Sheltered by forested hills on one side, the wooded city of Oslo was tempered by the waters of the fjord meandering up from the Skagerrak. Jenny was charmed by the rustic appeal, and Kirk rented a car to afford them transportation for her to see as much as possible.
"One of these days," he said with an adoring smile, "you'll have to come over here in the winter and I'll teach you to ski."
Jenny felt the familiar ripple of anticipation at the mention of a future together, but then she remembered what she had learned from Paula about who Kirk really was and wondered again why he kept it from her.
When they got to the towering structure of the Holmenkollen ski jump, Jenny gasped, "Don't tell me you've been down that!"
"Of course," he proudly confirmed.
She shook her head in wonder, impressed by his daring.
After lunch they went shopping, and Kirk insisted on buying her a charm--a tiny replica of the ancient Viking ship Oseberg in Norwegian pewter. As he fastened it around her neck, he whispered, "So you won't forget me and the wonderful times we've had together."
She was melted by the desire burning in his eyes and fervidly whispered in response, "As if I ever could."
They walked in the famous Vigeland Park, and on an out-of-the-way path Kirk gathered her in his arms and kissed her until they were both breathless. Then he pulled away to give her a searching gaze. The time had come, he decided, to be completely honest with her. He'd thought of nothing else for days, would not let himself believe she was not truly sincere in her feelings for him and felt it was safe, at last, to confide in her. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and then said, "I have something to tell you."
Oh, really? She thought, suppressing a smile.
And he told her, as quickly and as simply as possible, exactly who he was.
Then she asked the question that had been burning inside her all day. "Why did you wait until now to tell me? Why did you let me go on thinking you were just some poor working slob instead of heir to a fortune?" She did not try to hide the indignity in her tone.
He laughed to admit, "The truth is, right now I am a poor working slob. My uncle intends for me to learn the cruise business from bottom deck to top. The summer I was sixteen, I even worked as a busboy in the dining rooms. But maybe" --he became serious, his eyes searching hers for reaction--"I wanted time to find out who you really are. Maybe I wanted to make sure it didn't make any difference to you that I'll one day be one of the owners of Valhalla Lines."
She laughed, "Oh, no problem, Kirk, really. I mean, do I look like the kind who tries to sleep my way from bottom deck to the top? Do you think I'd have tried to be better in bed had I known the truth about you?"
Realizing she was close to anger, he was quick to protest, "No, of course not, Jenny." He shook his head, disgruntled with himself. "Damn it, what can I say to make you understand? I wanted you to fall in love with me for me. I didn't want my background to have anything to do with it. To be honest, there have been other women who somehow managed to find out about my inheritance, and those relationships turned sour."
Jenny was still miffed that he'd dare compare her to them. With narrowed eyes, she quietly demanded to know, "And I suppose you won't have anything to do with whether I get Valhalla's PR contract?"
Reluctantly, he admitted, "Frankly, yes. I'll have a say in it."
"And I don't suppose the fact I slept with you will have any bearings on your decision."
She shrugged, forcing herself to appear nonchalant despite the roaring within. "Well, it's nice to know that if I lose out, it wasn't because I'm a lousy lay."
He grabbed her shoulders and gave her a gentle shake. "Hey, you know better than that." He kissed her again with even greater intensity, then forced himself to let her go.
They walked on, and, to ease the tension, he asked how the presentation she was preparing was coming along.
"Actually, I feel really good about it," she replied. "I honestly think I can convince all the owners that a new image is needed for Valhalla." "Well, tomorrow night you'll meet my uncle, as well as all the VIPs at the dinner party, and I want them to see that you get the contract because you're good. Not because of our relationship."
"They aren't going to know about our relationship."
"What are you talking about?"
Firmly, she repeated, "They won't know about our relationship. I'm going to the dinner alone."
"That's ridiculous. It's expected that I escort you. No one will know we're personally involved."
"Then stop looking at me like you do."
He stopped walking again to stare at her in bewilderment. "Like how?"
"Like you want to make love to me."
He chuckled. "Well, it just so happens that I do."
"Fine. But don't look at me that way tomorrow night. Treat me like who I'm supposed to be--someone wanting the PR contract."
They reached the car, and he opened the door for her, a big grin on his face. "Okay. We'll play it your way. But I want you to know that even if I weren't crazy about you, I'd pass along my endorsement to the powers that be."
"You're a sweetheart." She leaned to kiss him on the cheek, then teased, "And if I get the contract maybe I'll give you a commission."
He winked. "Thanks, but I'd rather take it out in trade."
To be continued...
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