working on Saturdays as well, having been promised a bonus by Andrew if the lodge was ready on time. Andrew fretted a little about going away, even if only for a weekend, but Ryan and sanity eventually prevailed and they preparedto attend Donna and Craig's wedding in Johannesburg. On the day of departure, Ryan dropped Rascal off with Claude and François for the weekend and they arrived at Cape Town International an hour before their 12.30pm flight, leaving Ryan's SUV in the short term parking garage and checked in at the SAA business class counters. Andrew had reserved four seats as bassinets were not available on domestic flights, even though the jet was an international wide body. The twins were in their air travel approved baby seats, the same ones they used in the cars, and could be secured to the aircraft seat with the seat belt. They just had to be with Andrew and Ryan for the take off and landing. Their boarding passes gave them access to the Baobab business class lounge and they relaxed there for thirty minutes with coffee and a slices of carrot cake anf cheesecake. Lunch would be served on the plane. Boarding occurred on time with families travelling with children permitted to board first. The business class cabin was empty when they entered it and found their seats four rows from the front. They sat the twins in their own seats while securing the baby seats to the aircraft seat with the assistance of a helpful flight attendant. Then they sat down in their own seats with Andrew at the window and Ryan sitting at the aisle across from where the twins would sit. The flight attendant brought them the infant seat belt extensions and helped them get settled, then brought them a pre departure drink and warm scented face cloths. Boarding either occurred very quickly or they had a light passenger load because the doors were closed not long after they sat down and were jolted by the pushback tug attaching to the front undercarriage. Andrew glanced around the cabin and counted about a dozen other business class passengers. The four massive Rolls Royce Trent engines growled into life, and the jet trundled along the taxiway past the FBO where they had boarded their private jet when they flew to Europe and turned left onto the southern end of the runway. The four engines behind them spooled up very quietly and the huge jet sped down the runway before pointing it's nose into the sky. They banked to starboard just opposite the nuclear power station and set course for Johannesburg. Once the seat belt signs were turned off they put the twins into their chairs, making sure that they were strapped in, and gave them bottles with camomile tea and formula to drink and sat down again. Drinks were served and shortly after a hot lunch was served. The in flight entertainment system was not activated, but the two hour flight passed quite quickly and they began the descent into Johannesburg International. They gently unbuckled the sleeping babies and put them back on their laps for the landing. When they were stopped at the terminal, it took a while to unfasten the baby seats and get the babies secured in the seats without waking them up. The flight attendants stopped the economy passengers to allow Andrew and Ryan to disembark with the twins, before allowing the economy passengers to proceed again. Their luggage was already circulating on the carousel, so they quickly loaded the bags onto two trolleys and with the twins on top of the bags, headed to the car rental counter to pick up the car. Ryan drove straight to the hotel where they checked in and unpacked their clothes to hang out for the wedding, while waiting for the babies to wake up. When they were awake, Ryan gave them some apple juice to drink and they changed their diapers and dressed them in clean clothes. The weather in Johannesburg was typical for the time of year. Warm, mostly cloudless days, but the temperature dropped dramatically once the sun started to set, leaving the nights decidedly cool. They packed something warm for the twins to wear into the baby bag, grabbed warm coats for themselves and drove to Donna and Craig's townhouse where the family were waiting for them. Donna and Craig were taking their imme-diate families and the bridal party to dinner before Craig would move into rooms at the venue with Clint, his bestman, for the night. The dinner was also where Andrew and Ryan would reveal the honeymoon destination, and Ryan made sure all the documents and vouchers were in his coat pocket. Once the family reunion was over, and the twins being kidnapped by Janice and Donna, they relaxed, had sundowners, fed the twins their supper and chatted until it was time to leave for dinner. The restaurant was an upmarket steakhouse, as Ryan later categorised it, and their party of fourteen wereseated at a long table in a semi private area on a raised section of the room. The menu consisted of the usual selection of steaks and grills, but they also had a carvery with three meats, potatoes, rice and a selection of vegetables. It was a very happy occasion with everyone in high spirits in anticipation of the wedding the next afternoon. Before dessert, both the bride and groom-to-be made short speeches and Donna finished off her speech with, "All we're waiting for now for my darling brother and brother-in-law to tell us where we're going on honeymoon". Andrew and Ryan grinned at one another and Ryan stood up, taking all the documents out of his coat pocket. "Okay sis, we'll put you out of your misery. First, you're booked into the honeymoon suite at the Airport Holiday Inn tomorrow night. Breakfast is included and anything else you need will be for our account. Then a limo will pick you up at 9am to transfer you to the airport. I know it's early, but it was a choice of early departure, decent arrival time, or decent departure and arrival late at night. Your flight departs at 11am on Kenya Airways in business class to Nairobi and a connection ninety minutes later to your final destination. Zanzibar! A driver will be waiting at the airport on Zanzibar to transfer you to the Diamond Gemma Dell'est Resort where you are booked into a suite on a fully inclusive basis for a week. We have included some spending money as well. Unfortunately, you have to slum it back as the timings of the flights on Kenya Airways between Zanzibar, Nairobi and Johannesburg were terrible. So you fly back on Mango direct to Johannesburg arriving at 6pm. A driver will also be waiting to drive you home." By the time Ryan was finished, Donna was in tears, her hand clutching Craig's. She jumped up and hurried to where they were sitting and hugged them both, thanking them profusely. Craig was also there to thank them and the table applauded them, saying it was an amazing gift. Ryan and Andrew stood and went through all the documentation with them to make sure they had and understood everything and then put it all in the folder and handed it to them. They didn't linger too long after dessert and coffee as everyone wanted to get a good night's sleep and Craig and Clint still had to go back to the town house for their bags before driving to their rooms at the venue for the night. Andrew and Ryan made sure the little ones were well protected from the cold when they left the restaurant, even draping a blanket over the baby chairs to keep the cold out. The drive back to the hotel was quite short and they were pleased to be back in the warm room. They put the babies on the second bed in the room and not long after, they were in the other bed, cuddling close for warmth until their body heat warmed the cold bedding. On the morning of the wedding, they had pleasant surprise. The twins slept until just before 8am. They debated whether the reason was the altitude or the blockout curtains that kept the room dark but never really came to a conclusion. The babies were, however, very hungry when the woke up and let their dad's know in no uncertain terms. While Ryan changed the squalling infants and tried to distract them, Andrew hurriedly boiled water in the room kettle and made formula for their bottles and to mix into the baby cereal. Andrew hated it when they cried so pitifully. The moment the first spoonfuls were in their little mouths, peace returned to the room. They wolfed the porridge down so they gave them some mashed banana and yogurt as well which disappeared just as quickly. They ordered breakfast from room service and ate their full English breakfasts at the table provided in the room, while the twins played on the bed. Ryan hung the 'Do not disturb ' sign on the door and they spent the rest of the morning watching movies and playing with the twins. Lunch was once again provided by room service, and then they started getting ready for the wedding. After each having a shower, they bathed the twins and got them dressed for the event before getting dressed them-selves. With the ceremony due to start at 4pm, they were expecting it to be quite cool already, so they dressed the twins warmly and they wore pullovers under their long thick coats. They both hung scarves around their necks, white for Andrew and baby blue for Ryan. The venue was located in a suburb on the outskirts of the city on a hillside property. A security guard admitted them into the parking area and showed them where to park. They left the baby seats in the car, preferring to carry the twins in their arms. They were parked on the lowest level of the property with the parking area surrounded by retaining walls clad in rock. A series of three staircases, also clad in rock, rose up from the parking level over two more terraces to the top level where everything was going to happen. The garden was very pretty, notwithstanding the time of the year, with numerous evergreen trees and shrubs and colourful winter blooms although the grass was dry due to the winter frosts. At the top of the last staircase, they paused and had a look around. A large swathe of grass lay in front of them with a thatched gazebo at the far end. Decorated with flowers, white draping and rows of chairs, it was obviously the venue for the ceremony. On the left stood the conservatory where the reception would be held, and Andrew had to admit, it was stunning. Encased entirely with glass on a white granite floor, the room looked almost fairytale like. White draping hung on the sidewalls and brass chandeliers hung from the beam in the centre of the roof. Round tables with delicate tiffany chairs were covered in white damask tablecloths that hung to the floor while white crockery and gleaming cutlery adorned the table. Dove grey and soft pink serviettes, simply folded in a long oblong lay on the silver coverplates and hung down over the edge of the table. Each alternate table had a pink or dove grey, scrunched up, overlay in the centre on which stood a small centrepiece of pink and white roses and two fat pink candles. At the far end was a parquet dance floor between the guest tables and a small bridal table for two, behind which stood two throne-like chairs. It was all soft and feminine, Donna to a tee. It was beautiful. A waitress offered them sparkling wine or strawberry juice and Andrew took one of both and mixed it, while Ryan had the bubbly. Then they strolled down the lawn to the gazebo where a number of other guests had already gathered. The pink and dove grey scheme had been carried through to the gazebo, with ribbon bows on the top frame of each chair and small posies with the same pink and white roses, held together by grey ribbon tieing, back the white draping to the gazebo supports. A dove grey carpet lay on the floor from the doorway to the podium. They stood around for a while, introducing themselves to a few of the other guests and, of course Cameron and Elizabeth soon became the centre of attraction. It was getting quite cold so they covered the babies heads with the hoods attached to the warm white jackets they wore. They were simply adorable and captured everyone's hearts. As 4pm approached, Andrew and Ryan walked into the gazebo chapel and sat down to await the arrival of the bride and groom. The canvas sides had been lowered and six tall gas patio heaters warmed the interior. They didn't have long to wait before Craig and Clint arrived wearing dove grey morning coats with pink rose corsages and pink bow-ties. Craig and Clint greeted them and the other guests and took a seat in the front row to await the bride, Clint sitting forward on the chair looking more nervous than the groom. Everything happened quite rapidly after that. Both sets of parents of arrived, greeting guests as the passed. David and Janice stopped where Andrew and Ryan were sitting and hugged them both, kissing the twins on the cheek. Janice hugged Craig telling him him how handsome he looked and David shook his hand before helping Janice to her seat. Then he walked back up the aisle at wait for Donna. Craig's parents and his younger sister sat down behind him. The other guests filtered in and took their seats as music began playing through the sound system. At precisely 4pm, the music stopped and the skirl of bagpipes sounded behind them as the piper moved down the aisle until he was standing at the front, but to one side. As he continued playing the melody Andrew didn't recognise, a flower girl dressed in pink, and a page boy dressed the same as the groom walked slowly down the aisle, scattering pink and white rose petals on the carpet. They were followed by Karen, the maid of honour. When she reached the front, the pastor walked in from the side and indicated for everyone to stand. The piper segued into 'Can you feel the love tonight' and Donna appeared at the end of the carpet on David's arm, looking radiant in a plain, but very elegant wedding gown with long sleeves all the way down to her hands and held in place by loops around her middle finger. The dress had a small Elizabethan style collar and tiny white beads and crystals on the bodice. Her filmy veil and long train were held on place by a tiara and she carried a bouquet of pink and white roses held together by long pink and dove grey ribbon. Her smile lit up the room and she made a beautiful bride. The ceremony was short and sweet, and in less than half an hour, Craig and Donna were man and wife. More music played while they signed the register and then, to the strains of Mendelsons wedding March, the bridal couple walked back up the aisle to applause from their guests, who followed them out into the garden and showered them with pink and white rose petals and congratulations. While everyone was outside, a team of workers removed all the chairs and replaced then with several tall cocktail tables. When the bridal group were called away for photographs, including Andrew, Ryan and the twins, the other guests were invited back into the gazebo for snacks and glasses of sherry, sparkling wine or hot mulled wine. Donna asked the photographer to do the photos with the twins first, so that they would not be out in the cold air to long. The photographer took a couple of shots with just the bridal couple and the twins, with Donna sitting on a rug, her train curled around in front of her, Craig squatting behind her and the twins sitting on her train in front of her, both with and without their hoods. Then photos were done with Andrew and Ryan and then the whole Devlin-Major family and her immediate family. Then Andrew and Ryan were free to return to the warmth of the gazebo. An hour after the end of the ceremony, the guests were invited to move into the conservatory and make themselves comfortable. Waiter service would be available for drinks. Andrew took the twins into the venue, while Ryan went to the car to fetch the baby seats and bag. While he was away, Andrew asked one of the waiters for a teapot of hot water and when Ryan got back, they made formula and warmed a jar of baby food in the hot water. They fed the twins and held them while they drank their formula and after a while, as expected, they fell asleep. They made them comfortable in their seats and covered them with blankets to keep them warm and sat back to enjoy the festivities. The bridal party arrived and the celebration got underway with the usual speeches and toasts. Dinner started with minestrone soup and parmesan croutons, followed by lamb on the spit, with baked potatoes and hot vegetables. Dessert was warm chocolate fondants with an Amarula custard. After dinner, the lights dimmed even further and the bridal couple opened the dance floor and then the party really got going. Ryan got two spare chairs and lifted the twins chairs onto them from the floor so that nobody would fall over them or worse, on them. Sometime during the evening, Ryan had to go to the gents and surprised Clint just as he was shrugging, somewhat awkwardly, into his morning coat. What stunned Ryan, however, was how pale the good looking man looked and the red streak on the back of his white shirt. Clint spun around with a look of absolute fear on his face, took one look at Ryan's face and realised that he had seen everything. "Please don't tell anyone, Ryan! I don't want to be the cause of Craig and Donna's day being ruined", he pleaded. "I won't say a word, Clint. Except to Andrew! I suspect I know what the problem is and my question is, why the hell you do it?" "What do you mean you know what the problem is?", Clint asked, looking very apprehensive. Ryan sighed and to a deep breath. "Okay, confession time! But then I need you to come clean with me too. Deal!" Clint nodded. "That CD our housekeeper found in the bedroom you and Karen spent the night in at our place. Andew did watch it". Clint's eyes widened in alarm. "He thought it was music and popped it into his laptop to check. I guess you can imagine his surprise when he saw it wasn't music. And as much as it disturbed him, he watched it all. He only told me about it when I questioned why he was so distracted. He told me something had happened and didn't know if he should tell me". "Why would he not tell you? You two are closer than any couple I have ever met", Clint asked, surprised . Ryan gazed at the man in front of him and said, "Walk with me. Let's find somewhere a bit more private. Anyone can come in here at any time" The two men left the gents and Ryan found a quiet nook in the garden and sat down on a bench. "Okay, now we can talk without being interrupted or overheard. The reason Andrew did not want to tell me about the CD was because he was afraid of the effect it would have on me" Clint looked puzzled. "I don't understand. How would my CD possibly have an effect on you", he asked. Ryan took another deep breath. "It's not something I like to tak about, but in saying that, it's not something I think about that much either. Six months after Andrew and I were married, I went out one night in the middle of a Cape winter storm to check that 'Belle Catherine's' moorings were holding. I was attacked on the dock, kidnapped and dragged to a shack at the end of the marina that virtually no one knew was even there, tied up, tortured and raped. Repeatedly!" Clint gasped, his eyes wide, as Ryan continued. "Andrew had no idea where I was. He went down to 'Belle Catherine' to look for me and all he found was my mobile phone and a toggle that had been ripped off my wet weather jacket in the struggle. All he knew was that something had happened to me. They searched for 24 hours before, thankfully, Rascal decided he needed to go out to do his business and found the shack I was being held in. I was in hospital for almost a week and in therapy for six months after that. If it hadn't been for Andrew, my family and friends, I honestly don't know if I would ever have fully recovered. But, thanks to them, I have. So now you know why Andrew did not want to tell me. What I want to know is, why do you do it? Why, for fuck sake, would you willingly put yourself through that sort of abuse?" "Fuck, that's horrible! Did they get they guys who attacked you?", Clint asked, his dark eyes troubled and brimming with tears, "Yeah, the arrested three of them. The fourth was killed in a shootout with the cops. They tried to get away on the day catamaran they owned, were spotted somewhere along the southern coast and tried to shoot their way out. They were all sentenced to life without parole in one of our high security prisons after the judge said they were a danger to the public. But you haven't answered my question. Why?" "I wish I could tell you for sure. My dad died when I was very young and my stepfather turned out to be a brute. He abused me in every way possible and told me if I ever told my mom, he would kill her and make me watch. Then he would kill me. So I never said anything until he died in a work related accident while I was doing my national service in the army. Then there was an incident when one of the other recruits tried to bully me. I retaliated and put him in hospital with a broken jaw and concussion. Apparently, as I was laying into him, I was saying things I don't even remember saying, but the other recruits told the investigating officers when they were asked what had happened. As a result, I was sent to 1 Military Hospital to be psychologically evaluated and for the first time, I told my doctor what my childhood had been like. Now that I think about it, my sonavabitch step dad died soon after. Maybe it wasn't work related after all? But anyway, the therapy I got seemed to help for a while. But then, I don't know? Something just drew me to sadomasochism. I go through periods when I'm fine. But then the urge comes back again" "Clint, all I can say is, get some expert help! If you want, I can contact the shrink I went to in Cape Town and get some recommendations from him for someone up here", Ryan suggested. "Yeah, I think it's time I did something. If you could do that I would appreciate it. And I'm sorry about what you had to go through. And making you talk about it again. It couldn't have been easy". "No problem. Are you going to be okay? Your back didn't look good". "I'll be fine. The cut had just dried against my shirt and it pulled loose when I moved while we were dancing". "Okay, if you say so. And if you want to talk, both Andrew and I are a phone call away. Understood!", Ryan said as he stood up and extended his hand, which Clint grasped and they shook hands. "Thank you Now I know why Craig says you and Andrew are good guys". They strolled across the garden to go back into the reception. Andrew noticed Ryan coming in with Clint, immediately taking note of their serious faces. They split up and headed towards their respective tables. Ryan moved his chair closer to Andrew's and put his arm around his shoulders. "I was just beginning to get worried. You were gone for quite a while", Andrew said, looking at him. "Sorry, my love. I just had a very interesting chat with our hunky groomsman. It seems he very recently had another session. I walked into the gents and saw blood on the back of his shirt. And so we had a chat about it", Ryan explained. Andrew's eyebrows rose almost into his hairline. "And!", he enquired. "I'll tell you all about it on the way back to the hotel. Suffice to say, I think I've convinced him to get some help. Now, I would like to dance with my husband", Ryan replied, grinning.and holding out his hand to Andrew. The music was slow and they danced close together, moving as one, completely at ease with one another. . Andrew stared into Ryan's eyes for a moment, then whispered, "Are you okay?", he asked, emphasising the 'you'. Ryan smiled and nodded. "I am now. Now that I have you in my arms", and leaned forward until their lips met in a soft, but very meaningful kiss. "I love you", Ryan whispered when they broke apart. "And I love you, my love. More every day". They boogied until late, only leaving just after Donna and Craig left for the hotel at the airport. The twins had, miraculously, slept through all the noise. On the drive back to the hotel, Ryan told Andrew all about his conversation with Clint. On arrival back at the hotel just before midnight, they stopped at reception to order hot chocolate to be sent up to the room and carried the sleeping twins upstairs. Andrew had been clever and they had dressed the babies in baby-grows under the white jackets, so they didn't have to worry about disturbing them too much to get them into bed. The hot chocolate duly arrived and they drank it while watching muted highlights of the days English Premier League matches before showering and getting into bed. David and Janice joined them at the hotel on Sunday morning for breakfast and traveled with them to the airport for the flight back to Cape Town. Once again, the flight was on one of the daily wide body jets used on the route and unknown to David and Janice, the boys had upgraded them from economy to business class. As they approached the check in counters Andrew stopped and said, "Give me your ID cards and we'll check in for you." So they handed over their ID's and Andrew and Ryan went to the business class counter to check in. When they came back, Ryan handed boarding passes to his parents and he and Andrew waited expectantly for their reaction, which wasn't long in coming. Janice glanced at the boarding pass and said, "Oh, that's nice, we're sitting quite close to the front. 5A" David looked at his wife, puzzled. "Jan, love, put on your glasses! That must be 15A. We're in economy". Janice gave David a glare of annoyance. "I don't need my glasses, David. I can read perfectly well without them. It definitely says 5A" She grabbed David's pass out of his hand and looked at it. "And yours says 5C" She glanced up at Andrew and Ryan who could no longer contain themselves and started laughing. She suddenly had an inkling that something was up so she looked at the boarding pass again. After a few moments she said, "Wait a minute!. This says business class at the top!" Her head snapped up and she looked at Andrew and Ryan, her eyes wide. "What have you two done? Why do your father and I have business class seats?" "Because, mom, there was no way you were going to be in the economy cabin while Ry and I are up front. So we upgraded you" She came to stand in front of Andrew, looking up at him and waving a finger. "Andrew Devlin-Major! This is your doing! It wasn't necessary but thank you. It's a lovely surprise". She hugged him and kissed him on the cheek, doing the same for Ryan. "Okay, let's head up to the lounge and we can relax for a while before we board", suggested Ryan. They gathered their cabin luggage and headed through security to the business class lounge where they had a drink and some snacks while waiting for the boarding call. As the boarding time neared, they left the lounge for the departure gate and arrived just as the call for families travelling with children was made. David and Janice we not allowed to board with Andrew and Ryan, but made an appearance just as they were finishing up with securing the twins chairs to the seats. Their seats were directly behind Andrew and Ryan and diagonally across from where the babies seats were. The flight was a lot busier than the flight from Cape Town, with business class being fully occupied. They were served a hot lunch and the twins sat with David and Janice for a while before falling asleep after drinking their camomile tea bottles. They landed on time, collected their luggage, and drove home, stopping off at Claude and François to collect Rascal, arriving home less than an hour after landing. Work got going in earnest at the beginning of September. The sign that had advertised the auction was replaced with one that said 'The Cameron, another Lodge of Distinction in the Devlin-Major Portfolio. Opening mid December. Full service and self - catering 1, 2 and 3 bedroom suites', with a large rendering of the exterior and smaller ones of the lobby, restaurant/bar and a bedroom. By the middle of the month, most of the demolition work had been completed, with only a handful of rooms still to be stripped of fixtures and fittings and four openings for windows in the rear of the building for the offices. Several related developments also took place. At a meeting held at Blue Bay Lodge, Paul was officially appointed General Manager Designate of The Cameron. At the same time, Claude was appointed General Manager of Blue Bay and his assistant was appointed as Head Butler in his place. All appointments would be effective at the beginning of October, but Andrew wanted the recruitment and training process to commence as soon as possible. A training program was established to train prospective staff for The Cameron. Paul was tasked with recruiting the new personnel starting with his management team and put in place a training program for the junior staff. Claude was to recruit suitable candidates as butlers and train them up to his standards. Once an Executive Chef had been appointed, he was to recruit his team and get them up to speed. All the new recruits, both management and junior staff would undergo training at Blue Bay, to Paul and Claude's standards, and then work alongside the staff at Blue Bay for one month until The Cameron was ready to receive them from the middle of November. The month of September produced a flurry of activity on the project site. All the plans had been approved and instead of demolition, there was now construction. Builders were busy on the ground floor, erecting the walls that would contain all the offices. The left side of the building, as viewed from the garden would be the administrative part of the lodge, housing the offices, the reception lobby and lounge, and concierge desk, while the right hand side housed the guest lounge and bar , restaurant and kitchen. The area had not been big enough for a function room, so a part of the basement under the restaurant had been sacrificed to accommodate a function room big enough to host a wedding with 60 guests. A sunken patio, clad in the same sandstone as used in other parts of the lodge, was being excavated off the function room with stairs going up to the grass near the pool and would covered by a new timber deck that would be built across the front of the lounge and restaurant. Sliding glass doors would allow access to the patio . Another large project was the construction of a driveway from the beach road, up the left side of the garden and across to the portico, where it would encircle a fountain and pond and join up with the boundarypart of the driveway again. The actual construction phase on the ground floor did not take long, as only a few walls had to built and electrical and plumbing services installed and by the second last week of September, the site looked like an anthill, with workmen all over the place. First, the bathroom fittings were all installed and cupboards fitted in the bedrooms and kitchens. A platoon of painters started painting the rooms, starting at the top and working down to the function room. As a room was finished and the paint was dry, the tiles in the bedrooms and living areas were laid as well as tiles in the high traffic areas and tiles replaced in the bathrooms where necessary. They had found that the bathrooms were all tiled in white, floors and walls, and in 90% of the rooms, they were in perfect condition, just requiring a good clean. All this occurred through to the end of October. The beginning of November was crunch time on a number of fronts. Firstly , it was the official start of the summer cruising season, although 'Belle Catherine' had been out to sea twice in October on 5-day charters. Due to Andrew being so involved with the lodge project, it was left to Ryan, Darren and Kerry to handle the charters and eventually as opening day of The Cameron drew closer, it was just Darren and Kerry as Ryan was needed at the new lodge. The administration offices were handed over, although the ground floor guest areas were not yet complete, and the management team moved in to prepare for the opening. Each department head was requested to supply a wish list of equipment they required, to be submitted to Paul by the end of the first week in November. Andrew, Ryan and Paul in conjunction with the specific department head would then go through the list and decide what was absolutely needed and what could wait. In most cases, the department heads all got what they had requested. In the bedrooms, carpenters were busy installing cupboards and, in an idea Andrew had stolen from 'Texas Lass', plinths in the master bedrooms of the 3-bedroom suites and the penthouse suite. Once they were complete, all the carpetting was fitted. Electricians were also fitting all the lighting. In mid-November, Andrew celebrated his birthday, but it was a very muted celebration as it was quite hectic at The Cameron with the big pieces of kitchen equipment being delivered and fitted and the bedroom furniture that Andrew and Paul had selected and ordered started arriving as well, the first delivery being all the beds. It took two full days to get them all into the rooms. After that, there was a steady stream of furniture deliveries and by the start of the last week in November, all the bedroom furniture was in place, dusted and polished by the housekeeping staff who had moved over from Blue Bay in the middle of the month. All the bedrooms required now were the soft furnishings like curtains and comforters. All the bed linen was already in stock in readiness for the beds to to made up for the first time. The laundry was working at a hectic pace to get all the linen washed before their first use. The other staff who moved over were the reception personnel, as the website went online and reservations opened. A huge sticker was stuck across one corner of the signboard at the bottom of the property proclaiming 'Reservations now open from 19 December'. The ground floor guest areas were handed over in the last week of November as well, once the tiles and carpets had been fitted. All the remaining staff moved over from Blue Bay and it was all hands on deck to get everything in place. Housekeeping moved into the lobby and started cleaning and polishing and at the same time, the plastic was removed from the furniture to be put in place as directed by Andrew, who seemed to be all over the place, assisted by Ryan and Lisa, the housekeeper. The restaurant staff did the same with the restaurant, supervised by Richard, the Food & Beverage manager and when all the furniture was arranged, it was all wiped down and the tables were covered with cloths for the first time. By the second Tuesday in December, The Cameron was ready for business. From the Wednesday for the next five days, a whole list of invited guests would be checking in for two or three nights to 'test drive' the new establishment, including a number of members of the press and tourism organisations. Paul, Marie and Jonathan were moving in until the morning after the official opening, which would be conducted by a very special VIP that Andrew was keeping secret, even from Ryan. They were allocated one of the big 2 bedroom executive suites. David and Janice would be staying for three nights as well, as would Claude and François. Davis and Janice would be staying until the opening as would Beth and Nicky. Darren and Kerry, and Kevin, Vanessa and Simone would be in for two nights. Andrew, Ryan, the twins and Rascal were also staying until the opening, but would be spending time in all the room categories during that time. On the Monday before the arrival of the first guests, Andrew, Ryan and Paul did an inspection tour of the building. Paul was armed with a clipboard and notepad to jot down any problem areas and they started at the beach road entrance. As they stood where Andrew and Ryan had stood on the Sunday morning they had walked down to have their first look at the property, they felt an enormous sense of satisfaction and pride. The once sad looking, rundown, vacant building now throbbed with new life. Columns had been added to the low wall on the roadside boundary and the wall was now topped with elegant wrought iron grille fencing, through which the building was perfectly visible. On the left, a square arch with big double wrought iron gates and gatehouse guarded the tarred driveway that swept up the side of the garden to the roundabout with its fountain at the main doors. Colourful flower beds and shrubs interspersed with solar powered lights lined both sides of the driveway and beyond that, a large swath of lush, green grass swept across the garden, divided by the rock clad pathway, also lined with flowers and lights, that led down to the small gate in the wall. A discreet sign in a niche at the top of the archway revealed the name of the building - 'The Cameron. A Devlin-Major Portfolio Lodge of Distinction'. At the top of the garden on the right, large cream parasol umbrellas shaded sunbeds with deep green cushions arranged around the swimming pool. Large pots with all manner of plants and flowers were scattered around the garden providing splashes of vibrant colour. The building itself looked brand new. The stonework had been cleaned and the plasterwork repainted a soft cream. All the windows were sparkling clean and hung with drapes. Soft lights were visible in the rooms behind the windows and figures could be seen moving around. They re entered the grounds through the small gate and walked up the pathway to the turret where the main doors were now situated. On both sides of the horseshoe shaped turret, large small paned French doors had been fitted with one set being the main entrance and the one opposite giving access to the wooden deck across the front of the guest lounge, bar and restaurant. Five oblong windows in the front of the turret now revealed the warmly lit interior staircase and the wall sconces that provided the light. The deck followed the shape of the turret to the lobby side where it ended against the wall of the ground floor with another water feature. Three wide, shallow steps with black wrought iron handrails rose from the roundabout level to the deck and main doors, protected by a heavy duty canvas awning. A porter, dressed in black trousers and a cream coloured Madiba shirt with the Clan Cameron tartan on the collar and cuffs opened the door for them as they mounted the stairs. His name was Abel, and was Thomas' son, Andrew's doorman at Blue Bay. He had his dads personality and broad smile and even though this was his first job, Andrew could see that he loved what he was doing and took pride in it. He beamed at them as he swept open the door. "Good morning gentlemen. Welcome to The Cameron " "Good morning Abel", they chorused. Andrew looked at him, smiling. "It's like having a younger version of your father here. Thank you". "You're welcome Mr Andrew. My dad said he would whip by backside if I disappointed you and him". "Well, just do what you're doing now and you will be fine. Remember, if you are not sure of something, just ask. And if you are not happy with the answer, you can come to me. Okay! ", Andrew told him. "Thank you Mr Andrew. I will remember that". They passed through the doors into the turret vestibule. Pale cream granite tiles covered the floor and swept in a wide passage across the main lobby to the elevators on the left. Directly ahead , they looked through the matching doors to the restaurant deck, while to the right was the entry/exit for the turret staircase. In the main lobby, a four-legged, clawed, round oak table stood on the granite floor at the intersection of an equally wide passage that stretched the length of the ground floor between the columns, now clad to waist height in the same oak as the table, as was all the woodwork in the lobby, restaurant, bar and lounge and all gleaming warmly. The table carried an impressive arrangement of flowers. In the lobby , the imposing, stained oak reception desk was positioned at the far end of the granite passage with carpets woven in the Clan Cameron hunting tartan fitted on either side of the passage way, the area on the window side being twice as wide as the area on the rear side of the lobby, which backed onto the concierge desk, gift shop and offices. Comfortable couches in cream leather and high backed tub style, oak framed armchairs were arranged around oak coffee tables. The armchairs were upholstered in a variety of fabrics, including cyan blue leather and old gold velvet, with scatter cushions in red, green, old gold, blue and the tartan, Hunting and Modern. A gleaming, French - polished baby grand piano occupied the far corner. Cream shaded brass table lamps stood on low oak tables on either side of every alternate column and wall sconces were fitted to the remainder. Two large, wrought iron chandeliers hung from the ceiling above the passage way and three matching smaller ones hung over the seating areas on either side. The windows overlooking the garden, beach and sea were hung with soft, cream drapes with tartan tiebacks. Several of Janice's works hung on the walls, but were only temporary . She was currently busy with a number of paintings of the area around Fort William using photographs taken by Andrew and Ryan and these would be hung before the official opening. It was a very different look compared to Blue Bay, but Andrew's influence was very evident. On the other side of the elevator lobby, the small semi private guest lounge and bar overlooking the garden was decorated in a very similar style to the seating in the lobby, while part of the kitchen occupied the corresponding space on the left of the granite passageway. They entered the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, all of the new equipment gleaming and chefs busy with whatever task they had to do. They stopped to chat to James Murray-Botes, the new, young executive chef. He had impressed Paul with his enthusiasm when he came for his interview, and had a distinct advantage over the other candidates. One of Andrew's criteria for an executive chef was that he or she be able to provide at least one item of Scottish cuisine per category on the restaurant menu and James had a Scottish mother who had taught him to cook and he had brought all that knowledge with him. He carried his mother's genes as well, being fair skinned and lightly freckled with strawberry blonde hair. They didn't keep him long, as they could see he was busy. Not only was he having to deal with a new kitchen and kitchen brigade, but he had on official opening cocktail party to come, as well as providing the normal meal menu in the restaurant. In addition he had a Christmas lunch and a New Year Hogmanay dinner to arrange which were both already almost fully booked. Back in the restaurant, an L-shaped buffet area was placed on the left, fronted with granite tiles as well. The two and four seater oak tables were arranged in straight rows on the Cameron Modern tartan carpet, with the two seaters on either side of the columns. Three large round tables seating eight were placed in the two front corners and in the centre of the room in front of the windows. The stained oak chairs had green upholstered seats and backs. The tables were covered in cream damask cloths with matching serviettes and carried heavy silver plated cutlery and white crockery with a thin green and gold line on the rim. Wall sconces were fitted onto the columns on both sides and the same style chandeliers as those in the lobby, hung from the ceiling. The same cream drapes with tiebacks framed the large sliding doors onto the wooden deck. Between the lounge and restaurant, a staircase had been built, descending into a small lobby off the basement conference room which was deliberately decorated as neutral as possible to make function decor easier with off white walls and a charcoal grey carpet. The room was fitted with LCD down lights and black wrought iron wall sconces. The room also had an audio visual system and a large TV screen flipped up hydraulically against the ceiling. White curtains with blockout lining framed the three sliding doors onto the sunken patio. The stackable chairs with dark grey frames had seat cushions upholstered in the Cameron hunting tartan. Off the function room foyer were guest cloakrooms and at the rear of tge room was a small service kitchen with two dumb waiters to the main kitchen upstairs. Retracing their steps, they entered one of the elevators and toured the accommodation floors. The basic decor of all the rooms was essentially the same. The one and standard two bedroom units had pale cream walls and deep green carpets with red, gold and blue flecks in the bedrooms and off white tiles in the lounge/diner and kitchen. The executive 2 bedroom, 3 bedroom and penthouse suites were exactly the same except for the master bedrooms where the king beds stood on a raised 200mm high plinth covered in the green, flecked carpet down to the off white tiled floor surround. Concealed lights illuminated the underside of the bed. The stained oak headboard had a padded insert covered with Cameron tartan, either Hunting or Modern. Two oak bedside tables stood on either side of the bed fitted with bedside lights The bed was covered with a plush cream comforter, edged with the tartan and a light tartan throw lay across the foot of the bed. Matching cream curtains with blockout lining hung on either side of the door to the patio, under an oak framed valence with a matching Cameron tartan insert and tiebacks. The fitted cupboards were oak with black wrought iron handles and covered the wall in front of the bed. In the middle was a niche that housed aTV that slid into a housing below allowing the space to double as a mirrored dressing table. The corner between the plinth and the patio door was occupied by two easy chairs upholstered in cream and gold stripes with a small square oak table. A small chandelier, in effect a miniature of those on the ground floor hung in the centre of the room. The bathrooms were all fully tiled and fitted with a separate bath and frosted glass fronted shower, basin and toilet. Thick white towels hung on the rails with matching hand towels and face cloths and the guest amenities had a sandalwood fragrance, the same as used at Blue Bay and on 'Belle Catherine'. The lounge/diners had no light fittings hanging from the ceilings, only down lights, wall sconces and two brass table lamps with cream shades. The curtains were the same as the those in the bedrooms, with similar valence treatments. The cream leather couches and two easy chairs in deep green or red velvet stood on a Cameron Modern or Hunting tartan rug with an oak framed, glass topped coffee table. The two table lamps stood on two of four matching side tables on either side of the couches. The dining table, with four to eight chairs, depending on the number of bedrooms, was oak with the chairs upholstered in a matching tartan. An oak cupboard stood against one wall in the lounge on which a TV stood, while a dresser stood next to the dining table with all the required linen. The kitchens were functional, light, bright and modern with white cupboards, granite tops and all the equipment and basic gadgets one would normally need for a household. The crockery and cutlery were basic white and good quality stainless steel, while the glassware was plain and functional. In the penthouse, the superyacht influence was more evident. As with the executive suites, the master bed was on a plinth, but the lounge and dining room had a distinct superyacht feel with both rooms openingup onto the patio, and were light and airy. Three cream leather couches faced away from the patio in a U-shape with a stained oak and glass coffee table between them, all placed on a tartan rug with a cream tile surround. A long oak wall unit was centred against the wall that held the sound system, retractable TV and small bar refrigerator. Two reproduction bronze sculptures stood guard on either end as did two elegant standing lamps on either side of the balcony doors, which had the same valence treatment and drapes as the other rooms. The sliding doors and windows onto the patio were the same as well, but had voile curtains behind them. Both could be opened and closed remotely. The dining room was separated from the lounge by a low wall, open on the patio side. An oak dresser stood against the wall in the dining room, and held all the crockery, cutlery, glassware and a small selection of linen with matching serviettes. The round 8-seater table was the same oak and the high backed chairs had oak frames and striped cream and gold upholstery. It too stood on a fitted tartan rug with cream tile surround. A shallow chandelier was fixed to the ceiling over the table and there were two sconces on the wall. The kitchen was also open plan but could be closed off for privacy if required. The patio had a hot tub and patio furniture with two light coloured parasols. Plant pots were arranged against the walls with various shrubs and flowers providing greenery and colour. Across the elevator lobby, the spa was ready for business as well. Michelle and Joselyn, who operated the spa at Blue Bay Lodge, had also decided to expand to The Cameron. Michelle would stay on at Blue Bay, while Joselyn moved across to run the spa at The Cameron. The two bigger bedrooms were treatment rooms, while the third was a small 3 seat hair salon. The lounge and dining room had been kept separate, with the lounge becoming a small but well equipped gym and the dining room housed the spa reception and waiting room. It was all tiled. The patio had a few small tables and chairs, a sauna and a small tub that was used as a plunge pool. Andrew couldn't stop himself from smiling. He was extremely happy with what he saw. The contractors had done a fantastic job in just a few short months, albeit with the added incentive of a bonus should The Cameron be ready on time, which it was.
