Cabin Fever
108 pages

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108 pages

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In Sheila Claydon's Cabin Fever, published by Books We Love, the Osprey cruise ship is in trouble. Can Ellie Masters and Andy Smith solve the problem? When they join the ship in New Zealand they soon discover that it’s going to be hard work all the way to Australia. Not that either of them intend to let long hours get in the way of their blossoming love affair...until Ellie develops feet of clay..or is it Andy who is the problem? Is he really who he says he is? They joined the ship to help the crew, but now it’s Ellie and Andy who need help. Will they get it or is it already too late?



Publié par
Date de parution 29 novembre 2012
Nombre de lectures 2
EAN13 9781773625560
Langue English

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CABIN FEVER By Sheila Claydon Digital ISBNs EPUB 978-1-77362-556-0 Kindle 978-1-927111-83-3 WEB 978-1-77362-557-7 Amazon Print 978-1-77362-558-4
Copyright 2012 by Sheila Claydon Cover art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any mean s, (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without prio r written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this boo k. Dedication and Acknowledgements For Lesley Daughter, best friend, reading partner, supporter a nd fan Thank you.
Chapter One The telephone call came at noon. By midnight Drew P ennington-Smith was on a business class flight to New Zealand wondering what he had let himself in for. He jabbed the recline button on his seat and stretc hed out his long legs as it slid backwards. He would try to sleep while he had the c hance because he knew from past experience that once he joined the cruise shipOspreyhe’d be lucky to grab five hours a night. After an hour of tossing and turning he gave up, sw itched on the reading light and hauled his briefcase out from beneath his seat. It was full of files. He sighed as he pulled out the first one. By the time the plane tou ched down for refueling in Bangkok he had read everything in it. He now had a working kno wledge of the crew, the mix of passengers, the entertainment program and the cruis e itinerary, plus the exact layout and dimensions of the ship that was to be his home for the next few weeks. He stood up, rubbing eyes that were gritty from lac k of sleep. Maybe if he had a shower in the Club Lounge he would manage to relax on the second leg of the journey. That way he might have half a chance of pulling thi s off, although after six years of being deskbound he wasn’t taking bets. As joint owner of the rapidly expandingOceanusCruise Line, he was always prepared to consider anything that might add to its success. The impulse that had made him agree to stand in as replacement Cruise Directo r on the Line’s newest ship was total madness however. Especially when, given a lit tle more time, the agency would have found someone up-to-date and reliable. Still brooding, he left the aircraft with only a fl icker of a smile at the flight attendant who had looked after him throughout the flight. She watched him go with a sigh. Why was it that the good-looking ones were always preoc cupied? * * * * * Ellie Masters, trying to remember the details of th e in-flight cabin announcement made by the captain prior to touch down, had much t he same thought as he brushed past her without so much as a glance. If he had loo ked even a little bit more approachable she might have asked him if he knew wh ich Gate they had to go to for re-boarding. Drew had, in fact, noticed her. It was difficult no t to. Tall and slim, she had honey-blonde hair coiled loosely at her neck, smooth tan skin, and wide amber eyes. At any other time he would have smiled, even struck up a c onversation, but today he had other things on his mind. As far as he was concerned she could have been stark naked and his stride wouldn’t have faltered. Two hours later things were very different. Freshly showered and shaved, and with orange juice and two cups of strong coffee inside h im, he approached the Boarding Gate feeling decidedly more cheerful. He had manage d to make the phone calls
