Note to readers: CruiseMates' Singles Editor and New York Times best-selling author Patricia Hagan has written a romance novel called OCEAN OF DREAMS. As a new feature on CruiseMates, we will be publishing installments for our readers every Tuesday and Thursday. For previous chapters, use the links on the top of the column on the right.
Too trapped by her thoughts, Jenny Denton had not had a wink of sleep on the overseas flight from New York to London's Heathrow Airport. After all, she was going to Europe by herself on an assignment that could make or break her career.
And, on top of that, two nights ago she had found her fiancee in bed with another woman!
Hurt and angry, she had thrown her engagement ring at him and said she never wanted to see him again. But, as the shock subsided, Jenny was surprised to actually be relieved that it was over. After all, she had come to feel like her life was as programmed as the computers in the Atlanta office where she worked. Just punch in a program and Jenny does this. Insert a new disk and Jenny does that. An only child, everything had been decided for her by her parents--even her engagement to Bryan. The son of her parents' best friends from college days, it had always been understood he and Jenny would one day marry.
She had not told her parents anything, leaving Bryan to explain why she had gone to Europe without him. She was a graphic artist, and the company she worked for had assigned her to create the new brochure for Valhalla Cruise Lines' largest ship, the S/S Misty Seas. She was going onboard to familiarize herself, but it wasn't just any cruise. Ordinarily, the ship's itinerary was in the Caribbean, but it was nearly time for its annual refurbishing in Hamburg, Germany, and the ship owners had concocted a special itinerary--summer cruises up the scenic coasts of Norway, into the majestic fjords, and on up to the North Cape before going on to Hamburg.
In London, Jenny changed planes and continued on to Amsterdam. She would have liked to browse the famed shopping concourses at Schiphol Airport, but there was no time. The moment she entered the terminal, she saw a young woman dressed in a blue and white sailor suit holding up a big sign proclaiming 'Welcome S/S Misty Seas Passengers.'
Taken to a bus for a transfer to the port for boarding, Jenny glanced around and saw that she appeared to be the only person traveling alone. But she did not mind. After all, she wasn't going on the cruise for pleasure.
An older woman boarded the bus, and, seeing the empty seat next to Jenny asked, "Is anyone with you, dear? I'm traveling with my sisters, but there's no room for me to sit with them."
"No, I'm alone," Jenny said. "Please, sit down."
"How sad," the woman murmured, settling beside her. "Well, don't you worry. They don't call these ships love boats for nothing. You're a pretty thing and won't have any trouble finding a man onboard."
Jenny turned her face towards the window to hide her grimace. Romance was the last thing she was looking for. And right then she hated all men, anyway, thanks to Bryan. They were all out for themselves.
When the magnificent ship at last came into view, Jenny was awed by its beauty. It was a deep, dark blue at the waterline, while the upper decks were glistening white, and the twin smokestacks were also capped in blue. She knew then and there she was going to do her best to design a brochure that would do the proud ship justice...and be honored to do so.
Once off the bus, she was herded with the others up the gangway. In the area known as purser's square, more vivacious girls dressed in sailor suits waited to greet passengers and pass out diagrams of the ship to aid them in finding their cabins.
Following the map, Jenny found her cabin with no problem. But, since her luggage had not arrived, she could not unpack and settle in, so she set out explore the huge ship.
She lost all track of time, and when a voice came over the loudspeakers to announce the lifeboat drill, Jenny realized she had been so caught up in what she was doing that she got turned around and now had no idea where she was. Worse, she had left the ship's diagram behind and did not know how to locate her cabin.
She was in the theater and hurried out but did not see anyone else. That ignited a flutter of panic to think how if it were a real emergency she would be as doomed as the steerage passengers on the Titanic, because she didn't know any way out.
"Miss, you're supposed to be at your lifeboat station."
Jenny suddenly found herself staring up into the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever imagined. All at once she knew the true meaning of fjord-blue, for the well-proportioned male standing in front of her just had to be Nordic. His hair was blond and barely touched the collar of his crisp, short-sleeved, white shirt. Epaulets on his broad shoulders denoted his rank of Staff Captain. She remembered that from the information booklet that had been provided with her tickets.
"I...I'm lost," she stammered, and, as his gaze met hers, she felt an undeniable tremor within.
"Well, can you remember your cabin number?" he asked in his thick accent.
"Of course, I can." She stiffened at the implication she didn't at least have that much sense. "Viking 231."
He pointed to an elevator. "Take that to your deck, then follow the blue stars in the silver carpet, then red on gold, and you'll find your cabin.
"And you need to hurry," he added in a cool demeanor of authority. "You are late for the lifeboat drill, and it is mandatory."
Jenny hurried to the elevator and mashed a button, feeling a bit rankled. He had made her feel so stupid.
Still, she could not resist turning to watch him as he made his way down the hall to wherever he was going...and smiled as she did so.
There was just something about a man in a uniform!
And this one had terrific buns!
TO BE CONTINUED...
To read the other chapters, use the links on the top of the column on the right.