Authors: Jack Wildman
Copyright © 2015 by Jack Wildman
All Rights Reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles, reviews and fandom. For information, direct all enquiries to [email protected]
Cover design © Oz
Book formatting by Billington Media
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
First digital edition, 2015
For those who let life sail by
"Suzanne!” a voice cried from outside the office, “Suzanne I have a job for you!”
Suzanne had been flicking through documents on her computer, checking that everything was completed and up to date. The truth was though that she was bored and attempting to keep her mind off other things that would overwhelm her. The sound of her boss’s voice startled her and made her chin slip off her hand where it had been resting. Before she had a chance to respond her boss burst into her office and scurried over to sit in a chair, a whirlwind of pastel fabric and blond hair.
“Hello Catherine,” Suzanne said, tapping meaninglessly at her computer keyboard, “What can I do for you?”
“We have a new client,” Catherine said with a sly smile, “A very big new client and it could prove to be very profitable.”
“Ok…” Suzanne said, turning away from her computer, “And what do they want from us? Children’s party, a series of events, a big giveaway, a fundraiser?”
“Better,” Catherine said, her grin growing wider, “they want us to organise an event for them to run on their ships and on land.”
“Their ships?” Suzanne said, looking up sharply, “What kind of company are they?”
“They’re a cruise company,” Catherine said, “A very big cruise company and I’m assigning them to you.”
“Oh… oh wow,” Suzanne said smiling suddenly. “Wow, you have no idea what that means to me. Thank you Cath, thank you so much!”
“Oh it gets even better my dear,” Catherine said. “They want you to understand what it is that they do and what their cruises include before you create the event.”
“How am I supposed to do that?” Suzanne asked.
“They’ve invited you to attend one of their cruises,” Catherine said, smiling smugly. “Completely free of charge and you will be able to access everything that they have to offer without a single penny spent.”
Suzanne sat there, blinking with her jaw agape. She didn’t know what to say. It was a little overwhelming, the chance for a completely free trip as part of research and then working closely with a new big client.
“Needless to say,” Catherine said continuing, “this is a very important job for you to do.
If they’re happy with what we do they’ve categorically agreed to hire us as their sole event organiser, possibly even putting one of us on each and every one of their ships to arrange their big events.”
“No pressure then?” Suzanne said smiling.
“Don’t worry,” Catherine said kindly, reaching across the desk to place a hand on her employee’s hand, “you’re a natural at this and this should give you a nice break really, get away from everything that’s happened. I chose you because you’re the best at this and I know you can do it.”
“Thank you,” Suzanne said, tears pricking at her eyes. She smiled weakly, “I won’t let you down Catherine.”
“I know,” Catherine said. She stood up and stepped around the desk, wrapping her arms around her suddenly emotional friend, “That’s why you’ve got the job and you more than deserve it.”
Suzanne leaned against the railing of the ship and looked out across the blue sea that shimmered and sparkled before her. The voyage so far had been a relief, a break from the everyday humdrum of life, but the appeal was slowly waning as nothing had captured her attention for long.
She had already explored a large portion of the cruise ship available to the customers and had even made notes of ideas for events linking to some of the activities that there were but nothing in particular had stood out.
There seemed to her little hope of making the amazing event that the cruise company desired. She needed something amazing, something truly unique in order to create such an event.
Suzanne sighed and shifted away from the railing, turning to face the various doorways and signs for activities that dotted the deck that she was stood on. Then a sign caught her eyes and she walked over to look closer. It was an advertisement for a lecture, a lecture on science and prototyping. It was new, it was unique and it was something that she never would have expected to see on board a cruise ship. Suddenly she was filled with new ideas and in a flash of spontaneity she decided to attend. Maybe this would give her the idea she sorely needed for a new event unseen by any cruise company before. Even if it wasn’t though the lecture on science would provide a nice break from the usual holiday, family and couple related activities that had seemed to plague the ship so far. Following the directions left on the board she hurried towards the auditorium where the lecture was being held.
She was late when she arrived, the lecture had already begun and she was forced to sit at the very front.
She hurried to a seat near the far wall, stooping low and scurrying across in front of others with murmured apologies.
The lecturer barely paused in his speech, continuing on as though there were no interruptions, no woman passing in front of him. Suzanne quickly settled herself down and began to pay attention to the lecture at last, listening to the soft rise and fall of the lecturer’s voice and the passion that was in every word that he spoke.
There was a pamphlet on her seat explaining who the lecturer was, what his credentials were. Suzanne flicked through it quickly, absently, before she slipped it into her bag. The lecturer was called Edward Connor and he was a leading scientific researcher and inventor with several inventions that had made a name for him in scientific circles. Curiosity satisfied, Suzanne sat back and watched the lecture, listening intently. She stared at Edward as he paced back and forth in front of the audience, taking in the way that he used his hands as he spoke. The more that she watched and listened the more she found her attention drawn to him. There was just something about him that held her gaze, which drew her in and captivated her. That was the only word for it she realised, and he just kept drawing her back to him. Even when she turned to look back at the audience to see how they were reacting, just for research she told herself, she couldn’t help but look back to Edward Connor within moments.
And as Suzanne looked back and forth between Edward and the audience she couldn’t help but see the captivated glances that many of the audience were directing at Edward. It seemed that many of them, mostly women but a few men as well, were equally entranced with him. Finally she turned back and paid attention to what he was talking about, not just him as a person. As she watched closer and closer she noticed the flash of light on his finger, his ring finger and she realised that he was married. The wedding ring glinted in the spotlights that shone down on him. Her heart sunk slightly and she told herself off as she pretended to listen. She had no right to feel sad that he was married, no grounds on which to feel the sharp pang of disappointment that ran through her.