necessary to put his social life on hold for the ne xt few weeks, as well as to send a list of instructions to his assistant, so for the next few hours he was going to relax and try to sleep. Ellie, following behind, noticed his fresh shirt an d damp hair and, guessing he had showered in one of the Club lounges, resented it. S he knew she was being unreasonable but she was tired and sticky despite h er best attempts to freshen up in the public washroom. Nor had the dry muffin and cup of indifferent coffee she’d bought in a crowded café improved her temper. With a long-suffering sigh she stalked past him and settled herself into a seat near the Gate’s entrance. Closing her eyes she waited fo r the boarding announcement. Drew took the seat opposite and pulled a cruise bro chure out of his briefcase, determined to do his last piece of homework. He had seen it a thousand times before but now he read it as if he were a prospective pass enger, one of the people he would be looking after for the next few weeks. When a further delay was announced Ellie opened her eyes and gazed around in despair at her fellow passengers. Everyone looked a s tired and fed up as she felt, except for the man opposite. He was so intent on wh atever it was he was reading that he didn’t even appear to notice there was a problem . She stared at him, knowing she had only taken against him because he looked so ful l of health and energy whereas she was tired and cranky. He was good looking that was for sure, with long legs, square shoulders, and the dark hair and eyes of a romantic hero. His face wouldn’t look out of place on the cover of the romantic novels she loved to read when she had the time. Closing the brochure he glanced up and their eyes m et. For a long moment they stared at one another, suddenly oblivious to the bu stle and noise all around them as hidden primeval instincts began to fight their way to the surface. A rosy blush washed over Ellie’s face. When Drew’s gaze dropped to her mouth, a pulse began to beat a fast tattoo at her throat. Unconsciously she licked her lips. He smiled. Angry with herself for being so obvious she dragged her eyes away. Not fast enough to rebuff him though. “It could be worse,” he said, and the dark velvet t ones of his voice sent an unexpected shiver of desire down her spine. “I’m not sure how,” her reply was cool to the point of unfriendliness. She wasn’t in the mood for a mild flirtation however attractive s he found him. Besides, his smile had already told her he was far too full of himself. “The delay could have occurred after we boarded, in which case we would now be sitting it out on the tarmac getting hot and tetchy instead of enjoying the comfort of the airport’s air conditioning.” Ellie, who had experienced just such a scenario on more occasions than she liked to remember, gave a reluctant nod. “I guess so.” “Is this your first trip to New Zealand?”
“Yes,” she had to give him full marks for trying bu t she wasn’t about to make it easy for him. His interest was no more than the usual ma le appreciation, something she was used to dealing with on a daily basis, for Ellie kn ew she was attractive. Knew it and dismissed it as an irrelevance in a way that only t he truly stunning can. She ignored the blatant admiration in his eyes as she waited for th e next inevitable question. “Are you on holiday or is this a working trip?” She gave an inward sigh. He was so predictable, but as he obviously wasn’t going to give up she might as well meet him half way. At least it would pass the time. “A working trip. I’m joining a cruise ship in Auckland and travelling back to Sydney.” To her surprise he sat forward in his chair, his ey es suddenly sharp with interest. The Osprey?” She nodded. “I work for theOceanusCruise LineandThe Osprey’slead dancer has been…” “…airlifted off the ship with appendicitis, so you are flying out to replace her,” he finished Ellie’s sentence for her. Then he held out his hand. “There’s been a problem with the Cruise Director to o. I’m his replacement… Andrew Smith … Andy.” “Ellie Masters,” something best ignored stirred in the pit of her stomach as Ellie placed her hand in his. He couldn’t be. Cruise Dire ctors didn’t look like this. Not in her experience anyway. Unaccountably flustered, she sai d the first thing that came into her head. “How come you got all the travel perks?” He laughed. “Lucky dip, I guess. The tickets were waiting for me at the airport.” “Mine too,” she gave him the glimmer of a smile. It highlighted the dimples at the corner of her mouth and softened the expression in her wide tawny eyes. He stared at her and what had been a casual handsha ke morphed into something far more intense as his fingers tightened on hers. Ellie’s heart sank as she saw the appraisal in his eyes. Not now when she felt and looked her worst, and when her new job was going to take up so much of her time that she wouldn’t have the spare energy required to keep unwelcome advances at bay. Not that they would be completely unwelcome she concede d as she remembered how she had felt just a few moments earlier. As far as she was concerned, however, a shipboard romance was out, particularly with someone like And y Smith who was