Read Titanic Affair Online

Authors: Amanda P Grange

Tags: #Man-Woman Relationships, #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #General, #Titanic (Steamship), #Love Stories

Titanic Affair (10 page)

BOOK: Titanic Affair
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Emilia was enjoying herself. To begin with, she had been overwhelmed by the splendour of her surroundings, but she had quickly relaxed and was now having a wonderful time.

‘Now isn’t this nice, all of us having dinner together? I wanted to say thank you, dear, for coming into my cabin like that yesterday,’ said Mrs Latimer to Emilia.

She looked so different that Emilia could hardly believe it was the same lady. Gone was the grey skin and worried expression. In their place was an alert look and sparkling eyes. Her dress, too, showed her better spirits. It was not black, but dark blue, and shone with sequins.

‘I’m so glad you are feeling better,’ said Emilia.

‘So am I. I never thought I’d end up eating in the dining-room. My stewardess is a good woman and brought me a bite to eat on a tray, but it isn’t like sitting here and watching the world go by.’

‘Oh, no,’ sighed Miss Epson, her companion, who appeared to have recovered from her sea sickness. ‘This is so much nicer.’

‘We’ll be having some guests to dine with us,’ said Mr Latimer. ‘I’m very lucky they agreed to join us. They’re much sought after, as you can imagine. Ah, here’s my first guest now.’

He stood up as a fine looking gentleman with dark hair and a luxuriant moustache approached. Like the other gentlemen, he was resplendent in evening dress, with black trousers and tailcoat, and a white shirt, waistcoat and bow tie.

‘May I present Mr Bruce Ismay,’ he said. ‘Mr Ismay, my mother, Mrs Latimer; her companion, Miss Epson; and Miss Cavendish.’

Mr Ismay greeted them charmingly before taking his place at the table.

‘Mr Ismay is the managing director and chairman of the White Star Line,’ said Mr Latimer.

‘Oh, how wonderful!’ exclaimed Miss Epson, clasping her hands to together and looking at Mr Ismay with admiration.

‘You must be very proud of your beautiful ship,’ said Mrs Latimer.

‘We are,’ he said. ‘She’s the pride of the White Star Line. Everyone who has worked on her has surpassed themselves, from the engineers to the carpenters. But you should not be congratulating me, you know. It’s Andrews you should be congratulating. He built her.’

Emilia turned in the direction of his eyes and saw Mr Andrews heading towards the table.

‘Andrews. Good of you to join us,’ said Mr Latimer.

‘Not at all. The pleasure’s all mine,’ he said.

‘We were just saying what a wonderful ship
is,’ said Emilia. ‘Mr Ismay was telling us we must not compliment him, but that we must direct our compliments to you, as you built her.’

Mr Andrews smiled. ‘Not single handedly,’ he said.

‘Mr Andrews is very fond of his ship. He calls it his baby,’ said Mr Ismay. ‘Do you know, before we set sail, he spent the best part of every day on
, not leaving until
half past six
in the evening. He put every rack, table, chair, and electric fan in place himself.’

every one,’ he said.

There was general laughter.

‘Well, she’s a credit to you,’ said Mr Latimer. ‘I’ve travelled on the
before, but she’s nothing compared to
. This ship is a marvel.’

‘And so she should be,’ said Mr Ismay, as they perused the menu. ‘It’s taken us three years to build her, almost to the day. ‘

‘Do you always travel on the maiden voyages, or did you make a special case of
, Mr Ismay?’ asked Emilia, once the waiter had taken their order.

‘I always take the first trip on any new ship,’ said Mr Ismay. ‘I like to see what improvements we can make for the next ship we’re building. Take
, for example. I came up with a number of ideas for her whilst travelling on
’s maiden voyage. It was then that I had the idea of putting a covered trellis café overlooking the ocean on board

‘That would be the
Café Parisien
,’ said Mrs Latimer. ‘Carl and I took tea there earlier today.’

‘A truly wonderful ship,’ said Carl.

He raised his glass.

‘Here’s to
, and all who sail in her.’

The other members of his party raised their glasses in the toast.

!’ they chorused.

Their soup arrived and they turned their attention to their meal, but when the plates had been cleared, Emilia asked, ‘How much longer will we be at sea?’

‘For another five days,’ said Mr Ismay. ‘We hope to reach
New York
on Wednesday morning.’

Emilia found herself looking forward to the journey. The splendour of the surroundings had driven all thoughts of her frightening encounter with Barker from her mind and she was thinking only of spending five more days on
. And five more days with Mr Latimer.

He was sitting opposite her at the table, and although she took her share in the conversation, she was constantly aware of him. He had a strong presence, one that made her heart beat faster whenever he was near.

They continued to talk about the great ship throughout dinner, which was served on magnificent Crown Derby china, but once it was over the conversation turned to the orchestra. They were playing delightfully, adding a cultured atmosphere to the evening.

‘I see you got Hartley for the trip,’ said Mr Latimer, glancing towards the leader of the band.

