Jenny awoke to someone pounding on her cabin door. Thinking it was Kirk, she did not respond. Then Carla called out to her, and she got up and let her in.
"It's over," Carla wailed, pushing by Jenny into the cabin to fling herself across the bed. "Russ dumped me. Can you believe it? We've been together every night, and now that the cruise is almost over, he dumps me. He said things were getting too serious, and he's not ready for commitment. And you won't believe what I've spent on him. Jeez, I've signed for almost all our drinks and paid for the shore excursions, because he said after he booked this cruise he lost his job and has to watch his money, and, oh, hell!" She flung her head from side to side. "Like I said. It's over. So what do I do? I feel like such a fool."
That makes two of us, Jenny thought silently, miserably. "Chalk it up to experience, Carla, and try to forget it. There's lots of things to do onboard today, and tomorrow is the trip to the glacier." She remembered how Kirk had described the famous Briksdal Glacier and the hallowed experience of looking down into the dazzling blue and purple depths of ice that had been there thousands of years.
"I don't know," Carla said doubtfully. "You'll be with that officer you've been hanging out with, and I'll feel out of place."
"Not anymore. It'll just be the two of us, although I suspect Steve will want to join us."
Carla sat up, eyes round, brows raised. "You mean you got dumped, too?"
Jenny was not about to tell her what really happened. Instead, she shrugged and said, "Not exactly. But it's over." Actually, she had thought Kirk might call and try to cajole her into believing some fairy tale he made up to excuse everything. But the phone hadn't rung, and she reminded herself not to care.
The day passed, and Jenny insisted Carla join her in staying busy. Steve was thrilled to realize Kirk was out of the picture and busied himself trying to take his place. The three of them had a nice evening, took in a show, then went dancing. Kirk did not show. Neither did he call. Perhaps, Jenny mused, he was glad it ended, and had never been planning to see her once the cruise was over.
The next morning, as they were about to disembark for the excursion to the glacier, Steve told them they had to go up on deck first. A helicopter was hovering over the ship, and they watched as it slowly, carefully, lowered a net-encased chunk of glacial ice into the swimming pool. "They're going to carve samples for people to taste, if they want," he said."
"Oh, I'd like to do that," Carla cried.
Jenny said she'd wait at the railing, enjoying the spectacular view of the glacier in the distance, and Carla and Steve hurried to the pool.
She heard the woman standing next to her remark, "I've heard glaciers are thousands of years old."
Jenny turned to respond politely, but then she heard a familiar accent say, "Perhaps even millions. Since the creation, some say."
She froze. It was Kirk, and the woman was talking to him, not her.
He looked directly at Jenny as he continued, "Glaciers are large bodies of perennial ice, fed by snow, which compresses into ice."
He went on talking, sharing interesting facts. Jenny could not help the familiar tremor within fired by his nearness, just as she could not help thinking what a fool she'd been to fall for him. She tore from his penetrating gaze, refusing to see the hurt and question in the blue depths.
The woman focused her camera on the distant glacier, clicked, and then smiled gratefully up at Kirk. "Thank you, Officer. It's been very nice talking to you."
She walked away, and Jenny turned to do the same, but Kirk moved quickly to clamp his hand on her arm and whispered, "You aren't going anywhere till you tell me what this is all about, Jenny."
She glared at him, seething with anger. "It's about white wolves, Officer Moen, who turn cruises into consecutive one-night stands for stupid women like me!"
Again, she tried to move away, but he held fast. "I can see you've been talking to Paula Streeter in the gift shop."
Jenny's brows rose in mock surprise. "Oh? Is she a member of your fan club, too?"
"Hardly. She hates all the officers since she threw herself at one her first week onboard. He was married and wouldn't leave his wife for her, so she takes out her anger on all of us. But I think she's gone too far, and it might be time to recommend she be terminated."
"That won't stop the talk," Jenny snapped. "There are probably lots of women like me who live to tell the tale!"
"What tale?" he cried, incredulous. "Jenny, I never deceived you. I meant everything I said. I still do." "You said there was nobody special." "There isn't." "Then what about the letters and that picture?"
"I never told you there weren't other women in my life before you, and I have no control over what they write to me, or the photographs they send. And, frankly..." he paused to take a deep breath before daring to say, "it really wasn't any of your business, was it?"
"You're right. It wasn't...and it isn't. So leave me alone!"
"But I have to make you see all that is history. I haven't asked you how many men you might have slept with in the past." From the corner of her eye, she saw Steve just as he glanced up from his place in line waiting for a sample of the glacial ice. Spotting Kirk, he immediately started in their direction. "Just leave me alone, Kirk," she furiously repeated.
"If that's the way you want it." He released her. "You know, I really thought you were different, that you were a mature woman. Not like the others who come on board to have a fling they can leave behind and not feel guilty over when they return to their real worlds. But evidently I was wrong, because I think you were just looking for an excuse to break up with me." She shook her head in protest. "I wasn't looking for a fling." "I wonder, because I remember how you blew me away that first night we made love when you said maybe it was Bryan you were making love to and not me. Maybe you were right, because that would explain your behavior now."
She was dangerously close to tears. Her heart was hurting at his nearness, and she had a strong desire to throw herself in his arms and pretend none of it had ever happened. "I cared about you, damn it. I wanted it to work out for us, but I should have known it never could. We live in two different worlds."
"That's not it. The truth is, you aren't ready for love with me or any other man. When it comes to your career, you'll take any risk to succeed, but in matters of the heart, you're scared to chance anything." "That's not true," she argued. "It's not---"
"Maybe one day," he sharply interrupted, "you'll find out life isn't merely a caricature, and that dreams don't come true unless you're willing to take a few chances and work at making them come true. The same as with your career.
"You, Jenny Denton," he rushed on, a nerve in his jaw twitching, blue eyes sparkling with his own indignity, "are a coward when it comes to romance. And while I may never forget you, I'll also think we were, sadly, nothing more than ships passing in the night." And with that cold, perfunctory declaration, Kirk turned on his heel and briskly walked away.
Jenny stared after him, shaken. Her first impulse was to scream that he was wrong, wrong, wrong. She could love, did love, only she was too proud to say any of those things.
Suddenly Steve stormed up to demand, "Hey, was that white wolf bothering you again? I swear this time I am going to the Captain. He's got no right---"
"No." Jenny was firm. "It's over. There's no need. He won't be bothering me again." Except in my broken dreams, her heart silently cried, and when I think of what might have been....To be continued...
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