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Authors: Cecelia Dowdy

First Mates

BOOK: First Mates
6.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
“I just hope you don't mind spending so much time with me, Rainy. This ship is full of people and I don't think you've had the opportunity to mingle with the other passengers.”

I can't believe he seems to be on the verge of apologizing for spending time with me. What if he wants to be rid of me for the rest of the cruise so that he can meet other women?

“Look, Winston, if you're having second thoughts about spending the day together in Cozumel—”

“No,” he said quickly, “it's not that. If you get tired of my company, then you'll need to say something, because…” He glanced toward the windows before looking at her again. “Because I haven't had such a good time in ages….”


has been an avid reader since she learned to string letters together to form words. While she pursued a business degree in college, one of her professors tried to convince her to get an English degree since he felt she was a great writer. Years later, after receiving her B.S. in finance, she took her former teacher's advice and started pursuing her literary career.

She loves to read, write and bake delicious desserts during her spare time. Traveling is another favorite hobby, and she's been to various countries around the world, including Germany, France, England, Tahiti, New Zealand, Mexico, Jamaica, Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and Santo Domingo. She enjoys listening to old tunes with her husband on Saturday nights. Currently she resides with her spouse in Maryland.


The Lord is my strength and my shield;

My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;

Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,

And with my song I will praise Him.


First, I would like to thank my Heavenly Father.

I would also like to mention my family who gave
me strength and encouragement over the years,
namely, my sisters Joanna, Dorva and Raquel,
and my parents, Joe and Mattie Dowdy.

Thanks to my fellow writing friends,
Michelle Monkou and Loree Lough,
and to my best buddies Patty Elliott-Gray,
Alice Turner, Jay Briscoe and Alva Roane.

Hugs and kisses to my beloved husband,
Christopher Toomer, for always believing in me.

Much gratitude to my critique partners from
American Christian Romance Writers (ACRW):
Jennifer Johnson, Joy Libby, Flavia Crowner,
Rose McCauley and Amber Miller (Tiff).

My gratitude also extends to
Krista Stroever,
my editor.

Dear Reader,

I certainly hope you enjoyed Rainy and Winston's story! I would like to stress the importance of keeping our Heavenly Father in our lives. No matter what battles you may be struggling with, you can always lean on Him, and He will see you through the tough times!

I enjoy hearing from readers. Feel free to visit my Web site, or e-mail me at [email protected]. You can also write to me at the following address:

Cecelia Dowdy

P.O. Box 951

Greenbelt, MD 20768-0951


Chapter One

ainy Jackson peeked into the crowded dining room of the cruise ship. Stepping away from the entrance, she glanced down the empty hallway. Pacing down the hall, she ran her fingers through her hair.
What am I supposed to do now? Was traveling alone a mistake?

Heavy footsteps pounded on the plush carpet. A voice, deep and masculine, resounded in the deserted foyer. “Hello.”

She jerked toward the passenger, almost spraining her neck. While rubbing her collarbone, she gazed at the attractive man she'd seen earlier in the lounge. A warm smile graced his full lips as his presence filled the hallway.

Rainy tore her eyes away from the stranger, glancing into the crowded dining room again. She licked her lips before responding. “Hi.”

His light-brown eyes seemed to pierce into hers. “Are you traveling alone?”

She touched her shorts. Should she have ironed them before coming to dinner?

After swallowing nervously, she nodded. “My best friends practically forced me to take this cruise.”

He chuckled. “Really? My brother had to make me go on this cruise. He even bought my ticket.” He paused as he continued to stare. “Did you want to eat together?”

She nodded. “Okay.”

They entered the dining room and a waiter approached, clutching two menus. “Are the two of you dining together?” Rainy nodded and as she strolled behind her dinner companion, she watched his dark jeans hug his lean hips.

The waiter placed their menus on the table. “Enjoy your meal.”

After settling into the padded chair, she slipped her shoes off and wiggled her toes in the plush cranberry-colored carpet. Photos of the aqua sea decorated the cream-colored walls. Voices droned in the dining room as contented travelers enjoyed their evening meal. “You know, I've never been on a cruise before. I was afraid of getting seasick. But I kind of like the gentle rocking of the boat.”

He opened his menu. “Yeah, I know what you mean.”

She tried to read her menu, continuing to steal glances at her dinner partner. Long thick lashes surrounded his hazel eyes. She sighed.
I could get lost looking into his eyes.
He looked up and their eyes
locked. She quickly looked away. He chuckled. “What's so funny?” she asked.

He put his menu aside. “We're about to share a meal, and I don't even know your name.” Tremors of delight coursed through her veins as he spoke.

“My name is Lorraine. Lorraine Jackson.” They shared a firm handshake as he introduced himself.

“I'm Winston Michaels.” She reluctantly released his hand.

