2nd Edition

A Workplace Encounters Book

Nathan Kappas, newly promoted to second engineer on the cruise ship Sapphire, has eyes only for the vessel he’s about to board. He literally runs into Harper Quade, a singer and dancer hired to entertain passengers. Harper has always wanted to travel, and working onboard the Sapphire keeps him away from his abusive ex-boyfriend. As they sail to Hawaii, Tahiti, and other exotic destinations, Nathan and Harper soon share a cabin and a deepening connection, which surprises Nathan, who generally prefers the predictability of machines to people. But an employee who feels jilted when Harper gets promoted harasses him, and Harper’s dangerous past refuses to let him escape. Harper might not be as safe on the Sapphire as he assumed, but Nathan will do anything to protect him.

Excerpt: (found at Dreamspinner website)

Chapter One

NATHAN KAPPAS marched along the corridor on deck zero, his newly acquired British pounds obtained for his upcoming excursion in Southampton safely stowed away in his pocket, only one goal in mind. He’d had to go to the purser’s office to get the foreign currency since this ship was too small to have a separate purser for crew members. Now he was intent on returning to the relative safety of the crew area as quickly as possible, since he hated the idea of having to interact with passengers. People weren’t his strong suit anyway, and, in his experience of four years on the Star Princess, the passengers on a cruise ship could be particularly—challenging.

The little boy came from nowhere. In a flash of movement, a tuft of spiky dark hair at just above knee level set over disheveled clothing caught Nathan’s attention. Following the boy’s gaze, Nathan discovered that he was pulling some sort of yellow wooden duck on bright red wheels behind him. The toy and the odd quacking noises it made as it was pulled along were clearly more interesting to the kid than checking to see where he was going.

“Ouch.” The boy fell on his ass, his gaze shot upward to Nathan’s scowling face, and after a second of stunned hesitation, tears sprang from his eyes as if from a fountain. “Mommmmie!”

“Can’t you watch where you’re going?” A young woman with a baby in her arms rushed up to them.

“Who, me?” Why was the woman staring at him?

The little boy had caused his own problems by looking behind him rather than in front of him. How was that suddenly Nathan’s fault?

“Yes, you!” The woman’s indignant look made it clear she blamed him somehow.

“But, madam—”

“Don’t madam me!” The woman shoved some blonde curly hair escaping her ponytail out of her face, shifting the baby up on her hip as she held out her free hand to the little boy. “We were told this was a family friendly ship, so I expect the crew to be careful and watch out for my children.”

Oh, please!

Out of the corner of his eye he saw the guest relations manager approach from the passenger reception area he’d just left. She had clearly decided abandoning her post was the lesser of two evils. She was right. Leaving him to deal with an upset passenger was a major incident waiting to happen.

“May I be of assistance?” The manager—Judy, according to her name tag—looked apologetic and authoritative at the same time.

How the hell does she do that?

“This—this man ran into my little boy, making him fall and hurt himself. And he won’t even apologize!” The woman huffed as she lifted the still wailing boy to his feet, pulling him to her side as if to protect him from further injury.

“I am very sorry, madam.” Judy turned to Nathan, anger radiating from every pore in her body as soon as she faced him. “I’m sure he will correct this immediately.”

I will?

Judy widened her eyes in a clear gesture for him to get on with it.

“I’m very sorry your little boy fell and hurt himself, madam.” That was as good as it would get. He wouldn’t lie and take the blame for the child’s stupidity. Granted, the boy was young—well, as far as he could tell—but his age didn’t mean a basic inability to look where he was going was excusable.

Judy rolled her eyes before she turned back to the woman, her friendly passenger-only smile returning as if by magic.

“May I add our official apologies?” Judy pulled a card from her uniform pocket and held it out. “Please consider this a token of our sincerest regrets. I will organize a babysitter at our expense for any nights you require one. You’ll also have the opportunity to sit at the captain’s table whenever you want for the remainder of the cruise. Just show the Social Hostess my card, and she will set everything up for you.”

“Really?” The woman stroked the little boy’s head, quietly hushing him. Her smile was radiant, all anger clearly forgotten.

Thank God, another human relations disaster had been avoided.

As soon as the woman was gone, Judy turned around to him, looking reproachful.

“That was a really stupid mistake to make.” She shook her head. “You should know better than to run around the passenger area without being extremely careful.”

“I’m sorry, okay?” What else was he supposed to do? He couldn’t really turn back time and make the incident un-happen.

“Yeah, well, maybe you should think about transferring to a ship catering to older passengers? Without children? Might be a little less risky for you.” Judy smiled, but the friendly expression didn’t reach her eyes. “And them.”

“Maybe.” He’d been thinking about a transfer anyway. He’d done four years as third engineer after graduating from the US Merchant Marine Academy as a Marine Engineer. Now he was ready to move on, but there was no hope of doing it on this ship since the second engineer had transferred in only a year earlier and wasn’t about to leave.

He said good-bye to Judy and continued his walk to the crew elevators at the end of the corridor. Maybe it was time to consider a change. Shit, but he hated the idea of having to find his way all over again. The thought of a new ship and new crewmates to get used to made him uncomfortable as hell. But at least, being on a larger ship, he could make better use of his technical abilities and skills.

FOUR MONTHS later, at the end of this leg of their trip and the beginning of his two months off-duty, Nathan walked into the Imperial Excursion Corporation, or IEC, head office in Miami with more butterflies in his stomach than he wanted to admit. The luxurious look, including marble floors, miles of gleaming glass, and polished hardwood everywhere, wasn’t even his biggest problem. Having worked on the Star Princess, a small cruise ship of the magnificence class, he was used to lavish decorations. At least in the passenger areas, since crew quarters were notoriously less extravagant.

No, what had him rattled about this particular visit to the human resources department was his upcoming interview for the position of second engineer.

“May I help you?” The super friendly receptionist wore reading glasses and looked as though she was ready to kick him out if he had no business there.

“Yes. I have an appointment with a Ms. Feenan?” He checked the granite clock on the wall to his left. Yes, he was on time.

“And your name is….” The receptionist looked at him over her glasses.

“Nathan Kappas.” God, he felt like an idiot.

She ran her pen along a long list on a clipboard, frowning until she turned to the second page, which apparently contained his name.

“Ah, yes, here you are.” She ticked a box then looked up, suddenly all smiles again. “Nicely on time as well. Excellent.”

He nodded.

“Please have a seat. I’ll let Ms. Feenan know you’re here. Would you like a coffee while you’re waiting?”

“No, thank you.” He turned around and sat down on a very modern looking white leather sofa.

More caffeine wasn’t what he needed. Too bad the Valium he wanted wasn’t available. He stroked the soft leather, admiring its pristine cleanliness. Thank God he wasn’t wearing one of his occasionally oily coveralls. Not that the one suit he did own was very comfortable, but at least it was clean and it made him look as if he fit in here. It was a nice illusion that would last until he opened his mouth at the wrong moment or said the wrong thing. Why were people so complicated?

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