obviously used to women falling into a swoon at his drop-dead gorgeou s feet. She’d been there and done that in the past, and she wasn’t about to make the same mistake again. His phone rang and broke the spell. As he answered it theOceanus brochure slipped from his lap. Ellie leaned forward and pick ed it up. By the time he concluded his call they were boardin g. He switched off his phone, gathered up his luggage and gave her a murmured far ewell and an apologetic shrug as he made his way to the desk where he was fast track ed through to Business Class. Lovely as Ellie Masters was, his phone call had giv en him too much to think about to waste time fantasizing about her. Now that his brot her Mark had managed to get to the bottom of the whole sorry story it appeared that th e Cruise Director he was replacing
had been drunk on duty so he was going to have to u ndo some serious damage, which meant he had to come up with a watertight plan by t he time the plane reached Auckland. * * * * * A resigned Ellie watched his swiftly retreating bac k from halfway down the shuffling queue waiting for the economy seats. With a rueful smile she reflected that while the earth might have moved for her it was quite clear h e hadn’t experienced even the smallest tremor. His appraisal, the interest she ha d seen in his eyes, were no more than the reflex actions of someone who could no more hel p flirting than breathing. Far better to concentrate on her plans for the future than was te time on someone like Andy Smith. As the queue edged towards the flight desk she pond ered her options. She would be 29 in a few months time, which meant she didn’t have many dancing years left because there were a lot of ambitious girls who wer e a decade younger waiting in the wings. She re-visited the argument she had been hav ing with herself for some weeks now. Should she give up cruising and open a dance a cademy, or should she just concentrate on her singing? On the other hand, mayb e the time had come for her to give up on the whole idea of performance and fall b ack on the other skill she had, which was to design and make theatrical costumes. So intent was she on her thoughts that it wasn’t un til she reached the flight desk that she realized she was still holding the cruise brochure. With a sigh of irritation she thrust it into her bag and forgot about it until ho urs later when boredom, coupled with an inability to stay asleep in a semi-upright position for more than ten minutes at a time, made her reach into her bag. Searching for the nove l she had bought at the airport, her fingers brushed against the forgotten brochure. She pulled it out and opened it. There it was.The Osprey. She studied the glossy picture of the huge white liner, latest star of theOceanusCruise Line. According to the blurb it offered the ultimate in luxury and enterta inment. Not that the person at Head Office had sounded impressed when he telephoned her and offered her an unheard of bonus if she would put her holiday plans on hold an d help out. He had been very disparaging about it. ApparentlyThe Ospreywas falling far short of its reputation. Ellie hadn’t admitted to him that cancelling her Ch ristmas visit to her family was no big deal. Instead she’d said she would ring back on ce she’d checked her arrangements. In actual fact she’d welcomed the excuse not to hav e to play happy families with her parents and her sister while they pretended to unde rstand the life she had chosen for herself. They would have a much nicer time without her. She looked at the picture ofThe OspreyShe had never regretted her again. decision to give up dancing in the West End six yea rs earlier and take up cruising, but maybe it was now time to stop. She couldn’t keep ru nning away from responsibility forever, and after six years of travelling she had been everywhere and done it all. * * * * *
When the plane finally touched down in Auckland it was raining. So much for a sunny Christmas Ellie thought as she collected her belongings. Not that she had any intention of looking at Auckland today. That could wait until the return trip. All she wanted to do was sleep. She hoped the hotel was rea sonable. At least her employers owed her that after almost twenty-four hours of sitting upright. Waiting for her baggage she caught sight of Andy Sm ith as he picked up the first suitcase to arrive on the carousel and set off towa rds the exit. He had obviously forgotten all about her. Anticipating that her own luggage would take considerably longer to materialize, she shrugged and resumed wai ting. With his expensive luggage and well cut clothes he appeared to have everything going for him. He even looked as if he’d had some sleep.
