Authors: Amanda P Grange
Tags: #Man-Woman Relationships, #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #General, #Titanic (Steamship), #Love Stories
Fortunately, she stopped herself just in time.
‘There’s no need to be in such a hurry,’ he said, his eyes searching her face as he took her by the shoulders, steadying her, for she had not quite found her balance after running into him.
‘No. Of course not.’
Only now did she realize how strange she must have looked, running along the deck as though the devil himself were after her. Which was not so very far from the truth . . . But still, it was no way to behave on an ocean liner.
She glanced instinctively over her shoulder to reassure herself, and was relieved when she could see no sign of Barker. The smoke from the funnels, blown by the wind, still obscured much of the poop deck, but in the ribbons of clean air in between she could see only empty deck.
He must have gone below. He would not want to provoke an open confrontation in front of witnesses, and as long as she could avoid him until she left the ship she should be safe.
She turned back to Mr Latimer . . . only to find that his eyes had followed hers and were now sweeping the deck.
‘Has someone been bothering you?’ he asked, turning to look at her in concern.
‘No.’ Her voice wobbled slightly, but she hoped he would not notice it. ‘Why do you ask?’ she asked, with what she believed was an expression of unconcern.
He looked at her searchingly, then said, ‘No reason.’
She was relieved. She did not feel up to explaining the situation to Mr Latimer. She did not know him well enough to trust him. He continued to hold her gaze, however, and she began to feel uncomfortable, but fortunately he seemed to accept her word and offered her his arm.
She took it gratefully. She was still a little out of breath from running, and the stitch in her side had not yet gone, so she was glad of his support. And not only for his support. The feel of his muscles through the fabric of his coat gave her a feeling of his strength, and she found it reassuring to know that he was by her side.
‘I’m glad I’ve found you,’ he said, as they went up the steps that led from the aft deck to the first-class deck.
He opened the gate for her at the top, then stood back to let her through. He followed her, closing the gate behind them, then once more offered her his arm.
‘So am I,’ was her heartfelt reply.
She bit her lip as soon as she had said it, but fortunately he didn’t seem to notice her fervent tone of voice and he let it pass.
He made a few commonplace remarks, commenting on the weather and the size of the ship as they went back inside and headed towards her stateroom, but to her relief he did not seem to expect any kind of reply. Once they reached her stateroom, however, he dropped his pretence of cultivated courtesy and instead of leaving her at the door he said, ‘Now, why don’t you tell me what this is all about?’
‘All what?’ she asked, swallowing, as she turned to face him.
‘You’re shaking like a leaf. Something’s upset you and I want to know what it is.’
‘It’s nothing. I’m cold, that’s all, that’s why I’m shaking. But I am below deck now, and will soon be better. Thank you, Mr Latimer, you have been most helpful.’
Her words had been intended as a dismissal, but when she went into her stateroom he followed her.
She turned to face him, and fixed a polite smile to her face.
‘Mr Latimer, I’m grateful to you for the loan of your arm, but I’m afraid I must ask you to leave,’ she said.
‘All right, I will . . . ’
She felt herself relax.
‘ . . . just as soon as you tell me what’s bothering you,’ he finished.
‘Nothing’s bothering me,’ she said.
‘Yes it is. What happened out there?’ he asked.
‘Nothing,’ she said, unconsciously rubbing her hands together. ‘I told you. I was shaking because of the cold.’
‘Because you went out without a coat?’ he asked.
‘And why did you do that?’ he challenged her. ‘It’s April. No one in their right mind would take a walk on the deck without a coat and hat, which means you didn’t intend to go outside. Something happened to you —’
‘No, I do assure you . . . ’ she said, turning away from him and walking across the sitting-room to the fireplace in an attempt to hide her agitation: she had thought she could fool him, but it was proving to be impossible, and the more he persisted the more uncomfortable she became.
She felt rather than heard him cross the stateroom behind her, then he took her by the shoulders and spun her gently to face him.
‘The truth,’ he said.
His voice was soft but insistent, and as he looked into her eyes, she knew she must make an effort to break away for him. If she did not, she would end up confiding in him, and that was something she did not want to do, because if she told him what had happened it would leave her exposed.
‘Mr Latimer, it’s none of your business,’ she said firmly, stepping back, out of arm’s reach.
‘I’m making it my business,’ he returned.
He let her go, but his eyes still followed her.
‘Really, it was nothing,’ she protested.
‘Then why are you still on the ship?’
