Read Titanic Affair Online

Authors: Amanda P Grange

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

Titanic Affair (2 page)

BOOK: Titanic Affair
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There were people everywhere. The ladies were dressed in the latest
fashions, with their tapering, ankle-length skirts and their knee-length coats. Their feathered hats bobbed and swayed as they crossed the rooms or disappeared into lifts. Gentlemen in lounge suits strolled along, and children in sailor suits tugged at the hands of their nurses, adding to the bustle. And through the throng hurried porters carrying luggage, and stewards who were seeing to the comfort and convenience of the passengers.

Emilia wove her way between them until she came to a grand staircase leading upwards. It was lit from above by a huge dome, and was bright with daylight. She went up the stairs, glancing at the magnificent clock on the landing, which was flanked by two carved female figures. She had only ten minutes to find a vantage point if she wanted to see the ship set sail.

She continued upwards and emerged on deck, where a keen wind was blowing. She put a hand to her hat to make sure it didn’t blow away, then she looked about her. The view was obscure by lifeboats, hanging in a row from strong davits, but in between them she could glimpse the sea. A crowd had already gathered in the gaps. To her left, they stood sedately and talked in cultured tones. To her right, further along the deck, she saw the men in third class throwing their hats in the air or lifting children onto their shoulders. The women, dressed in shabby woollen skirts and shawls, waved to people below.

Emilia turned towards the first class passengers again. She felt hesitant about joining them but she reminded herself that she had a first class ticket and made her way over to the rail.

She had been intending to sail to Ireland later in the month, on the cheapest ship available, but an old school friend of her godmother’s had had to cancel a trip on
’s maiden voyage, and had asked her godmother if she would like the ticket.

It had been quickly arranged that Emilia should use the ticket instead, and now here she was, in the lap of luxury, with her problems about to drift away behind her.

She found a space at the railings, and leaning against them she looked down at the dock. There were hundreds of people standing there, waving handkerchiefs and calling out ‘Good luck!’ There were motor vans, too, and brewers’ carts, all trying to go about their business. The drivers honked their horns, but to no avail. The people on the dock were too busy cheering to notice them. She scanned the crowd, but to her relief she could see no sign of Barker or Mr Montmerency. They must have abandoned their search on the quay and gone to look for her in the town.

A whistle blew, and the atmosphere around her changed. There was a flurry of activity as those who were not intending to sail on
began to leave the ship, anxious to make sure they did not get trapped on board. There were cries of ‘Goodbye!’ and ‘Good luck!’, then the last visitor hurried down the gangplank and set foot on dry land. The gangplanks were drawn in, the ropes were cast off, and the tugs began pulling
out of the harbour.

There was an anxious moment when a small vessel broke its moorings and swung out towards
. For a horrible minute Emilia thought it would crash into the ship, and that
would have to put back into port, but one of the tugs soon managed to pull it out of the way. And then they were off, leaving
behind them - Southampton, Barker and Mr Montmerency. Emilia felt all her pent up tension rush out of her. She was well and truly on her way.

Now all she had to do was find her stateroom! she thought, as she went back downstairs. The ship was so huge she had no idea where to begin, but she hailed a passing steward and he kindly took her to the door.

‘Enjoy your trip,’ he said pleasantly.

‘Thank you, I intend to,’ she said with a smile.

She opened the door and went in, stopping to look around her. The room was wonderful. There was a splendid fireplace, a comfortable armchair, and a group of table and chairs in the style of the French Empire. Fresh flowers were everywhere. How lucky she was, to be able to spend a whole day aboard!

She was just about to go into the bedroom and begin unpacking her portmanteau when there came a knock at the door. She felt a moment of apprehension. She had lived so long with fear that it would take her some time to be rid of it. But reminding herself that she had nothing to be frightened of any more, she called, ‘Come in.’

The door opened, and she saw a middle-aged man standing there. He was evidently not a steward, for he was not dressed in a steward’s uniform.  Instead he was dressed in a suit, with a watch chain slung across the front of his waistcoat. He had a brisk, business-like air about him, and she had no idea what he was doing in her stateroom, as she had never seen him before in her life.

‘Can I help you?’ she asked, her good manners overcoming her surprise.

‘It’s more a question of me helping you,’ he said with an ingratiating smile.

She frowned slightly. There was something about his tone she did not like. She liked him even less when, a minute later, he took a wad of bank notes out of his pocket and brandished it suggestively.

‘My name is Hutton,’ he said. ‘I work for Mr Carl Latimer. As I’m sure you know, Mr Latimer is a very wealthy man. He’s instructed me to buy your stateroom from you for the duration of the trip to
. He will give you a full refund on your ticket as well as providing you with another first class stateroom in exchange. He is also prepared to give you fifty pounds to make amends for the inconvenience.’ His smile broadened. ‘This must be your lucky day.’

Emilia raised her eyebrows. ‘I don’t think so,’ she replied. ‘I’m afraid I have no intention of giving up my stateroom. Now, if there’s nothing further, I will bid you good day.’

