Love Overboard - By Janet Evanovich
Ivan Rasmussen swirled the last of his coffee around the bottom of his mug, looked past the prow of his ship to the sloping green lawn of Camden Harbor Park, and wondered for the hundredth time in the past two hours what the devil had happened to his cook, Lucy. She was never late. Until now. Now she was beyond late, and because she was his friend as well as his cook, he was worried.
He squinted at a flash of color and movement toward the top of the hill, and unconsciously let his mouth fall open at the sight of a young woman rolling down the grass embankment. She came to a spread-eagled stop when she reached the cement footpath at the bottom, and she uttered an expletive that carried across the short span of shoreline, bringing the first smile of the day to Ivan’s lips.
Stephanie Lowe, the woman Ivan had been watching, struggled to her feet, adjusted her battered backpack, and scowled at the grass stains on her knees. She was looking ahead to a whole week of cooking for Ivan the Terrible in exchange for free plumbing repairs to her bathroom. And if that wasn’t awful enough, she was the one who had to bring Ivan the good news that his usual cook was taking an impromptu vacation.
“Lord, I’m such a dope!” Stephanie muttered, smacking herself on the forehead, broadcasting her thoughts to all watching. Nothing like making a memorable entrance. If one more thing went wrong, she was going home. The heck with it all, she thought. She wasn’t crazy about this deal anyway. She’d seen Ivan only once, but he’d made a lasting impression on her. He was over six feet with gray-green eyes and strawberry blond hair. And at the time of their meeting he’d been all packaged up in a custom-tailored, navy pin-striped suit that had made him look more like a chairman of the board than the captain of a schooner.
Stephanie searched the crowded harbor for the Josiah T. Savage, gasping when she realized it was directly in front of her, tied to a floating dock at the end of the cement path. It would be the last of the windjammers to leave the harbor, she thought with an inward groan—late to leave Camden because it was waiting for its cook. Unfortunately, its cook had suddenly decided to get married. Double unfortunately, its cook was her cousin Lucy.
Lucy had provided her with a few vital statistics on the Savage. It was a windship. A tall ship. A hundred-year-old, two-masted, coasting schooner with seventy feet of deck length, carrying twenty-two passengers and four crew members on six-day cruises along the island- strewn coast of Maine. Lucy’s description of her captain had been equally brief. Ivan Rasmussen, she’d said, was better known as Ivan the Terrible because he was terribly handsome, terribly eligible, and terribly slippery. Stephanie had her own reasons for believing he was terribly rotten.
She took a quick survey of the ship and spotted Ivan standing on deck, coffee mug in hand, looking at her as if she’d just dropped off the planet Mars.
Get it together, Stephanie, she told herself. Life was filled with trade-offs. If you packed away a whole bag of cookies, then you had to wash them down with diet root beer. This was just another of life’s cans of diet root beer. Cousin Lucy worked as a cook on Ivan’s wind- jammer. That morning cousin Lucy had decided to run off and marry Stanley Shelton. Stanley Shelton was a plumber. Stephanie desperately needed a plumber. Simple, right? Cousin Lucy got a honeymoon, and Stephanie got a toilet. Okay, no problem. Piece of cake. There was no reason to be nervous. Ivan should be happy to have her aboard, she reasoned. Where else would he get a cook on such short notice? She was actually doing him a favor.
Besides, after what he’d done to her, he deserved to eat her cooking for a week. Anyway, how hard could it be? She’d just whip up forty or fifty peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and send all the passengers off to an island in the dinghy. It might even be fun—a week on the high seas with the wind at her back and the salt spray in her face. It was going to be an adventure. A new experience.
She approached the boarding ramp and looked up into Ivan’s eyes, deciding they seemed only mildly predatory, more curious than anything else, narrowed against