  11. They wouldn't be home for long however, as they were flying up to Knysna to sail 'Belle Catherine' home to get her ready for the summer cruising season after her refit and upgrade. That would be at the last week in July and Ryan had allowed a week for the trip, wanting to investigate the coast on the way back to put together a plan for the Kinley family in December. Then in the last week of August, the family would fly up to Johannesburg to attend Donna and Craig's wedding. In the midst of all that, it would be time time celebrate the twins 1st birthday. They also put a plan of action in place to begin the search for a second lodge property to compliment Blue Bay Lodge, starting with a meeting with Paul and Claude, two days after their return from Europe. The discussions were long and sometimes heated, with Paul voicing his concern that the two properties would be competing with one another, but Andrew eventually prevailed after going through his PowerPoint presentation showing the number of room nights that the lodge was turning away due to the lack of availability. Paul was correct in saying they would be in competition, but Andrew felt Blue Bay had a solid enough base of loyal clients and reputation to maintain its growth and position in the market, and that the business they were turning away could be channeled to the new property while it builds it's own client base. The new property would also be aimed at an slightly different sector of the market. Obviously, if the new property was full and Blue Bay had room available, the business would be passed on to Blue Bay. By the end of the meeting, everyone was happy and the decision was taken to find a second property. And with that, the Devlin-Major Portfolio was born, with the motto 'Lodges of Distinction', and Ivan was contacted to keep an eye out for a likely property. A week later, Darren and Kerry returned from their vacation and two days later, they and the Devlin-Major family, including Rascal departed for Knysna, flying to George and then driving the final sixty kilometres to the seaside town, arriving in the mid afternoon. They drove straight to the small harbour, where 'Belle Catherine' had been put back into the water the day before. She was moored to the quay, with Steve and a small group of assistants on board dusting, cleaning and polishing to get her ready. Her hull gleamed from the the new finishing coat she had been given and she looked pristine. Steve stepped onto the quay when he saw them arrive and came to meet them. "Hi guys, good to see you. How was Europe?" "It was great", Ryan replied, shaking Steve's hand. "But it's even better being back. This is Darren and Kerry, our second crew", introducing them, and they shook his hand. Andrew shook his hand as well. "Hi Steve, good to see you too. She's looking fantastic. Just like new", he said, looking at 'Belle Catherine'.Steve turned to look at the yacht, beaming. "She does look great, doesn't she? It helps that you guys look after her so well too. I must say, the safety netting makes her look quite solid, sturdy. I'm pleased you went for the white mesh. It blends in with the superstructure so it doesn't look like an add on, but rather that it was there from the beginning. We're just about done. My guys are just getting her spick and span. When do you want to leave?" Ryan answered, "Probably day after tomorrow. We seem to have a bit of a weather window for the next week or so. We'll provision her tomorrow and set sail early on Wednesday. We're in no major hurry to get back. We have a couple of things to do on the way home. Planning an itinerary for a returning client." "Well, let's get you guys on board and settled. We'll be out of your hair within the hour". All the luggage, plus the twins and Rascal, was transferred on board and placed in the cabins, with Darren and Kerry opting for the port aft guest cabin and they returned to the upper deck to have a look at the changes that had been made, the twins looking around with curious eyes. Rascal just jumped onto the seating, curled up and fell asleep. The seating in the saloon had been reupholstered in a slightly darker cream leather. All the woodwork had been sanded back and revarnished and looked richer. All the appliances had been serviced and new crockery and cutlery was stored in the cupboards and drawers. Most importantly, safety gates had been fitted at the top of both flights of stairs down to the cabins in the hulls. Stepping out into the aft cockpit and deck, the changes were very noticable. All the cushions in the cockpit had been replaced with thicker, more comfortable ones, still in the dark blue with cream piping. Three bucket style chairs had replaced the cushioned timber ones used previously, taking up a bit more space, but being far more comfortable. Sturdy stainless steel gates had been fitted to the entrances of the aft cockpit from the scoops and at the forward end of the saloon on both port and starboard side decks. The strong, white mesh safety netting was attached to the inside of the railing stanchions at three points, running from the stanchion just forward of the gates to the top of the scoops, and from the top railing to the deck with just a tiny gap at the bottom to allow for water runoff in bad weather. It effectively meant that, in the event of the twins getting past the gates of the cockpit, there would be very little chance of falling overboard with the safety netting in place. It also made the side decks a safer place to work for the crew, particularly in rough seas, although all safety protocols would still be in place. Andrew turned to Steve, his smile wide. "She looks amazing Steve. As good as new. Thank you", he said to Steve, shaking his hand. "Andrew, it's only a pleasure. I like what you've allowed us to do to her. A lot of the features we're going to include in our brochure as optional extras. The whole child proofing thing has been a very interesting exercise and one we're going to use as a selling point". One of his workers approached them and Steve turned to him. "Mr Steve, we are finished. We can go" he told his boss. "Thanks, Jonas.Have you got all the equipment?". "Yes, Mr Steve, already in the van". Steve turned back to them. "Okay, guys, she's all yours. Happy sailing". They exchanged hand shakes and he stepped onto the quay, waving goodbye. Ryan looked around the yacht. "Okay crew, let's get unpacked and organised. It's already getting quite late and the cupboards are bare. Are we going to go shopping or are we dining out tonight?, he asked, glancing at Andrew. "We can actually do both. We can eat out tonight, but we need to go shopping for a few essentials .We can do the big shop for the trip back tomorrow". He grinned at the group."Are we all going shopping or is one partner unpacking while the other goes shopping?" "I'll stay here and unpack", Ryan offered. "And watch Cam and Elizabeth. It will be easier if they stay here". "I think Kerry should stay and unpack. You're better at that sort of thing than I am", Darren suggested. "Andrew and I can go shopping". "Great", Andrew said. "Darren, would you start a check on what stores we do have. I just need to transfer payment to Steve for the haul out." Andrew set up his laptop, made the transfer and then he and Darren had a quick check through the cupboards to see what was still there. The freezers were empty as the yacht had been without power while she had been on the hard. Then they took the car and drove into town. They returned about an hour later with several bags and packed every-thing away before going to their respective cabins to help. It started getting really chilly when the sun went down, so Ryan turned on the generator so that the air conditioning could be run without depleting the solar batteries which would have to run the air conditioning through the night. They ultimately decided that instead of taking the twins out in the cold, they would get take out and dine on board. After the twins had been bathed, and they and Rascal fed, Ryan and Darren drove to one of the local steakhouses for steaks and spare ribs which they tucked into when they got back, sitting around the table in the saloon where it was warm and cosy with the sliding door to the cockpit closed and the heat turned up on the air conditioning. Ryan shared some of his meat with Rascal who was sitting under the table at his legs, nudging him every now and then to make sure Ryan hadn't forgotten about him. After dinner, Andrew hooked up his laptop to the entertainment system and they watched the footage that he had filmed in Europe. Darren and Kerry were in raptures over 'Texas Lass' and when they watched the beach club being opened up they were both slack-jawed in amazement. They loved the islands, especially Santorini, and made the decision to visit the Greek islands at the first opportunity. Afterwards, they drank coffee and watched a movie, going to bed quite early in anticipation of a busy day ahead and the voyage back. The next morning after a hearty breakfast, Ryan arranged to move 'Belle Catherine' to the yacht club to use the fuel dock to top up the diesel tanks, get fresh water and stay the night. They were provided with shore power so warmth would not be a problem that night and then they all went shopping, leaving Rascal sleeping on the bed in the master cabin. On their return the safety netting proved its worth when an excited Rascal, ecstatically happy that they were back and was scampering around, got too close to the edge of the deck and would have gone overboard had the netting not been there. As it was, his one back leg got stuck between the deck and the bottom of the netting causing him to yelp in alarm and pain and Ryan had to rescue him. He had a bit of a limp for two days after which he was his old self, but he made sure he stayed well away from the deck edge., walking right up against the saloon windows if he was on the sidedecks. After lunch, the rest of the afternoon was taken up with packing away all the provisions, unpacking what had been stored in the lockers and getting ready to set sail. Ryan and Darren ran their own checks on the mechanical equipment, even though they knew Steve and his people had already done it and dropped the protection screens around the aft cockpit so that the area could be used as well, while Andrew and Kerry prepared some meals for the freezer, just be on the safe side, and Rascal kept a faithful, watchful eye on the twins who were now crawling well. They set sail the next morning after breakfast. Ryan had decided to wait for good light before attempting the passage between the Knysna Heads, the narrow channel that had to be negotiated to get to the Indian Ocean from the Knysna lagoon which was normally fairly rough, but could get very dangerous in certain conditions. It did prove to be quite rough and 'Belle Catherine' rolled and pitched as they motored through the channel. But once out into the open sea and away from the coast, her passage calmed and she sailed slowly and serenely southwest, pushed by a steady southerly wind, cutting across the wide mouth of the shallow bay that lay between Knysna and Mossel Bay at its southern end. On approach to Mossel Bay, Andrew contacted the local yacht club and managed to arrange a berth large enough for them to tie up to and they glided into the harbour in the early afternoon after lunch. The plan was to stay for two nights to investigate what attractions the town offered with a view to including it in the itinerary for the Kinleys. Immediately after mooring, they all headed to the yacht club to pay the fees for which shore power and water was included and to introduce themselves. The commodore met them in the members lounge overlooking the marina and they told him of their reason for stopping over. He was very enthusiastic, and gave them a few ideas which they investigated after hiring a SUV, including the Batholomew Dias Museum which contained a full size replica of the ship on which Dias arrived in 1488 and the Post Office Tree, where, in 1501, a Portuguese sailor who sought refuge in Mossel Bay from a storm, left an account of the storm under the tree in an old boot. The letter was found by the person it was addressed to and became the place to leave messages. Today, the tree has its own post box, and letters and postcards can still be posted from the tree with a special stamp obtainable from the hotel or restaurant nearby. The next day, they also visited the Inverroche Gin School @ Café Gannet, where after a tour of the distillery and a tasting, they could each craft their own unique bottle of gin to take home. The final attraction they investigated was the 1.1km long zip line over the ocean where speeds of 80km/h are achieved. Kerry took one look and decided it was way too adventurous for her, so she watched over the twins while the guys rode the zip line, their screams of exhilaration, or terror, she wasn't quite sure which, fading in the distance. The three thrillseekers arrived back at the zip line offices slightly damp and cold but completely exhilarated, they piled into the SUV and drove back to the yacht for hot showers and a change of clothes. Another excursion that Andrew jotted down was a drive to Oudtshoorn to take in the Cango Caves and an ostrich farm. It would be a full day excursion and could be done from Knysna as well as the distances were relatively similar. Dinner that night was Janice's good rib-sticking chicken and prawn curry with rice and rotis, just right for the cold weather. Ryan set sail before breakfast with a breezy wind blowing from the south and a bit of a swell running, but 'Belle Catherine' handled the conditions with ease and it was pleasant sailing. They enjoyed a big breakfast in the aft cockpit, which was proving to be a bit of a sun trap with the screens down, and pleasantlywarm, although they all had an extra layer of clothing on too, including the twins who crawled around on the deck quite happily in warm baby grows with hoods. Ryan briefed them on what he had planned, telling them, "Today and tomorrow, I want to call in at Still Bay and Witsand. I'd like to have a look at Cape Agulhas today as well to see if we can access the marker at the top of the cliff from the sea. If not, the only way to the marker will be from either Arniston or Gansbaai which we will check out tomorrow. Then we head for Hermanus" Andrew made a big pot of tomato soup laced with sherry and cream and toasted cheese sandwiches for lunch which went down a treat. At Still Bay, they anchored in a small sheltered cove and went ashore to explore. The small seaside village was located at the mouth of the Goukou River. They found the tourist information centre where they were told that the river was navigable for a distance of 15 km upriver from the mouth, so they took the dinghy upstream to investigate, finding several nice secluded spots where they could anchor the yacht and have dinner or a beach braai on the banks of the river. At Witsand, they were stunned to find the seas off the tiny town populated by dozens of Southern Right whales. At the visitors centre, they were told that the small bay is well known for being a whale nursery, where the Southern Right females came to calve and nurse their babies, although by the time they wanted to come back in January, the whales would already have moved on. They sailed out of the bay with great care when they departed, with Andrew and Darren both perched on either bow to ensure they didn't collide with any of the huge creatures or their calves. Arriving at Arniston, they found a small, very sheltered harbour where they could berth. Once again, the local visitors centre was the first stop and they were extremely helpful, advising that the marker at Cape Agulhas was only accessible from the landward side through the nature reserve. There were tours available from the town to the marker and when Andrew enquired, he was told that there was one vehicle rental company in the town. Gansbaai would be a highlight of the trip, where they would go shark diving They were not able to do a dive on the day they were there due to a very heavy swell, but Andrew and Ryan had a long chat with the tour operators to discuss their requirements and were assured that it would not be a problem Ryan and Darren took turns at the helm, their main job being to keep them on course and to keep a wary eye out for whales and far larger, maritime traffic plying the busy seaway up the east coast of the country as they were sailing quite far out to sea to escape the fairly heavy swell closer to the shore. Ryan had been studying the weather forecast for the next few days and looked up from the laptop. "Okay crew, we've got another cold front heading in from the northwest. We are going to have to take shelter in Hermanus for a day or two until it passes. It looks like it could be quite intense", he told them. "There are worse places we could take shelter", commented Andrew."I should probably contact the port authorities and see if we can secure a berth. I don't want to be moored out in the bay in a storm. From when will we be needing the berth?" "We should be off Hermanus on Sunday afternoon. So to be on the safe side, try for three nights, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. It should be calm enough to sail home on Wednesday. Are you all okay with that?" Everyone nodded in agreement and Andrew went into the saloon to contact Hermanus port office, return ing fifteen minutes later. "Okay, all organised. We have a sheltered berth in the lee of the breakwater, which will protect us from the swell and most of the wind. I've also hired us a car to get around in. There is no way that I'm going to be in the area for a few days and not visit Southern Right and Hamilton Russell to top up on wine. Maybe Wildekrans as well. I would see us spending a few days here with the Kinleys as well. So the wine estates are a must, and I'd like to take them to Caledon for the day to visit the hot springs, spa and maybe the casino at the Caledon Casino Hotel & Spa. So I want us to take a drive up there as well", he told them. Darren and Kerry grinned at one another. He looked at Andrew and Ryan saying, "That's one of the reasons why we enjoy working with you guys. You really care about the client and you go above and beyond to make sure that they have the best experience possible. And we get to see places in the country we would probably never visit on our own. Like Caledon! Never knew they had a hot water spring, let alone a casino!" Andrew grinned back at him. "Then you're in for a treat. The hot water spring flows into a large pool called the Victoria Bath built in 18 - god knows when. It was originally a sanatorium treating people with chest ailments. The water apparently has healing properties. The sanatorium burnt down and a hotel was built on the property and early in the 2000's it was upgraded and refurbished, the casino was added and a whole new spa complex was built around the existing bath. It's incredibly popular for weekend trippers from Cape Town" "And how hot is the water?", asked Kerry. "The last time I was there, which is before my parents passed away, it was as hot as a good hot bath. I must just check though. I seem to remember the baths being closed on a Monday to be drained and cleaned. So we might have to go on Tuesday" They arrived off Hermanus late in the afternoon, having had to motor the final 50km due to having to lower the sails as the wind was beginning to strengthen and blow directly over the bows, and the harbour master guided them to their berth in a small dinghy. When they were securely tied up to the quay, Ryan and Darren connected them to shore power and water, and checked the decks and mast making sure everything was battened down for the approaching storm and that the buffers were deployed on the starboard side that was closest to the quay to prevent possible damage to the hull, while Andrew went to collect the rental car. They had an early dinner ashore at one of the local steakhouses, bringing back a couple of doggie bags for Rascal to snack on. Andrew had to park the car in a parking area a short walk away from the yacht, so it was a slightly windswept and damp group that sought refuge and warmth on board when they got back, having to protect Cameron and Elizabeth from the wind and the spindrift blowing over the breakwater from the waves crashing against it. Andrew and Ryan put the twins to bed in the master cabin while Kerry made everyone big mugs of hot chocolate which they laced with their liquor of choice and settled down to watch some satellite TV. After a while, they became aware that the wind was building in intensity and rain was drumming on the roof of the saloon as the storm approached. By the time they went to bed, the wind was howling and the rain was bucketing down. Ryan checked that the aft cockpit was staying dry, impressed at the effectiveness of the protection screens, before locking the security gate and closing the sliding door and going to join his family in the master cabin. The morning dawned grey, wet and blustery with low, heavy looking cloud and a steady rain. The wind had abated slightly but was still strong enough to cause the rain to fall at a slant. Inside the yacht, it was warm and cosy as they emerged from their cabins and peered through the windows at the miserable weather outside. Andrew got busy in the galley with breakfast, while Ryan dressed the twins and showered. When Kerry returned to the saloon after her shower and dressing, Andrew left the rest of the breakfast prep to her and went to shower and dress himself. He and Ryan brought the twins with them when they came back from the cabin and Ryan fed the twins while Andrew finished breakfast prep with Kerry. It was warm enough in the aft cockpit, so Darren set the table and they all sat down to a hearty breakfast of oats porridge and bacon and scrambled egg with toast and mugs of coffee, watching the rain stream down the clear windows of the protection screens. Darren and Kerry cleaned up the breakfast things while Andrew and Ryan packed a bag for the twins and they waited for a break in the rain before making a dash for the car. Andrew drove through the town towards the mountains. Halfway there he turned into the Wildekrans Wine Estate where he bought a case of Estate Chenin Blanc and had a tour of the cellars with the wine master himself. Then they drove the short distance to the luxurious Arabella Hotel for lunch before negotiating the Houw Hoek Pass through the mountains to Elgin, the centre of the apple growing area where they toured a factory and bought apple juice and cider. Ryan drove back to Hermanus, having to drive very sedately due to the rain that sheeted down as successive squalls passed over and they arrived back in the late afternoon. It took two trips to unload the car and transfer all the purchases to 'Belle Catherine' and when it was done Andrew and Kerry set about preparing a sweet and sour pork dish with an apple cider based sauce, stir fried vegetables and rice, while Ryan sorted out the twins and fed Rascal. They ate in the saloon with the twins between them and Rascal under the table nudging Ryan's leg for titbits. Everyone thought the dish was a keeper so Andrew and Kerry sat down and formulated a recipe on the laptop, printing out a copy for the file of recipes in the galley. After dinner, they cuddled with the twins, watched some TV and when the babies fell asleep, took them to the cabin and put them to bed. For the first time since they returned from Europe, Rascal, who had hardly allowed Andrew and Ryan out of his sight, lay down next to the cribs on his bed, curled up and stayed, watching over the twins. They went back to the saloon, but stayed just long enough to have some hot chocolate before everyone decided to head for their beds in anticipation of a fairly early start the next morning for the outing to Caledon. When they woke up the next morning, it had stopped raining, but it was still very windy with a fairly large swell running. Grey clouds scudded overhead revealing blue patches and some weak sunshine every now and then. Andrew and Ryan fed the twins their porridge and they all had coffee and rusks before leaving for the one hour drive to Caledon on the same road they drove the day before, except instead of going left to the pass, they turned right for the forty minute drive to the resort. The road passed through lupin, canola and wheat fields on either side, the blue and yellow flowers of the lupins and canola adding vibrant colour to the otherwise dull day. The road pased above the small town with the entrance to the resort just out of town. Andrew was pleased to see the parking area was sparsely occupied and hoped that most of those were people who were in the casino. They paid the entrance fee which included entrance to all the resort facilities, except for actual spa treatments, and parked close to the entrance to the spa complex. The resort was built on the slope of a hill with the spa complex situated above the hotel and casino with the parking area between. Andrew was even more pleased when they walked into the Victoria Bath to find it completely deserted apart from the attendant at the door. The bath was housed in a slightly oblong building open to the sky, but with a covered veranda supported by columns surrounding it. Steam rose from the surface of the water almost filling the void. They explored the spa area, touring the treatment areas and rooms, then climbing the rock stairs up the hill to the very top where the spring emerged from the side of the hill before cascading down in a series of rock pools, each pool bigger than the one above it. They returned to the Victoria Bath, collected towels from the attendant, hired fluffy bathrobes and went to change into their bathing suits. Andrew and Ryan took the twins in with them, just allowing the lower half of their bodies into the water as it was warmer than their normal bath water. Even that proved to be very relaxing and it wasn't long before the babies were both asleep in their dad's arms. They wrapped the babies up warmly and let them sleep in their baby seats on a lounger next to the pool. They spent the morning in the pool, emerging slightly pink and feeling very languid, got dressed, returned the towels and robes and explored the rest of the resort, wandering through the casino, hotel and gardens, before having lunch in the buffet restaurant in the hotel. To drive back to Hermanus, Andrew took the back route, driving down the hill from the resort, into and through the town and into the Hemel and Aarde (Heaven and Earth) valley where Hamilton Russell and Southern Right were situated. They made two quick stops to get two cases each of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc and rejoined the road they had driven out on, just outside of Hermanus. Back on the yacht, they were welcomed home by an ecstatic Rascal. Ryan took him for a walk along the cliffs while Darren topped up the fuel tanks for the run to Cape Town. They slipped out of Hermanus just before sunrise, under a partly cloudy sky and with enough of a swell running to make their progress just slightly uncomfortable, but it improved as the day wore on. The westerly wind meant motoring all the way across the mouth of False Bay, where the wind began veering south as the storm passed and by the time they rounded Cape Point at the tip of the peninsula and turned north, a steady breeze was blowing from the south and they could finally raise the mainsail and spinnaker and cut the engines. They made good time up the peninsula and they cruised into the Waterfront marina shortly before sunset. Andrew, Darren and Kerry got the boat squared away and secure while Ryan went to fetch the car which David and Janice had collected from the airport and parked in one of the bays allocated to Andrew's apartment where Darren and Kerry were living. The younger couple offered to close up the yacht so Andrew and Ryan packed the car, transferred the twins and Rascal to the back seat and set off for home, stopping to buy some sushi on the way for dinner. The twins were unhappy by the time they arrived home as it was more than an hour past their normal dinner time, so the first thing they did was get the babies bathed, fed, cuddled, and when they had fallen asleep, put into their cots to sleep. Only then did they sit down in the lounge to relax and have dinner. Andrewopened a bottle of wine to enjoy with the sushi and he rustled up some ice cream and chocolate sauce tosatisfy Ryan's sweet tooth. The day at sea had left them both quite weary, so they went upstairs early to shower and get some sleep on a stationary bed. Over the next two days, they didn't do much, just staying at home and spending time with each other and the twins. They discussed the itinerary for the Kinley family and emailed it to Dan and Joan. They received a reply two days later with the go ahead. The cold front had moved on, so Cape Town was basking in the glorious, windless winter sunshine days that are so typical of a Cape winter once a storm has passed. They took the twins for walks along the beachfront, keeping them well wrapped up and had David and Janice around for dinner on the Friday night. They had a BBQ, and decided to forego the usual salads for potatoes and a selection of vegetables grilled over the coals. Andrew whipped up a malva pudding which he served with hot custard and dinner was sorted. They talked about the arrangements for the wedding, Janice's exhibition at the lodge and the plans to look for a new property to compliment the lodge. David and Janice were leaving for Johannesburg at the end of the following week to be on hand to assist with the final bits and pieces in the run up to the big day, which was being held at a venue that normally hosted outdoor garden events in the summer, but had a beautiful glass conservatory for indoor events, which was where the reception would take place. The ceremony would be held in a gazebo on the same property a short distance from the conservatory. Andrew and Ryan had told Donna and Craig that their wedding gift to them would be the honeymoon, including a hotel room for the night of the wedding and that all the bridal couple had to worry about was their clothes and passports. When asked what they should pack, all Ryan told them was to pack for warm weather. The destination would remain a secret until the day before the wedding when the Devlin-Majors arrived in Johannesburg for the nuptials. The exhibition at the lodge was going very well. All the original works had been sold and replaced with a second batch of which more than half had been sold and Janice had a few more on hand should they be required. Ivan had sent Andrew a couple of emails with pictures of prospective properties, but none of them had caught his eye and he had not followed up on them, just calling Ivan to tell him to keep looking. On the Saturday morning after the dinner with the Majors, Andrew and Ryan went shopping for outfits for the wedding and to get some groceries, especially diapers and wet wipes for the babies and a large playpen. Andrew also bought a copy of the Saturday newspaper which contained a large supplement for properties on sale and upcoming property auctions. When they got home, they erected the playpen and put the twins in it to play. Andrew prepared a lamb stew for dinner which he put into the slow cooker, turned it on and left it to do its thing, while Ryan made bacon and egg rolls for lunch. With the twins and Rascal crawling around in the playpen, they sat on the couch with the laptop on Andrew's lap and looked at possible venues for Craig and Donna's honeymoon. They had already decided that Zanzibar would be the destination, they just had to make all the arrangements. After an hour of checking various websites, it became clear that the easiest option was a package deal that included flights, accommodation and all transfers. But that wasn't good enough for Andrew and they eventually settled for separate flight, accommodation and transfer reservations. They made the reservations and received confirmations within the hour. Then they made return flight reservations for themselves and the twins to and from Johannesburg, leaving Cape Town on the Friday before the wedding and returning on the Sunday at midday, on the same flight that David and Janice were on, hotel accommodation close to the venue and a rental vehicle. Finally, they paged through the property supplement and found a possible candidate for the new lodge in the auctions section. It was a deceased estate for a 15 year old property with large grounds located on the beachfront. The auction notice included a website address which they went into and found several colour photographs of the property. Andrew became more excited with every picture, his instincts telling him he might have found what they were looking for. He had got the same feeling when he saw the advert for the lodge. The building was certainly not perfect. It was actually an apartment block with a somewhat odd layout. With a basement level and five above ground floors, the block had ten apartments in one, two and three bedroom config-urations on three floors, and two penthouses on the top floor with large patios. The ground level and basement contained two parking bays per apartment, service areas and stores. It was located to the rear of the property, with a spacious grassed area, terraced on two levels running down to the road that separated it from the beach and a generous sized swimming pool on the upper level. Ryan peered sideways at Andrew. "You like it, don't you?" Andrew looked up from the screen. "I do like it, very much. My gut tells me this is the one. Depending on the actual layout. And it's literally in walking distance from home. Could we go and take a look tomorrow? I don't know if we'll be able to see much. It might be all locked up. But at least we can get a better idea". And that's exactly what they did. The next morning after breakfast, with the twins in the chest harnesses and Rascal on his leash, they walked along the beachfront until they were opposite the property and stopped to look at it. Andrew was astonished that he hadn't noticed the property before. He lifted the video camera he had brought with him and started filming. The building was vacant, all the tenants having moved out, looking rather forlorn and the grass, although lush and green, was very long. But the exterior of the building seemed to speak to Andrew. The centre of the building had a glass enclosed portico that continued up to the top floor. It was clad in some sort of rock, possibly sandstone. All the windows were surrounded by the same rock, as were the grill covered openings to the ground level parking bays. The remaining walls were plastered and painted in a sand colour. A large sign advisedthat the auction would take place at 11h00 on the following Wednesday. They crossed the road and opened the small gate in the low wall at the bottom of the garden and followed the path, clad in the same sandstone, across the expanse of grass to the front of the building. The doors were locked so they walked around the building, going through another gate, and found themselves on the street behind the property that gave access to the parking garage. They followed the ramp down into the basement and had a good look around, with Andrew capturing everything on video. The basement housed a large glass enclosed lobby that ran the full width of the building,with two elevators at the rear and a staircase at the front, which Andrew surmised came out in the portico at the front of the building and then continued upwards to the accommodation floors. There were also a number of large storerooms and large air conditioning units in each wing of the garage. Ryan pushed one of the glass doors and to their surprise it swung open. They stepped into the lobby and walked up the stairs to the ground floor where, as Andrew had thought, it opened into the rock clad portico. The lobby area was exactly the same size as the one below, but was double volume, so they continued up to the first apartment level. A huge surprise was the stone clad spiral staircase that rose ahead of them. There were small oblong windows in the front wall of the staircase, but it was still quite dark as they proceeded with caution. The three full floors of apartments were exactly the same layout, one side the mirror image of the other. None of the interior doors were locked, so they made a thorough exploration of the rooms. Two one bedroom apartments on either side of the staircase, three two bedroom apartments and a three bedroom on either end. All the apartments had lounge/diners, kitchens and bathrooms with the three bedroom having a full en-suite as well. The kitchens and bathrooms were all of similar size, although the lounge/diners differed in size, depending on the number of bedrooms each apartment had. Each apartment had its own separate wrought iron balcony across the length of the apartment with access from the lounge and main bedroom. The three bedroom allowed access from the second bedroom as well. The entrance doors were all off open corridors at the rear of the property. On the top floor, the penthouses were huge. Each one had heavy, double entrance doors directly off the elevator lobby and three double bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a guest cloakroom, large kitchen and separate lounge and dining room opening onto the large tiled patio surrounded by waist high wall with wrought iron inserts. The balcony on the front to the apartment opened onto the patio as well. Andrew leaned against the patio wall, his back to the view of the bay, city and Table Mountain, and grinned at Ryan. "Ry, it's not perfect, but we can work on it. I absolutely love it. I need to get a structural engineer in here before Wednesday to see if my plans will be feasible." "What do you have in mind, my love?", Ryan asked. "Okay, this is all subject to the structural engineer giving the go ahead! Starting from the bottom, the basement remains as is, with a few improvements. The ground floor becomes the main level of the lodge Reception, offices, guest lounge, restaurant, function room etc. This is where I need the structural advise, because I need to open it up. As few support columns as possible" "The one and two bedroom units stay as they are. The three bedroom units, we keep four as they are. The other two we convert into two bedroom executive suites with butler service. One penthouse stays as is. The other becomes the spa, a small gym and hair salon. What does the building remind you of?" Ryan furrowed his brow, giving the question some thought. "Only thing I can think of is one of the castles we saw in Scotland, with all the sandstone cladding". "Got it, that's what it I thought as well. I want to call it The Cameron! Just that. No lodge or hotel. Just The Cameron! The ground floor guest areas carpetted in the Cameron hunting tartan, with tiles in the heavy traffic areas. Coats of Arms in frames on the walls, gleaming wood furniture, chandeliers. The Cameron tartan can be carried through to the bedrooms as well. Maybe not in the carpets. That might be too much, but definitely in the other soft furnishings. Valances for the curtains, cushions on the beds. Things like that". Andrew's enthusiasm was tangible and Ryan walked over to him and hugged him. "You really want this, don't you, my love?" "I do, but I don't want to get too excited just yet. The engineer has to approve it first. Without that approval, it's a bust. It won't work. Let's go home. I need to contact the structural engineer we used when we added the extra floor to Blue Bay". They took, what Andrew now called, the turret stairs and retraced their steps back to the beachfront and home. The twins, who had fallen asleep on the walk home, were put into the playpen to sleep and while Ryan heated up some left over lamb stew for lunch, Andrew phoned Paul. They exchanged pleasantries and Andrew got down to business. "Paul, I need the contact number for the structural engineer we used for the lodge" "Yeah sure, I have it on file, Drew. Is there a problem?", asked Paul sounding concerned. "No, there's no problem. I think Ryan and I have found our new lodge. But I need a professional opinion on the structure to see if I can make the changes that I want to make, so that it will work," Andrew explained. "Oh, that's great. Where is it?" "I'm not saying anything until I know if it will be suitable. So cool your jets. You'll know just as soon as I know. Which needs to be soon. The property goes on auction on Wednesday. So I need him to have a look ASAP". Paul gave him the number and he contacted the engineer immediately, apologising for disturbing his Sunday afternoon. He explained the situation and he agreed to meet Andrew at the property at 9am the next morning. Then Andrew contacted the agent handling the auction telling him that he was interested in the property but needed to get access for a structural inspection prior to the auction to assess whether the property was feasible for what he had in mind, and the agent agreed to meet them at the property the next morning as well. Sleep would not come easy that night. Andrew was like a kid on a sugar high and Ryan did his best to get him to relax and calm down. He had a very restless night, his brain in overdrive, and he eventually slipped out of bed and went to one of the spare rooms so that Ryan, at least, could get a decent nights sleep. He did eventually drop off in the early hours of Monday morning and only woke up when Ryan shook his shoulder. "Drew babe, wake up". Andrew peered up at a the concerned face of his husband. "Morning Ry. What time is it?" "Just after 6.30", Ryan replied. "What the hell are you doing here? I wake up this morning and you aren't in the bed next to me. I check in on Cam and Elizabeth. You're not there either. I go downstairs, nothing. It was only when I came back upstairs that I noticed this bedroom door was slightly ajar. I was worried sick when I couldn't find you" Andrew got off the bed and shrugged into his robe. "Oh crap, I'm sorry my love. I was tossing and turning and was worried I was disturbing you. So I came in here", he explained. Ryan put his arms around Andrew. "Drew, I know today means a lot to you. But, my love, you really need to chill". "I'm okay now, Ry. What will be, will be! Have you had coffee yet?" "No, not yet. Been running around looking for my husband", he replied grinning at Andrew. "And I'm not sure coffee is a good idea for you this morning. Camomile tea is maybe a better idea". Andrew giggled. "Was I that bad yesterday?. But I agree! Camomile tea it is. I'll go and make it and your coffee and bring it to the room. You go fetch our babies and we can have a bit of family time before our meeting. I think we must leave them with Yvonne this morning. I don't think we'll be out too long". "Good idea . Hurry back. I missed waking up with you this morning". Ryan pecked him on the lips as strolled out of the room to the nursery. Ten minutes later, Andrew was back with the tea and coffee, having fed Rascal while he waited for the kettle to boil. They played with Cameron and Elizabeth after changing their diapers, blowing raspberries on their tummies making them squeal in delight. Ryan went to shower while Andrew stayed with the twins and they traded places when Ryan came out of the bathroom. When Andrew was done, he went to the kitchen to get baby cereal and make bottles of formula. Yvonne had just arrived for work and was making a mug of coffee for herself, so he didn't have to wait for the water to boil. "Morning Yvonnie. How was your weekend?" "Morning Mr Andrew. Oh, it was just the usual. Some shopping on Saturday and church on Sunday. And lots of relaxation". "Good to hear it. Ryan and I have got an unexpected meeting this morning at nine. Can we leave the munchkins with you for a couple of hours?" "Oh yes of course Mr Andrew. With pleasure. I'd love to look after them. They're no trouble at all" "Thanks Vonnie, you're a star. We're just going to give them their breakfast and early bottles. We'll bring them down when we're ready to leave. Have you seen the playpen we bought? We'll put them in there with their toys. If you could just keep an eye on them" "No problem Mr Andrew. With pleasure". Andrew went back upstairs and they fed the twins the cereal and let them lie on the bed to drink their bottles while he and Ryan dressed for the meeting. Then they dressed the babies and shortly before 9am the family came down-stairs. They put the twins in the playpen and leaving Yvonne to fuss over them, left for the short drive to the meeting with the engineer and agent. When they arrived at the rear entrance, the