‘I don’t think you understand,’ he said, his smile becoming fixed. ‘Mr Latimer is a
wealthy man. He’s used to getting his own way.’

‘Is he?’ asked Emilia coolly. ‘Unfortunately, he is going to be disappointed on this occasion.’

She expected him to leave but he did not do so. Taking matters into her own hands she went over to the door, but he showed no signs of departing.

‘Oh, come now, Miss Cavendish,’ he said obsequiously. ‘Mr Latimer will give you anything you want if you will only indulge him in this matter.’ He began to peel off notes suggestively. ‘What would you say to £100?’

‘I would say I’d rather you put it away,’ replied Emilia curtly. ‘Now, if you please, I’d like you to leave. ‘

‘Come, come,’ he said with a falsely jovial air.

‘If you don’t leave my stateroom at once I will call for the steward,’ she said firmly.

‘Two hundred,’ he said.

‘Not two thousand,’ she replied. ‘Now, are you going to leave or must I have you forcibly removed?’

His mouth became grim. ‘You’re making a big mistake,’ he said.

Emilia opened the door wide.

He looked as though he was going to protest, but at that moment a steward hurried down the corridor. Emilia opened her mouth, preparing to call to him, but Hutton sensed defeat and stepped out of the stateroom.

‘If you should change your mind —’ he said, turning in the doorway.

‘I won’t,’ she remarked.

Then, before he could say anything else, she shut the door behind him.

Well, she thought, as she leant back against it, it seemed that she had escaped the clutches of one wealthy man, only to fall foul of another. But with this difference, that Mr Montmerency had wanted something of far more value than her stateroom.

Why was it wealthy men thought they could buy everything? she wondered. Why would they not accept that some things were simply not for sale? But there was no use worrying about it, particularly when she had so many better things to do.

First of all she wanted some refreshment, and then she must find some paper and write to Mrs Wichwood. She wanted her landlady to know as soon as possible that she had escaped.

The first class corridors were narrow but well lit, and she had no difficulty finding her way back to the public spaces. Once there she called to a steward and asked him where she could find refreshment.

‘The Café Parisien is not far from here,’ he said, giving her directions.

‘Thank you,’ she said.

She headed towards the café, only to see the unwelcome sight of Mr Hutton heading towards her. Beside him was a gentleman with dark hair, fashionably slicked back to follow the contours of his finely-shaped head. High cheekbones and a square chin gave a decided look to his face, and there was something in his carriage which suggested he was used to command. His body was contoured with muscles that she could just see defined beneath his lounge suit. His clothes were expensive, showing evidence of
tailoring, and Emilia guessed at once who he was: Mr Carl Latimer.

At that moment he saw her. There was some talk between him and his man, and then he started walking towards her with a purposeful air - although walking was hardly the word for it. He was stalking her.

Ignoring him, she carried on her way towards the staircase, meaning to pass Mr Latimer by, but he moved to intercept her, blocking her path with his large body.

She stepped to the side.

He countered.

She stepped to the other side.

He countered again.

Then, inclining his head, he said, ‘Miss Cavendish. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Latimer. Carl Latimer.’

He smiled, and his lips parted to reveal even white teeth. Though he was dressed in fashionable and expensive clothes, there was something predatory about him, a suggestion of ruthlessness that made it easy to believe he would succeed where other men would fail. She guessed at once that his money was not inherited, but made. He had none of the ingrained poise of a gentleman born and bred, for despite his appearance of being civilized, beneath the surface there lurked something untamed. And yet for all that, she was not frightened of him, as she had been frightened of Mr Montmerency. So instead of trying to sidestep him again, she looked him in the eye and said coolly, ‘Please stand aside.’

His smile widened, as though he appreciated her challenge. But he did not do as she asked.

‘In a minute,’ he said.

His voice was low and cultured, but beneath it she could detect a faint trace of a rougher accent.

‘I understand you took exception to my man’s visit this morning,’ he went on. ‘I would like to apologize for his intrusion, and for anything he said which might have upset you. It was not my intention to cause you distress, I assure you.’

His words were politeness itself, but beneath the politeness was a strong will which was almost palpable.

‘If you will excuse me . . . ’

She trailed away meaningfully, but he did not stand aside.

‘Miss Cavendish, I would like to speak to you about —’

‘My stateroom. I know,’ she interrupted him, feeling the sooner she brought the interview to an end the better. There was something distinctly unsettling about Mr Latimer. ‘But I am afraid I have no intention of relinquishing it. I intend to make use of it for my journey to
as arranged.’

‘Miss Cavendish,’ he said, with a slight hardening of his eyes - extremely dark eyes, she noticed, the colour of rich chocolate - ‘I am a very wealthy man —’

‘So your man informed me,’ she interrupted him. ‘It must be very pleasant for you, but it has nothing to do with me. Now pray stand aside, so that I might carry on my way.’

‘You’re right. This is no place to be holding a conversation. I’ll escort you to the library and we can discuss the matter there,’ he said.

BOOK: Titanic Affair
9.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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