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 was enjoying her day in Bergen. Steve was marvelous company. Witty, bright, delighting in the world around him, he made a perfect companion for sightseeing and shopping in the beautiful Norwegian city. But that was as far as it went, because she could not stop thinking about Kirk.
She bought reindeer slippers, colorful hand-knit sweaters for herself and her parents, and could not resist some pewter candlesticks. Finally, she told Steve, who was also on a buying spree, "Let's get out of here. We've got lots more ports to visit, remember?" Secretly, she wanted to hurry back to the ship to have time to dress for her date with Kirk.
Carla wasn't through shopping, so she and Russ stayed behind and Jenny and Steve took a cab. As soon as they settled in the back seat, he surprised her by bluntly saying, "Jenny, I'm not the sort to beat around the bush. I say what's on my mind, and I want you to know that I like you a lot. I'd like to get to know you better and see you when we're back in Atlanta. I'd also like to be with you as much as possible for the remainder of the cruise. How do you feel about it?"
She was a bit stunned. Talk about a fast mover! "Well..." she hedged, not really knowing what to say. He seemed to be an okay guy, but right now she just wanted to concentrate on Kirk. "Let's just take it slow."
Not about to be dissuaded, he coolly responded, "Look, I know you're seeing that 'white wolf' at five-thirty, but I thought after dinner we could take in one of the shows and then go dancing later. How about it?"
She had not heard anything he'd said beyond the obviously derisive description of officers in general. "What do you mean--white wolf?"
He sneered. "Oh, surely you've heard that term before, unless this is your first cruise."
"As a matter of fact, it is."
"Well, then, I'll fill you in. I've been on several, and every time there was some slick officer squiring around some dewy-eyed girl who couldn't see past the uniform. That's why they're called white wolves, because that's what they are--wolves in white uniforms. But I'm hoping you're smart enough to realize these guys are just out for one thing, and--"
"Wait a minute!" Jenny held up a hand in protest. "I think you're being unfair and judgmental."
He frowned. "Well, just be careful, all right?" Then, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. It's just that I'm a little jealous to think you're involved with one of those guys."
"Let's just forget it," she said, not wanting to talk about it any longer.
"But will you go out with me tonight?"
"We'll see," she hedged once more.
When they got back to the ship, she told him she would see him at dinner and rushed off.
At five-thirty, dressed in a casual pants suit, Jenny stepped off the elevator in front of the main ballroom door and fought the impulse to gasp at the sight of Kirk standing there waiting for her. He was wearing his day uniform--short-sleeved white shirt, trousers, no coat or tie, just black-and-gold bars on his shoulders...and he was gorgeous. He smiled as she approached, and she was well aware of other women watching in envy.
"So how did you like my hometown?" he greeted.
"I loved it. And by the way, I'm really sorry about today. I would've liked to go ashore with you."
He told her about the note, how he found it on the floor. "I guess you didn't see it."
"I was in a hurry to change and get up on deck."
He caressed her with his eyes, and she felt the familiar ripple of excitement as he leaned to whisper, "Last night was wonderful, Jenny. I've thought of nothing else all day."
"I...I enjoyed it, too," she managed to say, despite the butterflies in her throat.
They went inside and found a table. Over coffee as they waited for the show to begin, he told her she was in for a real treat at their next port of call, which was Honningsvag, the Nordkappe, or North Cape, as it was called. "If I can arrange some time off, would you like to go with me?"
"I'd love to," she said just as the lights dimmed. Squeezing her hand, he flashed one of his melting smiles, and they settled back to watch the show.
When it was over, they stood to leave, and it was then that Jenny realized that Steve Gentry had been seated behind them the whole time. Ignoring Kirk, he breezily addressed himself to her.
"That was fun, wasn't it? Well, I just heard the chimes for second seating, so we'd better go on in. I ordered champagne for the whole table."
Jenny did not know what she expected Kirk to do at that point but was disappointed when he merely gave a curt nod, wished her a nice evening, and went his way. Nothing was said about seeing her later that night.
"Ready?" Steve prodded.
Jenny could only nod and take the hand he held out to her.
To be continued...
To read the other chapters, use the column on the right.