engineer and agent were already there, standing near their vehicles having a chat. Andrew and Ryan walked up to them and the structural engineer smiled in greeting, extending his hand. He was holding a roll of plans in the other. "Hi Andrew, Ryan. It's good to see you guys again". "Morning Gavin, thanks for coming at such short notice", Andrew said. The agent extended his hand and introduced himself. "Good morning gentlemen, Harry Lamson, the auctioneer handling this project". Andrew and Ryan introduced themselves and Harry enquired, "Okay, where do you want to start?" "I guess we need to look at the basement and ground floors", replied Andrew."But Gavin will be the better judge of that. But let's start in the ground floor parking garage and take it from there" Harry led them into the garage area and Andrew continued. "What we need to know is whether we can open up this area. Remove some of the columns. Will the building still be safe?", he said, looking at Gavin, who smiled. "When you and I spoke yesterday and you gave me the address, it rang a bell. As it happens, this building was one of the first projects that I was involved with after I qualified and started working. That company has since closed down and I have my own company now. But I kept copies of the plans of every project I have worked on. And these are the plans for this place. I can tell you right now, this place will survive a major earthquake. When it was built, everything was overspec. The original owner had plans to gradually add three more levels of apartments. From what I can see he only added the penthouses. The upshot of that was that there were twice as many support columns than were required. So the good news is, yes, you can remove every second column without fear that the place will come crashing down around you. You cannot, however remove any of the central core supports. That is, the central elevator and stairway lobbies", he explained to them. Andrew, who was barely managing to contain his excitement looked at Gavin and said, "So, just to be clear. There are four rows of columns here. Can I take out the two inner rows and still be within spec?" "In my professional opinion, yes. No problem at all. When the concrete was cast for each level, the steel rebar was designed to transfer the load, with the outer walls and columns taking the major portion. I'll do a thorough inspection and get a preliminary report to you by tomorrow evening, but I can confidently say you can bid on the auction with no problem at all", Gavin told them. Andrew was beaming and shook Gavin's hand. "Thank you, you have no idea how pleased I am to hear that. All I have to do now is get the damn place. What are you expecting to get for it on Wednesday, Harry?, Andrew asked, turning to the agent. "I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to reveal that, Andrew. I can tell you that the property is bond free with only municipal service charges and taxes due. But that the executors of the estate will have to sort out from the proceeds of the auction. They are aware they're not going to get its full worth, it is vacant and needs alot of work. Just give it your best shot and we'll see what happens. May I ask what you want to do with it?" "We want to convert it into a luxury lodge. We already own a lodge in Bloubergstrand and we need a second property to compliment Blue Bay and funnel bookings we cannot accommodate at the moment" "Wait, you own Blue Bay Lodge. My wife and I love going there for the Sunday lunch. And she spends a small fortune at the spa", he exclaimed. Ryan nodded. "Yeah, Blue Bay is ours. We can't expand there any further. So hence our search for another property". "Wow, okay! I think I see why this place appeals to you. Similar and yet, different". "Exactly!", added Andrew. "We don't want an exact copy of Blue Bay. Hopefully, services and comfort levels will be the same but we want a different atmosphere. And with what we have in mind, it will be just that". Gavin rolled up the plans and said, "Gentlemen, I won't keep you any longer. I'll get going with the inspection and I'll email you my report as soon as it's done". They bade their farewells and drove to the attorneys who administered the trust, where Andrew explained the situation and the amount of money he required. Ryan's eyes bulged when Andrew mentioned the figure, but the attorney didn't even bat an eyelid, merely picked up the phone and called the bank to arrange the finances. Andrew had requested a bank guaranteed cheque for five million and a further guarantee for fifteen million. Andrew patted Ryan's arm. "Don't look at me like that Ry. I have absolutely no intention of spending it all on the auction. I want it as cheaply as possible. The refurbishment still has to come. And that's going to cost bucks." They left the attorney and drove to the bank where they collected the guarantees and were advised that the attorney had called back and arranged for a further ten million to be held for refurbishment expenses. They drove home, stopping off on the way to buy fried fish and chips with coleslaw for them and Yvonne for lunch. When they opened the front door, they were greeted by a very happy Rascal and the warm aromas of eastern spices. "Oh my god!," Andrew exclaimed, "That smells amazing". They climbed the stairs to the living room and Andrew yelled, "Yvonne, what is that? It smells incredible", moving towards the twins who were standing up in the playpen, holding onto the sides and bouncing up and down. Yvonne emerged from the kitchen, drying her hands on the apron she was wearing, smiling. "Hello Mr Andrew, Mr Ryan. I'm just making some Chicken Breyani for your supper tonight. How was your meeting?". Ryan moved past them to put the food into the oven to keep warm. "It went very well thanks, Vonnie. I'm sorry we were a bit longer than I thought we would be. That breyani smells amazing. You must give me your recipe so I can make it on the yacht" Yvonne visibly preened at the compliment. "It's an old family recipe, Mr Andrew. I'll write it down for you". "Thank you. We brought some fish and chips for lunch. You haven't eaten yet have you?", he asked bending down to pick up Cameron. Ryan already had Elizabeth in his arms. "No, not yet. I was going to have something once I had the breyani done. Can I make you some tea or coffee?" "Just put the kettle on. I'll make it. You finish up and we can sit down and eat when you're done" They fussed over the twins until the kettle boiled, then Andrew went to make tea for him, Yvonne and the twins and coffee for Ryan. He quickly set the table and when Yvonne was ready, the twins went into the playpen to drink their bottles and the three adults sat at the dining table for lunch. Yvonne left for home about an hour after lunch after giving Andrew his recipe and precise instructions on reheating the meal she had prepared for dinner. The twins were asleep in the playpen, covered with light blankets to ward off the chill that accompanied another approaching winter storm. Andrew sat on the couch with his laptop and Ryan sitting next to him, formulating ideas for the new lodge. When Ryan got up to make coffee, Andrew pulled out his mobile and called Paul. "Hi Paul, have you got anything planned for Wednesday 11am?", he asked "No Drew, just the usual. Why do you ask?" "Would you care to join Ry and I at an auction?". "If it's for the new property, then yes, most definitely. Where is the auction?" "It is for the new property. It's being held on site in the parking garage. Will you meet us there? Viewing actually starts at 10 and the actual sale at 11.I t's on Beach Boulevard. You can't miss it". "I'll be there at 10 to have a look around" "Great, see you Wednesday". Wednesday dawned wet, windy and miserable. But Andrew would not allow the weather to dampen his excitement and enthusiasm. He was, however, also very nervous. It was his very first auction and he might be spending millions of rand. Gavin had sent him the structural report as promised and he felt very positive about the whole thing. They had contemplated taking the twins with them, but decided ask Janice if she would babysit which, of course, she agreed to with alacrity. Anything to spend time with her darling grandchildren. They arrived at the auction just after 10am and parked behind Paul's SUV on the street. A large banner indicated that an auction was going to take place and Paul stood waiting for them just inside the garage, out of the steady drizzle and wind. He grinned and shook his head as they approached him. "Now I know you are nuts, Drew. This place is a dump". Ryan and Andrew shook his hand and Ryan answered him. "I thought so too when I first saw it, Paul. But after a good look around and listening to what Drew has planned, I've changed my mind. What you see is all cosmetic. It can be cleaned up with a high pressure hose and a paint brush. But the bones of the place are solid" "Thanks for the vote of support babe. Paul, if I can get this place at the right price, it will be worth every cent. I have a figure in mind that I am not prepared to exceed. If we can get it at or below that figure, even better. But let's take you through and you can make up your own mind. We won't say anything" The power was on in the building and what fittings had bulbs that worked, were turned on. The elevators were also operational. They started in the basement and worked their way up, using the elevator. Paul spent some time looking at the ground floor, obviously aware that it would somehow become the main guest area of the lodge and then they walked all the accommodation floors, ending in the penthouses, by which time he looked a bit happier. They used the turret stairs back down to the garage, getting there just before the auction was due to begin. Andrew registered as a bidder and was given a paddle with the number '2' on it. There was a fair crowd standing in front of the podium and Andrew wandered how many of them were bidders. He shifted from one foot to the other, his nervousness palpable and Ryan stood close to him in support. The auction started with Harry presenting all the details of the property and when he asked for a bid, Andrew was quick off the block. He lifted his paddle and said, "Five million!" Paul and Ryan gaped at him and he grinned back. He was well aware that the bid was a cheeky one, but he might as well try. A gentleman on their left raised his paddle, '1'. "Six million". And so it continued with the two bidders increasing the bids by a million rand each time Andrew was really getting anxious. "Twelve million", he said clearly, upping the bid by two million this time. But he was worried. This was the bottom end of his price range. There was a long pause before he heard, "Fifteen million", and he turned and buried his face in Ryan's shoulder. That was his top end. The price he promised himself he would not exceed. He turned back to find Harry looking at him and Andrew shook his head. He turned and started walking to the car, his eyes misty with disappointment. "Do I have any more bids? Going once, going twice, sold to bidder number 1. Thank you", was the last thing he heard before getting to the street, Ryan and Paul following silently in his wake. Andrew turned and looked at them, tears of disappointment sliding over his cheeks. Ryan wrapped his arms around him and hugged him. "I'm sorry my love. I know how much this meant to you. We'll just have to find something else". Andrew sniffed and took the tissues Ryan handed him. "Fifteen million was the max I had decided to spend. Maybe I should here gone to sixteen". He wiped his eyes and blew his nose. Paul put his arm around Andrew's shoulders. "Now you're second guessing yourself and that won't help. You had your plan and it didn't work. Maybe next time it will. We just have to be patient. Something will come up" he said. Andrew nodded forlornly. "I know. I was just so sure about this place. It just felt so right! Thanks for being here Paul. I'm sorry it didn't work out". "There's always a next time. Time to head back to work. I have a slavedriver for a boss", he said, ducking as Andrew took a swipe at the back of his head, but at least it made him smile. "Idiot! You better get going before I send you to the galleys.", Andrew told him. He was chuckling as he slid into his SUV and drove away, waving as he went. Ryan unlocked his SUV and watched as Andrew got in and slumped dejectedly in the seat, his head against the headrest. He slid into the drivers seat, started the car and headed for home, making a detour for Andrew's favourite junk food, southern fried chicken, as Ryan knew that he was in no mood to make something for lunch. To his credit, Andrew brightened up when they got home and they cuddled the twins. It was the one thing that could improve both their moods. Spending time with their two little munchkins. They soon had him smiling again but his eyes couldn't hide his disappointment. Ryan took him out to dinner that night, once again prevaling on the good graces of his parents to babysit. They had a good time and Andrew had more wine than he usually drank, leaving him ever so slightly tipsy. Ryan left him in the car when they stopped to collect Cameron and Elizabeth from their grandparents and they drove home without saying anything, Andrew's hand on Ryan's thigh. Andrew helped him get the babies upstairs and in their cots and then fell back on the bed while Ryan went down-stairs to make hot chocolate and lock up. When he got back, Andrew was fast asleep, the stress and disappointment of the day, and too much wine, having caught up with him. Ryan gazed down at his beloved, smiled and started to gently undress him and get him under the covers. Then he undressed and joined Andrew, who had turned on his side, spooning against his back and throwing his arm over him. He softly kissed the back of Andrew's neck and Andrew burrowed back against him, instinctively seeking his warmth and comfort. He was soon fast asleep as well. Andrew dampened his disappointment the next day by by keeping himself busy with Cameron and Elizabeth, and planning a small birthday party for them, coming up in ten days time, both he and Ryan amazed at just how quickly time had passed since the twins had been born. They had decided that, although it was the toddlers milestone 1st birthday, they would keep it fairly low key, preferring to do something more elaborate the following year, when they would remember more of the event. The little celebration would, naturally, be videoed for all prosperity, and would be attended by family and close friends, including Yvonne and her family. As the actual day fell on a weekday, the party would take place on the Sunday before with a luncheon at the house and a little party later in the afternoon. The weather the next day, however, mirrored Andrew's mood. Grey and miserable! The only time he perked up was when he was with the twins. Nothing could dampen the joy he found in having them around and by the evening, was almost back to normal. He spent the morning checking the property websites, bookmarking a couple of possibilities. Just before lunch his mobile rang showing a number he did not recognise. "Andrew Devlin-Major! " "Hi Andrew, it's Harry. From the auction" "Yeah, hi Harry, what can I do for you?" "Well, I'm hoping I can do something for you. I've been mandated to approach you and find out if you are still interested in the property that was sold on Wednesday. The buyer has failed to provide the necessary guaran-tees, so his bid is forfeit" Andrew shot to his feet and beaconed to Ryan who was just coming down the stairs. "Are you telling me that I can have the property if I still want it". "Yes, I am. The executors have agreed to give it to you at your final bid price if you still want it". Andrew was grinning like a Cheshire cat, his joy making Ryan smile as well. "Yes. Absolutely yes! This is incredible! I can give you a bank guaranteed cheque for five million immediately and the balance tomorrow morning. Would that be acceptable? " "Yes, no problem. Can I come through tomorrow around this time and just collect the full purchase price" "Yes, yes, that's fine. Shall we meet here at the house or at Blue Bay Lodge? "Let's meet at Blue Bay. It will give me an excuse to have lunch there". "Lunch is on us. Say 12.30". "12.30 it is. See you then. And congratulations". "Thanks Harry. See you tomorrow". Andrew stared at Ryan, his eyes shining, filled with excitement. The forlorn expression gone. "Oh. My. God! It's ours, babe. The property is ours. The buyer defaulted. We got it for 12 million!". Andrew threw himself into Ryan's arms, spinning them around. Ryan was laughing as Andrew twirled them around. "Ha, the love of my life is back. Congratulations my love. You say they defaulted". "Yeah! They were supposed to provide all the guarantees within 48 hrs, if I remember correctly. They failed to do that and Harry was told to find out if we were still interested at our final bid price". He did a little jig making Ryan laugh again. "I got it at 3 million less than what I was prepared to pay for it. In my book, that's a bargain. Oh my god. I must tell Paul'. He picked up his mobile again and dialed. "Paulie, good news my friend. I just got a call. The property is ours" "How the hell did you manage that, Drew" "I had nothing to do with it. The buyers couldn't provide the guarantees in time. So they offered us the property at my final bid price of 12 million" "Oh Drew, that's really good news. Congratulations. I'm convinced there is a higher power somewhere watching over you. As if wanting to compensate for taking your parents away. Since they died, everything you touch just seems to fall into place. So now the hard work starts". "Yeah, true dat. We'll see you tomorrow. We're meeting Harry for lunch to sign the documents and hand over the cash. Can you join us?" "Yeah, sure . Thanks. See you tomorrow" At 2 pm on the first Saturday of August, Andrew and Ryan signed the documents and handed over two cheques totalling 12 million rand, and the Devlin-Major Portfolio became a reality.
  12. The route to the hotel took them through the usual collection of warehouses and industries normally found in the vicinity of airports before joining the autostrada and heading towards the city. With the city looming ahead of them, the driver took an off ramp onto a wide, tree-lined boulevard with a traffic island in the centre and after driving on the boulevard for a few minutes, stopped in front of the imposing and elegant, yet playful, facade of the Grand Hotel Savoia, the establishment being painted a bright pink with white detailing. A short, wide flight of marble steps led to the main entrance and a doorman hurried down the stairs to open the door of the limousine, followed by two porters who moved to the rear of the vehicle and began unloading the luggage. Andrew and Ryan exited the car each with a baby in their arms and after thanking the driver, who told them he would see them in the morning, walked up the steps into the cool interior. They stopped just inside the door and gazed around them at the magnificent, opulently decorated lobby. The high-ceilinged room had marble floors and a double row of tall columns flanked a wide aisle to the reception desk, with seating on one side and elevators, two stores and an entrance to a coffee shop on the other. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling and large gilt - framed mirrors and paintings hung on the walls. Arched windows with heavy drapes allowed natural light into the room and provided a view of the park across the road. The young family approached the receptionist, returning her warm welcoming smile. "Bon gourno. Messrs Devlin-Major and family. We have a reservation", said Ryan "Ah, bon gourno Signor Devlin-Major. Yes, we were expecting you. Signora Kinley advised us that you would be arriving early. Welcome to the Grand Hotel Savoia. Your rooms are ready. Would you please just sign the registration forms?", she said as she pushed the preprinted form in front of Ryan. He checked all the details and signed at the bottom of the page. While he was busy, she programmed two key cards. She retrieved the registration form and handed the cards to Ryan. "You have two rooms. A suite with an interleading twin. The cards will open both doors as well as the interleading door. It also allows you to charge items onto your account. The porter will show you to your rooms. Please enjoy your stay". Andrew smiled at her and said, "Thank you, I'm sure we will", and they turned to walk to the elevator where the porter waited with the trolley containing their luggage. The porter pushed the button and the elevator climbed slowly up to the 3rd floor. They exited into a wide, carpetted corridor and an arrow on the wall indicated that their rooms, 301 and 302 were to the right. The porter requested one of the cards and he swiped it through the reader on the door and when the light turned green he opened the door and stood back allowing them to go in. A short hallway,with a cloakroom off one side, opened into a large, comfortable lounge with full length windows that opened onto a small terrace with a view over the boulevard to the park. The furnishings were period pieces in a dark wood, with a three piece lounge suite, the sofa upholstered in crimson velvet and the two high backed armchairs in crimson and gold stripes. A small, wooden four seater dining table gleamed in one corner next to the windows and and there were two matching credenzas in the same dark wood, one holding a lamp and the other a vase of fresh flowers and a bowl of fruit. A taller one housed the TV, mini bar and refrigerator. The windows had soft voile as well as heavy drapes which were tied back to allow in sunlight and the view, a chandelier hung from the ceiling in the centre of the room and the floors were polished parquet with loose rugs. The room was perfect for the overall ambience of the hotel. There was, however, something Andrew was not happy with. Two doors on opposite walls accessed the bedrooms, which meant that the twins were effectively two rooms away from the main bedroom with the lounge between, but decided that he could live with it for the one night. The main bedroom was appointed in a similar way to the lounge, although the bathroom was modern. The twins bedroom, however, was very different, having more contemporary furniture although the headboards were fairly ornate. Once the porter had left, they moved the coffee table and covered the rug with a spare blanket from the cupboard in the second bedroom for the twins to sit on and play with toys while they unpacked what they needed for the day. Andrew and Ryan changed out of the smart casual clothes they had worn from the airport into knee length shorts, golf shirts and sneakers and after putting sunhats on the twins and donning caps themselves, went downstairs for a stroll in the park across the road. The paths through the park were shaded by large trees and as they walked, with the twins in the chest harnesses, they passed several statues, a small lake with swans that they stopped and observed for a while, and a public marble chess board with half life size pieces where two old men were playing. The park also had a kiddies play area with some swings and they sat on the swings with the twins chortling with glee as they swung back and forth. After just over an hour in the park, they strolled down the tree lined boulevard for a short distance before crossing over to the other side and heading back to the hotel, stopping for gelato along the way. They let the twins taste the cold confection but didn't want to give them too much in case it upset their tummies, so Andrew went back to the gelataria and got a small tub of mango frozen yogurt which they loved, smacking their lips and waving their arms excitedly when the spoon neared their mouths. It was a relief to get back into the cool air conditioning of the hotel and they put the twins back on the blanket covered rug to play with their toys. As it was almost lunch time and to celebrate being in Italy, they ordered pasta from room service, deciding that it was easier than going to the restaurant with the babies. Andrew ordered Spaghetti Vongole and Ryan had the Tagliatelle Bolognese. They were both highly amused to find a jar of Spaghetti Bolognese baby food in the supplies they had brought with them and Andrew dropped the jar into the room kettle to warm up . He was sitting cross legged on the blanket feeding the little ones when room service arrived with their order in a food warmer trolley. The waiter set up the small table on the terrace outside the open lounge doors shaded by a retractable awning, and seeing they were busy with the babies, left the food in the food warmer for collection later. Ryan made small bottles of formula while Andrew was feeding the twins and when he was done, they lay them on the blanket with pillows from one of the beds for a nap. With full tummies, they nodded off almost immediately so their dad's sat at the table and ate their pasta which they shared so that each had a taste of both dishes. The pasta came with blocks of Parmesan Reggianno and small graters so that they could grate the cheese over the pasta themselves. The waiter came to collect the trolley and dishes and they sat on the terrace sunning themselves until the twins woke up in the mid afternoon when they went up to the rooftop spa to use the tubs which they kept fairly cool. The twins were facinated by the bubbles that the jets in the tub emitted, trying to grab them with their hands and giving squeals of delight when the water splashed them. When they stepped out of the tub, they wrapped the tots in fluffy towels and lay on sunbeds in one of the gazebos shaded by soft voile draping. They gave the twins bottles with cold, diluted apple juice while Ryan sipped on an ice cold bottle of mineral water and Andrew, his new favourite tipple, Limoncello and sparkling water, a grown-up lemonade. The exertions of their swim caused the twins to nod off again and when Andrew and Ryan returned to the room they gently carried the sleeping infants to the main bedroom and put them on the bed to nap. While their children slept, Andrew and Ryan both showered and changed into track pants and t-shirts , slipping their feet into the slippers that the hotel provided. When Cameron and Elizabeth woke up they bathed them and dressed them for bed and fed them, keeping the formula bottles for later in the evening. And they sat on the terrace watching the sun drop towards the horizon with the twins cradled on one arm while drinking sundowners with the other, beer for Ryan and apple cider for Andrew. When the twins looked like they were getting sleepy, they gave them their bottles of formula and they both drifted off to sleep before they had finished. Andrew and Ryan carried them to the bedroom and put them to bed for the night, pushing the two beds together and placing pillows on the sides to prevent them rolling off. They turned on the baby monitor, left the door open and returned to the lounge to watch SkyNews on the TV and ordered dinner from room service, Veal Parmigiana for Andrew and Olive and Lemon Lamb Cutlets for Ryan, with Tiramisu for dessert. Once again, they ate at the terrace table, enjoying the soft breeze, warm air and the lights of the city. They ordered cappuccinos from room service, which came with crispy almond biscotti, and double tots of Ameretto into which they dipped the biscotti while drinking the coffee. After dinner, they Skyped with David and Janice, taking the laptop into the bedroom so that they could see their sleeping grand-children and Janice lifted Rascal onto her lap as he was barking madly at the sound of their voices. He kept pushing his nose against the screen as if trying to touch them and Andrew felt quite sad at seeing the little puppy obviously missing them. Ryan filled out their breakfast order and hung it on the door handle and they went to bed early at 10pm having had a long day and disturbed sleep on the plane, cuddling for a while before spooning and falling asleep. Cameron and Elizabeth had their dads up and about quite early, both clearly hungry having not finished their bottles the night before. While Ryan changed dirty diapers, Andrew boiled water for formula and prepared bottles and a bowl of baby cereal to feed them. When the cereal was finished, they put them on the bed in the main bedroom and gave them their bottles while Andrew and Ryan took turns to shower, and were both in bathrobes when breakfast was served by room service at 8am. The waiter opened the door to the terrace, but set the dining table in the room after pulling it in front of the open doors and arranged the breakfast on a small table that stood against the wall. Ryan had just ordered a Continental breakfast, with orange juice, muesli with fresh fruit salad, thick yogurt and honey, a selection of cold meats and cheeses, specifying cream cheese for Andrew, and a basket with croissants, brioche, seed bread and Danish pastries and preserves. There was also a large pot of freshly brewed coffee. They moved the twins onto the blanket covered rug and ate breakfast, keeping a surreptitious eye on the clock so as not to be late fortheir 10am pick up. They were finished by 9 and got dressed before getting Cameron and Elizabeth dressed for the day. Then they packed the few things that they had taken out of the suitcases and when the concierge desk phoned to advise that the driver was waiting, they were ready and requested porters to fetch the luggage. They headed to reception ahead of the porters to check out and the luggage was loaded and the driver holding the door for them when they emerged from the hotel carrying the twins in their arms. They were impressed that the driver had already secured the car seats and they got the twins settled and strapped in before fastening their own seatbelts for the short drive to the harbour. As they drove away from the hotel, Ryan leaned forward to speak to the driver. "We have to stop off at Customs and Immigration to get our passports stamped. Do you know where that is?" "No signor, signor Kinley has arranged for Customs and Immigration to be at the yacht to process you out of Italy", he replied. "They have to stamp all the documents for the boat anyway". Within minutes he brought the limousine to a stop on the quayside where a gleaming white and blue motor yacht lay moored stern-to at the quay her stern proudly displaying her name 'Texas Lass'. A paserelle, a movable boarding gangway, was positioned from the port main deck to the Quay and the huge stern door was open to the yacht through a room that contained a large dining table, a u-shaped seating area and at the far end, a lobby with stairs leading upwards. Also visible was a few pieces of gym equipment and a variety of water toys including jet skis, water scooters, kayaks and several sunbeds with mattresses. Dan and Joan appeared on the stairs down to the room with the open stern doorway and stepped out of the yacht onto the stern platform that raised them up to level with the quay. They stepped off the yacht and stopped a short distance from the limo as the driver opened the door and the visitors alighted into the hot sun. Dan spoke as they straightened up. "Andrew, Ryan, welcome. I'm afraid we can't greet you yet as Customs and Immigration have to process you out of Italy first.". Two uniformed men standing to one side approached them and requested their passports and travel documents. Ryan handed them over and the officials asked them to follow them. They stepped onto the teak covered deck and followed the officials onto the yacht, to the dining table where they examined their passports and visas, then stamped them and handed them back to Ryan with a nod and returned to the quay where they got into their vehicle and drove away. Dan and Joan reboarded the yacht and walked up to them smiling. Joan hugged them both then said, "Welcome aboard 'Texas Lass'. Sorry about that. Officialdom comes first I'm afraid. It's good to have you aboard" Dan greeted them, shaking their hands as Joan spoke to them. "Well, what do you think of her?, she asked. Ryan grinned at the older couple. "Haven't been able to see much of her yet. Just her rear end, which isn't half bad, and this room". Dan took their arms and led them back out onto the quay so that they could look down the side of the yacht. She was beautiful. A 62 metre long San Lorenzo, steel hulled , with a trideck superstructure. She was painted a brilliant white with a narrow blue and red cheat line above and below the portholes in the hull. Her superstructure decks were fitted with ceiling to floor glass windows. The portholes and three rectangular windows close to the stern were all smoked glass.. The upper decks both had generous overhangs aft. Dan spoke again. "She has six guest cabins sleeping twelve, and a crew of ten including the captain. She weighs 1200 gross tons and has a top speed of 16.5 knots". He glanced at Andrew, "That's just over 30km/h. Let's go back on board, get you settled and then we can show you around". He led them back into the stern room and said, "This is the beach club". He looked over his shoulder as a motor whined and the stern door started closing. "As you can see, the stern opens up when we are in port or at anchor. But what you haven't seen is that there are doors on both sides, where the long portholes are, that open up as well to give us two more patio areas. It's pretty spectacular when you see it all open". Joan linked her arms through theirs. "Come on, let me show you to your cabins", she told them leading them into the central lobby and up the stairs. "This staircase will take you all the way to the top deck, what we call the Sky Deck. The beach club is on the Lower Deck, and we will go through Main Deck to the Owners Deck, where the master cabin and the VIP cabin is situated. You will be in the VIP cabin and it's actually a two bedroomed cabin with an inter leading door. We had it built that way for when the family and their children are on board. They have little ones as well, just slightly older than yours" She stepped out into a spacious marble floored lobby with a door almost directly in front of them and opened it. "This is your cabin. Come on in". She stood back and they walked into the large, spacious, beautifully appointed cabin. It was situated on the starboard side of the yacht with windows that filled the entire wall facing the side deck. Soft voile with cream and blue drapes were pulled back to reveal a sliding door onto the sidedeck. Andrew mentally apologised to the older couple as he had expected the decor to be dark and more 'old fashioned'. Instead, the cabin was light, bright and modern. The king size bed, stood against the aft bulkhead on a slightly raised black plinth with concealed lighting, which in turn stood centred on a thick cream carpet. A footlocker was placed at the end of the bed with a TV that retracted into the locker and the sides contained a mini bar and refrigerator. Treated beech flooring covered the remainder of the cabin floor in a herring bone pattern and all the cupboards and lockers were finished in the same wood, with darker mouldings and gold plated door handles. A small couch and two easy chairs were placed next to the windows, around a small stainless steel and glass coffee table. And the forward bulkhead was covered by full length cupboards with a dressing table/desk in the centre with a large mirror. The cupboard door on the port side concealed the entrance to the opulently appointed full bathroom where marble, glass and gold plating featured predominantly. Lighting was provided by bedside lamps, an overhead chandelier type light fitting in the middle of the ceiling and concealed lights in the ceiling, all dimmable. A door in the aft bulkhead, between the bed and the lobby wall accessed the cabin that the twins would sleep in. The twin bedded cabin was a lot cosier, but just as elegantly decorated in the predominant creams and blues, the only difference being the judicious use of more blue and no sliding door onto the deck. It also had its own shower room with the same appointments as those in the VIP cabin. Andrew turned to the older couple, standing at the door with proud smiles on their faces. "Oh wow, this is absolutely amazing. It's quite beautiful. Are all the cabins similarly decorated?" Joan smiled back and replied, "Thank you, Andrew love. Yes, all very similar. Just small differences in accent colour. There are four cabins on the lower deck, forward of the beach club. Our cabin, just down the corridor is double the size of this one. I will show you once you are settled. We'll leave you to unpack. We will be sailing in about an hour. We are just waiting for our final clearences. We'll be in the Sky Lounge one deck up if you want to join us when we sail. It's lovely having you with us" she said, pecking them both on the cheek Their hosts turned and shut the cabin door behind them. They put the twins on the main bed and gave them some juice to drink while they unpacked and hung their clothes in the cupboards. Then they packed all the babies clothing and paraphernalia into the cupboards and drawers in the smaller cabin. Andrew and Ryan changed into their usual shorts and golf shirts, slipping there feet into deck shoes and checked the babies diapers which were both wet so they changed them. While doing that, they felt a slight tremor pass through the deck under their feet as the motors were started in the engine room. They shrugged into the chest harnesses, got the twins into theirs, gathered a few basic necessities into a baby bag along with some toys and stepped out of the cabin. They walked the few paces to the lobby at the end of which they glimpsed a beautifully appointed dining room with a small seating area, and climbed the stairs to the Sky Deck where they stopped for a moment in yet another lobby, a perfect replica of the one on the the deck below. To the left down a short corridor were three doors, two directly opposite one another and the other at the end that opened onto the bridge. On the right, the lobby opened up into a another U-shaped lounge area with overstuffed, buttoned tan leather couches and recliners around a dark wood coffee table with rounded corners and a glass inlay. A thought crossed Andrew's mind that he hadn't seen a sharp corner on any of the furniture so far. Everything had rounded corners. Dan and Joan were at a bar in the port corner next to the open glass doors to the deck, Joan sitting on one of the six bar stools and Dan holding court behind the bar. Joan glanced up as they entered the room, smiling. "Ah, there you are my darlings. All settled?" "Yes, thank you. We're feeling very spoilt in that gorgeous cabin", Andrew replied. "Don't think anything of it. It's our pleasure", Dan added. "Can I get you guys something to drink, I think the sun is over the yardarm?" "Just a Coke for me , Dan", Andrew said. "And me too, Dan", added Ryan. As Dan busied himself with the drinks, a door marked 'Crew Only" opened on the port side forward bulkhead, and young woman entered the room. Joan beckoned her over to them and she approached the group, smiling. "Guys, allow me to introduce our Chief Hostess, Kirsty. Kirsty, this is Andrew and Ryan Devlin-Major, owners of the luxury catamaran we cruised on in South Africa, and our guests for the next week. The littlies are Cameron and Elizabeth." She shook thei hands, beaming. "Welcome aboard, all of you.". She examined the twins and said, "Oh, they're beautiful. I would swear they are the same age. Are they adopted, if you don't mind me asking?". Ryan grinned at her. "Hi Kirsty, nice to be on board. To answer your question, no not adopted. Biological twins. Same mother, different fathers", he explained, indicating Andrew and himself. "Oh wow. I didn't know that was possible", she said, a puzzled expression on her face. "We didn't either, until a doctor friend told us about it. It called heteropaternal fecundation. Two ova from the mother are fertilised with sperm from the fathers and implanted into the womb. And hey presto, twins", Andrew explained. "That's amazing. At a guess, I would say that Andrew is holding Ryan's child and vice versa". Ryan grinned again. "Yeah, spot on. But we are way past yours and mine. They have always been and always will be, our children. As far as Andrew and I are concerned, there is no distinction". "Well, I admire you guys. It's a huge responsibility ". "We have had to make some adjustments", said Andrew, "but we wouldn't change it for anything. Ask Dan and Joan. They even come on charters with us" "Well, I wish you all the luck in the world. Now, I know Mrs Kinley has probably already asked you, but are you settled in your cabins? Do you need anything?" "Thanks, she has asked. And everything is just perfect", Ryan replied. "If you need anything at all, Kirsty is the one to contact.", said Joan. Dan handed them their drinks and lifted his head as a uniformed man entered the room from the lobby. "Ahha, and you can meet our captain as well. Andrew, Ryan, our captain, Nigel Flynn", Dan said, introducing them to the tall, lanky blonde haired man, as he neared them. He extended his hand and greeted them. " Welcome aboard 'Texas Lass' gentlemen. It's good to meet you at last. Dan and Joan have told me about you. All good, I promise", he grinned. "Thank you captain, it's good to be on board. You have a beautiful ship here", answered Ryan. "Please call me Nigel. Yes, she is beautiful. I feel very privileged to have been chosen to command her". Andrew looked at Dan and Joan, a questioning look on his face "Wait a minute, you told us you had a rather unfriendly captain who resented having you on the bridge. That wasn't Nigel, was it?" Joan's hearty laughter filled the room. "No, thank god. He chose not to move to 'Texas Lass', but wanted to stay with old yacht. So we were obliged to find a new captain and were very fortunate to get Nigel. And he doesn't mind having us on the bridge" "That's the reason I actually came out here. We are ready to cast off and I thought you may want to be on the bridge for departure".. Dan grinned broadly. "Brilliant idea. Let's get going". He walked briskly across the room with the rest of them following. As they walked down the passageway, Joan explained that the two doors off the passage were Nigel's cabin on the port side and an office/meeting room on the starboard side. The bridge, as expected, was very impressive, with lots of wood panelling, a plethora of digital gauges and lights, and the usual radar and course plotters, on the control console and amazing 180° views through front and side windows. A small, cream leather upholstered seating area was placed against the rear wall of the bridge, slightly raised for a better view, where Andrew and Joan sat down. Nigel had a captains chair in matching cream leather in the middle of the bridge in front of the controls. Ryan and Dan stood on either side of it, as Nigel opened a door on the starboard side and stepped out onto the bridge wing, where he opened a locker that housed a set of controls as well. He would use the bridge wing controls to guide them away from the quayside once the mooring lines had been released by the dock workers ashore. He gave the release command and they could see the stern lines being removed from the bollards on the quay and winched back on board on the overhead CCTV. Then, very slowly, they started moving away from the quay, allowing some slack on the anchor chain at the bow that had prevented the bow from swinging around. Using a remote control, Nigel raised the anchor while a crewman on the bow checked the anchor locker. At the same time, the ships horn on the mast array above them blared loudly, three times, startling them all. Elizabeth, who was still with Ryan, jerked with fright and screwed up her face as she started to cry. Ryan cuddled and soothed her and she quietened down, laying her head on his chest. Nigel re entered the bridge and sat in his chair before grasping a joystick and moving it to the left. The bows slowly swung around until they were pointed into the channel and then he moved the chrome throttles forward and they started to move ahead. Nigel said something to Dan and he leaned forward and pressed a button on the console. The horn blared again, causing Elizabeth to burrow against Ryan and he kissed her small head, soothing her again. Andrew handed Cameron to Joan and he stood up and walked to Ryan and took Elizabeth from him, also kissing her and comforting her. He sat down again next to Joan and Cameron as they gathered speed and sailed slowly down the channel between the ships moored on either side. As they sailed past, the other ships started blowing their horns, acknowledging their maiden voyage. Dan spoke to Ryan, and Andrew was just in time to cover Elizabeth's ears as her dad reached out and pushed the horn button in answer to the greetings around them with a happy grin on his face. They eventually reached the main channel to exit the busy harbour and soon after, they nosed out into the Ligurian Sea on a course that was roughly southeast and would take them past Elba, Giglio and Corsica, the calm blue seas stretching out ahead of the bows. Once they were out to sea, everyone except the bridge crew returned to the Sky Lounge, where a table was being laid just outside the doors on the aft deck under the overhang. "We've arranged a light lunch up here for 13h00. I think we have time to show you around before then. Follow me", said Joan. She took them back down the stairs to their cabin deck and walked to the end of the companionway, past their cabin door, to another door at the end. She opened it and stepped in to the cabin ahead of them. "Welcome to the master cabin", she said sweeping her hand around the room. Andrew stopped dead in his tracks, his jaw dropping. The cabin was, in one word, awesome. It was more than twice the size of the VIP cabin, with full length windows spanning the entire width of the yacht and windows on the sides as well, fitted with electrically operated blinds and soft cream drapes. A sliding door in the centre of the forward facing windows opened onto a huge private owners sundeck with its own pool and sunbeds. The foredeck stretched out ahead of that with markings to allow for helicopter operations. The room was furnished in a very similar fashion to the VIP cabin, with the bed also raised on a black plinth, a comfortable seating area, a desk with chair and two chaise longues. The big difference, however, was that there were no cupboards or lockers in sight. All the storage and packing space was in the his and hers dressing rooms, reached through doors in the bulkhead on either side of the headboard, which accessed the huge marble clad bathroom with a shower big enough for six. On the sundeck, two lockers on either side played host to a wet bar and refrigerator in one and gas BBQ grill and sink in the other. They admired the cabin and complimented Dan and Joan on how beautiful it was before she led them to the dining room they had seen earlier. It was, as with everything else, beautifully appointed as was the outside aft deck where