She raised her eyebrows. ‘What do you mean?’
‘You were supposed to disembark at Queenstown, but you didn’t get off. The ship docked, then once the mail had been unloaded and the passengers had disembarked, it set off again. It left
a quarter of an hour ago.’
?’ she gasped.
‘The ship has left
. It is heading for
She couldn’t believe it. But a glance at the clock on the mantelpiece showed her that what he said was true.
She was devastated. All her plans had gone awry. She had been lost for much longer than she had realized, and she was now trapped on board
. Even worse, she was trapped with Barker, and she would not be able to get off until they reached
‘It must have been something pretty bad to make you lose all track of time like that,’ he went on.
‘Yes . . . no . . . ’ she stammered.
He walked towards her and put his finger under her chin, lifting it so that she was looking into his eyes.
‘You’re still shivering.’
There was something caring in his voice that made her heart stand still. It was mellifluous. Deep and rich, she found it hypnotic, and against her will she felt herself weakening.
‘I’m . . . ’
‘And don’t tell me you’re cold. The stateroom’s heated, and I won’t believe you.’
‘Mr Latimer, do you always cross examine your fellow travellers?’ she asked, stepping back and trying to make light of things, though inside she was almost at her wits’ end with worry.
‘No. My fellow travellers rarely interest me. But you do.’
The stateroom seemed suddenly too small. Despite the fact she had taken two steps back he still seemed alarmingly near. He was not a very tall man - no more than five feet ten or five feet eleven inches - but his personality was so large and his presence so strong that it seemed to fill the room. She had never met a man like him before. He annoyed her and exasperated her, but at the same time he set her nerve endings on fire.
Taking a hold of herself, she felt she must give him some explanation for her nervous state. Not the real one of course. Confiding in him would make her vulnerable. And vulnerable was one thing she did not want to be around Carl Latimer.
She straightened her shoulders and smoothed her skirt, then said, ‘I lost my way. I wanted to explore the rest of the ship before leaving it, and somehow I found myself in steerage. I tried to find my way out again, but the corridors were all the same and I became anxious. I twisted and turned, trying to find my way up on to the deck, before realizing I was lost.’
‘And you were worried about being unable to find your way back to first-class in time to get off the ship?’ he asked, looking into her eyes as though he could read the truth written there.
‘Yes,’ she said.
She returned his gaze. It was, after all, partly true, even if it wasn’t the whole truth.
Whether he believed her or not she could not tell, but he said no more. Which in a way was worse, because she could no longer concentrate on her conversation with Mr Latimer and was instead forced to think of her terrible predicament.
‘If the ship has already left
then I have no choice but to remain aboard,’ she said, sinking into a chair.
‘No. Like it or not, you’re bound for
‘My poor godmother. When I don’t arrive at her house as arranged she will be sick with worry. I have no way of letting her know what has happened. Oh! It is too unfortunate.’
‘It’s not as bad as you think,’ he said, pulling up a chair and sitting down opposite her. ‘There’s a telegraph office on board the ship —’
‘A telegraph office?’ she asked in surprise. ‘On board
He nodded. ‘Yes. You can send a message to your godmother and let her know what has happened.’
She felt a huge flood of relief.
‘Oh, thank goodness. As long as she knows I’m safe, she won’t need to worry.’
‘Would you like me to show you the way?’ he asked.
A part of her wanted to refuse his offer but another part of her was wary of wandering round the ship alone. She did not know where the telegraph office was, and she did not want to run into Barker again.
He looked at her curiously.
‘Is anything wrong?’ she asked.
‘No. Not really. It’s just that I didn’t expect you to agree so easily.’
‘Why not? It’s very kind of you.’
‘Yes. Kind,’ she said.
He looked puzzled, as though he found her difficult to understand. Nevertheless, he offered his arm, and together they went to the telegraph office.
It was a hive of activity. Passengers were queuing to send messages to their friends and families, and Emilia had to wait her turn. At last she was able to compose a simple telegram to her godmother, explaining that a mishap had prevented her from disembarking at Queenstown, but promising that she would wire again from
when she knew what her new date of arrival would be.
‘It was fortunate for me that you were walking on deck when you were,’ she remarked, as they left the office.
‘There was nothing fortunate about it. I was looking for you,’ he said with a wry smile.
‘Oh?’ she enquired.
Then suddenly she remembered the circumstances of their last meeting, and she bit her lip as she recalled how she had meddled in his mother’s affairs, thereby causing that poor lady to collapse on the stairs.