“Everybody calls me Rainy, though.” She pretended to study her menu.

The waiter returned to their table a short time later. “Would either of you care to order a drink? We have several wine selections to choose from.”

He closed his menu. “I don't drink alcohol. Just bring me a Coke.”

“I'll have the same.” She gazed at her dinner companion with new respect. Could it be possible that he was a Christian, a child of God? Since her experience with her ex-fiancé, Jordan, it was hard for her to judge men. She slightly shook her head, dispelling the unpleasant thoughts about her recent breakup.

“Are you okay?”

“Uh, yes, why?”

“You seemed upset.” Ripples of pleasure flowed through her as she gazed into his hazel eyes.

The waiter returned with their sodas. “Would you care to order now?”

She ordered the first item listed. “I'll have the fish and scallops.”

“What side dishes do you want with that?” the waiter asked. He recited the choices and she made her selections.

Winston placed a straw into his drink. “That sounds good. I'll have the same.” Once the waiter was gone, he selected a roll from the cloth-covered basket and slathered it with butter.

“So, tell me what a lovely lady like you is doing here all alone on this cruise.”

She sighed, still trying to push the unpleasant memories away. “I've been through a lot the past few months, so my friends felt I needed a break. They insisted I take a vacation and soon enough, I agreed with them.”

“Oh?” His expression turned curious. “Were you under a lot of stress with your job?”

She shook her head. “Honestly, no. Actually, work has been a good reprieve for me. I've never worked so many hours of overtime in my life as I have these past couple of months. I even brought some things to work on while I'm here.”

“You brought work to do while you're on vacation?”

She nodded. “Yes, I have. I don't like to be alone for very long with nothing to do.” She told him about her job in the accounting department of a prominent Miami newspaper.

“That's where you work?”

“Yes, I enjoy working with numbers. The accounting manager found another job, and since I was working so many hours anyway, I was the right candidate for
the promotion.” She told him about the trials and tribulations of running a successful accounting department. She was still talking when the waiter returned with their food. The aroma of steamed fish filled the air.

Winston bowed his head and Rainy lowered hers.
Lord, thank You for this wonderful meal, and thank You for allowing someone to share it with me. Please guide and strengthen both me and Winston during this cruise. Amen.
She opened her eyes and witnessed a smile soften his full lips.

She cut into her fish. “So why are
on this cruise alone?”

“Well, for the same reason as you. I've been through a lot over the past six months and my brother gave me this cruise as a birthday gift.”

“When is your birthday?”

“This Sunday, the last day of the cruise. I'll be thirty-five.” He frowned as he ate a potato.

“You're not looking forward to your birthday?” He wasn't very old, so she didn't know why he seemed to dread turning thirty-five.

“No, I'm not. How old are you?”

“I'm thirty.”

“Thirty? I thought you were much younger than that.”

She smiled. “People always say that I look younger than my age.”

As they ate their meal, he continued their earlier conversation. “So, what happened? Why have you had to bury yourself in your work?”

She paused, finishing her entrée. “Let's just say it was a love relationship that went sour. That's all I want to say right now.”

The waiter returned. “Would you like to order dessert?” They ordered chocolate cake.

She grinned as she tasted the first bite, enjoying the rich sweet confection. Curls of steam filled the air as the waiter poured their fragrant black coffees. She found the hot drink was a nice complement to their tasty dessert.

He placed his cloth napkin over the empty plate. “That was an excellent meal.”

She drank her last drop of coffee and placed the china cup on the saucer. “It sure was.”

“Do you want to go for a walk on the deck?”


As they walked on the deck, they passed other couples. They finally stopped as she gazed into the dark water. The waves crashed upon the ship and the obsidian sky twinkled with stars. “I can't remember the last time I've seen such a beautiful night.”

He leaned against the railing and looked up at the sky. “It is nice, isn't it? Have you lived in Miami your whole life?”

“No. I'm from Maryland.”

“Maryland? What are you doing in Miami? That's a long way from home.”

She frowned as she toyed with her purse strap. “I love my parents and my family, but when it was time for college, I got a scholarship to a university in Flor
ida and I was more than eager to leave. I was not too enthusiastic about life on the farm.”

“So, your parents have a farm?”

“Yes. It's been in the family for two generations and my father loves it. It's a dairy farm so we've got tons of cows. I just didn't like all of the chores that had to be done each day. It takes a while to milk all those cows, even though we use a milking machine. Whenever I go home to visit, I always have to get used to the smell all over again. Have you ever been on a farm?”

“No, can't say that I have.”

“Well, you're not missing much. My dad loves the animals and so does my brother Mark. He's already taken over a lot of the farm duties since my parents are getting older. Mark's married and he built a house on the property. I'm glad he decided to stay on the farm because my parents couldn't run it forever.” Just thinking about the stench and labor on their dairy farm made her cringe.