a hot tub and more sunbeds were located, along with seating along the aft rail overlooking the pool. They used the exterior stairs down to the main deck aft "This is the main deck. The pool has got a glass bottom that gives amazing light to the beach club below it. As you can see, there is a large dining table out here as well that we can shade with a retractable awning." She led them back inside to the main salon. It was dominated by a huge, modern, U-shaped seating area in cream leather with scatter cushions in shades ranging from the palest of creams, to taupe and chocolate brown on a cream rug, surrounded by beech timber floors. A large modern oil artwork hung on the central bulkhead between two small lobbies with cream leather upholstered doors. The coffee table was a piece of art in its own right, composed of three pieces of marble, one white with dark brown veining in an L - shape, and the other two pieces being brown marble with black veining and the third being a cream marble with a glass top insert. It was all modular and fitted together like a puzzle. Two black lacquer tables stood behind the long sides of the seating area, one with a lamp, the other with a modern cubic sculpture. The full length windows, with sliding doors onto the side decks had blinds and electrically operated cream drapes. The room was modern, almost minimalist in appearance, but opulent and comfortable at the same time. The door on the starboard side led into a small cinema with twelve leather upholstered seats while the door on the port side was for crew access to the galley and crew cabins. They returned to the Sky Lounge where lunch was almost ready to be served and they were able to relax for a while having pre lunch drinks and feeding the twins. Lunch was a simple but very tasty smoked mackerel salad with fresh apple slaw and ciabatta, which was perfect for the hot weather. Andrew drank his new favourite drink, Limoncello and sparkling water, while Ryan had a beer with Dan and Joan drank white wine. The chef, Mark Taylor, came out after lunch to meet them and have a chat about their likes and dislikes. "We'll both eat just about anything you put in front of us", Andrew told him. Just no funny stuff like liver or sheep's eyes. Stuff like that", which had them all having a good laugh. "And you'll make my husband very happy if you could include ice cream and pecan nut pie somewhere along the way". "I promise, there will be no funnies. Just normal stuff. I must admit to feeling a bit intimidated cooking for you", he said, looking at Andrew. "Mrs Kinley has been raving about your cooking since they got back from Cape Town. She's even given me copies of the recipes you gave her". Andrew grinned at him. "Have you tried any of them?". He nodded. "I have actually. The malva pudding is amazing. And the pickled fish. The flavours are so unlike anything we have here in Europe. And milk tart. Absolutely love it. So much better than our custard tart". "That's nice to know. And there is absolutely no reason to be intimidated. I'm very chilled about what I eat, as long as it's tasty, I'm a happy camper. And I think I can say the same for Ryan". "Well, I hope you enjoy what we put in front of you. If you want anything special, let Kirsty know and I'll see if it's possible to do". They thanked him and he returned to the galley to start prep for their first dinner on board. After lunch they took the twins to the cabin to sleep and walked around the decks exploring. Ryan had the baby monitor in his pocket, but they weren't sure how well it would work on board, but were pleased to hear Cameron start voicing his disapproval when he woke up to find neither of them around. They hurried back to the cabin to find that Elizabeth had woken up as well and was also upset. They picked the infants up and pacified them before removing their used diapers and putting on bathing costumes, sunhats and sun protection cream and taking them for a swim in the pool, much to theirs and Joan's delight who was enchanted by the enjoyment the tiny tots got out of being in the water. They didn't stay in the pool long, not wanting to keep the babies in the sun for too long and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the sunbeds while the twins napped on a sunbed between them under the shade of a parasol. They returned to the cabin with the sleeping tots in the late afternoon to wait for them to wake up before bathing and giving them their dinner. Andrew and Ryan managed to shower before the twins woke up and lay on the bed in fluffy white bathrobes watching satellite TV while they waited for them to wake and speculating about where their first stop might be as Dan and Joan had been very cagey about where they were heading.. All they knew is that they were sailing southeast, paralleling the west coast of Italy and werepresently between Elba and Corsica. When Cameron and Elizabeth did wake up, they fed them first then bathed them and got them dressed for the night. Then they sat them on the bed while they got dressed for dinner which was being held in the owners deck lounge, the same deck they were on. They picked up the twins and they walked down the companion way. Kirsty greeted them as they came in, just finishing at the table they were going to dine at that had been laid in front of the sliding doors to the aft deck which were closed due to a stiff breeze that had sprung up just after sunset. They were very gratified to see a playpen had been set up on the rug and had a thick soft mattress at the base. "What can I get you to drink?", Kirsty enquired. "Just a dry white wine for me", replied Andrew, "And a beer for me. Lager if you have", said Ryan. She disappeared through the crew door and returned a few minutes later with their drinks. Andrew was elated when he saw the wine was a bottle of Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc, his go- to white wine. "Oh wow, Southern Right! Where did you find it?" he asked in amazement. She grinned at him. "Mrs Kinley doesn't miss much. When they sailed with you, you told her this was your favourite white wine. So they arranged to ship a case from South Africa. There's a case of Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir in the cellar as well". She moved to a concealed control panel and dimmed the lights, turning on some background music at the same time, before lighting the candlelamp on the table. "Sit down and relax. Mr and Mrs Kinley will be here shortly". They sat on one of the tan leather couches, keeping an eye on the twins and watching the lights of Italy in the distance. After a short while, a door closed in the companionway and they heard voices. Dan and Joan entered the room, greeted them and sat down. "Ah, I see Kirsty has revealed my surprise", said Joan indicating the bottle of wine in the cooler.. "Yes, thank you. It was a surprise", said Andrew. Kirsty approached with a gin and tonic for Joan and Scotch and soda for Dan. "Chef says he will be ready in ten minutes", she told them, handing them printed menus. Dinner was a three course affair, with a choice of two dishes for each course. Hors d ' oeuvres was either an intense gazpacho made with a blend of fresh tomatoes and sundried tomatoes garnished with basil pesto and yogurt or a prawn, avocado and pink grapefruit salad with a hint of chilli. Andrew couldn't decide which one he preferred so he ordered the salad and a half portion of the soup. Ryan had the salad. Entrées were a choice of pan seared sea bass or grilled beef tenderloin with a red wine reduction. Both were served with new potatoes and ratatouille. Andrew had fish, while Ryan had the steak. Mark took Andrew's suggestion and had ice cream and pecan nut pie on the menu for dessert. They had coffee in the lounge with Frangelico liqueur, catching up with one another and watching the twins sleep. They took the twins off to bed at 23h00 and were in bed themselves soon after. When Andrew opened his eyes the next morning, the first thing he saw was a pair of blue eyes gazing at him They were both on their sides facing one another and he smiled sleepily at Ryan and whispered, "What's wrong? Why you staring at me?" "Nothing's wrong! Just watching you sleep and thinking how lucky I am to have you in my life. And those two little minxes next door". Andrew reached out and caressed his face. "I think I'm the lucky one. Heaven only knows where I would have been without you. I was in a pretty bad way after my parents died". "Well, let's just say we are lucky to have each other then", Ryan replied. "That's okay with me". Andrew lifted his head off the pillow. "We're not moving!" "Yeah, we dropped anchor about thirty minutes ago. The change in movement woke me up. I wanted to get up and see where we are, but decided watching you was a much better idea". Ryan hopped out of bed and peered out of the windows. He was looking into the rising sun, so it was difficult to see, but the yacht swung round slightly on its anchor and the view improved slightly. "Ahha, if memory serves correctly, I think we are anchored off Capri, quite close to the Blue Grotto" His words galvanised Andrew out of bed. "I've always wanted to see the Blue Grotto", he said. "It's on my bucket list of things to do". "Well, my love, it looks like you are about to tick it off today". Ryan glanced at the bedside clock. "It's still early though. Just past 6.30". The words were hardly out of his mouth when they heard a sound from the adjoining cabin. They shrugged into bathrobes and moved to the interleading door. Cameron was moving around but not quite awake. Ryan was bent over the bed watching him when Cameron's eyes opened and gazed blankly at his dad for a moment before recognition dawned and he smiled up at at Ryan. "Good morning my little man. How is daddy's boy? Did you have a good sleep?" Cameron waved his arms about and Ryan gently picked him up, cuddling him against his chest, his face on Ryan's shoulder. Cameron smiled again when he saw Andrew, and Andrew leaned forward and kissed his head. "Hullo there, daddy's little boy.". He sniffed. "I think someone needs a fresh diaper" Elizabeth woke just then with a little cry of protest, and Andrew picked her up as well, giving her a cuddle too. "And our little girl is a bit whiffy too. Let's get you and your brother cleaned up shall we." Ryan boiled water to make formula and put baby cereal into a bowl. He prepared the cereal by adding some of the formula and then he and Andrew fed the twins and gave them their bottles to drink while they got ready for the day. Ryan opened the sliding door and stepped out onto the sidedeck, looking over the rail. There were several smaller yachts, both motor and sailing, anchored around them, as well as another, bigger, superyacht. Further away, he could see two cruise liners, one at anchor and one a little way off on approach to the island. Looking down to the stern, he saw that the sides of the beach club had been deployed and one of the yachts tenders was just powering away heading for the small harbour. Ryan stepped back into the cabin where Andrew was just putting the harnesses on the twins, not without some protestation from them. "I think it would be best if we went to the grotto early. It can get very busy and I see two cruise liners already. We won't see the grotto its best but if we wait until then, we're gonna have to wait to go in," he told Andrew. "Well, I think we're about ready to go. Just have a quick breakfast and then we can be off." They picked up the twins and everything else they thought they may need, and stepped out of the cabin. They met Kirsty as she stepped into the lobby from the staircase. "Morning gentlemen. Did you sleep well?" They both nodded and smiled at her. Ryan replied. "Yes, thanks Kirsty. Very well indeed" "Glad to hear it", she replied. "Breakfast is in the main dining room, so you don't have far to go" and led them aft down the companion way to the dining room. One end of the fourteen seater table had been laid for four and the remainder of the chairs had been removed and the rest of the table was used as a buffet area for jugs of fruit juice and cold milk, cereals, fresh fruit and fruit salad, yogurt, cold meats and cheese. There was also a selection of freshly baked croissants, scones and pastries, still warm from the oven. "Help yourself to what you want. Someone will be out to take an order for your hot breakfast in a tick. Can I get you some tea or coffee? They sat down after putting the twins into the playpen that was still set up from dinner. "I'll have a pot of tea, just normal Ceylon. Ryan will have coffee. Thanks Kirsty" She went through the crew door that, they had discovered, accessed a pantry and beyond that, the galley itself, and was back in a jiffy with the beverages. One of her assistants, Maryanne, came with her and took their order for the usual hot items from the galley. While they waited, Nigel walked in with young crewman. "Morning guys. This is Jason. He will be taking you on your excursion today". He grinned at them. "Do you know where we are? he asked. "I think we're just off Capri, near the Blue Grotto, if my memory is correct", Ryan answered. "Your memory is right. It is Capri. Jason has already been ashore to get you entry tickets and I would advise that you leave no later than 10h30. so that you don't have to wait to go in. It's probably going to be a bit of a madhouse today with two cruise liners here as well" As it turned out, they were ready to go at 10 and made their way down to the beach club to board the tender which was moored to the port patio. They stared around the beach club in stunned amazement. The huge room with its glass roof had been impressive when they boarded. But now, with the stern and both sides open, it was simply awesome. All the water toys were either floating at the stern or on the swim platform. Both patios were equipped with removable rails, sunbeds and parasols. Nigel was waiting for them on the patio with life vests in his hand that he handed to them and two tiny ones for the twins as well and observed as they put then on. The twins looked adorable in the life vests, seeming to almost disappear into the devices. Nigel, and Jason who was already on the tender with the twin motors ticking over, assisted then on board and once they were settled, Jason tossed the mooring lines to Nigel, who gave them a push away from the yacht with his foot. Jason then slowly advanced the throttles and they moved away for a short distance before he powered away, heading for the famous grotto. The tender was too big to take them in, so Jason had to secure the tender to one of the buoys provided and a wooden rowboat was brought closer, after a short wait, for them to transfer onto to take them into the cave. The boatman and Jason held the two boats close together as Ryan and Andrew stepped from one to the other, taking great care due to them having the twins with them. The boatman rowed them to the entrance and, and as it was just past high tide, they had to bend quite low to enter the cave. As Ryan had predicted, it was still too early to see the grotto at its best, but the water still glowed eerily from the available sunlight and they spent almost ten minutes in the cave before they were rowed out again. Back on the tender, Jason took them ashore, mooring the tender at a jetty in the small harbour and guided then through the village, taking them to the best stores to shop in and get souvenirs. Ryan bought cheesy 'I love Capri' t-shirts for them including small ones for the twins and new sun-hats for the twins as well. They made sure that the babies were well protected with sun protection as well as keeping them covered as the sun was starting to really beat down and the temperature was climbing rapidly and they gave them cold diluted fruit juice to drink to keep them hydrated. The three men all sipped at bottles of mineral water and Jason showed them a tiny hole-in-the-wall that sold the best gelato either of them had tasted and they strolled back to the tender licking at cones of the ice cold confection, giving the twins a taste as well. Jason opened up the throttles on the way back and the wind caused by their speed was a welcome relief from the heat and it did not take long to arrive back at their floating home, where they had a late lunch and then just chilled in the beach club for the rest of the day, using the jet skis and water scooters and taking the twins for a paddle in the warm ocean after Nigel agreed to lower the stern swimming platform below the water surface, The twins loved it but the expressions on their faces when they splashed salty water into their faces and tasted it were priceless and Andrew managed to capture it all on video. In the late afternoon, they prepared to set sail once again and Andrew and Ryan were facinated observers as the crew made ready to close the stern and sides back up again, marvelling at the ingenuity and engineering that went into it. The twins were very tired little bunnies by then and quite fretful, so their dads took them to the cabin and they lay with them on the bed where they all eventually dozed off. As Ryan started waking up, he was vaguely aware of a slight pressure on his chest and when he opened his eyes, he looked straight into his own eyes set into the tiny face of his son who was standing next to him, his hand in the middle of his dads chest to support himself, peering at him with a curious expression on his face. He heard a giggle and glanced sideways to find Andrew filming the scene, grinning like a Cheshire cat. When he looked at the little boy again, Cameron was smiling down at him and reach out to pull at Ryan's bottom lip "That is the cutest thing I've seen in a long time. You should have seen the battle he had to get up on his feet. I'm amazed you didn't wake up sooner". Ryan sat up, careful not to let him fall over and also not to wake Elizabeth, who was still sleeping and lifted the little boy up and let him stand on his stomach, holding his hands to support him as he was still very unsteady on his legs. Cameron bounced up and down on his dads stomach or rather, just flexed his knees, squealing with glee and a pleased smile on his face. The noise woke Elizabeth who decided she wanted to play as well and crawled to Ryan's side, pulling herself up on her legs and leaning against him. He lifted Cameron off and put Elizabeth on his belly. He placed his hands around her waist and bounced her up and down making her widen her eyes and then smile as she decided she liked bouncing. They played for a while with Andrew joining in and then it was time to bath and feed them again. Then they showered and dressed for dinner which was on the Sky Deck aft. The stewardesses had been busy, and the playpen had been moved up for them to put the twins into. Nigel came out of the bridge to chat and Dan and Joan arrived soon after. Kirsty offered them drinks and she went to the bar to pour them. Mark popped in to give them the menus for dinner and he also stayed for a drink, although he and Nigel both had soft drinks. Ryan turned to Nigel and enquired, "So where exactly are we, and where are we headed?" "We are currently sailing south southeast in the Tyrrhenian Sea heading for the Straits of Messina between the boot of Italy and Sicily. We'll transit the strait later this evening and round the bottom of Italy. Then we change course to the north east to cross the Ionian Sea during the night, and pass between Kefallonia and Zakynthos before making landfall on the Greek mainland at about 11h00 tomorrow morning near Araxsos. Then we pass Patra and go into the Gulf of Corinth to transit the Corinth Canal. Fromthere its three hours to Piraeus. I am planning to be off Piraeus at about 16h00 latest, to catch the Customs and Immigration people before they go home. We're going to push her tonight. We're currently at 15knots, that's just under 29km/h", glancing at Andrew and Joan, " and plan to maintain that speed all theway across to Greece". Ryan nodded. "I thought we were at speed. I noticed the hum of the engines was far more noticeable than before. Yesterday it was barely noticable". "Yeah, we're gonna give the engines a good workout tonight", added Dan. Dinner, once again was delicious. The hors d'oeuvres were an antipasto platter with salami, Italian meatballs, chargrilled squid, marinated artichokes and mushrooms, a ricotta and olive spread, roasted peppers, olives and baby tomatoes, served with freshly baked ciabatta. Andrew and Joan both drank Pinot Grisio and Dan and Ryan were drinking beer. Entrées were a choice of pan fried sea trout with a leek and caper sauce or scotch fillet steak with sundried tomatoes and olives. Both were served with rosti potato and green beans. Dessert was Passionfruit pannacotta with mango or Cassata with a chocolate amaretto sauce. After dinner they sat on the aft deck and watched the lights of Italy recede into the darkness as they set course across the Ionian Sea with the bows pointed at Greece. They went to bed that night in the knowledge that their Mediterranean meander would begin in earnest the next day. Because the next day would be what the cruise lines referred to as 'At Sea', Andrew and Ryan lay in with the twins and had breakfast served to them in the cabin. Orange juice, muesli parfaits with mixed berries and yogurt and creamy scrambled egg on toast with smoked salmon and chives, hash brown potatoes and grilled baby tomatoes, along with a basket of croissants and pastries and a pot each of coffee and tea. They finally appeared in the main salon in the mid morning, with the Greek Islands of Kefallonia and Zakynthos ahead of them and the mainland a faint smudge on the horizon beyond them. The weather was ideal, with cloudless blue skies, calm seas and a soft breeze that helped cool things down. Nigel came to chat and told them that they were ahead of schedule, thanks to a favourable current that had given them an extra two kilometres per hour boost. The rest of the morning was spent sunbathing and swimming in the pool and lunch was taken casually at the pool as well with Mark preparing a 'Build a Burger' bar with extras like bacon, sliced avocado and guacamole, onions in three guises - fresh rings, deep fried rings and onion marmalade, three different cheeses, sliced gherkin and pineapple. And plenty of French fries. It was messy, but tasted amazing, and a good time was had by all. But the main event at lunch was their transit of the Corinth Canal. Just under five kilometres long and twenty five metres wide at the base, it gave the impression that one of the ancient gods had taken a massive axe and driven it into the earth, carving out a ninety metre deep ravine between the Greek mainland and the Peloponnese, linking the Ionian Sea with the Aegean Sea. The maximum speed a vessel may travel at was six knots or just over eleven kilometres per hour. The transit took just over half an hour at a speed of just over ten kilometres per hour, and they dropped anchor off the port of Piraeus shortly after 15h00. Nigel had radioed ahead to advise the authorities of their arrival and within minutes of dropping the anchor, a Customs and Immigration launch arrived at the port side beach club patio, that had been lowered, and the two officials who boarded were met by Nigel and escorted up to the Sky Lounge where everyone had gathered with their travel documents and where Dan had the yachts paperwork as well. After checking that all the documentation for the yacht was in order, they stamped all the passports reboarded their launch, and just like that, they were in Greece. They didn't linger, and within minutes, Nigel had raised the anchor and they were nosing out of the very busy harbour, destination the island of Mykonnos, three hours away. They sailed past the Temple of Poseidon, built 60 metres above the sea on a rocky crag at Cape Sounion and entered the Aegean Sea proper, their route taking them between the islands of Kea and Kythnos and round the top of Syros to Mykonnos where they dropped anchor just before 20h00, sailing at a sedate speed due to the amount of marine traffic around them Mykonnos Town was lit up like a Christmas tree and the sounds of revelry and music carried over the calm water to the yacht. Dinner had already started, but was interrupted by their arrival, and once the excitement had died down, they returned to the table. Mark had planned a Greek style menu to celebrate their arrival in Greece and the hors d'oeuvres had consisted of a selection of tasty Greek delicacies including taramasalata, spanokopita - spinach and feta pies in phyllo, tzatziki, tyropita - mini cheese pies, favokeftedes - Greek vegetable patties, keftethakia - Greek meat balls, grilled halloumi and, of course olives, marinated sundried tomatoes and pita bread. The main course was served when they got back to the table with either roast lamb with garlic, lemon and herbs or a tomato based calamari stew flavoured with garlic, fennel, olives and herbs., which Andrew found to be utterly divine with the squid almost meltingly soft in the intensely flavoured sauce. There could be no other dessert but baklava, but Mark did his best and produced Greek custard tarts as well. They all went ashore in a tender the next morning after an early breakfast to explore the town, buy more souvenirs, add some T-shirts to their growing collection and take picture perfect photographs and videos, even getting as far as the old windmills on the hill overlooking the bay. The narrow lanes of the town were, however, extremely crowded, and they returned to 'Texas Lass' for lunch instead of eating on shore as had been planned and to find an anchorage that was quieter. While they were having lunch, Nigel raised anchor and set sail around the island, investigating several potential spots along the way, before finally dropping anchor in Panormos Bay in the north of the island. There were several other boats at anchor in the bay, but it was big enough that it didn't feel crowded. The beach club was opened up, the water toys were deployed and they had fun in the sun, which both Andrew and Ryan got too much of and had sunburn at the end of the day. Even the twins, who had spent only a very short time in the sun, had a pink tinge to their delicate skins and both Andrew and Ryan were a little concerned that bath time might be a problem that evening. As it turned out, the little ones did experience some discomfort, but they applied some cooling after sun cream once they were bathed and after being fed, fell asleep soon after and slept right through until the morning. The same couldn't be said for Andrew and Ryan who both had a difficult and uncomfortable night. There was no cuddling or spooning due to the sunburn and they slept only intermittently. They felt better the next morning after hot showers to take some of the sting out of the sunburn and liberal application of cooling cream. The twins seemed to be fine, but they resolved to stay out of the sun for the day. Nigel set sail after breakfast, going round the top of Mykonnos and then turning south for the three hour leg to Naxos, once again negotiating heavy marine traffic, arriving just before lunch. Much to their disappointment, the island was teeming with other yachts and tourists. Ferries raced past their anchorage with no regard for the comfort or safety of those on the yachts at anchor and after being rocked by the wakes of four passing ferries, Dan and Nigel chose to up anchor and find somewhere quieter. They cruised south and rounded the bottom end of the island, then headed northeast and looked at Kalando Bay and further north, Parnormou Bay. Both were heavily populated with boats so the decision was made to skip Naxos and sail on to Paros, a smaller island a bit more than an hours sailing away. They reversed course, sailing south until they cleared the bottom of Naxos, then turned almost due west to cross the lower end of the channel between Naxos and Paros. Ryan recalled an anchorage from his time in the Mediterranean and wondered if Nigel knew about it. He walked up to the bridge and knocked on the door. "Permission to enter, Captain", he asked, respecting the etiquette of the sea. Nigel turned in his chair to grin at him. "Permission granted. Not that you have to ask, Ryan. I'm not too fazed about it. What can I do for you?" "I was wondering where you were considering dropping anchor? When I was in the Med originally, we used an amazing location on the southwest coast of Paros, at a place called Faragga. Do you know it? Nigel called up a chart of Paros and stared at it. "No, to be honest, I don't. Do you recall where exactly where it was?", he asked. "No, not exactly. I mean, I wouldn't be able to give you coordinates or anything like that. Can I have a look at the chart?, he asked, stepping up to the control console. "Yeah, no problem. Let me just zoom in on that part of the coast. I might make things easier.", Nigel suggested. Ryan studied the chart and pointed. "There, just southeast of Alyki! Faragga Bay. On the charts, it just looks like a double headed bay. But there's an amazing, much better third bay to the east, called East Cove. It's literally only big enough for one yacht our size to anchor in, and it has its own beach and great snorkeling. There's not much room to swing, so we'll need to take a line onto the beach to hold us in place. If no one is there, it would be a great place to drop anchor. It's very secluded". Nigel studied the chart intently. "Okay, I'll have to admit I was not aware of it. I know you have a 1st Mate licence. Could you stay up here and guide us in?" Ryan nodded, "Yeah, no problem. We'll just take it nice and slow". As they approached the main bay at at Faragga, they were disappointed to see another yacht in East Cove. They hove to to decide where they should go. Ryan was looking at the other yacht and noticed her profile was changing. She was moving. "Hang on Nigel, we may be in luck. I think she's leaving", Ryan said, gesturing in the direction of the yacht. Sure enough, she sailed out of the cove and turned south as though heading for Santorini. Nigel punched the air. "Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Let's get in there". Keeping a very close eye on the chart, depth meter and echo sounder, Ryan and Nigel coaxed 'Texas Lass' into the cove and dropped the anchor. Then Ryan and Jason deployed a tender, took the line from the stern and ran it ashore to prevent the yacht from swinging round. The cove was almost perfect. Secluded on land and sea, protected on three sides from the wind and big enough just for them. The water was clear and the beach was white and sandy. They stayed for two nights. Dinner on the night they arrived was a BBQ on the aft Owners Deck. Succulent steaks and giant prawns with baked potatoes and salads. Dessert was a New York baked cheesecake with a mixed berry coulis. On the second night, after a day on the beach and the water, they boarded a tender with Joan, and with Dan at the helm, motored round the point, to the next bay along to the west and went to dinner at the Parosland Resort near the town of Alyki. The resort was home to a restaurant that specialised in Greek and Aegean cuisine with a modern twist. The menu at Elaionas was small, just five cold and six hot appetisers, s,ix entrées and three desserts. In the end, they ordered all eleven appetisers and lobster tails to share. It was delicious and a great representation of modern Greek cuisine. They only had two desserts. Loukoumades - Greek donuts with chocolate and pistachio nuts and Galaktompoyreko - semolina custard wrapped in layers of phyllo, baked until crisp and golden and drenched in a clear sweet syrup. It was served with cherry ice cream. They finally left the restaurant to return to the yacht at 16h00. It was a great, final day on 'Texas Lass'. The following morning they would sail south to Santorini where they would disembark and 'Texas Lass' would sail for home. None of them were particularly hungry so Joan got Mark to make up a selection of sandwiches and leave them in the galley to be toasted if anyone got peckish later in the evening.. Then after putting the twins to bed in the cabin, Andrew and Ryan sat with their hosts and watched the latest Avengers movie on the big screen in the cinema, snacking on popcorn and helping themselves to drinks from the bar in the main salon and Mary Anne, who had volunteered to look after the guests, was asked to toast the prepared sandwiches which she served with French fries. Andrew and Ryan both felt it was the perfect way to spend their last night on board. When they arrived on deck for breakfast the next morning, the stern line had already been recovered from the beach and they were being kept in position by the bow and stern side thrusters which were automatically compensating for the wind and current flow. The engines were also ticking over should they be needed. It was another perfect Mediterranean summers day and the seas were mirror flat. Out on the bay, a superyacht lay at anchor, presumably waiting and hoping they would be leaving soon. They would however, have to wait a bit longer as 'Texas Lass' only raised her anchor after breakfast for the four hour leg to Kamari Beach on Santorini where the cottage was located. Once again, they had to sail slowly due to the water traffic. Ryan had forgotten just how hectic the Mediterranean could get in summer. Ferries raced in every direction possible, not caring about the discomfort caused by their massive wakes, almost every island had a cruise liner either berthed in the harbour or anchored offshore. And then there were the hundreds of sailboats and motorised pleasure craft that dotted the seascape, often playing chicken under their bows. It was mid afternoon when they arrived off the black sand beach at Kamari. Beach chairs were lined up on the sand like regimented soldiers and the beach was crowded. Fortunately, the cottage was located in the corner against a hill that butted out into the sea, resulting in a small, secluded private beach. It could be accessed from the main beach, but due to it being at the far end away from all the restaurants, bars and shops, it stayed quiet. Nigel slowly backed up as close to the beach as he dared, which got the attention of the beachgoers, which increased when the beach club opened up to allow for the tender to be deployed and moored to transport the Devlin-Majors to the beach and several jetskis and kayaks launched out to the yacht to be inspected by curious tourists. Andrew had contacted the letting agent, an expat from the UK, to meet them on the beach with the keys for the cottage and the motor vehicle that Andrew had arranged with him to hire for them to use for the duration of their stay. Their luggage had all been carried down from their cabin to the beach club and was being loaded onto the tender by Jason and another deckhand. When the time came for them to board the tender, they thanked Nigel and Kirsty, the only other crew present, and Ryan discreetly handed Nigel envelopes that contained a generous gratuity for the crew as well individually marked ones for him, Kirsty, Mark and Jason. Dan and Joan boarded the tender to go ashore with them and they handed their two precious little bundles to the older couple before boarding themselves. With Jason at the helm, they cast off and slowly motored away from the yacht, waving to the crew who were standing at the rail on the main deck. Jason ran the tender up onto the beach so that the bow was well clear of the water and jumped out to secure the anchor on the beach sand making sure it was solid. Then he assisted them onto the beach and started unloading the luggage. Andrew and Ryan, with Cameron and Elizabeth in their arms, approached the letting agent who was standing near the stairs from the beach to the cottage patio. He smiled widely as they neared him. "Blimey, when you guys said you were arriving by yacht, I somehow thought it would be a small sailing yacht, not a bleeding great big fancy superyacht. You certainly know how to make an entrance. The entire town is going to be wondering who the celebs are" They shook his hand and Ryan replied, "I hate to disappoint them. Just ordinary people with very special friends", he said, looking at Dan and Joan. Dan waved his hand, "Just hang on there. These two own a luxury catamaran and a hotel in Cape Town. So not so ordinary". "Well, you're still going to be the talk of the town for a day or two, especially amongst the locals. Let me show you around and get you settled". "No need to give us a tour", said Andrew, "we've stayed here before. So we know where everything is" "Oh yes, I had forgotten that". He led them up the three steps to the terracotta tiled patio and into the cool interior of the cottage, handed them the keys of the cottage and the car that was parked under the carport, said his goodbyes and left. Ryan gave Cameron to Andrew and returned to the beach to help Jason with the luggage while Dan and Joan chatted to Andrew and had a look around. The cottage was an L-shaped structure built in the cube shape typical of the regions architecture with the longer side, the two bedrooms and bathrooms built into the side of the hill, keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter. Floor to ceiling windows and sliding doors running the full length of the cottage opened onto the patio, with the main bedroom having direct access while the second bedroom was separated from the patio by a tiled passageway which opened out into the living area at the junction of the two sides. The patio was covered by a retractable awning supported by a frame made from creosote poles, over and around which grew bright pink bougainvillea, and four sunbeds, topped with striped blue and green cushions were placed on the patio tiles. The interior furniture was simple, but comfortable. The main bedroom had a queen size bed, a small seating area and en-suite bathroom, while the second bedroom was a twin with a shower, basin and toilet. The wall facing the passageway and patio contained a large window which provided natural light to the room. The living room was decorated in a typical beach house manner with a three piece, white rattan lounge suite upholstered in blue, cream, tan and sand stripes, and a small four seater glass topped bamboo dining table. A wall unit housed the entertainment system with a TV and a music system. The TV had a satellite feed. Ceiling fans turned lazily in all the rooms to cool the air. There were two dressers containing linen and crockery and the small, but very well appointed kitchen had drawers with all the cutlery and utensils. When they had viewed the whole cottage, Dan and Joan returned to the living area. Joan hugged them both, being careful not to crush the twins. "Well, my darlings, it's time for us to get going. We have a long way to go. It was lovely seeing you and having you with us. I will miss you and these two little imps. Look after them". Andrew smiled at her, feeling unexpectedly sad. "Thank you both for inviting us and spoiling us. It really wasn't necessary and we appreciate it. And for the flight home too" Ryan put his arm around Andrew and added, "We had a fantastic time. We're going to miss you too. Have a good trip back. Keep in touch". "Well, we'll see you at the end of the year", Dan told them "We're taking the family out on vacation for Christmas and New Year. We've already made reservations at the lodge and on 'Belle Catherine'. Can you put together a nice itinerary for us. We'll be in Cape Town for New Year and then five to seven days on board. Maybe up the other side this time". Andrew grinned. "That's great. We look forward to it. Ry and I will put something together for you and email it to you. Probably only after we get back home though", he said enthusiastically. "You boys will be back home long before we are. From here we go back to Piraeus for two days to reprovision and clear out of Greece. Then we head for home, stopping off at Gibraltar and the Canary Islands then heading across the pond to Miami with a stop in the Bahamas. Four weeks in total." They stepped back onto the beach, walking towards the tender where Jason waited to take them back to the yacht, which had swung round on her anchor and was now floating parallel to the beach, looking very elegant indeed. Joan kissed both babies on their heads, then pecked Andrew and Ryan on the cheek. "Enjoy the rest of your vacation", she said and stepped into the tender with Jason and Ryan's assistance. They shook Dan's hand and helped him in as well and after Ryan handed Cameron to Andrew again, he gave the tender a hefty push off the beach and she floated free. Jason started the motors, turned her around and headed back to the yacht with Dan and Joan waving farewell. They stayed at the waters edge and watched as the older couple climbed the exterior stairs to the main deck and the beach club doors started closing, making the yacht watertight once again. The water boiled at her stern and she started moving away, her ships horn sounding three times. She picked up speed and they waved until she disappeared behind the point of the hill, her horn sounding again in a final farewell. Andrew looked at Ryan, smiling wistfully. "I feel so sad" Ryan kissed him and smiled back. "I know how you feel. They're very special people. But we'll see them at the end of the year. We'll have to include them in any arrangements we make'. They turned and walked back up to the cottage, arms around each others waists. They settled the twins on the bed in the main bedroom, giving them some juice to drink, and collected the luggage from the patio and started unpacking. They completed the task surprisingly quickly and as it was still light, decided to take a drive to the supermarket in Kamari for some extra supplies. They grabbed the twins and their baby seats and their wallets, locked up the cottage and walked to the car under the carport, amazed that it was a it bigger than what they had expected. The grey BMW 5 - series was not a new model, but was spotless and well cared for. They were pleased to see that the gas tank was full. Ryan quickly fitted the seats and they secured the twins and got in themselves. It started first time and Ryan reversed out of the property into the narrow cul-de-sac that the cottage was in. It was a short five minute drive to the small town where every second store seemed to be either a restaurant or a bar, all doing a roaring trade. They found the supermarket quite easily, parked the car and entered the store taking two trolleys so that the twins could sit while they shopped. Andrew was in his element as he explored the shelves with all their unfamiliar brands and ingredients. By the time they reached the checkout line Andrew's trolley was half full including meat, chicken and fish for meals and all the ingredients to make the dinners he had planned in his head while shopping, with the idea of eating out or getting take out every alternate night. There were also a lot of treats like ice cream and containers of baklava and cheesecake. And items for breakfast. The week on Santorini was a very relaxing one, although they did not spend all their time on the beach atthe cottage. They made several trips to various tourist sites around the island including a day trip to the Minoan ruins at Akrotiri, caused when more than half the island disappeared into the sea when the volcano erupted in ancient times, leaving the crescent shaped island we know today, with its west coast overlooking the caldera of the volcano. On another day they drove across the island to the main town of Fira and then followed the coast road north along the rim of the caldera all the way to Oia, an exclusive, very picturesque village on the north coast. They walked the narrow lanes of the village with its whitewashed cuboid buildings with some walls painted in vibrant reds and blues. They had planned their arrival in the village to be there for sunset, reputed to be the most spectacular in all of the Cyclades islands and they were not disappointed. They drove back to the cottage along the top of the island and then down the east coast arriving back when it was already dark. It was one of the nights they had take out for dinner. They also went out for dinner one night to celebrate Ryan's birthday. In a small taverna on the beachfront, with a soft breeze and moonlight shining in a golden path across the calm sea, they ate spanokopita, and a simple, but unbelievably tasty moussaka with Greek salad and pita bread and a refreshing lemon mousse for dessert. On their final trip, they spent the morning at Santo Wines, a winery on the west coast with amazing views of the caldera. Andrew, as the family wine expert, proceeded to taste every wine on the estates product list and ultimately placed an order for seven cases of wine, a sparkling rosè, two dry white wines, an off dry rosè, two red wines and a case of Vinsanto, a sweet, deep amber hued, dessert wine, made from sundried grapes. He arranged for the wines to be shipped to The Dorchester in London to await their arrival and the flight home. Back at the cottage, they took the twins for a late afternoon swim in the Mediterranean and then got to packing for their flight the next day to Athens and Paris. They had just finished packing the luggage into the BMW when the letting agent arrived to drive them to the airport, so that he could return the car. Ryan sat up front with him, while Andrew sat between the twins, turning himself into a pretzel to get into the rear seat around the baby car seats. The drive was short, with the airport located near the town of Thira, slightly north and inland of Kamari. With the twins in the chest harnesses, they checked in at the Aegean Airlines business class counter for their 11h35 flight to Athens International, landing at 12h20. Then they had a two hour connection for their Air France flight, departing at 14h25 and arriving at Paris Charles De Gaulle airport at 16h55, with a one hour time difference. There was no business class lounge at Santorini, but the airline gave them food and beverage vouchers to use in the small food court. The airport was teeming with people and they both decided that Santorini was a much nicer place in winter when it was quieter. The boarding call for passengers travelling with children was made, so Andrew and Ryan stepped up to the gate to board. In the absence of boarding bridges, they walked the short distance across the tarmac to the plane and climbed the stairs to the door. They were the first business class passengers to board and a very friendly, helpful flight attendant got them settled in their seats and provided seat belt extentions for the twins. While they waited for the rest of the passengers to board, the stewardess brought them facecloths and ice cold orange juice to drink and apple juice for the twins. From what they could gather, the flight was almost full, with only a few seats remaining in business class. They took off towards the south before turning 180°, giving them a superb view of the entire island and caldera as they climbed to their cruising altitude heading north. They touched down at Athens International forty five minutes later and hurried tothe Air France check in counters. Their Mediterranean meander was over. As Greece and France are both Schengen countries, it was not necessary for them to pass through customs and immigration. But their Schengen visas had to be checked before they could travel to Paris. They were given access to the business class lounge, but before they could go there, Ryan was on a mission. To find out if Sister Katerina was still at the airport chapel.
