Close Quarters - Kandi Steiner Page 0,1

variety, and the boat wasn’t moving at all where it sat at the dock. Perhaps it was a stomach bug, coming out of nowhere.

Or perhaps I was just going to miss Joel.

That had to be it.

It wasn’t like we hadn’t spent summers apart in the past. Every year since I’d known him, Joel had been working out of Fort Lauderdale on whatever yacht he could get a job on. He’d worked his way up from just a deck hand on a charter yacht to finally getting what he’d always wanted — a permanent spot on a super yacht with an owner.

And this time, he’d be the lead deck hand.

I didn’t really understand why that was a big deal, but from what he’d told me, it meant no more having to deal with crazy guests or difficult-to-please divas or worrying that you’d get stiffed on a tip. Apparently, the guy who owned this yacht was known for being easy to work with, for letting his crew have a little fun — in other words, he didn’t care if they partied, so long as they got their work done.

And if there was anything Joel loved more than me, it was partying.

Plus, who wouldn’t want to be on a yacht in the Mediterranean — working or not?

I was excited for him — just as excited as I was for myself to spend the next few months backpacking through Europe. Joel would work on the yacht, I would get enough photographs to build a strong portfolio, and then we’d both be back in the States and starting a new chapter of our lives together.

At least, for a while, until Joel was called back to the yacht, of course.

That was the perk he’d been working so hard for, to have a permanent spot on an owner’s boat as opposed to working charters. That meant we’d be in a long-distance relationship for a while, but it wasn’t like we hadn’t been through that every summer, anyway. Besides, he’d have some time off now and then, and he’d either come home to Colorado, or I’d meet him wherever he was for a new adventure.

For now, I was caught up thinking about my adventure.

It was something I’d dreamed of, spending some time alone, wandering through the streets of foreign cities with my camera at the ready. Dating an extrovert had pulled me out of my comfort zone more times than I could count over the last four years, and in that time, I hadn’t taken a single trip by myself. This was a dream of mine, to travel alone, to experience new cultures from behind the lens.

It had just always seemed so far off — graduation, traveling, the real world and the jobs it held for us in it.

But it was here. The future was now.

And apparently, my stomach was very upset at that fact.

“You okay, baby?” Joel asked, brows furrowed as he swept a strand of my dark hair back and tucked it behind my ear.

I nodded, smiling again. “Just a little nauseous,” I said, tapping the railing as my cheeks flushed. “Guess I don’t have my sea legs like you do.”

“We aren’t even moving,” Joel said on a laugh, but then he kissed my nose. “Hang tight. I have something that will help.”

He was gone in the next breath, and I held tighter to my camera, forcing an exhale as I leaned against the railing. When I felt a little steadier, my eyes wandered over the sea of catamarans and yachts, the sun reflecting off the water between them, glistening like diamonds. These “boats” were so massive, so luxurious that I hardly believed I was in their presence at all. They were the kind of behemoths you saw on television, the ones purchased by the rich and the famous, the ones you only ever dreamed of stepping foot on.

I hadn’t even had a full tour of the yacht yet, but I’d seen enough to know there was more money in this port than in the entire country of Spain.

Barcelona was rich in culture, and I already had half a memory card filled with photographs I’d snapped during our week here together. The owner of the boat paid to fly Joel out, my parents pitched in to help me get my ticket, and at the end of the summer, we’d meet back here to fly home together. I’d already decided I’d stay a few more days on my own in Spain before I made my way to