Toxic Bachelors - By Danielle Steel


THE SUN WAS BRILLIANT AND HOT, SHINING DOWN ON the deck of the motor yacht Blue Moon. She was 240 feet, eighty meters, of sleek, exquisite powerboat, remarkably designed. Pool, helipad, six elegant, luxurious guest cabins, a master suite right out of a movie and an impeccably trained crew of sixteen. The Blue Moon— and her owner—had appeared in every yachting magazine around the world. Charles Sumner Harrington had bought her from a Saudi prince six years before. He had bought his first yacht, a seventy-five-foot sailboat, when he was twenty-two. She had been called the Dream. Twenty-four years later, he enjoyed life on his boat as much as he had then.

At forty-six, Charles Harrington knew that he was a lucky man. In many ways, seemingly, life had been easy for him. At twenty-one, he had inherited an enormous fortune and had handled it responsibly in the twenty-five years since. He had made a career of managing his own investments and running his family's foundation. Charlie was well aware that few people on earth were as blessed as he, and he had done much to improve the lot of those less fortunate, both through the foundation and privately. He was well aware that he had an awesome responsibility, and even as a young man, he had thought of others first. He was particularly passionate about disadvantaged young people and children. The foundation did impressive work in education, provided medical assistance to the indigent, particularly in developing countries, and was dedicated to the prevention of child abuse for inner-city kids. Charles Harrington was a leader of the community, doing his philanthropic work quietly, through the foundation, or anonymously, whenever possible. Charles Harrington was a humanitarian, and an extremely caring, conscientious person. But he also laughed mischievously when he admitted that he was extremely spoiled, and made no apologies for the way he lived. He could afford it, and spent millions every year on the well-being of others, and a handsome amount on his own. He had never married, had no children, enjoyed living well, and when appropriate, took pleasure in sharing his lifestyle with his friends.

Every year, without fail, Charlie and his two closest friends, Adam Weiss and Gray Hawk, spent the month of August on Charlie's yacht, floating around the Mediterranean, stopping wherever they chose. It was a trip they had taken together for the past ten years. It was one they all looked forward to, and would have done just about anything not to miss. Every year, come hell or high water, on August first, Adam and Gray flew to Nice and boarded the Blue Moon for a month— just as they had done on her predecessors every year before that. Charlie was usually on the boat for July as well, and sometimes didn't return to New York until mid- or even late September. All his foundation and financial matters were easily handled from the boat. But August was devoted to pure fun. And this year was no different. He sat quietly eating breakfast on the aft deck, as the boat shifted gently, at anchor, outside the port of St. Tropez. They had had a late night the night before, and had come home at four A.M.

In spite of the late night, Charlie was up early, although his recollections of the evening before were a little vague. They usually were when Gray and Adam were involved. They were a fearsome trio, but their fun was harmless. They answered to no one, none of the three men were married, and at the moment none had girlfriends. They had long since agreed that, whatever their situations, they would come aboard alone, and spend the month as bachelors, living among men, indulging themselves. They owed no one apologies or explanations, and each of them worked hard in his own way during the rest of the year, Charlie as a philanthropist, Adam as an attorney, and Gray as an artist. Charlie liked to say that they earned their month off, and deserved their annual trip.

Two of the three were bachelors by choice. Charlie insisted he wasn't. His single status, he claimed, was by happenstance and, so far, sheer bad luck. He said he wanted to get married, but hadn't found the right woman yet, despite a lifetime of searching. But he was still looking, with meticulous determination. He had been engaged four times in his younger days, although not recently, and each time something had happened to cause the wedding to be called off,