  13. Darren and Kerry were already busy on board 'Belle Catherine' when Andrew and Ryan arrived at the dockside the following morning. The babies had slept through to 7am and then they cuddled in bed with them for an hour before starting to get ready for the day, which would be a long one as the plan was to give 'Belle Catherine' a thorough clean, inside and out, prior to the first charter of the year. They had the twins with them, so the first point of business was to get them settled in the master cabin to nap. They were already quite sleepy when they arrived at the yacht, so it was not long before they were out for the count. While Ryan and Darren took care of the exterior, Andrew and Kerry each took a hull and started on the cabins, dusting and wiping down all the surfaces in the bedrooms and disinfecting all the bathrooms and toilets. Andrew was pleased that the eco-friendly cleaning products they used were not acrid smelling at all, but left the cabins smelling clean and fresh, and were able to be used around the babies as well. Then they made up all the beds using linen from the cupboards. The linen returning from the laundry would go back into the cupboards. They broke for lunch and then started on the saloon. Ryan and Darren had the engine covers and hatches open all over the deck to check all the mechanical equipment. The twins woke up so Andrew settled them in their chairs on the seats in the saloon, while he and Kerry were busy there and in the galley, where Andrew unpacked all the cupboards, washed them down and repacked everything. In the mid afternoon, Ryan turned on the engines and generator to let them run for a while, as well as the water maker, to check that it was functioning properly after he and Darren had replaced the filters and they both went into the water in wetsuits with snorkels to give the hulls a brush down and check that all the intakes were clear. The air conditioning was also running for a check, and also to help cool the yacht down as the day had been stiflingly hot, but Andrew had brandy spiked hot chocolate waiting for them when they emerged from the cold Cape water to help them warm up. The last area to be cleaned was the aft cockpit and when that was done they all got stuck into polishing all the exterior stain-less steel deck railings and fittings and the safety rails on the saloon roof. It had been a hot, hard day but they were satisfied that 'Belle Catherine' was ready for the second half of the charter season and she gleamed, inside and out in the early evening sunlight. It was after 7pm when they drove away from the marina and Andrew was very happy to find Donna in the kitchen when they arrived home, making Spaghetti Bolognaise with garlic rolls. Exhausted from the days exertions they had an early night, falling asleep almost as soon as their heads hit the pillows. On the Sunday morning, the family went to the lodge for a late breakfast as Donna and Craig had to be at the airport at lunch time to check in for their flight to Johannesburg. Andrew, Ryan and the twins drove them to the airport with David and Janice in convoy behind them. At the drop off point outside departures, Clint and Karen were waiting for Donna and Craig. They were on the same flight and wanted to check in together in order to be seated close together. Andrew and Ryan did not stay but waited for David and Janice to come from the parking garage, then said their good byes and left the airport for home, leaving David and Janice to see them off. On Monday morning, Yvonne came back to work, arriving at 8am. She let herself into the house making sure the alarm had been disarmed as she had been caught out once before and had nearly had a heart attack when the alarm went off, prompting the arrival of half a dozen security company vehicles and the police. After having a cup of coffee, she stripped the linen off the bed in the guest bedroom and put it into the washing machine. Then she went about her usual tasks on the lounge level, opening the sliding doors and curtains, straightening furniture and giving everything a light dust. The contract cleaners came on a Tuesday and Friday and they would do the deep clean of the house. She remade the bed in he guest room and cleaned and restocked the bathroom. Only when Andrew and Ryan came down with the twins would she go upstairs. When they did come down, they both greeted her with hugs and wishing her a happy new year. They asked how her Christmas had been and what she had done with her family. It was one of the reasons she loved working for Andrew and Ryan. They were genuinely interested in her as a person and the well being of her family. She handed Andrew her banking details as requested so that her salary could be deposited directly into her account and Andrew stood with her as he entered all the information into his banking app on the laptop. She fussed with the twins for a while, made Andrew and Ryan coffee and toast and then went upstairs to open up the rooms to air. David was playing golf with some friends so Ryan was taking Janice into town to pick up the pictures that had been framed for the exhibition at the lodge, so he was alone studing financials from the accountant when Yvonne came back downstairs and walked over to him "Mr Andrew, I found this under the bed in the bedroom at the end of the hall", handing him a CD cover sleeve He took it from Yvonne, thanked her and she returned upstairs. The sleeve had nothing written on it nor the CD itself when he opened it. Curiosity got the better of him and he popped it into his laptop expecting the hear music. What he got was something entirely different and his eyes widened in surprise when a video picture flashed up on this screen. It was professionally filmed video and the camera panned around a room that was obviously a dungeon with whips and lashes and various bdsm paraphernalia on the walls and racks. A table with some sort of framework around it stood in the centre of the room, along with another frame with two sturdy uprights and a crossbar. A thought flicked in his brain and, perturbed but facinated, he continued watching. A door opened and he heard the click, realising the video had a soundtrack as well. He pulled out his earphones and plugged them in. A tall woman dressed as a dominatrix and a man in leather chaps and chest harness entered the room leading another male. He was blindfolded, just wearing a very brief thong and his arms were held in front of him, spread wide and shackled to the ends of a bar. The camera focused on the group and Andrew realised that his suspicion had been correct. The bound male was Clint! The camera panned from his face, down his body, lingering on his chest, belly and crotch, to his feet showing two shackles on his ankles. The video was about 40 minutes long and when the screen went blank, Andrew sat back and stared at in astonishment, stunned and horrified. There was nothing on it to indicate when it had been made, but in his opinion Clint had, at some time after that, been subjected to an even heavier session that had broken the skin on his body, hence the white lines that he had seen. He shook his head and the thought crossed his mind 'Never judge a book by its cover'. His next thought was whether to tell Ryan about the CD. His first instinct was no. He felt it was probably a very similar scenario to what Ryan had experienced when he had been kidnapped, and he didn't want to dig up unwanted memories. But at the same time, he didn't want to keep any secrets from Ryan. He thought about it for a while and decided not to tell Ryan for the moment. He would have to think it over. He took the CD out of the laptop, placed it in it's sleeve and popped it into the inside pocket of his laptop bag. He looked up guiltily as he realised he had completely neglected the twins. He stood up to check them and found them fast asleep on their blanket, both on their stomachs and he realised that Elizabeth was now also able to turn herself over. He returned to the laptop and opened the financial spreadsheet he had been reading, but found he couldn't concentrate on the figures as his dilemma around the CD kept intruding on this thoughts. Keeping something from Ryan just did not sit well with him. They had always shared everything, however, in this case due to the content of the CD, he was concerned that Ryan might be adversely affected by it if he viewed it. He took out his mobile and scrolled through his contacts to find the number of the psychiatrist they had consulted after Ryan's assault. After explaining who he was, his receptionist put him though the the shrink. Fortunately he remembered Andrew, and he explained his problem. The shrink asked a few questions, mainly regarding Ryan's present frame of mind and then advised Andrew to tell Ryan about the CD and let him decide whether he wants to view it or not. He advised Andrew that whatever the decision, he felt they he must either return the CD to its owner or destroy it. Andrew thanked him for his advice and disconnected the call. Cameron was showing signs of waking up while he was on the call, so he sat on the couch watching him but he settled down again and slept on. A couple of minutes later, Ryan called to say he and Janice were leaving the city and could Andrew meet them at his parents home to help load up the rest of the art collection and drop it off at the lodge. Andrew told Ryan that the twins were sleeping, so he couldn't meet them. Ryan told him they would come to the house instead and wait for the twins to wake up. As it was almost lunch time, he went to the kitchen and quickly put together a large Nicoise salad and Yvonne set the patio table for lunch as she had finished her chores upstairs. When Ryan and Janice arrived, Andrew toasted generous slices of ciabatta, topped it with a good helping of the salad and drizzled olive oil and balsamic dressing over it and carried it to the table, leaving one for Yvonne for her lunch. They ate an early lunch and Yvonne made coffee. When the twins woke up, Andrew and Ryan got them dressed, checked the baby bags to make sure they had everything and got the twins into Andrew's car. They then drove to David and Janice's home and quickly loaded up the rest of the artworks and drove to the lodge. They parked under the portico and unloaded the pictures storing them in a Paul's office until the next day when they were due to be hung on the walls. Paul took them to view the exhibition area, with Andrew and Ryan each holding a baby in their arms. Paul had arranged to have the navy blue walls washed and repainted, and the spotlights on the tracks had been cleaned as well. Janice was trying to get some idea of which picture would go where, but would really only know for sure once they were all on display. Then they could move them around as she saw fit. They had some tea and scones on the pool deck and left the lodge after arranging with Paul to be back in the morning to hang the pictures.. The exhibition would be officially opened the day after with a cocktail party in the early evening, which Andrew and Ryan were donating. Andrew drove home while Ryan dropped his mom off and Yvonne helped him carry the twins upstairs before leaving for home. The afternoon was quite hot, so he undressed them, leaving them wearing just their diapers and a cool top and lay down on the rug with them. When Ryan returned home he got them each a beer and he and Andrew sat on the couch watching the babies play with their toys. Ryan put his arm over Andrew's shoulders and pulled him close. He turned Andrew's face to look at him and asked softly "Okay, out with it. What's bugging you?" Andrew dropped his head on to Ryan's chest. "What makes you think something is bugging me?" Ryan grinned at him. "Firstly, because you are answering my question with a question! Secondly, my love, I know you well enough to know that you have been distracted the entire afternoon. So tell me, what is going on. You were perfectly normal when I left this morning. I come back and my husband is seemingly on another planet". Andrew sighed, his head still in Ryan's chest. "You're right. Something happened this morning after you left and I don't know if I want to tell you about it.". He felt Ryan stiffen and he looked up at him when he said, "Okay, now you are beginning to scare me. Is it you? Or one of the twins? Drew, what is going on?" Andrew sat up and took Ryan's hand in his. "The reason I'm not sure I should tell you is because I am worried about your reaction.". He sighed again. "Okay, here goes! Yvonne found a CD under the bed in the room that Clint and Karen used on Saturday night and she brought it down to me. Thinking it was just music, I put it into my laptop and played it. As it turned out it wasn't music. It was a video. A very professional video. It's what's on the video that concerns me" "Okay, now you got my attention, don't stop now. What is on the video?" "You remember the white lines in Clints body. The video explains those lines, Ry. They are whip marks. The video shows Clint in a heavy bdsm session with two other people, a male and a female. It shows him being tied up and subjected to lashings, nipple and ball torture, electric shocks and being sexually abused. And he enjoyed it. Got off on it. But the problem is, it is very much what I would think you were subjected to. That's why I wasn't sure if I wanted to tell you" Ryan stared at him with a shocked expression on his face. "My god. Does it show how he got those marks?" he asked. Andrew shook his head. "No it doesn't. There is no indication as to when the video was made. But I would guess he was involved in another session after the one on the video. The marks cannot be seen on the video, so they had to have been inflicted afterwards." Ryan was incredulous, shaking his head, "Well fuck me! I would never have guessed. I wonder if Donna and Craig know about his extramural activities?" "My guess is, no they don't. He seems to be a helluva nice guy. So normal. And yet....." "So where is the video now?" "In my laptop bag. Do I send it to him? My immediate reaction is to just destroy it." "Do you have a contact number for him? I know I don't", Ryan asked. "No I don't. We could get a number from Donna. I'm sure she'll have it. And if she doesn't, Craig probably will". "I think we should just contact him and advise the we have found a CD that we think belongs to either him or Karen. And we take it from there", Ryan suggested and pulled out his mobile. He called Donna who did have a contact number for Clint. Andrew then made the call to Clint, turning on the speaker so that Ryan could hear the conversation. When he answered Andrew said, "Hi Clint, it's Andrew Devlin-Major in Cape Town. How things going in Johannesburg?" "Oh, hi Andrew, nice hearing from you. Had to go back to work today. Still trying to get back into the swing of things. Thanks again for the trip on your yacht. It was great. Why are you calling? What can I do for you?" "Well it's actually something I think we can do for you. Our housekeeper was up in the bedroom you and Karen slept in and found a CD on the floor under the bed. We think it belongs to you or Karen and we were wondering what you wanted us to do with it?" There was a moment of silence from Clint and then he said, "If it has a red transparent cover, it's more than likely mine. Did you play it?" Andrew glanced at Ryan and he shook his head. "No we haven't. But we thought it might important". "I am missing a CD that is quite sensitive" he said sounding relieved. "I'm actually flying back to Cape Town on Wednesday morning early for a two day seminar. Could we meet somewhere and I can get the CD from you?" "Yeah no problem. Will you be in the city itself?" "Actually, I'm just looking at the details now. I will be quite close to you. The seminar is being held at the Dolphin Beach Hotel and I'm staying overnight there as well. Why don't we meet for drinks in the bar?" Andrew glanced at Ryan again and he nodded. "Drinks would be fine. But could you meet us at our lodge, the Blue Bay in Bloubergstrand. Janice, Ryan's mom, is having the opening of her art exhibition at the lodge on Wednesday evening with a cocktail party and we have to be there. Why not join us?" "Yeah, okay. I can do that. 5pm at the Blue Bay. Would that be okay?" "That's perfect, see you then. Cheers" Andrew put down his phone in looked at Ryan. "See what I mean about being nice and normal". Ryan smiled saying, "Yeah. And that comment about the CD being sensitive. Talk about understatement of the year". Andrew leaned in for a kiss and then looked at Ryan with a frown on his face. "I saw what they did to you. I just cannot fathom how anyone would willingly submit themselves to that sort of treatment. It just boggles my mind". Ryan pulled Andrew into his arms. "Babe, it's no good getting tied up in knots over it. It's his life and it's up to him how he lives it. We just need to get that CD back to him and forget about it". Andrew nodded and smiled. "My husband, the voice of reason, as usual". The next morning they had a meeting with Paul and the accountant with regard to how the staff wanted their dividend cheques paid out. Paul had held a meeting with them at which it was decided that they would like 60% of the dividend paid monthly through the year and the remaining 40% paid as a lump sum in December. Paul had made it clear that the new arrangement would only come into effect at the end of the current financial period, which would be at the end of June and the dividend had been determined, but that they should have their first payment at the end of July. After the meeting they met David and Janice for breakfast before beginning the job of hanging Janice's artworks. With the eye of an artist, under her guidance, they hung the pictures on the walls and about half a dozen were placed on artists easels. When she was satisfied with the placement of each picture, the next job was to spotlight each work. Fortunately, the lodge handyman was available to climb up and down the ladder to move and adjust each spotlight and to add more onto the track as required. They had light salad lunches on the pool deck and finshed up in the mid afternoon, after attaching discreet price tags to each picture. Two pictures already had 'Sold' tags attached as well, purchased by Andrew and Ryan. One was a charcoal sketch of Cameron and Elizabeth sitting on the blanket covered rug, propped up with cushions and pillows, looking directly at the viewer, with a selection of toys around them. The other was a watercolour of Ryan and Andrew sitting on the couch with the twins on their laps, Andrew with Cameron and Ryan with Elizabeth. The most striking thing about the picture was the manner in which Janice had captured the eyes of the family group, which showed quite clearly who had fathered each of the twins and the expressions of contented happiness on the faces of the two fathers. Janice was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof in the hours leading up to the opening, with all manner of doubts crowding in on her. The cocktail party was due to start at 5pm and finish at 8pm. They arrived slightly early to do a quick check that everything was in order and make a few last minute changes to the layout of the pictures. Andrew and Ryan had the twins in the chest harnesses instead of carrying them in their arms all evening and they attracted as much attention as the exhibition as they circulated through the exhibition, chatting to the invitees. They had left the baby bags in Paul's office, one of which held the CD. Clint arrived at 5.30 and after a drink and a small plate of snacks, he indicated that he couldn't stay, but had to get back to his hotel for a formal dinner with the other delegates attending the seminar. Andrew and a Ryan walked him to Paul's office, gave him the CD, which he seemed very relieved to see, and he left soon after. Andrew felt a weight lift off his shoulders having got rid of the CD. The evening progressed successfully and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Janice was far more relaxed having had some very good comments about the exhibition and a couple of sales. Paul was MC for the night and made short speech welcoming everyone and telling them a bit more about the artist and the exhibition itself. He also thanked those who had already made purchases and advised that the works could be collected at the end of the next week, at which time new works would be added to replace those that had been sold. Andrew and Ryan had told Janice that they were willing for the two works that they had purchased to remain on exhibition should she wish. The twins, who had been quite alert earlier in the evening, had decided their dads chests were far too comfortable, and both were fast asleep with their faces nestled on their shirt fronts. As the evening started winding down, and the time neared for them to leave, Andrew asked Paul to arrange a small platter of snacks and cheese and biscuits for he and Ryan to take home. Although both of them had been nibbling at canapés through the evening, they were still hungry and as neither felt like cooking when they got home, and didn't feel like regular takeaways either, taking some leftovers home was the next best option, and the twins could be made more comfortable in their cots. Leaving Janice to play hostess for the rest of the evening, Andrew and Ryan drove home and put the twins to bed before going downstairs to relax on the couch in front of the TV. Ryan opened a bottle of white wine which they enjoyed along with the cheese and biscuits, and a platter of sushi and another of hot snacks that the chef had included, while cuddling on the couch and watching the midweek football game in the English Premier League featuring Liverpool, their favourite team. When the game ended, they locked up, turned off the lights and walked hand in hand up the stairs to the master bedroom where once again they reaffirmed their love in the most intimate way possible. Three days later, on a rainy, blustery Saturday morning, just after breakfast, Andrew was sitting at the breakfast counter working on his laptop when it 'pinged' in notification of an incoming email. He opened his email account and saw it was from the Kinleys with an attachment. Opening the email he read, "Hi there Andrew, Ryan and twins. How are you all? Best wishes for the New Year. Wish we could be back with you in sunny South Africa. Europe is freezing. We launched the new yacht yesterday. We named her 'Texas Lass'. Attached is a video of the launch. Would you be able to join us in Italy on 22 June to sail on 23 June. Please advise so that we can arrange your travel from SA to Italy. Looking so forward to seeing you again. Dan and Joan Kinley". Ryan had taken the twins upstairs to change them and get them dressed for a trip to the mall so Andrew climbed the stairs to the bedroom. Ryan was just finishing up with Cameron and Elizabeth. "I just received an email from the Kinleys. They sent a video of the launch and they want us to be in Italy on 22 June. I just came up to see how far you were so that we can watch the launch together. But maybe it should wait until we get back from the mall?" "Let's get the shopping done first. Then we can watch it at out leisure. We won't be going anywhere else in this weather. It can't be pleasant on 'Belle Catherine' either. Have you heard from Darren at all?" "Nope, nothing since they sailed yesterday morning. We warned the clients the weather was going to turn, but they wanted to go ahead. We don't get northwesterly winds in summer very often. I'll try the satellite phone and see if I can contact them before we leave. Do you need any help with Cam and Elizabeth?" "No, you go down and contact Darren. I'll be down as soon as I finish here". Andrew went downstairs and pulled the satellite phone out of its charging station and called the phone on 'Belle Catherine'. It rang three times before Kerry answered. "Hi Kerry, Andrew here. Just calling to find out where you are and how you're coping in this weather?" "Oh hi boss. We're taking shelter in Langebaan. It's bucketing down here. Hold on, here's Darren" "Andrew, hello. We're safe in Langebaan". The clients are battling though. They've started getting seasick just before we arrived here. Even though we are at the dock, she's rocking and rolling and it's very unpleasant". The wind is phenomenal. We're trying to find a berth that's more protected. We can't get out of the lagoon either. The seas at the mouth are huge", Darren told Andrew. "Darren, if it's really uncomfortable for the clients, book them into a hotel or B&B until you can sail back. This weather is due start clearing tomorrow. So you should be okay to sail back to a Cape Town on Monday. Are you and Kerry doing okay? " "Yeah, we're fine. No problems. It's just the clients." "Good. Get them rooms on land until you are ready to sail back. Make them as comfortable as possible. Get the hotel to call me if they require anything. And you call me if you need anything!" "Okay boss, will do. And thanks for the call. We'll do our best with the clients". "Thanks Darren. Call be back once you get organised" Ryan had come down while Andrew was talking to Darren and had heard the last part of the conversation. "I take it they're holed up somewhere?"Andrew nodded. "Yeah, in Langebaan. He says the weather up there is atrocious. The clients are seasick and they can't get out of the lagoon either due to the swell at the mouth of the lagoon.As you heard, I told him to get the clients into accommodations ashore. I just hope the seas have calmed enough by Monday, that they can get out of the lagoon. We'll just have to wait and see". With nothing else he could do until Darren called him back, they carried the twins to the car and went shopping. They had just entered the mall when Darren called back. "Hi boss. Okay, I managed to get two rooms, or apartments really, at Club Mykonos. The hotel is sending a minivan to transfer our guests from the harbour to the hotel. They will also bring them back on Monday morning. They are on a bed and breakfast rate, but I have told them they can charge lunch and dinner as well". "Good. Please advise them that we will cover drinks to a limit of R400 per day including wine at dinner and that any charges in the casino will be for their account. Ryan and I are not home at the moment, but as soon as we get back, I will fire off an email to the hotel confirming arrangements and the charges we will be liable for. I will ask them to make copies and given to our guests so they know where they stand as well" "Thanks Andrew . Will do" "Are you and Kerry staying on 'Belle Catherine' or do you want to move as well?" "No, we will say on the yacht. I don't want to leave her unattended in this weather" "Thank you, I appreciate that. Look after her and yourselves. If it's too difficult to cook or you don't feel like cooking, just order takeaways and charge them on the yacht credit card" "Okay, thanks Andrew. We might do that. Ah, the hotel bus is here. I must go" "Thanks Darren. I'll get that email to the hotel as soon as I get home." They didn't linger at the mall, just did some grocery shopping and returned home where Andrew sent the email to the hotel, with a copy to Darren, before unpacking the shopping bags. They watched the video of the launch of 'Texas Lass' while having lunch. Sitting on the couch with steaming bowls of creamy tomato soup laced with sherry and garnished with grated cheese and crusty rolls, they watched as the gleaming, white and blue hulled, three deck yacht was rolled out of her construction hanger on her cradle. A massive straddle crane was moved over her and thick straps were passed under her hull before she was lifted and moved to the water and carefully lowered into her new home. A remote controlled arm swung down as Joan pressed a button on a dias and smashed a bottle of champagne on the point of her bow. A tug then moved her to the berth where her interior would be installed. The video showed her name and port of registry on the transom in chrome letters and panned along the hull to the bow to a discreet image of a smiling young girl, looking remarkably like a young Joan, dressed in a cowgirl outfit and waving to two flags, a stars and stripes and the Texan state flag. The camera then showed the white superstructure but did not go on board. Dan and Joan were shown standing in front of the yacht, smiling happily and holding glasses of champagne. In the late afternoon, blue skies appeared on the horizon, marking the rear edge of the passing storm front, and Ryan opened the weather app on his laptop to study the forecast for Sunday and Monday and decided that by Monday, the sea would be relatively calm and that the yacht could sail back to Cape Town with no problems. The wind would remain in the west north west quadrant, which would be favourable for the trip back. They discussed driving up to Langebaan and have Ryan board the yacht for the trip back, but nixed the idea deciding that Darren had their full trust and they did not want to undermine his confidence and authority. By Sunday morning the bulk of the storm had moved past leaving blue skies with scudding white clouds and a brisk, cool wind. The swell, however was still quite high, although in Langebaan it had already abated somewhat, being further north and would have got relief from the storm earlier. Ryan spoke with Darren on Sunday afternoon and they decided that the trip to Cape Town the following day would take place. Darren had taken the dinghy to the lagoon mouth and confirmed that the swell had dropped considerably and that they should not have a problem getting back to sea in the morning apart from it, possibly, being just slightly rougher coming out of the lagoon. Ryan asked him to contact them once they were at sea and that he and Andrew would meet them when they arrived in the marina to personally speak to the guests. The weather continued to improve through the day and on Monday morning there were just a few high wispy clouds in the blue sky, but the wind remained brisk, leaving the water in the bay quite choppy. A cloud was starting to form over the mountain, an indication that the wind might be about to turn. When 'Belle Catherine' appeared in the channel between Robben Island and Bloubergstrand, Andrew and Ryan got the twins into their car seats and drove around the bay to the marina where they had to wait for a short while until the yacht motored into the marina. They stood on the dockside with the twins on their chests in the harnesses, and watched as Darren swung her around to approach the dock with the port side. Kerry tossed the mooring lines to Andrew and Ryan and they secured them to the bollards on the dock before Darren turned off the engines. They could see the guests sitting in the saloon, out of the wind , as Darren and Kerry helped them to onto the deck. "Hi guys, welcome home. How was it coming back?" Ryan asked Darren after hugging them both. "Not too bad actually. The guests were much happier even though the sea was not as calm as we would have liked. I advised them to keep their seasickness patches on that we gave them before reaching Langebaan. And that seemed to help on the trip back. There were no problems at all". Andrew hugged both Darren and Kerry and said, "Well thanks for everything you did guys. We couldn't have done any better under the circumstances. You both did very well. We're proud of you. Now let's go meet the guests. I see the lodge minivan has arrived as well to transfer them." Andrew and Ryan spent half an hour chatting to the guests and smoozing them, making sure that they were ultimately happy with the service they had received, notwithstanding the weather they had to endure. The clients thanked them for the two nights ashore and that they were pleased that Andrew and Ryan cared enough to come down and speak to them. Andrew told them that the storm front that had hit them was a northwesterly and very unusual for the time of year and that the prevailing winds were almost exclusively from the southeast during the summer months. The forecasts had not predicted that the storm would be as intense as it was and that if it had, they would have not have sailed at all. They both told the guests that they were pleased that they were back safely and hoped they would enjoy the remainder of their tour through the country. Darren and Kerry came back into the saloon to advise that all the luggage had been loaded into the minivan and that the driver was ready to transfer them to Blue Bay for the night. The guest's thanked Darren and Kerry, leaving them a handsome tip, which spoke volumes to Andrew and Ryan and were assisted ashore by Darren and Kerry. Andrew and Kerry made a pot of coffee, while Ryan and Darren did a walkabout checking to see if 'Belle Catherine' had suffered any damage during the storm and apart from a few scuff marks on the starboard hull, probably from when she was tied up to the dock in Langebaan, she was in perfect shape. Darren was ecstatic over how she had handled in the rough seas and high winds, bring really impressed with her stability and her ease of control. In two seasons of running charters, it was the first time that she had been at sea in a storm with clients on board and Ryan felt she had come through it with flying colours. They had coffee and leftover cheesecake with Darren and Kerry, who would be staying on board for the night and would do a thorough clean the next day to prepare for the next charter over the coming weekend. The second half of the season proved to be a very busy one, sometimes with only a day between arrival and departure so by the end of the Easter vacation, which officially marked the end of the season, they were all tired and in need of a break. As usual, 'Belle Catherine' was due to be hauled out over the off season to have her hull inspected and cleaned and for the antifouling paint to be reapplied as well as replacing sacrificial anodes and having small repairs and touch ups done. The only difference would be that this year the work was going to be done in her birth port at Knysna and her builders would be doing the work. While there, Steve was going to fit the safety nets to her railings and the childproof gates in the bows and stern and at the top of the stairs to the hulls to baby proof the yacht. The additional safety measures would be included in an update of the website to try and encourage younger families onto the yacht. Steve and two assistants were going to sail her from Cape Town to Knysna at the beginning of June and have the work completed by the time Andrew and Ryan returned from the Mediterranean when they, Darren, Kerry and the twins would fly up to Knysna and sail her back to Cape Town. As there was no need to rush back to Cape Town, the voyage back was going to be done at a leisurely pace, although a lot depended on the weather. As they would be deep into the winter and it's inevitable cold fronts, the plan was to play hopscotch down the coast between cold fronts, taking shelter each night, but taking advantage of the calm days to get as far as they could After the Easter holidays, Andrew and Ryan spent one entire morning applying for passports for the twins and arranging Schengen visas for them all for the trip to Europe. They would not only be visiting Italy and Greece, but would also be going to Paris, London and Scotland to meet the clan before flying home. In the last week of May they were advised that the passports and visas were ready for collection. They now had everything they required for the trip except their travel arrangements from the Kinleys. The twins also kept them busy. They were growing up quickly and becoming more mobile, so Andrew and Ryan spent one entire weekend just after Easter, baby-proofing the house. Safety gates were installed at the top of the stairs from the front door and at the top and bottom of the stairs to the bedroom wing. They also started making a point of ensuring that the security gate on the patio door to the pool was always closed. A fence with a safety gate was also installed on the edge of the main bedroom terrace overlooking the pool. This would allow the twins out onto the lawn, but not give them access to the swimming pool terrace. And just to set their minds at rest, a gate was installed at the rear door as well. It made moving about the house slightly awkward, but they were willing to put up with the inconvenience for the safety and well being of the twins and consoled themselves that it was only temporary anyway. Cameron and Elizabeth were now able to sit up unsupported and were pulling themselves along on their bellys. They were yet to start crawling but both dad's felt it would not be long before they did. They were now also being fed baby porridge in the morning, which they loved, and pureed foods as well. Cameron hated carrots, but wolfed down butternut squash. Elizabeth was a dream child who just ate what she was given. They both adored mashed banana and if it was mixed with yogurt or, even better, with custard, all the better. The evening formula bottle was now mixed with camomile tea. The biggest headache, however, was that they were starting to get teeth. They were both cranky and listless and one, but most often both woke, their dad's up during the night due to the discomfort of the teeth pushing through. Then Andrew and Ryan would take them to the big bed with them and gently rub their gums with a clean finger or give them something cold to drink, until they dropped off to sleep again. It meant a few disturbed nights, and lots of changes of clothes, for the babies and their dad's, due to the drooling caused by teething, and it wasn't long before both the little mites had their first pearly whites in their bottom gums. Their travel arrangements arrived in Andrew's email account in the first week of June although the message was a little short on detail. All it said was, "Departure 21 June, 20h00 Cape Town International. A driver will collect you at your home at 18h00 He will have all the details and documents with him. Bassinets have been arranged for Cameron and Elizabeth for the flights. We have reserved a two bedroom suite at the Hotel Grand Savoia for the night of 22 June. A car will collect you at 10h00 on 23 June to transfer you to the yacht. We will clear Greek immigration and customs at Piraeus and drop you on Santorini on 30 June. Flights back to Cape Town are arranged for 12 July as per your email. Two bedroom suite at The Dorchester reserved for night of 11 July. Have a good trip. Looking forward to welcoming you on board. Regards. Ryan read the email over Andrew's shoulder saying, "Those two are up to something. There is virtually no detail on our flights. I hope they haven't booked us in first class or something like that." With their departure date and time confirmed, all the arrangements were now in place. Andrew had managed to reserve the cottage on Santorini for a week and had made flight reservations on Aegean Airways from Santorini to Athens with a connection two hours later on Air France to Paris, as well as a Prestige Suite for four nights at the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand Hotel. The hop across the channel, or rather under the Channel, would be on Eurostar from Paris Gare du Nord to St.Pancras with a short drive to the Pullman London St.Pancras Hotel which they would use as a base for the day before boarding the Caledonian Sleeper train for the overnight trip to Fort William in Scotland to meet up with Beth and Nicky who were in Scotland visiting Beth's family. Andrew and Ryan both felt that Cameron and Elizabeth should be aware of their heritage although they were too young to appreciate it now but considered their being introduced to the Scottish side of the family was only right. Andrew had made reservations for the three night stay at the Glentower Lower Observatory guesthouse in a family room and had arranged for a car rental to be delivered to him at the station when they arrived. Belle Catherine' was already in Knysna under Steve's care. Darren and Kerry were on vacation for four weeks as was Yvonne. David and Janice would be looking after Rascal and on the morning of their departure, Andrew drove him to to their home along with his food, bed, toys and a few of the twins blankets for him to sleep with. Andrew was very heavy hearted as he drove away knowing, without a doubt, that the puppy was going to pine for them while they were away. He stopped off at his bank on the way home and purchased some Euros so that they would have some local currency on them when they arrived, but they would have their credit cards with them anyway. They were amazed and horrified at the amount of luggage it took to travel with two infants. They had more luggage than either him or Ryan and they had three large pieces of luggage between them in addition to their hand luggage and laptops. Their transfer to the airport arrived just before 18h00 and they were pleased to see it was a large Mercedes van. It took a while to load all the luggage and once it was all stowed, they said goodbye to David and Janice who would lock up the house after they had left. On arrival at the airport, they were both puzzled when the driver did not take the off ramp to the international departures but instead drove along an access road next to the airport and pulled through the gates of small, modern building and stopped at the glass doors. Two porters hurried out with trolleys and unloaded their luggage and the driver handed them a folder, tipped his hat and drove away. A little unsure of themselves, they walked into the building, each carrying a baby in their baby seats, who were both awake and alert, and stopped just inside the doors and looked around. The room had full length windows at the front, with views to the apron and runways. Three business jets stood on the apron parked at an angle. One had a large K painted on its tail. And that is when realisation dawned. Andrew grabbed Ryan's arm. "Oh my god, babe. We are flying privately! That blue and white jet out there with the big red K on the tail! That's Dan and Joan's private plane. I remember Joan showing me some pictures of her grand- children, and there was one with them standing in front of that plane." Ryan looked at Andrew, his eyes wide in surprise. "That explains the lack of detail on our flight arrangements. Shit, this little jaunt must be costing them packet. They could have just as easily flown us commercial". A woman with a clipboard approached them smiling. "Mr Devlin-Major? ", she asked looking from one to the other. "Yes, I'm Andrew and my husband Ryan", Andrew replied. "Ah okay, and the little ones are Cameron and Elizabeth, I presume" "That's correct", Andrew replied. "I'm going to be quite honest with you. We're a bit unsure of what to do or where to go. It's the first time we are flying privately. We really were not expecting it." "Well, that's why I am here. To ease you through all the procedures. Could I have all your passports please? Is this your luggage? Andrew and Ryan handed over their passports as well as those of the twins. "There you go. And yes, that's our luggage. Plus, of course the hand luggage and baby bags" "Okay, let's go. Please follow me. I am taking you to the departure lounge. You can relax there, have a drink, something to eat, while I sort out your immigration and customs and get your luggage loaded. I will come to fetch you when we are ready to board you" she said. They followed her through a security checkpoint into a comfortable, modern but elegantly furnished room. After making sure they were comfortable, she called a waiter over to take a drinks order before walking away and disappearing through a door-way. Both Andrew and Ryan were still a little shell- shocked at what was happening and just stared at one another, grinning. "This is going to ruin flying commercial for the rest of our lives", commented Ryan. Andrew nodded. "That's an understatement if I ever heard one! Never in a million years would I have thought I would be flying to Europe on a private jet. Even though we could afford to do so. But let's be quite honest babe, it just isn't us. Not that I'm ungrateful to get the opportunity." "I get what you're saying. But, holy cow, this is sooo cool. I want to take a selfie of us at the window with the plane behind us and send it to the family. All of them. They will be green with envy", said Ryan, sounding just a young schoolboy. The woman returned with their documents and handed their passports to them. "All done, you're good to go. We should be ready to board in about ten minutes. They're just loading your luggage and then I can take you out to the aircraft" Suddenly remembering the folder thag the driver had given them, Andrew opened it to see what it had to say. When he was done he looked up at Ryan. "Geez babe, they've gone all out for us". He passed the folder to Ryan. "The aircraft is a Gulfstream G650. It normally seats 12, so with just the four of us, we will be very comfortable. We will have to make a stop for fuel in Casablanca and to pick up some rugs for Joan. Apparently, Dan has an office in Casablanca and a small factory so they have all the resources in place to refuel. Then direct to Genoa, landing at about 08h00. The kicker is that we will fly back home, direct, on the Gulfstream as well. Dan and Joan felt it would be far more convenient and comfortable for Cam and Elizabeth and wouldn't be as stressful had we gone commercial". Ryan read through the folder and when he had finished looked up at Andrew. "We are going to owe them big time after this. They really have gone above and beyond . Private planes, private yachts, super luxury hotels, chauffeured limousines. Mom was right. Lifestyles of the rich and famous. I know we are wealthy and all that, but this really is how the other half live". He looked up as the woman liaison approached them with two porters in tow. "We are ready to board you. These two gentlemen will assist with your cabin luggage". The porters gathered all the bags while Andrew and Ryan picked up the twins, who were starting to be niggly. They had deliberately delayed their bedtime feed, the plan being to feed them just after takeoff and get them to sleep for the night, but the other problem was that they were getting new teeth again. They were escorted to a minibus and driven out the the jet, which took less than a minute. The minibus stopped at the boarding stairs, at the foot of which stood a man and woman, both in smart uniforms with the Kinley 'K' embroidered on the pocket of their jackets. They stepped forward as the party alighted from the minibus and the man held out his hand in greeting. "Good evening gentlemen. My name is Colin Beamish, I am your 1st officer for the flight. The captain is Peter Emerson. You will meet him just