The ship dropped anchor at the northernmost point of Europe, where the land was bathed in a constant ethereal light, for the sun would never drop below the horizon for seventy-nine consecutive days.
Jenny knew that if she were not already in love with Kirk, she was dangerously close to it. And what then? He might be drawn to her, feel something akin to love, but did he love her?
And what of the other women in his life? They had not talked about them, and she couldn't help wondering. After all, he was drop-dead gorgeous, and any woman he made love to would surely never forget him. On the regular itinerary, he sailed every week to romantic Nassau, beautiful San Juan, tropical St. Thomas, and mystical St. Maarten. By day he was in a world of bikini-clad women, their voluptuous bodies slick with coconut oil as they sipped tropical rum and pineapple drinks. By night the mood became one of champagne, soft music, and moonlight. How could he resist one affair after the other? She could only hope that's not all she meant to him--another shipboard romance like all the rest.
As they were boarding the bus after the tour to return to the ship, a matronly woman approached Kirk. "You Norwegians have such a beautiful country. Yet I understand there are more of you living in America now than in Norway. I can't understand why." She smiled, shook her head, and went her way.
Jenny and Kirk were standing away from the others, and suddenly he squeezed her hand and whispered, "Maybe they found something there that was more important than their native country. Maybe they found the person they wanted to spend the rest of their life with."
She trembled to respond. "But maybe that person would be willing to live in your world."
"And maybe two people could find the best of both worlds...together."
She wanted to kiss him then and there, knew he wanted that, too. From below she could hear the savage crashing of the waves against the rocks as the same wild intensity seemed to lap over her entire body in heated ripples of desire.
His eyes burned into hers. "Jenny, I've never felt this way before. I swear to you. At no other time in my life have I felt such peace when at the same time it's like a hurricane is raging inside me. I know we just met, but I feel like I've known you forever, that we lived before, loved before, in another world, another time. I don't think I can let you go."
"I don't think I want you to. It's just that..." she trailed helplessly. How could she voice her fear that maybe he was just putting her on? That he might be lying about his feelings just to keep her in his bed every night until this cruise ended and he could pick up a new "officer groupie" on the next? Did she really want him to think she was that insecure about him, as well as herself?
He placed his hands on her shoulders and gave her a gentle shake, ignoring the cruise line's staunch rule that an officer involved romantically with a female passenger was not to be demonstrative in public in any way. Kirk only knew that he could feel doubt in Jenny, unhappiness, and he didn't like it.
"I've told you I never cared this much about anyone else, and it doesn't matter if we've only known each other a short while. I only know that the more we're together, the more I care about you."
"I feel the same," she was quick to assure. "It's never been this way for me, either, but it just seems like we're living a fantasy, that it's too wonderful to be real."
"Don't question fate, Jenny, not when it's good to you."
The driver called, "Hey, you two. Unless you want to walk back to the ship, get on the bus."
"I don't know about walking," Kirk whispered to Jenny, "but right now I think I could fly."
"Me, too," she said happily.
The ship was anchored out a ways, due to its huge size, and passengers had to be transported by tender. While waiting to board the next outgoing tender, Kirk excused himself, saying he needed to make a phone call to Bergen and it was cheaper from shore than from the ship.
Jenny wandered to the window of a nearby store to admire little souvenir trolls. Kirk had said she should wait until they got to Oslo to shop, because prices were lower there.
Suddenly she glanced up at the reflection in the plate glass and gasped. Steve was standing right behind her. "How long have you been standing there?"
"Not long. What happened to you last night? You disappeared at midnight like Cinderella." She didn't figure that was any of his business and changed the subject. "How did you like the North Cape? Wasn't it beautiful?" He grabbed her hand and squeezed. "How about spending the whole evening with me tonight, Jenny? No disappearing act. We can have dinner, dancing, a show in the lounge, and then a walk on deck in this wonderful, strange light. How about it? The cruise is moving along so fast, and I want a chance to show you we can have a good time together, too."
She hated to hurt his feelings, but good grief; she had never met anyone so persistent. "Steve, I'd really like to. It's just that---"
"It's just that everybody has to have somebody on the Love Boat," he cut her off with a slight sneer, dropping her hand. "And your officer found you before I did. But I promise you one thing--I don't give up easy, and I'm still waiting, so he'd better be good to you." He walked away, shoulders slumped in misery and disappointment.
When they got back to the ship, Kirk told Jenny he had some work to do but would see her later. "I should be off duty around midnight. Have a nice evening and then make yourself at home in my cabin if you feel like it..."
"I already do feel like it," she whispered.
Glancing around to make sure no one was watching, he blew her a kiss before continuing on his way.
To be continued...
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