Kirk sat on the sofa in his cabin, nursing a white wine. He had been disappointed not to find Jenny waiting for him. She was probably somewhere having a good time. But after all, he was the one working. She was on vacation. He had to sandwich in time to be with her and was exhausted from trying to hold down his job at the same time. But she was above and beyond any woman he had ever met, and he didn't care if he turned into a walking zombie by the time they got back to Amsterdam. He wanted to spend every possible moment with her.
He glanced at his watch. It was after midnight. He had finished his duties, showered, and put on his day uniform. If she didn't show up soon, he was going to change into evening attire and go look for her. There had been a few occasions in the past when he'd begun a relationship with a woman early in the cruise, only to have her dump him for some wealthy guy she figured she could hang onto back in the States.
He shook his head to clear away such thoughts. Jenny wasn't like that. Yet, they'd made no promises to each other, and he could not be sure how she really felt about him.
Before the dinner party in Oslo, when they'd be meeting the CEOs of the company, he knew he'd have to tell her about his real connections with Valhalla. It wouldn't do for her to find out on her own. She would wonder why he hadn't told her, and how could he say, "Because I wanted to make sure you weren't like the others? That you really cared about me?" She might not understand, might think he had been leading her on, playing games. They would be in Oslo for two days. The first day he planned to show her around the city and then he'd find the right time and place for telling her everything.
He heard the sound of a key in the door and stood.
Jenny saw him and stepped in quickly. "I'm late! I couldn't get away. Did you miss me?"
"Miss you?" He stepped from behind the coffee table to gather her in his arms and rain kisses all over her face. "I've thought of nothing else since I left you. Seeing you in that ballroom, glamorous as a movie star.
"And sitting with someone else didn't exactly help the situation," he added, holding her away from him to flash a mock accusing glare.
"I told you--you don't have to worry about Steve." She pressed closer to him, reveling in his nearness, his warmth, and the masculine smell of him. "You have nothing to worry about, Kirk. You're stuck with me...at least until the cruise is over."
"Maybe I won't let it end," he laughed, cupping her chin and raising her lips for his kiss. "Maybe I'll whisk you away to some tropical island. We'll go naked and eat coconuts and pineapples, and we'll raise a family and live in a grass hut."
She smiled. "I'm afraid coconuts and pineapples will get old. The rest of it--going naked, raising a family, living in a grass hut, all that I can handle. But once in a while I've got to have pizza and a Big Mac."
"Women!" He rolled his eyes and released her. "Always thinking about food."
"My favorite subject," she giggled. "Let's go to the midnight buffet."
"I'd have to change," he reminded in a tone of voice that revealed he really didn't want to. "But we can get a sandwich in the officer's galley if you're hungry. That is," he added jovially, "if you like Norwegian food--smoked salmon, cold fish sticks, and brown cheese. That's usually all that's available this time of night."
They left the cabin and walked down the narrow corridor to a door marked Galley and into a world of stainless steel. Kirk opened a refrigerator and took out a tray of assorted cold meats, sliced tomatoes, and lettuce. He pointed to a cabinet. "There's bread in there, and I have Cokes in my cabin."
Returning to the cabin with their plates of food, they settled back to eat, then Jenny suddenly asked, "Do you really like working on a cruise ship?"
"Passengers ask me that all the time. Everyone says I'm lucky, that I've got a great job. But actually it gets boring. Week after week the same ports, same sights. This particular cruise to my own country is a welcome change, but also a rarity."
"But I thought all sailors sailed because they love the sea."
He laughed softly. "I take it you believe Masefield's poem--'I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky. And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by...'"
"It sounds wonderful to me." She was drowning in those incredible blue eyes again, and the tremors within had begun. "But if you're unhappy in your job, why do you keep doing it?"
"I didn't say I was unhappy. I just mean that it's not the fantasy, the paradise, that you and everyone else make it out to be. It gets lonely. I think about a home to go to when I get off work instead of a cabin with a porthole. And I think about relationships that last longer than a week at the time."
Jenny could not help wondering just how many of those weeklong romances he'd had but didn't want to ask. Instead, she reminded, "But you were married once, and you still have a home in Bergen."
"Have you ever been married?"
She shook her head.
"Do you think you'd like being married to a sailor?"
She grinned. "Is this a proposal?"
"Not yet," he bantered right back.
Jenny felt her cheeks warm and got back to the original subject. "So what happened to your marriage?"
"We were too young, and though I didn't realize it at the time, we weren't all that happy. I think I believed marriage was supposed to be that way, that the passion and thrills wear off after a while. Now I feel different. I don't think it has to be like that if two people work at it. My ex-wife and I obviously didn't." Suddenly, he asked, "But what about you, Jenny? Why haven't you ever married? Was your last experience the only time you ever thought you were in love?"
"No, there were a few others I almost got serious about," she lamented. "I guess the truth is that I've concentrated on my career instead of my personal life."
"Maybe," he said huskily, "it's time we changed things...for both of us."
His eyes burned into hers with passionate longing, and his lips brushed against hers warmly. She yielded, melting against him, helplessly succumbing to the wildly pulsating feelings coursing recklessly through her veins.
Once again, they were lost in each other. But this time, he did not carry her to the bed; instead, he pushed away the coffee table so they could roll easily to the carpeted floor.
"Never before," he murmured hotly, more to himself than her as he maneuvered on top of her writhing body, "never, ever, have I wanted anyone more."
The wings of rapture carried them onward, and a long time later he rolled to one side and held her tightly against him. He gazed at her adoringly, brushing her hair lovingly back from her face.
For a while, neither spoke, lost in the magic of the moment. Finally, Kirk took a deep, ragged breath and said, "Never like this, Jenny. Never has it been like this. You're every thing a man could want...and more. And I don't ever intend to let you go.."
She cradled her head against his shoulder, sleepily wondering if it was real and not just a dream...a part of the ships.
To be continued...
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