after we takeoff." The woman next to him extended her hand. "And I am Michelle. I will be looking after you. Welcome on board". Andrew and Ryan both greeted them and thanked them for the welcome and then Michelle led the way up the boarding stairs into the cabin. Up close, Andrew realised, the jet was bigger than he had thought and looked very sleek with large round windows. The twin engines were mounted near the tail and a spotlight shone on the tail with its red 'K'. Andrew could now read the words 'Kinley Enterprises" beneath it. They enteredthe brightly lit cabin to another world. Luxury was an understatement. Two cream, leather upholstered couches were placed on either side of the aisle at the front of the cabin. Behind them, were six very comfortable looking seats in the same leather, three rows, one seat on either side of the aisle. Two seats on either side were arranged facing one another with a varnished console against the cabin wall between them. The floor was covered with a thick cream carpet with a tiny blue and red pattern in it. The cabin walls were upholstered as well in a soft fabric Andrew could not identify, but felt like chamois leather. and more varnished consoles and side tables dotted the cabin. Behind the rearmost pair of seats was a bulkhead behind which was a small galley, two cloakrooms and a storage cupboard. Directly opposite the entry door was a closet to hang coats. Michelle led them down the cabin to the club style seats". "Here you go! How do you want to do this. One of you on either side of the aisle with the babies on the seats opposite you? Or do you want to sit together with the babies across the aisle?" she asked. Andrew and Ryan glanced at one another and Ryan replied "I think we would like to sit together with the twins across the aisle. Would it be possible to keep them on our laps until after takeoff? We want to get them fed and get them down for the night as soon as possible". She nodded. "No problem at all. We have seat belt extensions especially for infants on board. Why don't you get comfortable while I get them", and she turned and walked to a locker. Andrew and Ryan unbuckled the twins from their chairs and sat down facing one another. They fastened their seatbelts, including shoulder straps, and Michelle attached the extensions to their seatbelts and helped them secure the babies on their laps. Andrew touched her arm and asked, "Could you get their baby food and bottles out of the brown bag please?" She retrieved the bottles and proceeded to give them the safety briefing as Colin Beamish boarded and walked back to the cockpit. With her briefing complete, Michelle explained all the features of the seat and opened a side console to reveal bottled water and the remote controls for the seats and personal TV's that flipped out of the sides of the seats. She took a drinks order just as Andrew, who was facing forward, saw someone with four gold stripes on his shoulders emerge from the cockpit and approach them. He was a lot younger than Andrew had expected. "Good evening gentlemen. Good to have you on board. I'm Peter Emerson, your captain. Mr and Mrs Kinley have told me a lot about you. They think very highly of you" Andrew and Ryan both shook his hand. Ryan replied, "Thank you captain. We both admire them in return. We were not expecting this though", indicating the cabin they were seated in. Peter Emerson grinned. "And therein lies my comment about admiration. They don't send this baby to just anyone. Let me get us on our way and I'll come back and chat once we're at cruising altitude and you've had dinner". He moved towards the cockpit just as Michelle arrived with their drinks. She then walked down the aisle to the door, pressed a button and with a whine, the boarding stairs rose up and sealed the doorway. The faint sound of a jet engine spooling up was heard behind them, followed a short while later by the second engine. The cabin lights dimmed and Michelle sat down on the couch closest to the door and buckled her seatbelt. A few minutes later, the sound of the engines increased as power was applied and the jet turned right to taxi to the southern end of the runway. They turned onto the runway and after a brief stop, the engines howled behind them and with a slight jerk they sped down the runway. It was not long before the nose lifted and they roared into the dark sky, heading north. With the engines situated on the rear of the fuselage behind them, it was remarkably quiet in the passenger cabin. For Ryan, the takeoff was a strange sensation having never sat facing the rear of an aircraft before. Cameron and Elizabeth seemed unconcerned, eating contentedly as their dads spooned puree into their mouths. It was moderately bumpy immediately after takeoff, but as soon as they climbed through the cloud, the flight was as smooth as silk, the faint hum of the engines proving to be quite relaxing. Soon after takeoff, Michelle stood up and walked back to the galley, asking them if they needed anything on her way past. When they levelled off, Michelle came back with two small bowls of warm cashew nuts. "You can unbuckle your shoulder straps, but I would recommend you keep your lap belts fastened while you are seated. I have two bassinets in the back for the little ones. Colin is going to come back in a few minutes and secure them on the seats across the aisle so that you can get them down to sleep. As soon as you are ready, let me know and I will serve your dinner. Mrs Kinley was quite specific about her requirements for your dinner. I hope you enjoy it. Here are menus!" They were both quite hungry and were interested to see what Joan had arranged for them to eat. While they perused the menus, which included dinner, snacks and a breakfast, Colin was busy across the aisle setting up the bassinets. He reclined both seats and secured the bassinets to the seats with the seatbelts and straps that attached to the frame of the seat. The bassinets came already equipped with a pillow, mattress protector, bottom sheet and duvet, so all they had to do was make the infants comfortable. Colin then returned to the cockpit, leaving the door open. The twins had finished eating and were now drinking their camomile tea and looking quite sleepy, so Andrew and Ryan stood up and settled them in the bassinets, sitting next them until they fell asleep. With the twins sleeping, Andrew and Ryan could sit back, relax, have dinner and get some sleep themselves. Michelle set up a table between them with a white cloth and napkins, heavy silver cutlery and crystal glassware. The crockery was plain white with a gold line on the inside of the rim from Royal Doulton. The first course was a cauliflower soup with a blue cheese cream and crispy bacon, followed by a salad of prawns, avocado, orange segments and cherry tomatoes with an orange spiked vinaigrette. There was a choice of two main courses. Pan seared Canadian salmon and Braised Lamb shank. They each chose one and they shared their meals. Joan earned Ryan's gratitude for life when she specified two of his favourite desserts. Cheesecake and Pecan Nut Pie. Ryan had both, with ice cream, while Andrew just had cheesecake. They finished with coffee, deciding to keep the cheese and biscuits to snack on while they were on the ground in Casablanca. Michelle cleared away the table, made sure they didn't need anything and excused herself to have her dinner. She had taken dinner to the pilots while Andrew and Ryan had been dining. Peter came into the cabin for a short while, mainly to fill them in on their progress, altitude, speed and anticipated weather. He asked about the hotel and the yacht and seemed to be genuinely interested and after chatting with them for half an hour, he returned to the cockpit. When Michelle came back, she made a suggestion. "Why don't you go to the bathroom and change into something more comfortable, and I will make up your beds so that you can get some sleep. We will be landing in Casablanca at about 4 am. We will try not to, but the landing might wake you up. We will be on the ground for about an hour, then it's another four hours to Genoa" They followed her advice, being astounded once again to discover that the bathroom had a shower stall and changed into sleeping pants and tops and returned to find the cabin very different to what it had been when they left it. The window blinds had been pulled down and the two rear seats had been fully reclined into a flat position and turned into comfortable beds, complete with mattresses, soft pillows and duvets to cover them. The cabin lights had been turned off except for the reading lights next to each bed, that glowed softly in the darkened cabin. Michelle had just turned back the top corner of the duvet on the second bed and she smiled up at them. "There you go gentlemen, all ready for a good night's sleep. Unfortunately, I must ask you to keep the seatbelts fastened over you, just for safety sake. You might find it a bit uncomfortable at first, but you get used to it as long as it isn't too tight. If you need anything, press the call button. There are fresh bottles of water in the holders next to the beds. I hope you sleep well". She returned to the galley, sliding a door across the doorway so that the light would not disturb them. They checked the twins, kissed them both and got into the beds, which they found to be surprisingly comfortable. The bedside lights were turned off and the soft hum of the engines lulled them to sleep. The undercarriage touching down on the runway woke them both up, notwithstanding the fact that the landing was a very good one with barely a bump and the pilots had not activated the reverse thrust in order to minimise the noise in the passenger cabin, instead running the jet all the way down the runway and turning onto the taxiway at the end. Michelle came down the aisle on her way to the galley, and noticing they were awake, requested that they remain where they were until the aircraft had stopped. When they were stationary, Colin came out of the cockpit and opened the boarding door before descending it onto the brightly lit tarmac. Andrew and Ryan got out of their beds and sat in their original seats and watched the activity around the aircraft, while snacking on their cheese and biscuits. Under Colin's supervision, hoses were connected to the valves under each wing and the refueling commenced. Colin also walked around the aircraft inspecting all the moving parts on the wings, the undercarriage and the engines and tail. The actual refuelling took about thirty minutes and then they had to wait for the rugs to be loaded and all the paperwork to be completed before Colin re entered the jet and secured the door as the engines whined back into life. Ten minutes later they were back in the air, climbing up to their cruising altitude for the four hour hop to Genoa, most of which would be over the Mediterranean Sea. They both had a mug of hot chocolate before returning to their beds and slept until their tiny human alarm clocks woke them up just after 6am, which was 7am back in Cape Town. They changed the babies diapers in the bathroom and got them dressed for the day, before taking turns in the shower to freshen up themselves and get dressed for arrival. In the cabin, everything was back to normal. The bassinets had been removed and the twins were soon sucking greedily on bottles of formula, secured into their baby seats which were, in turn, secured to the cabin seat. The two beds were now normal seats and the table had been set up between the two seats that Andrew and Ryan were using. Breakfast was a full English with freshly poached eggs that Michelle cooked on a small hotplate in the galley. There was a jug of fresh orange juice on the side console and a basket of warm toast and pastries. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee and bacon wafted through the cabin making their mouths water. They were halfway through breakfast when Peter emerged from the cockpit to tell them that they would be starting the descent into Genoa in a few minutes and that they will be on the ground just after 08h00. Customs and immigration will be coming on board to process them and a car will be on the tarmac to transfer them to the Hotel Grand Savoia. He returned to the cockpit and shortly afterwards, the note of the engines changed as the power was reduced and the nose dropped slightly as they began their descent. After breakfast, Michelle cleared the table away, leaving them with cups of coffee on the side consoles, and prepared the cabin for landing. She also collected all the passports including that of the crew to hand to the Italian authorities when they stepped on board. They had a good view of the port as they flew over it and saw several large cruise ships in port and a number of smaller vessels, but we're not able to positively identify 'Texas Lass'. Whoever was at the controls greased the landing and after a fairly lengthy taxi they stopped in front of the Genoa FBO, the engines winding down leaving only the soft hiss of the air conditioning. Michelle unsealed the door and lowered the stairs to the ground as Peter and Colin stepped out of the cockpit. They were all dressed in full uniform. Two vehicles pulled up next to the aircraft. A black limousine stopped at the stairs and an official sedan parked near the nose of the plane and two men in khaki uniform entered the plane and spoke quietly to Peter. He handed them the travel documents as well as the papers for the plane. They sat down on one of the couches and proceeded to examinethe documents. They heard Peter explaining that his passengers would be boarding a yacht the next day, followed by a week long cruise from Genoa to the Greek Islands before travelling to France and the United Kingdom. The officer nodded, stamped all the documents, looked at Andrew and Ryan, welcomed them to Italy and they left the plane. Andrew and Ryan stood up carrying the twins in their car seats. "Not very friendly, are they?", Ryan remarked. Peter nodded. "Hasn't always been like this. Since they started having all the refugees arriving, they've become a lot tougher. They treat everyone with suspicion. But as they said, welcome to Italy. I think it would be more comfortable if you waited on board until they have transferred your luggage to the limo. Then we can get you on your way. And we'll see you for your flight back home". When the time came to disembark, they thanked the crew for the pleasant flight and got into the limo and drove away to the hotel.
  14. The young family, including Rascal arrived at the dockside at 10h00 on New Years eve. It was quite hot, with almost no wind blowing, although it was expected to pick up later in the day and become fresh. Ryan went on board and opened up the doors, then he and Andrew moved the twins and Rascal down to the master cabin. The babies were almost asleep after the drive, so they put them on the bed surrounded by cushions and pillows. They opened all the hatches and portholes and turned on the fans to get airflow through the cabin and the rest of the boat. Leaving the twins in Rascal's care, they quickly unloaded the SUV and Ryan drove it to the parking area where it would be secure until they arrived back. Donna and Craig had Andrew's SUV and they would be picking up Clinton and Karen. Although it was only family and friends who were coming aboard, Andrew was adamant that the yacht be presented as though she was on charter to paying guests. So the bar was unpacked and the bottles placed in their recesses so they wouldn't clink or fall over. The ice maker was turned on and the drinks cooler under the cockpit seating was stocked with beers, soft drinks and bottled water. The wine cooler was turned on to cool, and the white wines, which had been in one of the refrigerators, as they ran all the time, were packed into the cooler. They placed all the cushions on the aft cockpit seating and put a cloth on the table and counter area in the cockpit and saloon. He had just checked Clinton and Karen's cabin when his supplies arrived. He checked the order and signed for it before Ryan helped him pack it all in its designated place. The twins woke up just after 13h00 and Ryan carried them up into the saloon and put them into their crib with some toys to keep them occupied while he made bottles of formula for them and Andrew made sandwiches for himself and Ryan. They fed the twins while eating their own sandwiches at the same time, enjoying the cool breeze blowing through the saloon. They cuddled the twins after lunch, each of then getting time with both infants, and when they inevitably closed their eyes, they put them into the crib in the saloon to snooze. Ryan checked the ice maker, and seeing it was almost full, put some ice into a large ice bucket that contained a bottle of sparkling wine that Andrew wanted to use for arrival champagne cocktails. Ten champagne flutes stood on the counter in the cockpit, each one containing a thin slice of orange, a very boozy brandied cherry, a half tot of brandy and a sugar cube over which some Angostura bitters had been sprinkled. They just had to be topped up with sparkling wine. Everyone had said they would arrive at 16h00, so itwas just a case of hurry up and wait. The party platters that Andrew had ordered arrived at 15h00 and it was shortly after that that the three motor vehicles pulled up with the rest of the party. New Year was underway!. The cars disgorged their human contents, everyone happy and smiling. They all milled around collecting luggage, then headed for the yacht. The tide was quite high, so they would be boarding from the stern scoops, which were almost level with the dock. Janice was the first to board, Ryan helping her as she stepped onto the scoop stairs and kissing her cheek as she came aboard. David followed gripping Ryan's hand both for support and in greeting. They both stepped into the aft cockpit to greet Andrew. The first thing Janice asked was, "Where are my babies?"Andrew grinned at her. "Sleeping, I'm afraid. They're in the saloon". She hurried into the yacht to see the twins, David on her heels. Paul and Marie boarded next, after Paul had passed Jonathan to Ryan. They hugged Ryan, Marie giving him a smacking kiss on the cheek. "It's so good to see you. We seem to have not seen one another in ages although it's only been a week. The more I see you the more I am convinced that fatherhood suits you. You look so happy!" "Thanks Marie, always good to see you. and I wouldn't change fatherhood for anything. Challenges and all". She patted his arm as she stepped toward Andrew. "Good for you. Those babies don't know how lucky they are having you and Drew for parents." Next to board was a young woman who Ryan surmised was Karen. She was pretty, wth a slightly fuller figure, a round face, light brown hair cut in a bob style, with green eyes and a ready smile that would light up the darkest room. She was, Ryan thought, vivacious, her personality evident for all to see. He assisted her as she stepped hesitantly on board, her hand gripping his tightly. He steadied her as she found her footing and she beamed up at him. "Hi, I'm Karen. Thank you for inviting us to join you". He smiled down at her. "Hi Karen, I'm Ryan, nice to have you on board. Have you been sailing before?" She shook her head. "No, never. This is a first for me. I'm so excited, but nervous at the same time". "No need to be nervous. You're quite safe with us. If you feel queasy, let us know. We have some medication on board that will help". He turned to the guy now standing behind her. "And you must be Clinton. Welcome aboard." Clinton stepped around Karen and shook Ryan's hand. "Please call me Clint. I'm only Clinton when I'm in trouble with my mom or Karen", he said, grinning down at Karen, who punched his arm. Ryan studied the man in front of him. He was strikingly good looking. Tall, broad - shouldered, with narrow hips and long legsand it was obvious he was fit and looked after himself, probably visiting the gym at least four times a week. His face was hawkish, sharp, with high cheekbones and what Ryan considered to be a Roman nose. His eyes were grey, his mouth also always seeming to be smiling. His hair was dark brown, so dark it could almost be black, but definitely brown with a dark five-o-clock shadow on his cheeks and jaw. He was wearing knee length shorts, a t-shirt that hugged his torso, showing off his pecs and abdominal muscles, and fip flops. Dark chest hair curled out above the collar of his t-shirt and his long arms and legs were covered with dark hair. In Ryan's opinion, Clint was most definitely an alpha male. "Please make yourselves at home", indicating with his hand toward Andrew and the others in the cockpit After helping Donna and Craig aboard, they all gathered in the cockpit, where Andrew was pouring the sparkling wine into the glasses. Rascal was sniffing the new guests, his tail wagging and hoping someone will pick him up. When they all had a glass, Andrew raised his glass and said, "Welcome family and friends, old and new. Here's to a good time being had by all tonight". They all took sips of their cocktails as Andrew added, "Most of you know your way around the boat and all the safety stuff. So I will run through all that with Clint and Karen when I show them around. Mom and dad, you are in your usual cabin, port aft. Paul, Marie and Jonathan are port midships. We have made up an extra bed for Jonathan in the cabin with you. Donna and Craig, you are port forward and Clint and Karen are starboard forward. If you can stay here with me while the rest go to their cabins." As the others moved down into the port hull, Andrew said, "Okay, at the moment we are in the aft cockpit and helm area. Most of our socialising will be here. Under the seat behind the helm chairs is a cooler with beers, soft drinks and water. Help yourself. It will be topped up each day. In the locker next to the cooler are safety harnesses. These are to be worn if we are moving and you want to go onto the side decks or bow, particularly when we are at sea. You attach the harness to the rail on the saloon roof. You can remove them once you are on the bows, although if you want to sit in the dolphin seats right up on the point of each bow, I would suggest you wear the harnesses as well and clip yourself onto the railing. The harnesses have a built in life preserver that will inflate as soon as you hit the water, but we don't intend to allow that to happen. There is ice in the ice maker to the left of the saloon door. Follow me into the saloon. All self explanatory I think. The desk ahead of the galley is the interior navigation station. The yacht can be controlled from there if the weather is really bad. We have never used it to date. The galley is to port. Karen, I gather it's your first time on a yacht. Port is left facing the bow. Port, four letters. Left, four letters. An easy way to remember it. We have three double cabins in the port hull. Your cabin is in the starboard hull with the master cabin". He led them down the stairs and turned left, opening the cabin door. "On the left is your private bathroom. It has a shower and basin with hot and cold running water. And a loo. Clint, a word of advice. If we are at sea and you need to take a leak, sit down to do it. It will prevent accidents if the boat suddenly lurches. Ignore my words and you will clean up the mess. Even our paying charter guests don't get away with that one. Ahead of you is your bed. The room has its own TV, individually controlled air con, sound system and a fan. The remote controls are all on the shelf above the bed. The ceiling hatches can be opened as they are now. We can keep them open if the sea is calm, but obviously in bad weather and if it rains we close them. The portholes are open now as well. We usually close them at night and when we are sea. There are non slip loafers in the locker at the foot of the bed. Your flipflops are fine Clint, but we don't want anyone to wear any other sneakers or shoes that might leave marks on the decks. Getting black scuff marks off the deck is a pain in the butt. So please wear the loafers. You are quite welcome to not wear shoes at all. We are on a boat and we want you to be at ease. You will probably see Ryan and I will be barefoot most of the time. We would normally wear deck shoes if we have charter guests on board, but as we are family and friends on this trip, things are a bit more relaxed. One thing I forgot. In your bathroom is a small window which is under the main deck between the hulls. If for some unlikely reason we capsize, that is an escape hatch. Also, in the event of a fire or for some reason you cannot get up into the saloon, the escape hatch is there for you to make use of. Any questions?" They both shook their heads and Clint replied, "No, I think you covered it all. You guys have a great boat here. She's beautiful. Certainly the most well appointed yacht I have sailed on. In fact, compared to this, the others were tubs quite honestly!" "Thanks Clint, we are very proud of what we have on 'Belle'. The guests love her too.". "Do you think I might spend some time with Ryan and see how she handles?". "Ryan would love it. He loves this boat even more than I do, I think. He loves showing her off. Especially when we are running with the wind as we will tomorrow. When we fly the spinnaker, well to me, that is what sailing is all about. I'll leave you guys to unpack and get settled. Come up whenever you are ready. Or do you want to be on deck when we set sail, which should be any minute now. Ryan said he wanted to get away by 16h00". Clint looked at Karen. "We'll come up until we have dropped anchor and the come and unpack", Karen replied. "Okay, let's go then. Ryan will be needing a hand with the shore lines". Andrew took them up to the aft cockpit, where Ryan was just preparing to start the engines. He showed Karen where to make herself comfortable, noticing that Craig was already standing in the bows, said to Clint, "Stay here with Ryan. You can learn the ropes from him. Ry, I'll get the mooring lines" He started toward the port scoop to step on to the dock when he felt the engine under his feet rumble into life and the water bubbled under the port scoop. He stepped onto the dock and hurried to the bow line and tossed if to Craig, who quickly rolled it and hung it up on its hook. Andrew watched as Ryan pointed the bow into the channel using the bow thruster, and moved back to the stern line where Craig was now waiting for him to toss it to him. "Ry, bring her one metre aft, slowly" shouted Andrew, so that the stern line would slacken. The yacht moved ever so slowly towards the dock, the mooring line dipping toward the water. Andrew quickly untied the line and tossed it to Craig, before stepping onto the scoop the reboard the yacht. The rearward momentum was just enough that he could step on board easily. Ryan pushed the throttle forward and the momentum was halted about half a metre from the dock and they moved away into the channel toward th e bascule bridge. A small crowd of observers had gathered to watch their departure, and there was a smattering of applause as they cleared the dock. Clint's face was animated as he gazed at what was happening in front of , and around him. He looked at Andrew, standing on Ryan's far side. "You guys are very slick. That sailaway was well done. I cannot believe all the gear you have. Twin diesel engines, bow thrusters, electric winches. This thing practically sails itself." Ryan grinned at him. "Well, theoretically, using just the engines, she could sail herself. Program your course into the GPS and course plotter, engage the autopilot, and assuming it behaves itself, you could sail from point A to point B without touching the helm. But where is the fun in that? When we are on passage, we often do that, even with the sails up. And when standing watch. But I enjoy the actual feel of the helm in my hand. You can feel her through the helm. That for me is the fun part" Ryan got on the radio to contact Bridge Control, to request permission to exit the marina via the bascule bridge canal and they had to wait a few minutes for the bridge to clear before it could swing open to allow them to pass. Everyone was now out on deck, either in the cockpit or on the bow deck enjoying their departure. The crowds already beginning to gather for the evenings festivities and the fireworks display, and were waiting to cross the bridge stood on either side of the canal as they motored towards the harbour basin, some of them waving. Those on deck waved back at them. Once past the bridge, Ryan made a wide turn to starboard and then headed toward the harbour mouth. Ryan got on the radio again, this time to Cape Town Port Control requesting permission to exit the harbour. Permission was granted and he gunned the engine as he turned to port with the harbour mouth and the bay now directly ahead of the bows. Approaching the mouth itself Ryan turned to Andrew. "Babe, can you take over here. Keep her on this course till I get back. Clint, you wanna come with me" Andrew took Ryan's place at the helm and he and Clint moved forward to the bows. "I want to raise the spinnaker. You can help me with it". Ryan opened the sail locker and showed Clint how to attach the lines the the top of the sail, Then they hauled the sail out of its locker onto the deck. It looked like a sausage in its sail cover. They then attached the lower lines and together they hauled the sail up, pulling it out of its cover and it billowed open with a crack as it filled with wind. They distinctly felt 'Belle Catherine' surge forward as she responded to the wind filling the huge blue and white sail that billowed out over the port bow. Ryan and Clint moved back to the helm and relieved Andrew, who had cut the engine as soon as the sail was up. Ryan indicated that Clint must take the helm. "Just keep her on this heading until we reach the buoys ahead of us to port. That is the channel we must use to clear the mouth. When I say turn, turn her hard to port between the bouys. She reponds quite quickly, especially when the spinnaker is flying. So be prepared to straighten her out once we are in the channel. Then it's just straight out until we clear the point. Our mooring spot it quite close to the point. We willbe able to see the Sea Point beachfront, the Waterfront and the Milnerton to Bloubergstrand beachfront from there". A few minutes later, Clint had made the port turn into the channel and with the wind now more directly behind them, they sailed briskly through the cold Table Bay water towards the spot Ryan had chosen for them to moor for the evening. By 17h30, they were on the mooring bouy, their mast lights indicating they were at anchor and hove to and they started preparing for the arrival of the New Year. There was a lot of small craft traffic in the vicinity, most likely all with the same idea as them, so Ryan wanted someone to be on watch until things settled down, probably when it got dark. So he stayed at the helm, keeping an eye on the radar and the sea around them. He had programmed a proximity alert into the radar to give a warning should a vessel be on a collision course with them, but not all the craft had AIS or radar, so eyes were the best tools in the end. Everyone else scattered through the yacht. Janice and Andrew had taken the twins to the master cabin to bath them. David was in his cabin having a nap and the Mason's were in their cabin, also giving Jonathan a bath and freshening up themselves. Donna, Craig, Clint and Karen were sitting on the deck on the bows, drinking beer and chatting. Ryan sat with on foot on the instrument console ledge, at ease in the comfortable helm seat with Rascal beside him. The proximity alert beeped and he watched as a large power yacht approached them and judged they would pass down thd port side. He also realised that the yacht was moving way too fast for its position and hurried to the staircases into the hulls and yelled, "Hold on guys, we are going to get rocked. Some idiot coming past at speed". He went back out on deck and said the same to the group on the bows, who had noticed the fast approaching vessel and were watching it. Andrew came to stand with Ryan as the vessel swept past with a very rowdy group of passengers on board. They watched as the wake turbulence rolled towards them and braced themselves as 'Belle Catherine' took the wake at a slight angle, causing her to pitch and roll. Andrew cursed under his breath as they heard the crash of breaking glass in the saloon and he hurried to investigate. On the galley floor lay a shattered glass that had slid off the counter. He quickly cleaned it up and went back to Ryan who was seething. "Fucking idiots have no place being on a bridge" glaring at the fast receding yacht. Andrew jumped as the radio crackled into life . "Motor Yacht Ranger 2, Motor Yacht Ranger 2, come in please". There was no reply. After trying to contact the yacht again and getting no reply, the voice on the radio came again. "Sailing Vessel Belle Catherine, do you read". Ryan reached for the microphone. "SV Belle Catherine, standing by". "SV Belle Catherine", this is Cape Town Port Control. What is your situation?" "Port Control. We are fine. No damage except for a broken glass. Ranger passed way too fast and way too close." "SV Belle Catherine, we observed their passage from our control tower. They have been cited and action will be taken on their return to port". "Port Control, I hope they get the book thrown at them. Thank you for your concern. 'Belle Catherine' out!" With the excitement over, they settled down again and went about getting ready for the evening. Andrew went to shower and change and then relieved Ryan at the helm, bringing the twins with him, while he went to get ready. Everyone else was in their cabins. The aft cockpit was quite sheltered as 'Belle Catherine' was floating with her bows into the wind, which meant that the saloon superstructure screened the seating area from the wind. Cameron and Elizabeth were in their baby chairs, tucked into a corner of the seating with Rascal next to them. They each had a mobile hanging in front of them and were quite content having already been fed. It was cooler out on the bay than it was on land, so Andrew had tucked light blankets around them, but their arms were free. He sat next to them, talking to them and playing with them, marvelling at the two tiny people who had come into their lives and seeing his and Ryan's eyes gazing back at him from their beautiful faces. His heart swelled with love and thankfulness, and he leaned over and kissed them both softly on the forehead, Elizabeth managing to grab a little fistful of hair that he had to gently release himself from. He looked up to find Clint and Karen standing in the saloon doorway, smiling at them. Karen stepped forward and sat on the other side of the baby chairs, giving Cameron her finger to hold. "They're beautiful. How old are they?" Andrew gazed lovingly at his two angels. "Just short of four and a half months. They were born on the 16th of August" Clint sat down next to Karen. "If you don't mind me asking, are they adopted? Andrew shook his head. "No. They are our children. Originally we were going to have one baby two years apart. But on advice from a doctor friend, we used a procedure called heteropaternal fecundation, where you use a surrogate and her eggs were fertilised with sperm from both Ryan and myself. They were then implanted into her. There was always the possibility that only one egg would germinate, and it took a couple of tries before it worked, but we were lucky and both eggs became foetuses. Nine months later, these two were born. Cameron is Ryan's son and Elizabeth, my daughter. But most importantly, they are our children". Clint's eyes were wide. "Wow, cool. What about their mother?" "Beth and her partner, Nicola, who is the doctor who originally told us about the procedure, are very good friends and we see them fairly often. We drew up a contract with Beth whereby she relinquishes all claim to the babies at birth, but would provide us with breastmilk until the end of the year, tonight. We have been weaning them off breastmilk for a while now and they are now almost exclusively on formula. We want them to have contact with their mother and Beth knows she is welcome to see them at any time. She just has to advise us that she is coming to see them". Clint nodded. "Donna has always maintained that Ryan was lucky to be married to you. I realise now she is right. You're caring and thoughtful and you obviously love him and the babies". "I love Ryan and these two to death. They are my world and my family.Without them, I would have nothing. All this", indicating the yacht, " the hotel, the house, the money, would mean absolutely nothing without them". Andrew looked up as Ryan kissed the top of his head. "And we would have nothing without you. I heard what you said. I love you and thank you" Andrew smiled up at him. "I love you too". He stood up. "Okay enough heavy talk. We have a party to get going. Babe, will you watch our offspring. I need to get into the galley. Ryan nodded. "Sure, no probs babe. Looks like they'll be asleep soon anyway" Karen stood up with Clint following and asked "Can we help with anything?" Andrew smiled at her. "Thanks guys. I'm sure I can find something for you to do. The galley is a bit small for all of us, so Karen, you come with me. Clint, the bar is over on the counter next to the door. Can I ask you to get everyone drinks as they come upstairs. After that everyone can just help themselves. White wine and grape juice are in the cooler under the counter and I'll give you a couple of bottles of red wine for those who want red. All the glasses are in the cupboards above the counter". Andrew turned on the sound system and slid a CD into it. Moments later, music filtered from the speakers in the saloon and cockpit ceilings. He and Karen got busy in the galley. Karen moved the cold platters to the saloon table, then added plates and serviettes, while Andrew placed a warming tray on the galley counter top and plugged it in for the hot items. He had chosen a variety of platters including sushi, a cold meat and cheese platter and a platter with a selection of fresh salad ingredients, pickles and relishes. The hot platters consisted of sticky ribs and chicken drumsticks and a platter with pastry items that included samoosas, spring rolls, sausage rolls, mini chicken pies and crumbed prawns. He took two pecan nut tarts out of the freezer to thaw for dessert and there was ice cream in the freezer. Everyone slowly started appearing from their cabins with Paul and Marie arriving last, having put Jonathan down to sleep. When Andrew saw them step into the saloon, he asked, "Is Jonathan okay in his bed?" Paul grinned at him. "Yeah, it's great. Not that small either. Marie was with him for a while and she was quite comfortable." "Well that's good to know. It's the first time we have used it as a bed. I had forgotten all about it until Ryan reminded me." The evening had flown and it was approaching 8pm. The twins had fallen asleep and were now in the crib in the master cabin with Rascal on the bed to keep watch. Both sets of parents had baby monitors close at hand. The sun was just starting to sink below the horizon and it wouldn't be fully dark for another hour at least. They all sat in the aft cockpit, sipping at their drinks, Andrew with a cooler and Ryan had a beer. It was one of two alcoholic drinks they would have over the evening, the second being a glass of sparkling wine at midnight. They made a point of consuming very little liquor when they were at sea, and although they were at anchor, they still had to sail back to the marina after midnight. With the bows pointed into the wind, they were floating side on to the coast, so they had an excellent view of the city and Table Mountain, the Waterfront precinct, and the beachfront all the way to Sea Point and Bloubergstrand. They relaxed and enjoyed the view and fresh air, watching the lights of the city glowing against the dark, brooding bulk of Table Mountain, the lights of the cable cars still moving slowly up and down the cableway. Every now and then, the sound of throbbing music wafted over the water from the Waterfront, where thousands had gathered for the evenings festivities and search lights swept the sky from the dockside of the Waterfront. Ryan had rotated the TV to face the aft seating area and turned it on, muting the sound, so that they could watch the countdown around the world as midnight arrived in each city. New Zealand and Australia were already well into the New Year and the celebrations in Christchurch and Sydney were being rerun, along with the other cities in the east as midnight arrived. The current focus was on Dubai. With darkness now descending rapidly, Ryan turned on all their exterior lights including the underwater lights, that left them seemingly floating on an emerald green pool. Andrew had dimmed the lights in the saloon and put on some dance music and Donna, Craig, Clint and Karen were having a good time moving to the music. When the stepped out for a breather, Clint did a double take, walking over to the rail to look at the green water around them. "Wow, that is sooo cool. Are we doing that?" Ryan joined him at the rail. "Yup, we have underwater lights fitted in the hull. Depending on the depth of the water beneath us, we get different colour effects. But usually some shade of green". Clint shook his head. "This yacht is amazing. Can I ask what it cost you? Or is that rude?" Ryan grinned at him. "No I don't mind. As you see her, fifteen million. Andrew had her built. He gave me half before we were married". "I gave him half of everything before we were married", corrected Andrew as he joined them, sliding an arm around Ryan's waist and leaning against him.. "Donna has told me you guys are quite wealthy. But she never told me how that came about. Did you sell a tech company or something like Mark Shuttleworth did?. Andrew shook his head. "Unfortunately, nothing like that I'm afraid. It was an inheritance from my parents. They were killed in a car crash a couple of years ago and after everything in the estate had been liquidated and my dad's company sold, I was left with over a billion rand". Clint's eyes widened at the figure. "Ryan came home from the Mediterranean to give me support and we realised we were soul mates and couldn't live without one another. So we got married. On Friday, it will be two years. As he is the other half of my life, I felt it was only right that he have half of everything else as well. And the money came with it. To be fair, we don't think of it as his and mine. It is very much ours and unless we do something really drastic, most of it will go to the twins eventually. Even after buying Blue Bay, the house and 'Belle', we've hardly put a dent in it. Especially as both the lodge and the charters are doing well and showing profits". Clint stared at the green pool around them, then turned his head to look at Andrew. " I'm sorry to hear about your parents. That must have been tough. I don't know how I would handle losing my mom and dadnow". "I was devastated. Without him, I would probably have just given up. Just walked in front of a truck or bus one day. But Ryan was there, pulling me through it. He saw me at my worst. This is the first Christmas since they died that I haven't gone to pieces at some stage. I still feel their loss, but it isn't as raw anymore. And that's because I have him and the twins now. I lost my family, but I have my own family now. And every reason to live.". Clint looked at them and shook his head. "I love Karen so much, it hurts. But you guys have something else completely. It's far more than love" "Andrew and I met at university", added Ryan "We were just friends, then flatmates. Only after a while came love and we became lovers. Now husbands, fathers and soul mates. And that is the difference. To truly love someone is normally enough for a marriage to flourish. But knowing you have your soul mate, puts it on another level completely. Unfortunately, very few people find their true soul mates. Drew and I are very, very lucky". Clint nodded, looking thoughtful. "Yeah, that you are" Just then Donna called them in. "We are all hungry, we're gonna have something to eat. Quit yakking and join us". They went in and everyone grabbed a plate to fill with food and went to sit around the cockpit dining table to eat. Every now and then, a skyrocket would arc up into the sky and explode in a shower of stars, the thump, thump of the bass in the music from the shore reverberating through the air. As midnight neared, the tempo and volume of the music coming from shore seemed to increase in intensity. Andrew went to the saloon to prepare champagne flutes for the sparkling wine at midnight. But first he quickly stepped into the master cabin to check on the twins, who were soundly asleep. He crossed the saloon to the other hull and checked on Jonathan who seemed perfectly as ease on his bed. Back in the saloon, he placed the glasses on a tray and carried them out to the aft table. A few minutes before midnight, he poured sparkling wine into the glasses and each one held a glass as they stood up and moved onto the deck and to the rail. They could hear the countdown from the shore. "Five -four -three-two-one". A roar seemed to rise from shore as the crowd celebrated and the first fireworks rose into the black sky. All the ships in the harbour and at anchor in the bay, blasted their horns, their deep notes reverberating in the night air. The group on the yacht joined the shouted "Happy New Year" then sang 'Auld Lang Syne' before kissing their partners and then wishing the rest of the group. They toasted the new year with sparkling wine and watched the sky erupt with fireworks, from distant Bloubergstrand all the way to past Sea Point, as skyrockets launched into the air to explode in a myriad of colours around them. The display from the Waterfront continued or almost five minutes before everything was quite again, apart from the slap of water against the hull, the faint smell of gunpowdee, and the distant drone of thousands of voices celebrating the arrival of a new year. It wasn't long after midnight that Ryan began preparations to return to the marina. He started engines and gently moved 'Belle Catherine' towards the mooring buoy, then hurried forward to release the line from the bouy and retrieve it on board. Then he turned the yacht in the direction of the buoys indicating the channel back to the harbour mouth. When he was in the channel, he contacted Port Control to request permission to enter the harbour, which was immediately given with an added 'Happy New Year'. They passed through the harbour mouth and turned toward the marina entrance, requesting permission to enter the marina and for the bridge to be opened. It took a while before they were given the all clear to proceed due to the amount of foot traffic over the bridge, but they eventually cruised down the canal into the marina, people shouting greetings and good wishes as the sailed past. By 01h00, they were tied up to the dock once more. The saloon and