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.
Jenny slept peacefully, and Kirk watched her in complete adoration. So beautiful. So precious. And crazy though it might be, he knew he was falling in love with her. But he had to give it time before letting her know it, lest history repeat itself and he wind up feeling like a fool. So many times, women came on board looking for excitement and romance, taking the attitude that whatever happened on the ship stayed on the ship. They lied and said they were single and were not in a relationship with anyone back home. But too often, Kirk had called different women after a cruise, only to hear a man answer and say he was her husband, fiance, or live-in.
Then there were the gold-diggers, like the one who found out he was the nephew of Valhalla's CEO, who was also the largest stockholder. Kirk was on the ship to learn everything there was to know, and he worked hard. He wasn't merely biding his time until his inheritance. But some of the other officers, no doubt jealous, liked to gossip; and when some women discovered he was wealthy, they started hearing wedding bells. He was sick of their kind and desperately wanted to find a woman who cared only for him and not his money.
Gently brushing back a wisp of Jenny's strawberry-blond hair, he kissed her forehead lovingly.
For the past year he had kept a tight rein on his heart. There had been women, of course. He was a man, with a man's needs, and the ambience of a cruise ship was conducive to romance. He had slept with a few, promising nothing. He kissed them good-bye when the cruise ended. If any wrote to him, he responded. A few returned for another cruise. But he had learned to steer clear of those who wanted more than a casual fling, for he did not want to hurt anyone and also wanted to spare himself more heartache. As a result, he had many, many close friendships with women wanting only a good time, and that was fine with him.
But you, little girl, he whispered as he tucked the Norwegian down comforter about Jenny, are special.
It was after midnight. He had promised to take the night watch officer's post in exchange for being able to relinquish his duties for a day's leave in Bergen, so he showered and changed into a fresh white uniform. Then he wrote a note to Jenny telling her he would be very pleased if she would accompany him ashore. He wanted to introduce her to his family, take her to lunch, and show her the sights.
He propped it against the phone so she would see it when he called her just before 6 a.m., right before the ship entered the Bergen fjord. The view of the coastline was breathtaking, and he didn't want her to miss it.
He brushed his lips across hers, smiled as she sleepily stirred, then quietly left the cabin, locking the door behind him.
It was much later when Jenny awoke with a start, wondering for an instant where she was. Then it all came flooding back--the wonder of it all.
She lay there, basking in the warm afterglow, then reached out to touch Kirk's pillow, wishing he were still there with her but knowing he must have had to report for duty. She glanced at her watch and saw that it was a little past five a.m.
With a contented sigh, she sat up to push the curtain above the bed aside and stare out at the night--but it wasn't dark. The world was tinted in the strange peach hue of the midnight sun, and she thought it all so beautiful...as beautiful as the hours in Kirk's arms. Now it all seemed like a dream, but she could revel in the knowledge that it was real. And, she smiled to think as she threw back the covers, it all went to prove that life isn't over because some men are creeps!
She did not notice that the comforter had brushed against the bedside table, sending Kirk's note fluttering to the floor.
To be continued...
To read the other chapters, use the links on the top of the column on the right.