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 stood next to Carla on the top deck, sharing their enthusiasm with other passengers over the first glimpse of Norway.
From the gray North Sea, the rocks and islets and skerries of a grim coast drifted swiftly by as they headed inland and up a deep slice of saltwater, knifing toward the towering mountains.
Turning to look below her, Jenny could see the flying bridge, the extension of the ship's inner navigational area. Several officers were standing there, impressive in dress white uniforms. She looked for Kirk but did not seem him. Then, suddenly, he stepped outside, and she felt the familiar thrilling rush as he turned his head at once to look upward, scanning the crowd. Spotting her, he grinned and saluted, and she happily waved back.
Carla saw him and was quick to ask, "Who is that?"
"Just an officer I met," Jenny replied.
Carla gave an airy sniff. "Well, be careful. You don't want to get involved with the crew. But hey"--she snapped her fingers--"I was so excited I forgot to tell you about Russ's cabin mate. He met us in the disco last night, and he is so good-looking. I told him all about you. He's going to meet us at breakfast and then we can go ashore together."
Jenny was not enthused. She had hoped Kirk would invite her to go ashore with him but evidently he had other plans. She was further disappointed that he'd said nothing about a future meeting and wondered if last night had meant anything to him.
After a while they went to the dining room, where Jenny was introduced to Steve Gentry. Carla was right. He was handsome--thick black hair, coffee-colored eyes, a deep tan, and a body that showed he worked out.
He shook Jenny's hand and smiled to say what a small world it was, because they were both from Atlanta. Carla had told him Jenny was onboard in hopes of landing a PR contract with Valhalla, and Steve said he'd be glad to help her any way he could. "I've done my homework and can tell you all about this ship, as well as all the ports we'll be visiting. I'm also good with a camera and can take some pictures for you."
Jenny thanked him, thinking he had a take-charge attitude that could probably be annoying but otherwise seemed nice. Russ arrived, and the four of them chatted like old friends as they ate their breakfast. The guys were full of plans, and Carla kept kicking Jenny under the table to get her attention and wink, excited, Jenny knew, because now they both had guys for a shipboard romance.
But Jenny did not wink back. If she hadn't met Kirk Moen, maybe she would have welcomed the opportunity to get to know Steve, especially since they lived in the same town. But last night had been awesome, and she could not stop thinking about it...could not stop thinking about Kirk.
When they finished, Steve cheerily announced, "Okay, let's get ready to go ashore. And don't forget your boarding passes. We'll meet at the gangway in twenty minutes."
Jenny did not like how he was possessively holding onto her arm as they walked out of the dining room. He was moving way too fast.
And then her heart slammed into her chest to see Kirk walking towards her.
"There you are," he greeted, his dazzling smile blocking out everyone else in the room. "I've been calling your cabin all morning to see if you'd like to go ashore with me today." He wanted to ask whether she had seen the note he'd left by the bed but didn't dare in front of the people she was with.
Jenny was about to say yes, she would love to, forgetting all about Steve, but Steve quickly, sharply, interjected. "She's going ashore with us. We already have plans."
Kirk looked at Jenny for confirmation.
"I'm sorry," she said.
Kirk struggled to keep smiling. If she had seen the note, then apparently she was not interested in him beyond last night. But he was not ready to give up. "Well, then, have a nice day, and maybe I'll see you for the folklore show this evening."
"Of course. I'm looking forward to it." She wanted to step into his arms then and there. It was all flashing before her again, the wonder of his lovemaking, and how she had so easily, eagerly, responded. "I believe you said it starts at five-thirty.""That's right. See you then." He turned, leaving by a side exit.
They continued on their way. Jenny did not see the disapproving look on Steve Gentry's face as he turned to watch Kirk's exit. Neither did she see the anger flashing in his eyes.
To be continued...
To read the other chapters, use the links on the top of the column on the right.