cockpit had been tidied up on the trip back and the leftover food packed away and as the festivities at the Waterfront started to wind down, those on the yacht started heading for their beds as well. Ryan wanted to cast off at 07h00 to give sufficient time for them to reach Yzerfontein for lunch. If they arrived early, that would be fine. But arriving late was not an option. Andrew sent Ryan off to bed so that he could get some good sleep before rising to get them underway. The rest of them could sleep a little later, if they wanted to. Andrew would be up at 07h00 to assist Ryan with the departure. Clint indicated he would join them as well. Andrew was the last to go to bed. He checked the decks and the mooring lines, then turned off all the unnecessary lights, secured the security gate and partially closed the saloon door before setting the intruder alert, turning off the saloon lights and going down to the master cabin. He checked on the twins, undressed and brushed his teeth, then got into bed next to Ryan who had already fallen asleep, trying not to disturb him. He turned off the bedside light a nd moved to snuggle against Ryan, who turned on his side in his sleep so Andrew could spoon with him. Andrew closed his eyes, dimly aware of the soft slap of water on the hull and the hum of the fan in the cabin. He was asleep almost immediately. It seemed like only minutes later, he felt Ryan get out of bed and heard the shower running. He didn't hear Ryan come back, get dressed and go up on deck to get them underway. The rumble of an engine starting woke him and he peered at the bedside clock. It was 07h00 exactly. "Shit", he muttered, "I should have been up already. And why have the twins not woken up yet". He flew out of bed and checked the twins, who were surprisingly, still sleeping. He pulled on a pair of track pants and a t-shirt, brushed his teeth and raced up to the saloon. The heavenly aroma of freshly brewed coffee greeted him, but he moved out onto the aft deck to find Clint at the helm, while Ryan was on the dock releasing the mooring lines. The bow line was already on board and he watched as Clint used the bow thruster to turn the bow away from the dock. He had obviously been observing Ryan very carefully the day before. Then he put the engine astern and slowly moved them towards dock. Andrew hurried to the stern line and grabbed it as Ryan tossed it to him, before jumping back on board, not quite as easily as Andrew has done the day before. They started moving ahead as Clint advanced the throttle heading to the bascule bridge canal. Ryan patted hin on the shoulder. "Well done. You're a quick study". "For a big yacht, she's quite responsive under power. I would love to feel how she handles under sail." "We'll see what we can do on the way shall we". Ryan turned to Andrew and kissed him. "Morning my love. Sorry I got you out of bed" "No problem, I had to get up anyhow. Need to get breakfast together". He started as a faint cry was heard and seconds later Rascal came bounding up the stairs. "Oh God, the twins. They were still sleeping when I left the cabin". He hurried down the stairs to the master cabin where both babies were upset that neither of their dad's was hearing them cry. Andrew bent over the cribs. He picked up Cameron, put him on the bed, then did the same with Elizabeth. He lay down next to them. "It's okay my angels. Daddy's here now. I'm sorry I wasn't here when you woke up". The sound of his voice calmed them and they looked at him with eyes still swimming with tears. He leaned over and kissed them both. Just then there was a knock on the cabin door and Janice called out, "Andrew, can I come in?". "Yes sure mom. Come on in". "I heard them crying. I came to see if you needed help". "Thanks mom. Yes, you can. I need to shower and change and get to the galley to start breakfast. But they need a bottle and probably a nappy change as well. If you can make the bottles, I will jump into the shower then get them changed". "Yes sure no problem at all. I'll give you some time to shower and then come back". Janice went to make the bottles in the galley and Andrew dived into the shower. Five minutes later he was drying himself a nd then quickly got dressed. When he opened the interleading door, Janice was sitting on the made up bed, watching the twins suck on their bottles. Andrew fetched two protectors and slid them under the babies, before starting to remove Cameron's dirty nappy. Janice rose and stood beside him, moving Elizabeth over and side by side they put clean nappies on the twins and got them dressed. Then they carried them up to the saloon and put then into their chairs on the saloon seating, where Andrew could keep an eye on them while Janice went to get dressed for the day ahead and he was busy in the galley. Andrew glanced out the galley windows and noticed that they were already through the harbour mouth and heading out into the bay. The mouthwatering aroma of grilling bacon had everyone emerging from their cabins and the galley and saloon were soon a hive of activity as they all pitched in to help. Donna and Karen got busy setting the table in the cockpit, while David was filling two jugs with fruit juice, and making more coffee. Craig was setting up the food warmers on the counter in the cockpit and Paul and Marie were making a pile of toast. Ryan and Clint were at the helm taking care of the sailing aspect. Andrew took the bacon out of the oven and into a serving dish, handing it to Craig to put on the warmer. Then he got Craig to clean and halve mushrooms while he popped sausages and tomatoes into the oven to grill, then started cracking two dozen eggs to be scrambled. At the helm, Clint was having a ball, grinning from ear to ear, but Ryan was disappointed to see that the wind was not blowing enough for the spinnaker, so he raised the mainsail and genoa and cut the engines as the sails filled with wind, driving them through the calm waters of Table Bay. By the time they were approaching the channel between Robben Island and Bloubergstrand, breakfast was ready and apart from Ryan, who stayed at the helm, they were all sitting having breakfast as Blue Bay Lodge slid past on their starboard side. After breakfast they all chipped in to tidy up and once everything was packed away, the galley clean andthe dishwasher humming, everyone found a place to chill and catch up on lost sleep, while Clint joined Ryan at the helm, after going to shower and dress for lunch. David disappeared into their cabin, Donna, Craig and Karen were tanning on the deck in the bows, Paul and Marie were reclining in the corners of the cockpit seating with Jonathan beside them and Janice and Andrew lay on the saloon seating on either side of the twins. About an hour after breakfast, Ryan judged that the wind had picked up enough to deploy the spinnaker. He showed Clint how to furl the genoa using the electric winch and leaving him at the helm, moved onto the bows to raise the spinnaker and he was pleased to see that their speed was now almost twelve knots compared to their previous nine. The wind speed continued to increase through the morning and they were eventually cruising at a healthy fourteen knots, just one knot short of 'Belle Catherine's" of rated top speed. They made good time and Ryan dropped anchor in the small bay off 16 Mile Beach, where the bedouin tent that housed the restaurant was located, just after noon. Andrew and Ryan had, after discussing it, decided not to beach 'Belle Catherine', but to anchor offshore and take the dinghy to thd beach. Clint was, once again, hugely impressed with the equipment the yacht was fitted with, as he watched Ryan use the telescoping crane housed in the boom to lift the dinghy off its cradle and launch it into the water. It was decided to go ashore in two groups. The first group was David and Janice, who would take Cameron and Elizabeth with them, and Paul, Marie and Jonathan. The three baby seats would go as well. Once Ryan had disembarked them onto the beach, they waited while he returned to the yacht to fetch the remainder of the group. Rascal had to stay on the yacht and his forlorn little face was visible through the side windows of the saloon as they headed to the beach. Ryan ran the dinghy up onto the beach and secured it to a convenient post and they set off across the wide swathe of sand to the restaurant. They waited under the shade of the tent as Andrew and Ryan walkedthrough the restaurant to the reception desk. The young hostess was caught by surprise to see them, as they had not come from the direction of the carpark as she had expected. Andrew gave her his name and after checking off their reservation she asked, "If I may ask, how did you get into the restaurant? I didn't see you come in and you would have had to come past me." Andrew wasn't quite sure if the liked her tone, but smiled at her and explained, "We came in across the beach. We didn't drive up, we sailed up. That's our yacht anchored offshore", pointing to where 'Belle Catherine' was anchored. She blushed and replied, "Oh, I'm so sorry Mr Devlin-Major. That must have sounded rude. Please accept my apologies. It's very rare that we have guests arriving by sea. Normally everyone drives up to us. However, your table is ready , although we only start serving at 1pm. You are aware of that." Andrew nodded. "Yes, we are aware. I realise we are slightly early, but if we can get something to drink while we wait for lunch service to start, that would be great". "Yes sure, no problem. Please follow me to your table and I'll get a waiter to take a drinks order" They followed her to a long wooden table with bench seating on either side. The table was laid with placemats, side plates, cutlery and wine glasses. They made themselves comfortable and a waiter took a drinks order and waited for lunch to begin. The restaurant had a very specific service order. Starters were served at 1pm, main course at 2pm and dessert and coffee at 3pm. The restaurant quickly filled as 1pm drew closer and was almost full by the time service commenced with Hake & Yellow tail soup, a range of pates and freshly baked breads. The main course that followed included Snoek grilled over coals, a mussel pot, prawns in garlic butter, grilled line fish and deep fried kingklip gougons with baked potatoes, pumpkin fritters and a range of salads. All in all itwas a seafood feast. Dessert was traditional koeksusters, strips of plaited dough, deep fried and soaked in a lemon spiked syrup. It was almost 4pm by the time they transferred back to 'Belle Catherine', and it was inevitable that they would anchor in Grotto Bay for the night. It was an easy motor to the anchorage and for dinner Andrew just put out the leftovers from the night before and everyone just helped themselves when and if they were peckish. What was left at the end of the evening, Andrew tossed overboard for the fishes. They were all in their cabins by 22h00 , after a long day of sailing and eating. The next morning, Ryan pulled up the anchor at 10h00 after a breakfast of cereals, fruit and fruit juice, and crumpets with link sausages, maple syrup and honey. The wind was light, but almost dead ahead, so they were obliged to use the engines all the way back, with Ryan just using one engine at a time, and they tied up to the dock in the marina at 16h00. On the way back, Andrew had got everyone to strip the linen off the beds and the used linen was placed in plastic laundry bags ready for the cleaners to collect the following day from the house. Darren and Kerry were arriving back the next day and would meet Andrew and Ryan on Saturday to give the yacht a good clean and remake the beds in readiness for the next charter happening on the next weekend which Darren and Kerry would be taking care of. David and Craig drove the cars from the parking area to the dockside to load up, including the laundry and when everything and everyone was loaded they drove home. Ryan's parents and Paul and Marie went straight to their own homes, while Clint and Karen would drive to the house with Donna and Craig to have a swim. After a quick aside with Ryan, Andrew told them that he and Ryan were going to have an impromptu BBQ and did they want to join them. They all agreed but told Andrew they would stop on the way home and get stuff for the BBQ. Andrew readily agreed and they drove off to the store. Ryan and Andrew made sure the yacht was locked up, they each grabbed a baby, and after securing them into their car seats, Ryan fetched Rascal, and they too left for home. They had been home for almost an hour before they heard the tyres of Andrew's SUV crunching in the gravel driveway. The twins had already been bathed and were on the couch with Ryan while Andrew prepared their bottles of formula. The four arriving adults came up the stairs with several bags from the supermarket. Andrew raised his eyebrows in questioning surprise and queried, "What all have you bought and how many people are we feeding" Donna grinned at him. "It's not all food. There's some beer, wine and soft drinks as well. Clint thought you guys had spent enough over the past few days and that it was time we gave something back. We got some steaks and marinated drumsticks, there's garlic bread, some salads and something tasty for Ry for dessert. So nothing has tobe made. Craig and Clint will do the meat. You two can just chill!" Andrew and Ryan looked at each other and grinned. "That suits us right down to the ground. Donna, I think you and Craig know where everything is", and he curled up on the couch to snuggle with Ryan and the twins. The girls went into the kitchen to start getting organised and Craig and Clint stepped out onto the patio to get the fire going. Donna and Karen were done quite quickly and joined the guys on the patio, telling Andrew and Ryan to join them as well. They picked up the babies and carried the outside, taking a seat in a sheltered corner on the patio and Donna and Karen arranged drinks for everyone, although it was obvious the Craig and Clint had already downed a few. Craig and Clint got the fire going and while waiting for it to burn down, decided to go for a swim. Although it was not dark yet, the pool lights were on and the water looked very inviting. Andrew and Ryan watched with amused interest as the two friends stripped off their shirts and dropped their shorts to reveal both wearing bathing suits, Craig in a red speedo and Clint, a boxer style in blue. Their hosts studied them appreciatively. The two friends were quite different. Craig was tall, about 1.8m or 6ft, with a trim, swimmers body. He was tanned and his chest and belly were lightly furred with medium brown hair. His legs were long and perfectly muscled, also dusted with hair. He did, however, sport an impressive bulge, and the thought crossed Andrew's mind that Donna was probably a very happy girl. It was Clint's body, however, that made Andrew and Ryan glance at one another. Having had the time to observe him on the yacht, they knew that he was fit, well built and hairy. But they were not prepared for the full impact of an almost naked Clinton. His impressive 6ft3in was complimented by wide, sloping shoulders, a long torso V-ing down to narrow hips and long legs with muscular, very hairy thighs and well shaped calves. His feet, like his hands, were long and narrow, finely boned with prominent veins. His arms were long and tautly muscled, with dark hair almost to midway on his upper arms. Blue veins showed under the pale skin of his inner arms and when he bent his arms and his biceps flexed, a thick blue vein was visible running over the muscle. His back was wide with muscles rippling across his shoulders and a deep cleft running down the length of his spine before flattening out in a patch of dark hair in the small of his back and dipping into the beginnings of his butt crack. What puzzled Andrew, though, was what he thought looked like faint lines on Clint's back and the back of his thighs. When he turned, they seemed to vanish, so Andrew put it down to the lighting and shadows on the patio. His front was just as impressive. His well shaped pecs had a nice hollow between them and deep pink nipples, all covered in a pelt of dark, silky looking body hair that feathered over his collarbone and around the base of his throat. It ran in a dense line down the middle of his six pack to his belly button, then fanned out in a dark inverted V to his pubes which were just visible above the top of this costume. The bulge of his cock was even more impressive than Craig's , the shape of his cockhead clearly visible in the tight confines of his bathing suit. When Andrew and Ryan spoke about it later that evening, they both decided t hat if ever there was a stud, it had to be Clint. While they were in the pool, Andrew and Ryan went upstairs to put the twins to bed, as they had fallen asleep. Rascal followed them to the nursery. Ryan glanced at Andrew as he tucked Cameron in. "Quite the stud, isn't he?" Andrew nodded, straightening up from kissing Elizabeth. "That he is, my love. To his credit, he doesn't flaunt it. In fact, he seems oblivious to it. My guess is he gets plenty of hearts racing, male and female". Ryan nodded as well, "But I don't know what it is. Something is off. I cannot put my finger on it. He seems to be very personable, but there's just something that bothers me". "I know exactly what you mean. Did you notice the faint lines on his back and thighs. I think there were some on his stomach as well. I thought it might be a trick of the light, or maybe stretch marks. But I find it difficult to see how a guy who is so well built and obviously fit would have stretch marks". "Now that you mention it, yes I did notice them. But I'll admit I didn't give them another thought". Andrew giggled. "Hmmm, too busy checking him out if you ask me". Ryan took Andrew in his arms and kissed him long and hard. "It's okay to look at the menu. You just can't order. And don't tell me you were not perving as well!" Andrew put his forehead against Ryan's chest, his body shaking with laughter. "Guilty as charged. Even a monk would have had a good look". Ryan chortled as well. "True dat. I think we better get back downstairs. I'm getting hungry and those steaks are not going to grill themselves". They walked downstairs hand in hand, their shoulders touching as they walked. On the patio, Craig and Clint had just got out of the pool and Clint looked even better wet, his body hair sticking to his skin. He and Craig wrapped towels around their hips and while Clint moved to the grill and started putting meat on it, Craig went to fetch two more beers for them. Andrew opened a bottle of red and a bottle of white wine for him and the ladies, while Ryan had a cider. The meat didn't take long as the steaks were done to a medium/medium rare and the chicken was precooked so it was not long before they were eating. Donna brought out cheesecake with strawberries dessert, which had Ryan sighing with pleasure and Andrew made coffee. Craig and Clint got quite rowdy as the night wore on and Ryan advised them to keep it down in case the twins woke up, giving Andrew a questioning look at the same time. Andrew knew exactly what the look meant. There was no way in hell that anyone would be driving anywhere. Clint and Karen would have to sleep over. Andrew went upstairs to get a bedroom ready, followed a few minutes later by Ryan who came to help him. When they were happy that the bedroom was ready to receive guests, they went back downstairs. The four friends were still at the table, all drinking coffee and Karen was trying to get Clint to put on his clothes so that they could go back to their hotel. Andrew and Ryan were standing in the doorway between the dining room and the patio and unobtrusively signalled the ladies to come in for a chat. When Donna and Karen joined them, Ryan looked at them and said, " Sis, there is no way that Craig is driving to Melkbosstrand tonight. He and Clint are in no condition to go anywhere except to bed. We have made a room ready for Karen and Clint. They can say here tonight. But the vehicles will not move, am I clear", he said sternly, looking from Donna to Karen. They both nodded and Donna replied, "Yes, I agree. They both got a bit out of hand tonight. Thanks guys". "Good. Drew and I are going upstairs. Are you two going to be okay getting them to bed?" Karen nodded her head, looking a bit embarrassed. "Thanks Ryan, we can handle them. I'm sorry about this". Andrew put his hand on her arm. "There is no need to be sorry. We just want everyone safe, that's all. And Craig is certainly not driving either of the cars in his present condition". "I agree completely, Drew. Thanks again. Karen and I will get them to bed. The beers are finished anyway". "Okay, if you need help, shout. We'll be in our room". Leaving the ladies, they walked up to the master suite. They showered together and put on sleep shorts and t-shirts and watched TV, aware of the voices below them on the patio gradually getting softer and it wasn't long before they heard Craig helping Clint to the bedroom assisted by Karen and Donna. Craig and Donna only stayed a few minutes before going back downstairs to their own bedroom. When all was quiet, Ryan got up and went down to check that the house was locked up and then came back and got intobed next to Andrew. "All secure and the girls tidied up". Andrew nodded, "Oh great. I was worried I would have a kitchen to clean before breakfast". Ryan rolled onto his side, propping himself with his elbow. "Have you given any thought to what we should do tomorrow?" Andrew turned to face him. "Not much really. The extra night on the yacht was a bit of a curve ball. Maybe we can ask Donna or mom to babysit and you and I can just go out for a quiet night out. We haven't even got gifts for one another. At least I haven't got one for you yet" Ryan caressed a finger down the side of Andrew's face and kissed him lightly. "I have enough of a gift right here with me. You and our two imps next door. But a dinner alone would be nice. I don't think we have been out alone since before the twins were born. I think we should ask mom first. She may be offended if we don't and you know how much she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren. I'm certain she will agree." They watched some English Premier League football highlights and before the programme ended, Ryan felt Andrew's head flop against his shoulder. Grinning, he held Andrew upright until he could get into a position to slide Andrew down so that his head was on the pillows. Then he turned off the lights and slid back into bed next to Andrew, who turned naturally onto his side so that they could spoon. His last waking recollection was Andrew holding the hand that had been placed over his waist and the aroma of the sandalwood scented shampoo that Andrew used in his hair. Cameron and Elizabeth gave them an extra half hour of sleep the next morning, waking up just after 6.30am. Andrew came awake the second the first cry sounded and the first thing he saw was a pair of beloved blue eyes gazing at him. Andrew smiled sleepily, gazing back at his husband. "Happy anniversary, babe", he whispered. Ryan smiled back at him and kissed him. "Morning my love. Happy anniversary! Just watching you and thinking how lucky I am. To have a beautiful husband and two beautiful children, who right now are not beautiful because I really just want to lie here with you and they are making a godawful racket. But I guess fatherhood calls. Shall we?", moving to get out of of bed. They padded barefoot to the nursery and bent over the cots. Instant silence! As soon as Andrew and Ryan appeared, the twins were their normal chirpy selves. Their dads picked them up and both men wrinkled their noses. "I think I would also be unhappy if I smelled like that", Andrew quipped. "Will you start changing them? I'll go downstairs for formula and take something out for breakfast. I'll be as quick as I can" said Andrew. He hurried to the kitchen and turned on the kettle for hot water and the coffee machine. Then he rooted around in the freezer for breakfast and decided it was time they did a big shop again to stock up. He eventually found some frozen croissants and apple Danish and a pack of shaved ham which he put on the counter to thaw. Opening the refrigerator, he was pleased to see an unopened carton of cream cheese, as well as various other cheeses in a container and the normal jars of preserves. The kettle boiled so he made the bottles of formula for the twins and then made two mugs of coffee for him and Ryan. Putting it all on a tray, he added a box of rusks and set off back to the bedroom. Ryan was still busy with Elizabeth, who had a particularly messy diaper, so Andrew put the tray down and gently pulled Cameron towards him from the centre of the bed. "Hello my little man, how are you today?, he said to the infant, who cooed and moved his arms and legs energetically. "Are you happy to see daddy. Good, because daddy is happy to see you". He nuzzled his forehead on the little boys stomach and he chortled in delight. "Now let's get you cleaned up and then you can have your bottle". He quickly got Cameron into a fresh diaper and put him on the bed next to Elizabeth who already had her bottle. He gave Cameron his bottle and watched him as he started sucking to make sure that the formula was flowing, then reclined next to them on the bed with Ryan on the other side to have their coffee and rusks. They both loved this time of the morning, dirty, smelly diapers and all. They watched Sky-News on TV for a while to catch up on world events while they were away and then Ryan went to the bathroom to shower. When he came back, Andrew did the same and once they were dressed, they got the twins ready for the day and took them downstairs and put them on the blanket covered rug in the lounge with some toys and Rascal in attendance. While Ryan opened up the doors and windows to allow the fresh morning breeze in, Andrew got busy in the kitchen and soon the heady aroma of baking pastry filled the lower area. Donna came out of the guest bedroom looking fresh and pretty in a long, sleeveless summer dress and Karen came down shortly after. . Both advised that their partners were in the shower, hoping to feel better when they were done. Clint looked like hell when he did come downstairs and Craig didn't look much better when he put in an appearance. They both inhaled two cups of black coffee each before they could actually have a coherent conversation with anyone. They ate breakfast and Craig started making preparations to drive them back to their hotel. Clint was very apologetic for getting drunk and thanked Andrew and Ryan several times for letting them stay the night and for their hospitality. It was late morning when they finally left for their hotel. Andrew went up to the bedroom they had used to strip the bed and was surprised to find that it had already been done. The bed linen was neatly folded on one corner of the bed along with the damp bath towels, and the duvet had been thrown over the mattress to cover it. He opened the sliding doors to air the room and then took the linen to the laundry and put it into the machine to be washed. Ryan was on the phone with Janice. He could only hear Ryan's side of the conversation. "Yeah, tonight. Drew and I want to go out for dinner. You do remember what day it is? "Ha! You forgot. That's old age creeping up on you". He held the phone away from his ear and Andrew could hear Janice's indignant voice, but not what she was saying. Putting the phone back to his ear he said, "We will arrange takeaways for dinner for you guys so you don't have to worry with cooking" "Around sixish I would guess. We haven't decided where to go yet, let alone making reservations" "Donna and Craig will more than likely be here too. You know they are flying back on Sunday" "Sometime in the afternoon, I gather. But you can spend some time with then tonight while we are out." "Thanks mom. We appreciate it. We won't stay out too late" "Alright, thanks again. Laters!" He put the phone down and took Andrew in his arms, pulling him against his body. "Okay, they will babysit. Now we need to find somewhere to go". They were interrupted by Craig and Donna returning from dropping Clint and Karen. Donna walked straight to them and hugged them. "Guys, I'm so sorry. I forgot all about your anniversary. Congratulations. If mom hadn't called me.......", she said, looking stricken. Ryan put his arm around her. "Don't worry about it, sis. Mom forgot as well. It was only when I phoned to ask her to babysit tonight that she remembered. And then she must have called you. Anyway, are you in or out tonight?" Craig shook both their hands, adding his congratulations and said, "Most definitely in. And no booze. A nice quiet, sober night at home is what we need tonight. Last night was way too rough!" "You'll get no sympathy from us", said Andrew, "It was all self inflicted". He pulled a pile of leaflets from a drawer. "These are menus from all the takeaways in the area. Have a look at what you want and make a note so that we can place an order. Mom and dad can have a look when they get here this evening". The rest of the day was spent just relaxing around and in the pool. They took the twins for a paddle in the pool and then napped with them on the sunbeds on the patio. They had calls from Paul, Marie and Claude to wish them a happy anniversary, Ryan ruefully noting that while the immediate family had forgotten their wedding anniversary, their extended family had not. Andrew also had a call from Darren and Kerry to find out what time they were meeting at the marina. David and Janice arrived just before 6pm and after quick greetings and congratulations, they perused the selection of takeaway menus and having decided what they wanted for dinner, Ryan placed the order to be delivered asap. Janice helped Andrew get the twins bathed and dressed for the night. They would have their bottles after their dad's had left for dinner. Andrew and Ryan had quick showers and got dressed for their date and then drove the short distance to the restaurant, as Andrew had decided to keep it local. They had an extremely enjoyable dinner and lingered over coffee, leaving the establishment at 9.30pm. Ryan drove straight into the garage and as soon as they stepped out of the car they could hear the heartrending cries of the twins. They hurried into the house and were greeted at the door by a very excited Rascal who scampered up the stairs ahead of them. Janice breathed a sigh of relief when she saw them, looking distraught. "Oh thank god, you're back. I was just going to call you. They woke up about an hour ago and then started crying and nothing we did would pacify them" Andrew and Ryan took the infants from Janice and Donna and cuddled them in their arms, rocking them back and forth and speaking softly to them. The plaintive cries subsided into little sobs that tore at their dads hearts and then stopped completely, to be replaced by hiccups. Andrew and Ryan lifted them so that their heads were on their shoulders and walked around patting and rubbing their backs. The hiccups disappeared and very soon both the infants were peacefully asleep cradled against their dads. They took the babies upstairs to put them into their cots with Janice and Donna following them to the nursery. They stayed a while to make sure that they twins were asleep and Ryan hugged Janice who was visibly upset. "I'm sorry they gave you a hard time, mom" Janice sniffed. "We gave them their bottles and burped them just fine and they went down with no problems at all. Then Cam woke up and started crying, which woke Elizabeth up and she started. And they wouldn't stop. Their eyes were looking around all the time and I knew they were looking for you. When they realised you two were not around all hell broke loose.We tried bottles, dummies, gripe water, turning on the TV. Everything. It broke my heart to hear them crying like that" Andrew put his arm around her and Donna. "We really didn't think it would be a problem. Normally once they go down, they stay down till morning. In hindsight, maybe we should have put them down for the night before we left." They rejoined David and Craig in the lounge and had some coffee, reminiscing about the wedding two years previously and about an hour later David and Janice left to drive home. They locked up, turned off the lights and climbed he stairs to the bedroom, where the both gave one another their own special anniversary gifts and afterwards fell asleep in one another's arms.
  15. Christmas Eve started off being very busy. François called to say he would not be at dinner, he was joining Claude at the lodge instead. The cleaning service arrived at 8am and descended on the house like a swarm of bees. Andrew and Ryan had their work cut out to prevent them from disturbing Donna and Craig, until they emerged from the guest room at 10am. David and Janice arrived soon after, to see if they could be of assistance, but all thoughts of dinner were banished, when Donna and Craig announced that they had got engaged the night before, with Donna gleefully waving her engagement ring at everybody. After tears from Janice, and lots of hugs, kisses and congratulations, Ryan produced a bottle of sparkling wine and they all celebrated with the happy couple "So," asked Andrew, "Have you set a date yet?" Donna shook her head. "Nothing definite yet. We'll wait until we get back to Johannesburg. We do know we don't want to wait too long, so we are planning on a late winter wedding, probably August. I want my dress to have long sleeves, so cooler weather would be better." "Oh good, so we will be back from the Mediterranean by then", said Ryan. Janice looked at him and asked, "Since when are you going to the Mediterranean and when?" Andrew explained. "Our last charter guests, Dan and Joan Kinley, invited us to join them on the maiden voyage of their new motor yacht they are launching in January. Probably the last week of June. We will know for definite in the middle of January. They're even covering our airfares". Janice shook her head. "I cannot keep up with you two. Talk about lifestyles of the rich and famous. You own a yacht, and a hotel, you get married on a beach in Mauritius, now you're jetting off to the Mediterranean to go cruising on a brand new motor yacht." Ryan grinned at her . "I guess it just goes with the territory, mom. When you move in those circles like we do, you are bound to pick up the odd invitation or two. All of our international clients are all very well heeled". Once all the excitement had died down, and the cleaners had left, Andrew started issuing orders. "Ry, can you and Craig set up the bar on the console between the lounge and dining room. Make sure the glasses are polished". "Mom, could you and Donna set the table for me please. Twelve people, but we need fourteen chairs so that we can put Cameron and Elizabeth with us at the table. You will need to put in two extra leaves. Dad or Ry might have to help you with that. Everything you need is either on or in the sideboard" "Dad, will you keep an eye on Cameron and Elizabeth and lend a hand if needed. Thank you, control freak mode off". Everyone giggled at Andrew's infectious mood and got busy with their tasks. Ryan was just happy that Andrew seemed to be dealing with the festive season far better than the two previous years. The wine cooler that stood alongside the console between the lounge and dining room was packed with beers. The wine for the evening was in the refrigerator. The small bar fridge in the console contained soft drinks and water. Everything else was either in the glass fronted console or on the top surface. The table, once Janice and Donna were done looked amazing. Andrew had decided on gold and white colour palette and the sumptuous gold tablecloth fell to the floor. White crockery with a fine gold line on the rim, starched white serviettes in gold rings, white individual salt and pepper cellars and crystal glassware glittered on the cloth. The cutlery was heavy brass handled pieces, as Andrew felt gold plated cutlery was a little over the top. Down the centre of the table was a long centrepiece consisting of brass candlesticks of various heights, white candles, gold decoration balls in various sizes and designs, with gold tinsel woven between all the elements. Two candlesticks stood on the sideboard on either side of the food warmers. Dinner was set 7.30pm for 8pm and by 5pm everything was in place. Andrew just had to finish cooking the meal. David and Janice set off home to freshen up and dress. Andrew set out bowls of nuts, pretzels and crisps with some crudités and dips for pre-dinner drinks, dimmed the lights and at 7pm when Donna came out of the bedroom, ready for the evening, Andrew dashed upstairs to shower and change and help Ryan get the twins dressed. Just before 7.30 the Devlin-Major family swept down the staircase , the boys in crisp black trousers and white mandarin collar shirts, and the twins dressed as elves in white babygrows. Cameron's had a green collar and green hat with a red pompom and red booties with pointed toes,while Elizabeth had a red collar and hat with a green pompom and green booties with pointed toes. They looked adorable and seemed to relish all the attention they were getting. Andrew looked around with a satisfied smile. The twins were looking really cute. The room looked amazing, with warm lighting and the table looking like a huge jewel box glowing in the candlelight. He handed Cameron to Donna and went into the kitchen to check the meat and vegetables. The vegetables were almost done so he put them into serving bowls with lids and set them on the warmers to finish. He took the meat out to let it rest, while the roast potatoes still had a short while in the oven to go. David and Janice arrived back just as Nicky and Beth pulled up. Andrew and Ryan met them at the top of the stairs. Beth's eyes were bright as she asked, "Where are they? I cannot wait to see them! It's been ages!" Andrew and Ryan hugged her and stepped back so that she could see the twins, now sitting in their chairs. Her eyes widened and brimmed with tears. "Oh my god, my babies. They are so big already. And they look so cute in those outfits.". She hurried to them and looked at them, as only a mother could, taking in every little detail. They gazed at this strange woman for a moment, and then, as if instinctively knowing that they somehow meant something to her, they smiled and waved their arms about. She bent down and kissed them both on the forehead and straightened to look at Andrew and Ryan. "They are beautiful. Thank you" Andrew and Ryan came to stand beside her, looking down at the twins. "They are beautiful. And we love them more than life itself. They bring extra sunlight to our lives everyday. Ryan and I can never thank you enough for the part you played in them being with us today" The serious mood was broken by Darren and Kerry walking up the stairs. Ryan and Andrew stepped forward to greet them. Darren was in an exuberant mood. "Holy crap, guys! This is quite some pad you have here. Very imposing from the outside and by the looks of things, just as good inside. Wow!" Ryan shook his hand and kissed Kerry on the cheek. "Hi guys, welcome. I cannot believe this is the first time you have been here! I'll show you around later. Let's just get you introduced to everybody". Just then Paul and Marie walked up the stairs with baby Jonathan in his chair, fast asleep. "Hi guys, just in time for the intros". Ryan raised his voice above the hubbub of conversation. "Everybody, can I just have your attention for one minute? You all know one another, except for these young people here. This is Darren and Kerry. They are our number 2 crew for 'Belle Catherine'. Guys, behind you is Paul and his wife Marie and their son Jonathan. Paul is GM of Blue Bay Lodge. On the left is my parents, David and Janice Major, and my sister Donna and her fiancee, as of last night, Craig.. On the right is Dr Nicola Smith and her partner Beth Cameron, who just happens to be Cameron and Elizabeth's mother." Darren smiled at Beth. "So at last we know where they got their good looks from." Everyone laughed and Andrew pointed a finger at him, mouthing, "Watch it", then added loudly, "Guys please enjoy yourselves tonight. We're not going to stand on ceremony. Thd bar is over on the console between the lounge and the dining room. If you need a bathroom, use any of the two doors that are open upstairs. Grab yourselves a drink. Dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes". Everyone congratulated Craig and Donna on their engagement, got themselves a drink and then split up into groups. Donna and Craig, along with Nicky and Beth moved out onto the balcony, while Paul, Marie, David and Janice sat on the couches close to the twins. Ryan took Darren and Kerry on a quick tour of the house and when they came back, they joined the group on the balcony. Rascal was doing the rounds, going from group to group looking for some attention and eventually just lay down on the rug and observed the goings on, before falling asleep. Kerry went to the kitchen to see if Andrew needed an extra hand . She helped him pour the soups into the bowls and carefully remove the plastic rings, facinated by the result, and add all the garnishes. Then she helped him carry the bowls to the table. Then, while Andrew carved the meat, she moved all the serving dishes onto the food warmers and when Andrew was done, he covered the meat with a lid, placed it on the warmer and called dinner. Ryan and David carried the twins in their chairs and put them between Andrew and Ryan and everyone got themselves comfortable. Cameron and Elizabeth gazed in wide eyed wonder at the glittering table in front of them, and they gurgled and squealed, waving their arms and kicking their legs. Janice insisted on giving thanks, so they all held hands while she offered up a prayer of thanks and after Andrew and Ryan poured wine into glasses, the meal began and they all tucked in. There were many comments about the soup and how pretty it looked, Andrew having to explain to how it was done and Donna and Kerry cleared the soup bowls when everyone was finished . Andrew stood up and removed all the covers on the main meal and said, "Folks, please help yourselves to main course. The plates are in the warmer, so bring your serviettes, they may be quite hot". Everyone filled their plates and the meal reached a very satisfying conclusion when Andrew brought out the pavlova, which he portioned onto plates, leaving some for those who wanted seconds. When everyone was sated, Donna, Kerry and Janice helped to clear the table and pack the dishwasher for its first load, while Andrew made coffee and warmed bottles for the twins. Then they sat at the table chatting, with the twins showing signs of going to sleep after their feed. Andrew and Ryan carried them upstairs, followed by Rascal and put them to bed, turning on the monitor before they left the bedroom. Darren and Kerry were the first to leave, as they were on the first flight out to Durban in the morning, and had to be at the air-port at 5.30am. Andrew and Ryan handed them each a gift and they gave the boys a gift in return, all promising not to open them until the morning. Paul and Marie left soon after, with Nicky and Beth, Paul having to be at the lodge early to make sure everything was being set up for the Christmas Day lunch which was, once again, fully booked. They would exchange gifts at lunch the next day. David and Janice had brought a bag with them, as they were staying for the night, to be close for the opening of gifts in the morning. Everyone jumped in to help tidy up, and then retired to bed, leaving the Christmas tree lights blinking in the darkened room, guarded by two huge teddy bears named Cameron and Elizabeth. On Christmas morning, Andrew and Ryan were up at 7am. While Ryan attended to the twins, Andrew was in the kitchen making a small breakfast of strawberry muffins and croissants, fruit juice, tea and coffee, which they could eat while opening their gifts. Ryan brought the twins down and sat them in one of the armchairs supported by pillows, then set up his video camera on its tripod to film the family opening their gifts. Their guests appeared from their bedrooms, like Andrew and Ryan, wearing bathrobes, and they all wished one another Merry Christmas, grabbed something to eat and drink, and sat down on the couches. Ryan moved the coffee table and carried the teddy bears over,putting them on the rug. Then he sat the twins down on the rug between the legs of the bears and David started to hand out the wrapped gifts. When he was done, the twins could barely be seen surrounded by an impressive pile of presents, and each adult had a far more modest pile in front of them including one large square shaped one that was between Andrew and Ryan's pile. Andrew and Ryan sat down next to Cameron and Elizabeth to help them open the gifts. They had deliberately chosen thinner paper for the twins gifts to make it easier for them to tear the paper. They each handed the twins a gift, and, of course, the first thing they wanted to do was chew it, but eventually the paper was torn enough to reveal each gift and they moved onto the next. In the end, the boys were sitting behind Cameron and Elizabeth helping them open the gifts or they would have been there the whole day. Elizabeth took an immediate shine to her purple and pink fluffy dinosaur and refused to let go of it and it seemed Cameron's favourite toy was his little yellow and blue Mel minion. Once they twins were sorted out, the adults started opening their gifts. The boys had bought one another new Ipods, Andrew's old one being one of the first models to come out, and Ryan's having being damaged by seawater. Andrew and Ryan had given Donna and Craig leather bound diaries, a large one for their desks and smaller ones to carry on their persons. They also got a weeks fully inclusive accommodation including the spa, at the lodge to use whenever they wanted to, subject to availability. Janice was given her preferred fragrance, a padded mat to use when she had to kneel down when working in the garden and a year's subscription to two of her favourite magazines. David also got subscriptions, and a season ticket for two people for all the cricket matches to be played at Newlands Cricket Stadium, including any international games. Donna and Craig, by their own admission, took the easy way out and got gift vouchers for Andrew and Ryan saying, "Do you know how difficult it is to buy gifts for two guys who already have everything?". All that was left was the square object, obviously a picture from David and Janice. When Andrew and Ryan opened it, they both gasped and grinned at each other. It was a charcoal sketch of them laying on the bed with the twins asleep on their chests. The hands between them were clasped and both sets of faces were turned towards one another. She had captured the moment perfectly and it was heartstoppingly beautiful. It was on a smoked glass backing with a brushed stainless steel frame that David had designed and made. Andrew and Ryan hugged and