“You hated it that much?”

She nodded. “Yeah, it was pretty awful. I hate the smell of a farmer. My family didn't really take many vacations since we couldn't leave the farm in someone else's care for very long. So I didn't get to travel much growing up. As soon as I was eighteen, I was out of there.”

As they continued their walk, she told him the most important thing about herself—her deep faith in God and her baptism when she was twelve. “My parents have always stressed that having a deep faith in the
Lord is important, especially in today's world,” she remarked.

Plates of elegant fruits and cheeses adorned the tables on the upper deck for the midnight buffet. Flocks of passengers watched the crewmen as they created a large sculpture of a fish from a block of ice.

Winston selected a small plate of treats, and as they shared the snack, their fingers touched as they grabbed strawberries and cheese. Later, they resumed their walk.

As fatigue settled into her bones, Rainy suggested they visit the hotel coffee shop. As they continued their conversation, she noticed the velvety darkness gradually fading. “We've been talking most of the night!” She yawned and he suggested escorting her back to her cabin. “Hey, you've made me do all the talking. You didn't tell me anything about yourself.”

He chuckled. “We can save that for another day.” As she unlocked her door, he touched her arm. Tingles of delight raced up her limb and she accidentally dropped her room key. Winston retrieved it and pressed it into her palm. “Rainy, this has been the nicest evening I've had in a long time.” He touched her face before he strolled down the hall.

She swallowed, clutching the doorknob. “Good night.” She closed the door and paced her room, full of energy. She plopped onto the soft bed and selected a piece of fruit from the basket that her best friends, Sarah and Rachel, had sent her as a bon voyage gift.

She parted the curtains and gazed at the endless expanse of sea. As she finished her pear, she realized this
was the first night since her breakup two months ago that she had not dwelled on her relationship with Jordan.

Her ringing phone interrupted her thoughts. After she dropped the pear core into the trash can, she lifted the receiver, wondering if Winston was calling her from his room. “Hello?”

“Hey, Rainy!” Sarah and Rachel's voices sounded over the wire.

“You guys, what are you doing calling me on this cruise? You know how expensive this phone call is!” She smiled, gripping the receiver, enjoying the sound of her best friends' voices.

Sarah chuckled. “We're at my house. Rachel is on one phone and I'm on the other.”

“We just wanted to make sure you were okay,” Rachel added.

“Girl, you sure were a basket case earlier. You looked like you were going to cry when we left you on that dock!” Sarah commented.

She could imagine Rachel nodding emphatically. “Yeah, girl. You sure were in pretty bad shape.”

Rainy thought about how much she had been missing Jordan since their breakup. En route to the Miami cruise ship dock, Sarah had stopped at a light, and a tall, chocolate-brown man jogged past. He looked so much like her ex-fiancé Jordan she had to fight to stay in the car. She had pressed her hands together when he paused at the light. While running across the street, the jogger glanced at the car. She had frowned as she looked at the
stranger, disappointed that her imagination was playing tricks on her again.

That had been happening a lot, her seeing a man and assuming it was Jordan. The second time it had happened was when she attended a gospel concert with Sarah and Rachel. She'd dropped her pizza and soda while grabbing the stranger's arm. He pulled away as Coke and food splattered on his white T-shirt. She muttered an apology as he disappeared in the crowd. Closing her eyes, she recalled the sweet memories of her ex-fiancé. But thoughts of his infidelity reminded her of why he was no longer in her life.

Rachel huffed through the receiver, bringing Rainy back to the present. “Don't zone out on us! I just asked you a question and you didn't answer.”

Rainy shook her head slightly and sat on the bed, gazing at the fancy fruit basket. “I'm sorry. What did you say?”

“I asked if you received the fruit basket.”

She continued to stare at the basket. “Yes, I got it. Thanks, it was sweet of you two to send it to me.”

Sarah chuckled. “And you still haven't told us if you're okay. Will you be all right on that cruise all by yourself?”

Thoughts of her romantic evening with Winston Michaels filled her mind. “You two shouldn't worry about me. I'll be fine.”

Sarah continued. “Well, I'm thinking about booking a cruise in the future. Are there any eligible men on the ship? I'm determined to find myself a husband.”

Rainy rolled her eyes. “Oh, brother,” she muttered.

Rachel grunted. “Sarah, some of us aren't as desperate as you are to find a man! Don't you know you need to find happiness within yourself before you go on some big manhunt?”

When Sarah and Rachel broke into an argument, Rainy knew it was time to end the call. “You two stop fighting. I think it's time for us to get off of the phone.”

Their argument stopped and Rachel commented, “Well, we don't want to keep you, girl. We'll say a prayer for your safety and be sure to call us when you stop at your ports of call.”

BOOK: First Mates
6.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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