The last thing she was looking for was a new man, especially with what had happened to her in the last year, the pain and the disappointment and the grief. She made her mind up there and then to cut all thoughts of Edward from her mind for the rest of the trip and then to go back to work and put him from her mind completely.
It didn’t take long for her resolve to be tested though. Only a few hours after the lecture had ended Suzanne began to notice him more and more around the cruise ship, spotting him in groups of people, at dinner, at the pool.
Always he was laughing and joking, his eyes crinkling softly with happiness and joy. She began to feel as though he was haunting her, chasing her, and it seemed as though every time she turned around he was there, having fun with other people, other women. But he was never close enough to start a conversation with, to talk to. He remained just out of reach and every time she attempted to walk closer, to approach him, the crowds closed in around them and when they parted he was gone from sight again.
She didn’t know why this annoyed her so much, why it bothered her that she was never close enough to talk to him. She had told herself that she wanted to leave it alone, that she wanted nothing to do with him, and yet time and again she found herself approaching the man, trying and wanting to talk to him. Every night she would scold herself, vow not to repeat the actions of the day before, but every day without fail she would find herself seeking Edward out and trying to find a way to talk to him. And she never succeeded.
The days passed quickly like this but each one felt to Suzanne as though they stretched on and on as she found herself pining for Edward from a distance and attending a few more of the lectures that he gave.
Her work suffered, she struggled to concentrate on planning events that would suit the cruise company, and she couldn’t create a cohesive idea in her head, so filled were her thoughts of Edward.
Eventually though it came to the last night of the cruise, the final evening at sea before the ship pulled in to dock and its passengers would disembark to return to their ordinary lives. Suzanne had managed to make a few plans for event ideas to run for the cruise company. She’d shared a few already with Catherine via a Skype conversation and they’d been accepted and approved within a few hours. As they were approved the company thought they were so good that she was invited to dine at the Captain’s table at the most formal Black Tie dinner of the entire trip. Suzanne was suddenly grateful that Tiffany, her assistant, had encouraged her to pack a few formal dresses.
“Of course you need formal wear Suzie,” Tiffany cried as they sat in her bedroom packing.
Well Suzanne was packing, Tiffany was searching through her wardrobes and throwing things at her that she thought the other woman had to take. Now and then the younger woman would suddenly strip off her clothes and try them on without even asking.
“Why would I need formal wear?” Suzanne asked in exasperation. “I’m not going to a ball, I’m on a cruise full of gaudy entertainment and luxury.”
“Exactly!” Tiffany cried, leaping on to Suzanne’s bed. “Haven’t you seen the films? The beautiful single woman always gets invited to sit at the Captain’s table. And you’re working for the company! It’s going to happen! I bet you meet a movie star or a billionaire and he asks you to marry him within a few days.”
“It is not like the movies,” Suzanne said sternly, picking up clothes from across the floor. “And there is no way that I’m marrying anyone else after that crap with James.”
“Oh yeah…” Tiffany said slowly. “Well you could always meet a rich old guy and get him to leave all his money to you. Then you wouldn’t have to do events management anymore.”
“I like events management,” Suzanne said as she picked up a few items of clothing and put them back in her wardrobe. “Besides… this is work, not a fun holiday.”
“I’m so jealous,” Tiffany said, pouting and hugging a pillow, “I can’t believe you get to go on a cruise so you can do your job, that’s unbelievable. Are you sure you can’t take me with you?”
“No!” Suzanne said. “For the thirty seventh time I can’t take you with me. Now, blue or white?”
“The red dress,” Tiffany said firmly. “Take the red dress and the emerald green. You need something amazing to wear just in case, even if you don’t actually end up going to a formal thing,”
“Fine,” Suzanne muttered, practically throwing the dresses in to her case.
Now Suzanne couldn’t help but smile as she saw the dress hanging on the door to her wardrobe. It turned out that Tiffany had been right in a way, and Suzanne was pleased that the younger woman had been so determined that she take a formal gown with her.
She smoothed down the front of her dress as she stepped through the doorway of the dining room. Everyone else was already seated and the waiters were drifting through serving drinks.
The maître de turned to her as she drew towards the top of the stairs that led down in to the dining room. She gave her name and he smiled softly, holding out an arm to lead her to the Captain’s table. She suddenly felt like a movie star and couldn’t help but smile as heads turned to look at her as she passed. She looked towards the Captain’s table where the white uniformed Captain had already stood to meet her, then she saw him, clad in a sharp tuxedo suit with a bow-tie nestled in the crook of his crisp white shirt collar.
Her heart began to pound and she could feel her hands getting sweaty. She fought down the beating of her heart, the lump that rose up in her stomach and her throat. She smiled kindly at the Captain who stepped forward to shake and kiss her hand and allowed him to lead her to her seat.
She was directly across the table from Edward and she smiled shyly at him, as well as those that were all around them. Within moments of Suzanne taking her seat the conversation had resumed and returned to full swing.
“So, Miss Jones,” Edward said, leaning across the table towards her, “what is it that you do for a living?”
“I arrange events for companies and individuals,” Suzanne said. She was embarrassed to hear the shaking in her voice but continued on anyway, “The company that I work for is determined to provide events that are exactly tailored to each client’s individual needs.”
“I bet you have a few stories to share about that,” Edward said smiling.
The other members on the table had turned their attention to the pair now and were all watching and listening intently.
However Suzanne was focused entirely on Edward and the smile on his face as she looked at him.