thanked them, then Ryan said, "That painting above the bed is gonna have to find another wall to hang on. This is going above the bed!". Andrew looked at Janice and asked, "Mom how many pieces to you have? Are they all of us and the twins, or do you have any with other subjects?". "A lot of them are of the family, but I also have others as well, the mountain, the bay, beach scenes, anything that catches my eye really. And not all in pencil and charcoal. I have started working with watercolour as well now. Why do you ask?" "Well, the artwork in the lobby of the lodge is all on loan. We support local artists and we display their work in the lobby and try to sell it for them. Our present agreement comes to and end at the end of the year. We have a new artist in mind for next year, but how would you like to exhibit your work next year?" "Oh wow Drew. I would love to. But do you think they would be good enough? I've seen the art you have on exhibit at the moment. It's incredible.". "Mom, I believe you have the talent. Also the last two years have both been artists working in oils. I think we need a change, not only of artist, but medium as well and you get a small fee every month for the use of your works. You will just have to have some in reserve should you get a sale. Then that work will have to be replaced by a new one". "Well, why don't we stop off at the house after lunch and you can see what I have? If you think it will work, then I will be happy with that" "Yeah, let's do that. I'll tell Paul when we see him today to hold off on the new artist until I advise him. Right, let's get all this mess cleared away and get ready for lunch". The first thing Ryan did was replace the painting above the bed with the charcoal sketch. While he was doing that, Andrew showered. Ryan took his place in the shower while Andrew got dressed and watched the twins who were in their cot napping. He noticed that they were growing fast and that the cot was becoming a little small for both of them. He would have to talk to Ryan, but maybe it was time for them to go back to separate cots. When Ryan emerged from his shower, Andrew called him over. They gazed down at their two bundles of joy. Andrew said, "What do you see?" "I see our angels, sleeping peacefully. What should I be seeing?" "You don't think it's getting a bit crowded in there?" "Hmmm, maybe. They are getting bigger". "I think it's time to move them back to the nursery and to their own cots. We may have to rearrange things a but in there, so that they don't feel separated". "You're right. A certain puppy is going to be very put out. You do realise that?" "He's just going to have to adjust, and he will. Maybe we can put his bed in the nursery with them. And we can have our bed to ourselves again". Ryan grinned. "I can live with that. We won't have to see that look of moral indignation when we get too frisky. Why don't we do the change tomorrow. It's an easy day". Andrew nodded. "Good idea. Tomorrow it is". Once they were both ready, they walked into the nursery to have a look and plan. Andrew stood looking at the empty cot. "We know they don't like to be too far from one another. So if we put the two cots on the long wall, head to head, I think it could work. If they get cranky, we could put one of the others toys in the cot. Try and fool them with a familiar smell, until they get used to being on their own". Ryan nodded. "Yeah, we could do that. Also, if we put the cots on that long wall, there is space at the foot of each cot to put the big bears. Like guards watching them" Andrew giggled. "This room is going to look awfully small with those two teddy bears in here..uhoh" He was interrupted by a soft cry from the bedroom. "It sounds like one of them is awake" It turned out they were both awake, but Cameron was the one crying. By the red mark on his cheek, one of his sisters flailing little fists had connected. They picked up the twins and cuddled them for a while, before washing them and dressing them for lunch. Andrew had taken inspiration from Beth's outfit from the previous Christmas and had a pair of pants made for Cameron and pinafore style dress for Elizabeth, both in the Cameron tartan. Cameron had a soft white shirt and socks and shiny patent leather shoes and belt. Elizabeth had a soft frilly blouse, white socks and tiny black ballet pumps. Ryan had not seen the out fits before, Andrew had kept them as a surprise. When they were dressed, Ryan got the video camera and filmed them laying on the bed, then sitting up supported by the pillows. He was grinning from ear to ear as he filmed. "Babe, they look so cute. The outfits are great.". Andrew grinned back at him. "Thanks love. The outfits turned out far better than I imagined. The seamstress did an amazing job". When they came down the stairs to the waiting family, Janice and Donna, descended on them. "Oh, they look soooo cute. The outfits are amazing. Where on earth did you find them?" exclaimed Janice. "Had them made, mom. The tartan is the Cameron tartan", explained Andrew. "Beth told us before they were even conceived, that she was the grand niece of the head of the Clan Cameron in Scotland and as such, they would be entitled to wear the Cameron tartan" "Wow boys!. I don't know if you realise it, but that's a very big deal with what I know of Scottish clan tradition". "Well, they look beautuful" said Donna. Picking up the baby chairs, they walked to the cars, placed the chairs in the trunk and secured the twins into the safety seats in the car and they drove to lunch at the lodge. The parking area was bustling when they arrived with cars pulling in and families walking towards the main door all heading for the restaurant and patio. Thomas hurried to the car when he saw them arrive and greeted them as they stepped out. "Ah, Mr Andrew, Mr Ryan. Compliments of the season to you. It is good to see you again" Ryan smiled and shook his hand. "Merry Christmas to you and your family too, Thomas. How are you?" "I am well Mr Ryan", he replied, and watched as they unbuckled the twins from their seats. He beamed as they lifted the babies into their arms. "They are getting so big. And they look so pretty. Can I help with anything,", seeing them reaching for bags of baby requirements. Andrew came round the car, "Merry Christmas, Thomas. Could you open up the back and get the chairs out please. Ryan and I will carry the babies and the bags. If you could just bring the chairs, that would be a great help" "No problem, Mr Andrew." He got the chairs out and followed Andrew and Ryan to the door, where the others were waiting. David and Craig relieved Thomas of the chairs, allowing him to get back to his duties, and they entered the cool lobby of the Blue Bay Lodge. A tall pine tree stood slightly off centre in the room to allow it to reach almost to the second floor landing. It was adorned with hundreds of white and blue flickering lights and silver bows, bells and balls. A huge shimmering silver star sat on the top of the tree. Christmas themed musak played softly in the background. They walked through the lobby, greeting staff along the way, who all thanked them for the extra money from the dividend cheques, and were met at the restaurant door by a beaming Paul. "Hello, guys. Merry Christmas. Your table is the usual one at the window. Marie, François, Nicky and Beth are already there. The hostess led them to the table and Beth beamed as she saw them approaching. She stood up and walked towards them. "Merry Christmas guys". She looked at the twins, "Oh wow, they look gorgeous. That's the Cameron tartan!. They look so cute in it. Where did you get those outfits" Andrew grinned at her. "Merry Christmas Beth. Yeah, it is the Cameron tartan. I had a seamstress make them up for me.". "They're beautiful. She did a fantastic job". They moved back to the table and walked around it greeting everybody, then placed the baby chairs on two extra chairs at the table, before putting them into the chairs and sitting down on either side of them. Paul had a Duty Manager in charge of the lunch so he and Claude were able to join them for the meal, although they were both called away at one time or another. Cameron and Elizabeth were given bottles and once they were fed and winded, they were soon in dreamland. Christmas lunch was once again a very successful event and, as usual, everyone had far too much to eat. They sat around the cleared table chatting as the guests gradually drifted away and they left in the late afternoon. Andrew had chatted to Paul about the art exhibit for the new year and they drove to David and Janice's townhouse to have a look at her portfolio of work, with Paul following behind. They examined what she had and decided it was very suitable for the concept and agreed that Janice was the new artist for the coming year. Her exhibition would go up in the first week of the new year. Fortunately all but a handful were already framed and those that weren't would go to the framers as soon as possible. Paul left to drive back to the lodge to fetch Marie and Jonathan before going home. The others all stayed for some coffee and fruit cake before they also left for home. The rest of the day was spent relaxing. It was a typical Cape Town summers day, so the twins had a quick paddle in the pool followed by a tepid bath to keep them cool. They dressed them in just their nappy's and vests and gave them a bottle. They winded them and put them down on the rug to play and eventually fall asleep. When they did fall asleep, their dads carried them upstairs and put them down for the night, turning on the baby monitor before they left the room. Rascal was on the bed in his usual place. No one was hungry, so the evening was spent chatting to Donna and Craig about wedding plans, honeymoons and where they were going to stay. The twins first Christmas Day was over. Cameron woke them at 6am on Boxing Day with a very full and whiffy diaper. Andrew started cleaning him up, while Ryan went downstairs to make coffee, get some rusks as both were feeling a bit peckish and make bottles for the twins. When he got back to the bedroom, Andrew was just finished with Elizabeth who had also woken up. They crawled back into bed with the twins between them and guarded by Rascal. They reclined against the headboard, dunking their rusks, drinking coffee and watching the TV. The twins had dozed off again after their bottles. The boys eventually rolled out of bed at 9am and started working on the nursery, moving things around and carrying the cot from the bedroom to the nursery. It took awhile, but they got things arranged to their satisfaction. All that remained now, was to see if Cameron and Elizabeth agreed with their new sleeping quarters. They freshened up up, spending more time in the shower than was necessary, and dressed in knee length pants and golf shirts. They went downstairs after packing pillows around the twins and turning on the monitor. They were very pleased to find that Donna had made a huge pile of flapjacks and tucked into them with cheese and preserves, washed down with coffee. Ryan found a note advising them that she and Craig had gone for a walk on the beach. After they had both eaten half a dozen flapjacks each, then covered the remainder and tidied up. Andrew opened the refri-gerator and looked inside it. Ryan looked at him and asked, "What are you looking for babe? You stillhungry?" Andrew glanced over his shoulder at Ryan. "No not hungry. Just looking. We seem to be running out of milk and cheddar cheese. And how about we have a BBQ tonight? We don't seem to have had one in ages" "Sounds good to me. Just us or do we invite people over?" "Just us, I think. And mom and dad if they want to come. Does that sound selfish?" "No, not at all.". He took out his mobile. "I'll call mom and find out if they want to come over. About 6ish okay with you" "That's fine. But maybe they want to come a bit earlier for a swim. They can take the twins for a paddle" David and Janice accepted the invitation and said they would arrive at 4pm. Andrew opened the deep freezer. "Looks like one of us will have to go to the store. I don't see any meat suitable for a BBQ. Shall I go?" "That's fine, I'll stay with the twins. Get us something tasty as well", replied Ryan, meaning something sweet and preferably gooey. "Don't I always babe. Will you make sure the grill is clean? Do we need charcoal and firelighters as well? With Yvonne not here I don't know what we have and what we don't. I seem to remember she got in some extra bags of charcoal before she left, but I may be wrong". Ryan went to the pantry to check and came back saying, "No we got plenty". Andrew grabbed his wallet and left for the store. When Andrew left, Ryan grabbed bag of charcoal and a box of firelighters and took them out to the patio. He checked the grill and saw that it had been cleaned, either by Yvonne or the cleaning service. Then he put some large potatoes into a pot of water and set it them on the stove to cook, knowing that Andrew liked to have some sort of potato with BBQ meat, whether it be salad, baked on the grill, or a creamy potato bake. Then he took out the steak knives and forks and the stoneware crockery and put them on the sideboard ready to be set on the patio table. He also took out a rustic tablecloth and napkins. He had been aware of the buzz of outboard motors for a while and went out onto the balcony. An inflatable boat race was underway further down the beach, with the course coming quite close to the house. He stood and watched for a while until the twins woke up. He brought them downstairs and was playing on the blanket with them when Andrew arrived back. He dumped the shopping bags and joined Ryan and the twins, enjoying some quiet family time. He kissed Ryan on the cheek. "I saw the potatoes. Thanks babe. Saves me some time. What do you feel like. Potato salad or potato bake?" He thought for a moment then replied "I think potato bake. We haven't had one for a while. With lots of onions and mushrooms". "Potato bake it is then. I'm just going to do a green salad with it. And some garlic bread" "What did you get that's tasty?" queried Ryan. "Ahha, apple strudel. With ice cream." Ryan rubbed his hand together. "Hmmm, lovely jubbly! One of my favourites". Andrew laughed, "You, my love, have many favourites, as long as can be eaten with ice cream" He grinned at Andrew. "True dat! You know me so well". They spent some time with Cameron and Elizabeth, then Andrew went to the kitchen to take the potatoes off the stove and cool them down. He came back with hot pastrami on Rye bread with mustard and pickles for their lunch and bottles of formula for the twins. Donna and Craig arrived back while they were eating. Craig had a pizza box in his hand and looked crestfallen when he saw their plates. "Oh hell guys, you've had lunch already. We really meant to be back earlier. We bought pizza and ate ours on the way back, but we got some for you too. Sorry!" "No worries, Craig. I can assure you with Ry around, it will not go to waste. Actually, maybe we can keep it for later. Mom and dad are coming over for a BBQ. We can slice it up for snacks." said Andrew. Andrew took the box from Craig and went to the kitchen. "Thanks for thinking of us anyway. I'm about to make coffee. Do you want some?" "Yes please", they chorused and sat down on the couch. "Is there anything I can do for dinner" asked Donna. "Um, you can make the salad, if you want to. Just look in the refrigerator and use whatever you want to. I'm going to make a potato bake as soon as I've had my coffee", replied Andrew. "Cool, I'll have mine too and then keep you company in the kitchen", she nudged Craig and pointed a finger at Ryan, "while these two lumps relax and watch TV". They were watching the cricket test taking place at the Newlands Stadium. Ryan mock-glared at his sister. "I'll have you know, we are not lumps. Craig and I will do the grilling tonight, while the rest of you relax. And anyway, you enjoy the cricket as much as we do". Andrew carried in a tray with the coffee and some choc chip biscuits and they all sat watching the cricket until the players took their break for tea. Andrew and Donna busied themselves in the kitchen and all the prep was quickly done. The bake just had to go into the oven, and the garlic bread warmed up. David and Janice arrived at almost the same time as the twins waking up, so Craig went to the door to let them in, while Andrew and Ryan took the babies upstairs to change their diapers. On returning to the lounge, the twins were immediately commandeered by their grandparents and everyone settled down to watch the end of the days play of cricket. Ryan organised drinks for everyone. He handed David his beer and said, "Just imagine dad. This time next year you could be sitting there in the stadium, instead of watching on TV. Your season ticket entitles you to that". David smiled up at him. "I'm really looking forward to that. I attended a couple of matches at Wanderers before . It was great fun. It will be interesting to see what the atmosphere is like at Newlands compared to Wanderers". As soon as play for the day was over, Ryan and Craig went out onto the patio to start the fire for the meat. Ryan called out from the door, "Babe , how much meat did you get, so I know how much coals we are going to need?" Andrew peered out from beneath the cupboards over the breakfast counter. "I got some boerewors, lamb cutlets and pork spare ribs. According to the butcher, the ribs are parcooked, so they won't take long". "Okay, cool, thanks" While the fire was burning down, Andrew and Janice took the twins upstairs for their bath. Janice noticed the missing cot and enquired, "Oh, you've moved them back to the nursery!". Andrew nodded. "Yeah, as of this morning. The single cot was starting to get crowded, so we moved them back to the nursery", he explained while moving towards the nursery door. "We had to rearrange things slightly so that they can still be close to one another. Tonight will be the big test though to see how they accept the new status quo. They like being close to one another, but Elizabeth hit Cam in the face yesterday morning when she woke up. He was not a happy camper!" Janice giggled. "So little sister is trying to bully her big brother". Andrew grinned. "Something like that". Janice started bathing Elizabeth while Andrew held Cameron and moved around getting fresh diapers, clothes, and all the lotions, creams and powders that were required. Janice wrapped Elizabeth in a fluffy towel and put her on the bed for Andrew to dry and dress her. Then she took Cameron from Andrew and started the bathing ritual all over again. When he was done with Cameron, he bent over them as they lay on the bed. "There you go. All good and clean and fresh, my angels.". They gurgled and chortled when he tickled their tummies. He picked up Elizabeth and passed her to Janice. "Go to grandma and I will get your brother". He picked Cameron up and they walked back downstairs to join the family. Andrew moved to the patio door and asked, "Ry, do you want to come in and help feed them?". Ryan turned his head to look at Andrew. "I would love to, but I don't think so. They've just had a bath and I'm a bit smoky at the moment. I'll come and sit with you and mom while you feed them. Craig can watch the meat". "Okay babe. Give me a few to make the bottles". Ryan joined them as they were feeding the infants , their eyes darting from face to face of the group sitting around them as they sucked on the bottles. Andrew and Janice winded them and then carried them onto the patio with light blankets over them and sat down at the table. It wasn't long before one black and one sandy haired head were nestled on dad's and grandma's shoulders, fast asleep. Ryan smiled as he took in the scene and his chest tightened. These two tiny people were his children and he loved them with all his heart. His blue eyes misted over and he bent down to kiss their heads, breathing in the baby smells of shampoo, lotion and baby powder. He lifted his head and saw Andrew watching him and he kissed his head as well. Andrew just smiled at him and nodded, mouthing silently " I know". Then he asked, "Will you fetch their chairs. We can put them down and get dinner finished. It's warm enough out here, as long as they are covered. How long before the meat is ready?" "Ten minutes maybe. I'll get the chairs". With the twins sleeping peacefully watched by Janice and Rascal, Andrew went to the kitchen to check on the potato bake and put the bread into the oven to warm through. He carried the salad and a variety of salad dressings out to the table. Donna had set the table while the twins were being fed, so dinner was almost ready. When Ryan and Craig started taking the meat off the grill, Andrew fetched the potatoes and the bread from the oven and put them on the table as well. Then they all sat down and ate. When they hadall eaten their fill, Janice and Donna cleared the table, while Andrew warmed the apple strudel and took the ice cream out of the freezer. He also took out a jar of salted caramel sauce. When the strudel was warm, he generously drizzled salted caramel sauce over it and took it and the ice cream out to the table where he served it up. Ryan was in seventh heaven and even went so far as to pour a spoonful of caramel sauce into his spoon and eat it, closing his eyes as he did. "I could eat this stuff by the spoonful. It is sooooo good" "We noticed", commented Donna drily. Everyone laughed and David just shook his head as he gazed at his youngest child. He looked at Janice and asked "What did we do to have a child like him. Will he ever grow up?". Everyone laughed again and Ryan replied, "You and mom should feel lucky you had a son like me. I am one of a kind, unique". David grinned, "And never been short on humbleness, I'm sure. I'm just glad you're Drew's problem now". Andrew giggled, "He's actually not that bad,", glancing up at Ryan as he spluttered in indignantly, "but I love him as he is, warts and all. And I wouldn't change it for all the world". Ryan bent down and kissed him. "Thank you my love. Nice save by the way". David and Janice did not stay long after dinner and left for home soon after they had finished their coffee. Donna and Craig helped with the tidy up before going to their bedroom, leaving Andrew and Ryan to lock up and turn the lights off. Walking into their bedroom without having the cot standing to one side left them both feeling a sense of loss and by unspoken agreement the went and stood at the entrance of the nursery and gazed at the two cots with their tiny, precious occupants. Both babies were sleeping peacefully, head to head in their respective cots. Rascal watched them from his bed on the floor without lifting his head from his paws, just his eyes moving as they followed the men. They bent down and gently kissed both infants and patted Rascal, before Ryan turned on the nightlight and the baby monitor and they returned to master suite where they undressed, brushed their teeth, turned off the bedlights and and slid between the cool sheets, facing one another. Ryan brushed Andrew's hair off his forehead and then traced a fingerdown his cheek, across his jaw, up the other cheek, over his forehead and down his nose to his lips. "I am so lucky to have someone like you to love me, and for me to love." he whispered softly. Andrew kissed Ryan's finger, his eyes shining with moisture and love. "I am awed each day that I can love you more than I did the day before. When Cam and Elizabeth were born, I was afraid that I would have to share my love for you with them. But amazingly, I found that I didn't have to do that. My love for you just grew and I found that same amount of love for them as well. So I am the lucky one. To be able to love you and our two beautiful children the way I do, is just the most special feeling in the whole world". Ryan kissed him tenderly. "Then you know exactly how I feel too". He rolled over onto Andrew, propping himself with his elbows and settling between Andrew's legs and grinned down at him. "You do realise this is the first time since they were born that we have had the bedroom to ourselves. We don't even have to worry about Rascal". Andrew giggled. "Those looks we got when things got heated were something else. He certainly has character". Ryan bent his head and they kissed deeply, crushing their lips together, tongues dueling. It wasn't long before both were breathing heavily, their hands and fingers exploring one another's bodies. Eventually, Andrew bent his legs with his feet flat on the bed and Ryan gently and very slowly entered him, assisted by Andrew, who gripped his buttocks and pulled him into him. Then they made love. It wasn't heated, go-at-it sex. Instead it was slow and languid, both showing the love they had for the other, that had them both sweaty and utterly sated when it was over. Sleep claimed them almost immediately, their faces almost touching on the pillows, legs still entwined and were wakened by two plaintive cries from the nursery just as dawn was breaking. They both donned bathrobes and while Ryan saw to the twins, Andrew went to prepare bottles, make coffee for him and Ryan and feed Rascal. When he got back to the bedroom, the twins were laying on the duvet, propped up with pillows, their arms and legs moving energetically, both clearly very unhappy. Rascal sat at their feet, watching. He only moved to greet Andrew when he approached the bed, his tail wagging, before going back to his position at the twins feet. Andrew handed one bottle to Ryan and they gently nudged the bottles into the babies mouths. Blessed silence descended to the room as if a switch had been flicked, broken only by faint murmurs of contentment from the twins as they sucked on the formula. Sipping their coffee, they reclined against the headboard and watched Cameron and Elizabeth as they drank their bottles. Andrew leaned over and kissed Ryan, smiling. "Good morning my love. Been so hectic since we woke up, we haven't even had time to say good morning. Our angels were not quite so angelic this morning." Ryan grinned back at him and leaned in for another kiss. "Morning babe. Yeah, I wonder if it was because they woke up in a strange room. And being hungry, of course. They seemed to settle a bit once I brought them in here to change them". "Hmm", Andrew mused, "Could be. I'm sure they will get used to the new sleeping arrangements. We must just persevere". The twins quickly finished their bottles and Andrew and Ryan each picked up one of them and cuddled with them while they winded them at the same time. Once they had burped, their dad's lay with them on their chests, enjoying the feeling of the babies gentle breathing against them. Andrew glanced at Ryan saying, "What do you want to do today?" Ryan turned his head to look at him. "I was thinking we might go to the yacht this morning. Open her up and get her aired. Check on what we need for New Years Eve and the trip up the coast. I'm pretty sure Darren and Kerry have got her all cleaned up but she has been closed up for four days now, so the cabins are going to need some fresh air". Andrew nodded. "Good thinking. Then it won't be such a mad rush to get things done on Tuesday before the New Year get together. I'll get the cabins and bathrooms prepared as well. We have one problem though. Not a huge one, but a problem nevertheless". Ryan looked at him with a puzzled expression. "What problem would that be?" "Well, mom and dad would normally be in the port aft cabin. But, with Paul, Marie and Jonathan joining us, they are going to need the aft cabin to have the space for Jonathan to sleep. So mom and dad will need to go to the midships cabin and Donna and Craig will be in the port forward cabin", explained Andrew. Ryan grinned and shook his head. "Andrew Devlin-Major, you don't know your own yacht. The Mason's can go into the midships cabin no problem at all. Remember, it has that storage shelf next to the bed that is actually designed to be a bed for a child. The mattress is stored in the locker under the shelf." Andrew's eyes widened. "I had completely forgotten about that. We've never used it as a bed before. Yeah, that would work perfectly. Then mom and dad can have the aft cabin". He breathed a sigh of relief. "I wasn't looking forward to telling mom she would have to give up her usual cabin". He gently moved Elizabeth, who had fallen asleep, off his chest and lay her on the duvet. "Let's get this show on the road. The sooner we get there, the sooner if will be done. I'll shower first. We can get breakfast on the way or order it in once we are on board". They took turns to use the bathroom, while the other one kept an eye on the twins. Ryan dressed Cameron while Andrew was in the shower, leaving Elizabeth for Andrew to let her sleep a bit longer. Andrew got dressed while Ryan went into the bathroom and then gently started dressing Elizabeth, waking her up in the process, which she was not happy about. Once she was dressed, Andrew picked up his wailing daughter and comforted her, walking around the room, gently rocking her, and she slowly pacified and calmed down, cuddled in her dad's arms. When Ryan came back into the bedroom, Andrew lay her next to Cameron and went to the kitchen and got two bottles of diluted apple juice, took them up to the bedroom and gave each of the babies a bottle of juice. Ryan packed the baby bags and then stripped the sheets off the bed and took them down to the washing machine, while Andrew had the twins. When he came back he took Elizabeth from Andrew and they each grabbed a baby bag and walked down to the car where they secured the twins in their car seats. Rascal jumped up with his front paws in the bottom ledge of the rear door and looked at Ryan forlornly. He bent down and picked the little dog up, scratching his ears and chin. "Do you want to go with us, my puppy? Let's see what your other daddy says?" Rascal wuffed, wriggling his body and wagging his tail. Ryan peered at Andrew on the other side of the car. "Shall we take him with us?" Andrew sighed in resignation. "Yeah, we can. He's not a lot of trouble. He'll probably just fall asleep anyway. We actually got triplets, not twins", grinning at Ryan, who put Rascal on the back seat between the twins then turned to go back into the house to fetch his leash. When they were satisfied that they had everything, Ryan drove the family to the marina and 'Belle Catherine', while Andrew phoned and placed an order for two breakfasts to be delivered to the yacht in thirty minutes. Ryan drove onto the dock and parked next to where 'Belle Catherine' was moored. Andrew deactivated the intruder alert via the app on his mobile, and stepped on board to unlock the security gate and the doors to the main saloon, then waited at the railing to take the twins and bags from Ryan as the took them out of the car. Ryan lifted Rascal from the seat, locked the car and stepped on board, putting Rascal down on the deck. He immediately scampered down the side deck to the bows, sniffing and exploring, his tail wagging excitedly. A few minutes later he was back in the saloon, jumping up on the seating and curling up in the corner, his eyes on the twins who were sleeping in their chairs on the saloon seating. Andrew and Ryan moved through the yacht, opening windows, portholes and hatches to get fresh air flowing through, making sure that all the cabin and bathroom doors were open. Back in the galley, Andrew started brewing a pot of coffee while Ryan checked the readings on the batteries and the fresh water levels. The sunny weather over the past few days had ensured that the solar panels had done their job, and the batteries were fully charged. They would, however, have to fill the fresh water tanks before they left. He grunted in satisfaction when he noticed the black and grey water tanks were empty and mentally thanked Darren. He also walked round the deck checking on lines and ropes, fittings, winches and all the other exterior equipment including the dinghy and its motor. A motorcycle pulled up next to the car and beeped its horn and he moved to the dockside railing to assist the delivery man on board with their breakfast order. They stood in the cockpit as Ryan took the boxes from him and handed over his credit card. The young guy ran the card through his handheld card machine and while he waited for the approval, he glanced around him at the yacht. "Nice boat, dude! She yours, if you don't mind me asking?" Ryan smiled at him. "No problem. Yes, mine and my partners. We're getting her ready for a New years cruise." He grinned back at Ryan, handing him his receipt. "Cool. Thank you for the tip and enjoy your breakfast" Ryan nodded. "Thanks, we will. Happy holidays" The delivery guy nodded, stepped onto the dock and swung his leg over the motorcycle before driving away. Ryan picked up the boxes and carried them into the saloon. "Breakfast's here babe", he shouted, not sure in which cabin Andrew was. "On my way", yelled Andrew, his voice rising up from the starboard hull, and moments later his head appeared as the ascended the stairs. "Darren and Kerry did really well. All the beds are made up and the cabins are ready. Even the bathrooms have been stocked with guest amenities. All we have to do is get the child bunk in the midships cabin set up for Jonathan" "Okay, let's have breakfast, then I'll get the mattress out for you. You can make the bed. You're much better at it than I am. While you're doing that, I want to get the fresh water tanks filled, and maybe motor over to the fuel dock and top up the fuel tanks. With luck we can be done here by lunchtime." They ate their breakfasts straight out of the boxes with orange juice from the refrigerator and finished with the coffee Andrew had brewed. When they were done, Ryan gathered up the boxes and stepped onto the dock to deposit them in a nearby refuse bin. Back on board, he went down to the port midships cabin and lifted the mattress for the child bed into place, then moved to the helm to start an engine to move them to the fuel dock. Andrew checked Cameron and Elizabeth on the way past and went down to get the bed made. He heard Ryan on the radio requesting permission to move to the fuel dock and a few minutes later, Andrew felt the vibration of the port engine coming to life before settling down to a faint background rumble, deepening slightly as Ryan opened the throttle to power them away from the dockside. A short while later he heard voices as they approached the dock and he hurried onto the deck to toss the mooring lines to the workers manning the fueling dock. When they were safely tied up, he left Ryan to supervise the refueling and top-ping up the fresh water and returned to the cabin to finish making the bed and getting the cabin shipshape again. He checked all the cabins again to make sure that everything was ready and then returned to the galley where he looked through the lockers and cupboards to check what food stocks they had while making a list of what needed to be ordered for replenishment. He then sat at the saloon table, opened his laptop and placed an order with his supplier for everything they needed for delivery on the morning of New Years eve. He also placed an order for the platters for New Years eve. He looked up the contact number for the beach restaurant called them on his mobile to make the reservation for New Years Day, giving them his credit card details for the payment. Hearing voices outside, he glanced through the saloon windows to see Ryan handing over the yachts fuel credit card and waiting for the charge to be made. Then the two workers on the dock tossed the bow and stern lines on board and Ryan gently manouvered 'Belle Catherine' away from the fuel dock, heading back to their mooring. Ryan was right. By lunchtime they were safely tied up again and 'Belle Catherine' was ready to greet her next guests. Ryan turned on the generator to replace the battery charge they had used during the morning and they sat in the cockpit, relaxing and drinking sodas.Andrew lifted his legs onto the cushions of the seating area and sighed in contentment. "I really love being here. Just boarding 'Belle Catherine' makes me relax and feel completely carefree. It's almost as though she sets me free". Ryan grinned at him. "I know the feeling. I think it's the knowledge that, if we wanted to, we could just sail off into the wild blue yonder and not have a care in the world. It's the sense of freedom that she gives us." Andrew put his head against the backrest cushions and closed his eyes, listening to the water lapping against the hulls and the faint ting-ting of one of the lines striking the mast in the wind. He peered at Ryan through half opened eyelids. "I hate to say it, but I am feeling quite peckish. Why don't we organise some lunch? Cam and Elizabeth are still sleeping and I don't want to wake them up to get them into their car seats. We can have lunch and wait for them to wake up before we close up and leave". "That's fine with me. What do you feel like for lunch?" Andrew grinned wickedly. "The biggest burger I can find! And fries and deep fried onions. Don't look at me like that. I know it's a heart attack on a plate. I'll make us a grilled chicken salad for supper to make up for it" Ryan laughed. "That's if you live until supper time after eating that. Okay, burgers it is! Are we going to order in or shall I go and get them myself". Andrew waved his hand. "Nah, just order them in. I just want something that nice and meaty. If that means a double patty, then so be it. With cheese. And fries and onions!". Ryan placed an order for the burgers and they were delivered a short while later by the same delivery guy as earlier. This time, Andrew handed over his credit card and while waiting for the charge to be processed, he heard one of the twins start crying. Glancing into the saloon, he saw Ryan bend over the baby chairs and soothe Elizabeth by giving her his little finger to suck. Her plaintive wail had woken Cameton up as well. She stopped crying and gazed at her dad, her little hand gripping his finger. Andrew stepped back into the saloon as the delivery guy drove off and placed the bags on the galley counter. "I think I'll get formula made for them, then we can eat while they have their feed". He heated up water and poured it into the bottles, adding cold water until it was the correct temperature, then added the formu la, shook it all up and handed one bottle to Ryan who gave it to Elizabeth, while Andrew gave the bottle he held to Cameron. Then they sat next to the infants and ate their own lunch, closed up the yacht, set the alarm and drove home to Bloubergstrand where a surprise awaited them. They were alone for the weekend! Donna and Craig had gone away with their friends and would only be back on Monday morning. So the weekend was spent quietly, just Andrew and Ryan, the twins and Rascal. They lay in bed till mid morning, with Cameron and Elizabeth nestled between them, talking, watching TV, drinking coffee, even having breakfast in bed on the Sunday. Sleeping late was out of the question as the babies had them up shortly after 6am every morning. But neither Andrew or Ryan minded the early mornings. The time spent with the twins each morning were special to both Andrew and Ryan. When the whole family, including Rascal, could just be together. Andrew would always treasure the moments waking up after dozing off, with the feel of soft baby breath on his face as he and Elizabeth lay face to face. Or Ryan opening his eyes and seeing them gazing back at him from the innocent face of his son, one finger gripped in a tiny hand as if never going to let go. They took walks along the beachfront, the babies strapped to their chests or in the stroller and took them to paddle happily in the pool, both of them emitting squeals as the water splashed in their faces. Or just let them play on a blanket covered rug in the lounge while they sat with one eye on the babies and the other on the TV. And little Rascal was never far away, keeping a watchful, faithful eye over the twins. Donna and Craig arrived back on Monday, while they were having a late breakfast of cereal and toast. They bounced up the stairs into the lounge looking tanned, happy and refreshed having gone to the casino and spa in Caledon, close to Hermanus. They had both had some spa treatments and they glowed with youthful vitality. Even better, Craig had won handsomely at the blackjack table and the winnings were going to be put aside for the wedding to relieve David and Janice of some of the burden. The four young people sat on the couches chatting while the twins lay on the rug, watching and reaching out to touch the twirling mobiles hanging over them. Ryan had the laptop open and was studying the weather forecasts for the next two days. Andrew was gazing at the twins, and he suddenly nudged Ryan in the ribs, saying softly and indicating toward the rug, "Look, look!". Ryan glanced up from the screen to see what Andrew was so excited about. The babies were on their backs, but Cameron was trying his hardest to roll over. He was rocking back and forth and he eventually managed to roll onto his side, his arm trapped awkwardly under him. He lay like that for a short while, as if thinking through the problem, then seemingly with no effort at all, rolled onto his stomach. He raised his head and looked up at Andrew with big eyes and a surprised expression on his face. Andrew dropped to his knees on the rug next to the infant and kissed the top of his head. "Such a clever little boy, aren't you, my baby. Rolling over all on your own. We are going to have to be extra careful now when we put you on the bed so you don't roll off, you little rascal", at which Rascal's ears twitched and he lifted his head, tail wagging behind him. "No, not you mister. I'm talking to Cameron", Andrew admonished. Ryan grinned from ear to ear. "That's amazing. Figured it all out by himself.". Andrew put a couple of toys around Cameron for him to play with and sat back on the couch, gazing at their son proudly. "He's a little early to be hitting that mark. The experts say babies should only start rolling over by themselves from five months. He's just short of four and a half. But then again, he's been consistently hitting developmental marks slightly early from day one. And he's strong for his age. He was lifting his head early too. Pretty soon we're going to have to baby-proof this place" "Not only the house", added Ryan. "The yacht as well. Safety gates at the stairs, mesh on the railings. I know we can't com-pletely prevent them from getting hurt, but I can tell you now, it will break my heart when it does happen. And I know I speak for Drew as well. These two may be small, but God, they hold huge parts of our hearts. I'll never forget how we felt when Cam was circumcised. Never! It was awful". Andrew nodded. "That will never happen again in my lifetime. I cringe when I think that we put him through that. For what? Convention!" He looked at Donna and Craig. "If you two ever have a son, take my advice and do not have him circumcised. It's not worth the pain and trauma both he and you will have to go through." Craig grinned at Andrew. "That's still a couple of years away right now. We want to be married for two, even three years, before we think of babies. We'll just spoil these two in the meantime". "Well don't spoil them too much. We will be doing enough of that ourselves, I dare say. Now more pressing matters. How do we look weather wise for tomorrow and Wednesday, Ry?" Ryan grunted. "Well good and bad news, I think. Tomorrow night is great. Clear skies and very little wind. So the fireworks should be great. Then on New Years Day, getting up to Yzer will be fine. Southeasterly wind behind us all the way. Coming back is going to be a bitch though. We will probably have to use the engines all the way back. The same wind that helped us going, will be coming at us right in the teeth on the way back. I estimate not more than five hours out, maybe six or seven coming back. I think we must set sail at 07h00 just to be on the safe side for our lunch reservation. Just depends on the wind. We will be back quite late though. I can't see us leaving Yzer any time before 15h00, probably later. Six hours back, at least will put us in the marina at 21h00 at the earliest". "Is there somewhere safe that we can shelter for the night. Spend a second night on board, so we don't arrive back so late. We could just stay in Yserfontein or sail up to Saldanha Bay, say overnight and sail back on Thursday. Although that would mean further on the engines to come back" queried Andrew. "We could shelter in Grotto Bay on the way back. About two hours from Yzerfontein coming back down the coast. Do we have enough supplies for and extra night on board?" Andrew nodded. "Yeah, plenty. There are enough dry stores for two weeks at sea if we have to. I've mainly just ordered in fresh produce for this trip". "Okay. If push comes to shove, I think we anchor in Grotto Bay for the night if we have to, then sail back to the marina on Thursday morning." Donna cleared her throat and said, "Uh guys, can I throw a spanner in the works? Can we add two more for the trip? We were telling our friends, Clinton and Karen about 'Belle Catherine' and I told them I would find out if they could join us. He's done some freshwater sailing on the Vaal, so he's really keen to try sailing at sea". Andrew glanced at Ryan, who nodded. "Yeah, no problem. The starboard forward cabin is vacant, so they can go in there. Food is not a problem. We will just have to change our reservation at the restaurant at Yzer". Donna jumped up and hugged Andrew and Ryan. "Thanks guys, you're the best. Clint and Karen are going to be best man and bridesmaid at the wedding. Craig and I have been friends with them since high school days. I'll call them immediately and let them know. What time do you want them to arrive at the yacht?" "I would say around 16h00, Donna. I want to get safely anchored before it gets dark and find a good spot before they all get taken. There are a limited number of mooring bouys in the area where we want to be," replied Ryan. "Okay, cool. I'll phone them now and make the arrangements. Thanks again" and she hurried to the bedroom to make the call. After a light salad lunch, Donna and Craig went to lie at the pool, while Andrew and Ryan got bags packed with everything they would need for the twins for two nights on board the yacht. They packed almost nothing for themselves as they already had clothing in the master cabin cupboards on board. Mid afternoon, Andrew's laptop dinged, indicating a message had been received. On opening the message, he saw it was from his food supplier advising that the order would be delivered between 11h00 and 13h00 the following day, which meant there was no rush to get to the marina early, as everything on board 'Belle Catherine' was ready. He would just have to check the port forward cabin that Clinton and Karen were going to be occupying. He also called Yvonne , but getting no reply left a message that they were on the yacht and that she need only come back to work on Monday.
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