‘Yes,’ said Mr Ismay. ‘He’s an excellent musician. We’re lucky to have him. In fact, the whole orchestra’s excellent.’

A number of couples were taking to the dance floor.

Mr Latimer turned to Emilia and said, ‘Would you care to dance?’

She shouldn’t, she knew that. She had been enjoying Mr Latimer’s company during dinner, but she was becoming aware she was enjoying it too much. Not only was she constantly aware of him, but she found him intriguing. He mixed easily with people from the most exalted walks of life, and yet he bore the unmistakeable stamp of someone who had pulled himself up from nothing. She wondered what the early experiences of his life had been, not only to allow him to rise in such a way, but to allow him to have such assurance once he had done so.

‘No, thank you . . . ’ she began.

‘Oh, don’t say no,’ said Mrs Latimer. ‘I want to see Carl dance. He never usually asks anyone. Do it to please me, dear.’

Thus entreated, Emilia felt it would be rude to refuse again, and reluctantly she stood up.

‘Is it really so bad, having to dance with me?’ he murmured, as he led her out on to the floor, guiding her past waiters and other dancers.

She flushed.

‘No, not at all.’

‘And yet you were going to refuse me,’ he said, as he took her hand in his own. ‘Why?’

She could not tell him the real reason, that the thought of dancing with him filled her with a confusing mixture of anticipation and apprehension.

‘I - I’ve eaten too much!’ she laughed.

To her relief, he laughed, too. But then he said, ‘I don’t believe you.’

The change in him was so sudden that she felt her heart skip a beat.

‘I beg your pardon?’ she said.

He looked down into her eyes.

‘I said, I don’t believe you.’

His gaze was intense, and it made her breathless.

‘You’re not supposed to say that,’ she remarked, flustered.

‘I know. But I rarely do what I’m supposed to do. So why don’t you tell me what you were thinking?’ he said, as he slipped his arm round her waist.

She could feel the heat of his hand as it came to rest in the small of her back, and as he pulled her closer she began to tingle from head to foot.

He had asked her a question, but his nearness had driven it from her mind. She was conscious of nothing but the heat of his body so close to her own, and the soft whisper of his breath against her cheek. It felt like a warm wind, making her instinctively lift her face to his.

He smiled down into her eyes, but there was something predatory in the smile. And yet she did not feel threatened by it. Rather, she felt exhilarated.

‘Well?’ he asked.

His voice was deep and throaty. It sent tingles up and down her spine.

‘I - have forgotten the question,’ she said.

His smile broadened, and the pressure of his hand became more intense. ‘Have you? But I’ve only just asked it.’

‘There are so many distractions. The music, the people, the . . . .’
feel of your arm round me
, she thought, but could not say it.

She did not need to. By the look in his eyes, it seemed as though he could read her mind.

‘I asked you what you were thinking,’ he said, as he began to whirl her round the floor.

He was a good dancer, light on his feet and yet firm in his touch. He guided her effortlessly between the other couples on the floor.

Lulled by the familiar rhythm and steps of the waltz Emilia at last felt able to reply.

All she said, however, was, ‘I really can’t remember.’

‘Yes, you can.’

She swallowed. Then looked up into his eyes.

‘Very well,’ she said. ‘I was wondering what experiences you must have had in your early life to make you the man you are today.’

He raised his eyebrows.

‘And what exactly is "the man I am today"?’

She bit her lip, but then said resolutely, ‘A man who is the equal of anyone here, though he wasn’t born to wealth or position.’

‘Ah. You noticed,’ he said teasingly.

She smiled. ‘Yes. I did.’

He laughed. ‘You’re right. My beginnings were very different to this.’

He glanced round the opulent dining-room, with its flower-laden tables, its sparkling glasses, its gleaming silver, its glittering lights and its immaculate guests. Then his expression changed, and just for a moment she caught sight of something that lurked beneath the surface, a boy driven by need and want, clawing his way out of difficulties to be in a position where he could sail on the finest ship in the world, on terms of equality with some of its wealthiest and most well-connected people.

‘Yes?’ she prompted him.

He gave a wry smile.

‘It isn’t fit for a lady’s ears.’

‘I’m not a lady,’ she returned.

‘I beg to differ,’ he said, suddenly serious. Just for a moment he stopped whirling her round the floor. In the midst of the other dancers they were still. ‘I’ve met females of every type and rank, and you are definitely a lady.’

‘I was born that way, and perhaps you are right, in all the ways that matter, I am one still, but I am not a hot house flower. I have seen my share of hardship and I would like to know what drove you.’

‘Very well,’ he said. His hand pressed more firmly into the small of her back and, holding her in his arms, he resumed the dance. ‘My family lived in a poor neighbourhood in
, struggling to survive. My mother took in washing and went scrubbing floors for a few coppers to help feed us - there were eleven of us, all told. My father worked on the docks. When I was twelve he was crippled in an accident and couldn’t work. I did what I could, making myself useful, running errands, making coppers. And then one day I found a bicycle. It was bent and rusty, and had been abandoned in an alleyway.’

BOOK: Titanic Affair
6.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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