ChapterTwO Drivals Hall as he searched forrew scanned the throng of people gathered in the Ar the driver who should be waiting for him. It didn’t take him long to locate the placard withOceanus printed d towards the gray-on it, or to make his way through the crow haired man who was holding it. Two short sentences later he was back at the exit barrier waiting for Ellie. When she came out onto the concourse with two heavy bags swinging from her shoulders and trailing a red suitcase behind her, h is stomach did the same peculiar flip flop thing it had done when she first looked at him . It got worse when she saw him standing behind the barrier and opened her eyes wid e in an unspoken question. With a sharp intake of breath he smiled at her as he stepp ed forward to take her suitcase. “I didn’t think you’d forgive me if I abandoned you at the airport, not after sleeping all the way from our stopover in Bangkok!” “Please tell me you didn’t do that,” she said as sh e allowed him to relieve her of one of the bags hanging from her shoulder. “Well maybe not all the way,” he conceded with a gr in. “I did take some time out to eat and drink.” “I don’t want to hear about it, not after the journ ey I’ve had. I’m sure that even your food was better than mine.” Noting the smudges of tiredness beneath her eyes, h e gave her shoulder what was meant to be a sympathetic squeeze but which turned into a much lengthier affair as the crowd pushed them closer together. He didn’t look a t her as he steered her towards the waiting driver, so he didn’t know what sort of effe ct it was having on her. Nor did he want to know because it was as much as he could do to deal with his own reaction. Touching her, even through the thick folds of her j acket, was like being prodded with a red-hot wire. He snatched his arm away as soon as they were clear of the people milling around the doorway and walked slightly ahead of her as the y followed the driver through the airport to where he had parked his car. He was irri tated that he was behaving like some sort of lovesick schoolboy. She might have the face and the body of an angel, and he might find her more attractive than he had any woma n in a very long time, but he still had a job to do: a job which was going to require n egotiation, tact and diplomacy, not an overdose of testosterone, so he had better take him self in hand before it was too late. “Thank you. I wasn’t looking forward to the hotel s huttle bus,” Ellie told him as she climbed into the car. Then she turned and gave him that smile again, the one that hit him in the pit of the stomach and put all his defen sive strategies on high alert. He nodded, piled her bags onto the seat beside her and then, very deliberately, sat next to the driver. Best to distance himself now by having a mundane conversation about the weather, anything to distract him from th ose eyes, that hair, and that perfect skin; skin that was ivory dusted with gold, skin wh ose only blemish was one beauty spot at the corner of her mouth in a place that was just asking to be kissed.
Pulling himself together he concentrated on what th e driver was saying. The man obviously fancied himself as a travel guide and by the time they left the airport he had not only assured them that their hotel was directly opposite to whereThe Ospreywould dock the following morning, but he was already givi ng them the low down on what to do and see in Auckland. After several minutes Drew found his attention wand ering back to Ellie. She was very quiet. Had she fallen asleep in the back of th e car? He risked a swift glance and saw that she had. Her face was pressed against the backrest of her seat, her mouth was slightly open and her long lashes curled agains t her cheeks. He gazed at her for a moment longer than necessary and then twisted back to face front again. The driver was still talking. Fortunately he didn’t need any a nswers – just an audience – so Drew gave something that could have been a grunt of appr eciation, or even a question, and then zoned out again as he faced up to his other problem: his name. If there was one thing he didn’t want to do, it was to let Ellie Masters or any other crew member know who he really was. His father had started theOceanus Cruise Line many years before, so the name Pennington-Smith was a familiar one on board ship. It had been a big problem in the early days of Drew’s career until, desperate to be accepted for himself and not as the owner’s son, he had sought anonymity by shortening his name to Andy Smith. It had worked, a nd those years at sea, as he learned the business from the bottom up, had been t he happiest of his life. Given the choice he would still be there now but his