Christmas Hope

His fingers squeezed hers in a warm, comfortable handshake, and a spark of excitement shot up her shoulder.

How long since Josh’s touch elicited anything remotely as exhilarating as this?

“Hope,” she introduced herself. Then, after a tiny hesitation, she added, “Clark. Hope Clark.” There. She’d done it. Used her maiden name again and the world hadn’t collapsed in a tearful heap around her.

“May I buy you a drink, Hope Clark?”

“You may.” With that, she put a big, fat, Giuseppe-shaped tick next to Action Point Two on the list. Action Point Two, Meet Other People.

Action Point One had been Going On This Cruise As A Single Person. Originally, she had booked it as their tenth wedding anniversary celebration, a deluxe stateroom with a huge bed and a balcony, lured by the photo of a couple taking their morning coffee on their private sun-drenched deck. To Hope, the picture represented the very essence of contentment. A lazy day spent with the man she loved….

“Do you like Club Penguin?”

The question brought Hope back from her dreamland. “Pardon?”

“Club Penguin,” Giuseppe repeated. His voice, thick and rich, made Hope think of Christmas eggnog. “The bar on Level Eight. Shall we?”

She nodded. Didn’t care which bar. Tick the box next to Action Point Two, that’s all she wanted.

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