“This day,” Elliott said to a gull that sat on the railing of the cabin’s minuscule deck and pecked in a desultory manner at a bit of bread it had scavenged up somewhere, “is one of the longest I’ve ever known. It should most definitely be seven o’clock by now, shouldn’t it?”
The words spoken aloud shocked him into adding, “Not that I am looking forward to dinner with Alice, mind you. It’s just that I’ve been in the cabin all day, and I’ve written the amount I set myself to write, and then some, and now I am hungry and thirsty and could do with a break. That’s all very reasonable, isn’t it, gull? It’s not as if I’ve been wishing I could have gone with the others to see the windmills. I’ve seen windmills. Once you’ve seen four or five, you’re really at the limit of windmill appreciation, and nothing further can be served by seeing more.”
Except the fact that a little fresh air and exercise is good for the creative processes. And he might have been able to explain to Alice any signs that were in Dutch.
Guilt twinged at him when he thought of her. “I don’t fancy her,” he said, sitting down in a wobbly plastic chair and putting his feet up on the rusted railing. The gull, not in the least bit frightened of him, hopped along the railing to peck hopefully at his shoes. “Oh, she’s nice enough to look at. More than nice enough, quite pleasant, as a matter of fact. No, it’s not that I couldn’t fancy her given half the chance, but she’s so . . .” He waved a hand in the air. The gull cocked his head and watched him, clearly expecting treats. “. . . so spontaneous. You didn’t see, but she just asked me out to dinner as if I’d been hoping for it. Which I haven’t. Hell, she was Patrick’s girl! I’d never poach on a friend’s girl. Although Patrick made it quite clear that he’s done with her, so if I wanted to, it would be within my rights to do so.”
He fell silent, absently watching the gull nibble on one shoelace. Why was he there, at that moment? Why hadn’t he gone back home once he found the cabin was occupied? Why had he accepted Alice’s dinner invitation when he had every intention of keeping her at arm’s length?
Dammit, he didn’t need a woman complicating his life, and he certainly didn’t need a spontaneous, erratic woman who evidently acted on every whim, and who took so much joy in simple things.
“She’s never been abroad,” he informed the gull, who attempted to consume his shoelace despite the fact that it was attached to his shoe. “Look how excited she got about seeing a bunch of windmills—poor woman is desperate to soak up all the local color, and she’s stuck with this motley group. I could have gone with them, could have shown her around, let her see the interesting side of Holland rather than a dry, uninteresting visit to a collection of moldy windmills. I could have gone with her today, and written during the night, while she was sleeping.”
The memory of her snoring gently into her pillow the night before made him smile. She certainly had been exhausted, and although he had expected to find her presence in the cabin an irritation, it had been just the opposite—he had written late into the night, strangely comforted by the sounds of her sleeping just a few feet away.
“Right,” he said, shaking his head and getting to his feet. The gull squawked his protest, and flapped his wings. “Those are borderline stalker thoughts. I refuse to be interested in her. She’s on the rebound, and vulnerable, and it would be ungentlemanly to express any sort of carnal thoughts about her. I will simply accompany her to dinner, and then let her go her own way without my attentions.”
He held on to such noble thoughts until the last few hours dragged past, most of which he had spent writing. When he finally did escape his laptop that evening, he found himself on the dock watching as Alice hurried toward him. Her walnut-colored hair trailed after her like a banner, the gauzy material of her dress molding to her body with the gentle caresses of the wind. He suddenly wished he was that wind, then reminded himself of the fact that he wasn’t interested in her, at least not in a physical way.
“Your Majesty!” she bellowed, waving her arm in the air in a manner guaranteed to attract attention. He sighed as several tourists, on the way to and from their own ships, paused to look curiously at him.
“She’s deranged,” he told the nearest group. They nodded and moved on.
First in a new series!
From New York Times bestselling author Katie MacAlister comes a series about finding your own wonderland—through one roadblock at a time…
Nothing about Alice Wood’s life is normal right now. Her fiancé, Patrick, called off their wedding and relationship only days before their nonrefundable wedding trip. And though a luxurious European river cruise for one is just what she needs, it’s not what she gets…
Due to a horrible misunderstanding, Alice is now cramped in her “romantic” suite with one of Patrick’s friends. Instead of cruising along the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers sipping champagne with the love of her life, she’s navigating the waters with a strange—yet mysteriously handsome—British aristocrat.
An author, Elliot is just looking for some alone time to write. But his stodgy, serious self is about to be sidetracked by a woman who seems to have jumped out of the pages of a fairy tale, one who is determined to shake up his life…and include him in her own happily ever after.
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