father’s sudden death had put paid to that, forcing him to take up the responsibilities he’d re sisted for so long. Thankful that plain Andrew Smith was still the name on his passport because he had never gotten around to changing it, he had alre ady decided he wasn’t going to share his real identity with anyone other than the captain. He knew he was making an arbitrary decision, one that he should have discuss ed with his brother, but he didn’t care. Drew Pennington-Smith would cease to exist wh ile he was on boardThe Osprey. That way the crew wouldn’t think he was checking up on them and he would be able to enjoy the sort of freedom he hadn’t experienced in a long time. Not that he intended to entirely relinquish the power he held, however. He gave a grim smile as he remembered the phone message he’d left at theOceanus’ Headquarters. He hoped it would have someone smarting when they picked it up because, as far as he was concerned, there was no reason in the world why Ellie Masters should have travelled tourist class while he slept comfortably at the front of the plane. He was still thinking about his dilemma when the ca r pulled up in front of the hotel. Hearing Ellie stir in the back he turned around and looked at her. She rubbed her eyes as she smiled at him. The short sleep in the car had done much to restore her humor, as had the fact that And y Smith had waited for her at the airport and then kept his arm around her shoulders for longer than was absolutely necessary. Looking into his bitter chocolate eyes she decided she’d been a bit hasty when she told herself that a shipboard romance was a bad ide a. Maybe a Christmas at sea with Andy Smith was just what she needed.
ChapterThree An hour later Drew had shaved and showered again, u npacked his overnight bag and plugged his laptop into the computer terminal i n his room. He paused in the act of logging on and looked longingly at the mini bar. No ! He needed to adjust his body clock as soon as possible and he could only do that if he stuck to local time. He glanced at his watch. Eleven o’clock in the morning was not th e time for a whisky. Coffee would have to do. He contemplated the kettle and the sach ets of freeze dried coffee for the briefest moment before shrugging on his jacket and picking up his room key. He would go and find a proper cup of coffee and some sandwic hes because he needed to fuel his body sufficiently to stay awake for as long as poss ible. He paused as he reached the door and then, without giving himself time to think it through, backtracked across the room, picked up the phone, and called Ellie’s room. It rang several times before she answered it. When she did she sounded slightly disoriented. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.” Drew silent ly berated himself for thinking too much about his own needs and how he needed to get E llie out of his system, and not enough about her, and how she must be feeling after a long flight with very little sleep. “You didn’t, not really. I was just letting my body unwind.” He knew she was smiling although her voice still sounded sleepy. “Well in that case, if you think you can stay awake long enough, how about letting me buy you breakfast to make up for the fact that I hogged the best seat all the way to Auckland. She started to refuse, hesitated, and then she chan ged her mind. He told himself it was because she was an experienced enough traveler to know she had to adjust to local time as fast as possible. He also told himsel f that she knew she would have to work closely with him once they were on boardThe Osprey, so her decision to join him was probably based on pragmatism rather than a wish to spend time in his company. Then he told himself that, whatever her reasons, it would give him the opportunity to desensitize himself to those lambent amber eyes bef oreTheOspreyset sail. At no time did he admit that his pulse rate increased by sever al notches when she clinched the date. “Okay,” she said. “I’ll meet you downstairs in twen ty minutes, after I’ve had a shower and changed out of these clothes.” * * * * * When he saw Ellie walking across the restaurant to join him Drew reflected ruefully that perhaps he should have had that whisky after a ll, for she had transformed herself. Fresh makeup disguised her weariness, and her hair, still damp from the shower, glinted gold in the watery sunshine that was filter ing through the window in a brief respite from the rain. She had substituted the skin ny jeans and boots she had travelled in with a pair of cargo pants and flat pumps while the pink of a wraparound cardigan distracted from the shadows beneath her eyes.
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