Brynne stalked into her stateroom, Carmen right behind her. “Don’t start, Carmen; I don’t need to hear it.” Brynne cut Carmen off before the other woman even had a chance to begin. “How could you do that to me?”
“Consider it a favor,” Carmen said. “You should be glad that I found you when I did.”
“I’ve never been so embarrassed,” Brynne said turning away from Carmen.
“Embarrassed?” Carmen balked. “I guarantee you’ll be more embarrassed if this mission fails because you got friendly with the locals. So much for established boundaries … ”
“I don’t need a lecture from you,” Brynne said.
“Yes, you do.” Carmen walked over to Brynne. “I should inform you that, as the senior agent on this mission, I do have the authority to temporarily relieve you of duty for the duration of the mission if I feel that you are jeopardizing the mission or are otherwise unfit for active duty. I won’t hesitate to do it, either. Understood?”
Brynne didn’t look at Carmen. She just stared straight ahead out the window. Carmen was right, Brynne knew, but admitting it was just so damn hard. “Yeah,” she said finally, her gaze still out the window.
“Stay away from Mr. Bratt,” Carmen warned.
At last, Brynne looked at Carmen. “I already told you that I can’t do that.” She walked over to the vanity and began to remove the pins from her hair.
Carmen followed her. She stood behind Brynne and began to unfasten her gown. “Yes, you can. And you will.”
“What if we have to work together again?” Brynne asked. “I can’t refuse to. It’s part of my cover, or have you forgotten.”
“I haven’t forgotten. But working together doesn’t require you to kiss him, now does it? Keep it strictly professional.” Carmen helped Brynne slide out of the dress. “And when you’re not working, keep your distance. Or you’ll be spending the rest of this mission in your stateroom with an unbearable ‘headache’.”
Brynne looked at Carmen behind her in the mirror. She had never before doubted the older woman’s sincerity, but the severe expression and the stern gaze that glared back at Brynne let her know that this was not the time to be bold and test limits.
Brynne arrived at the meeting point, the Grand Staircase, earlier than anyone else. She didn’t know how she was going to react around him anymore, now that she had been ordered to keep her distance from him. Technically, she would be working this morning as a tour guide. At least they would be leading different groups. She hoped that some passengers would show up early and that she could leave with her tour group before he even showed up. If she played her cards right, she might be able to completely avoid him. She only had one more day, less than 24 hours, left onboard this ship. Surely, she should be able to stay away from him for that long.
Fate wouldn’t have it that way.
“Brynne?” Jeremy appeared to Brynne after having come up from the lower decks. He walked over to her.
“Jeremy-Mr. Bratt – hello,” Brynne said.
“Mr. Bratt?” Jeremy questioned. “That’s awfully formal, isn’t it? You haven’t called me that since we first started working together.”
“I decided that it would probably be better to adopt more formality around each other, especially around the passengers,” Brynne said. “Remember, this isn’t a pleasure cruise; we are working, here. We must behave in a professional manner.”
Jeremy nodded. “Yes, of course,” he said. “I assume this is because of what happened last night.”
“Well, I don’t see an overwhelming need to discuss it,” Brynne said.
Jeremy smiled broadly, relieved. “You don’t know how happy I am to hear that. I thought that you might be angry with me.”
Brynne continued. “What would we have to talk about? We made a mistake, but now it’s over. We can correct it and move on.”
The giant smile on Jeremy’s face disappeared quickly as the passengers began to arrive for their tours. The morning religious services had just ended, and those desiring to tour the ship had gravitated immediately toward the Grand Staircase.
“Mistake?” Jeremy repeated. “Brynne—”
“Brynne, Jeremy – goodmorning to you.” It was Andrews, coming down the Grand Staircase from the deck above them. “I’m glad you both showed up early. I’ve got some changes for the tours, if you don’t mind.”
Brynne and Jeremy both followed Andrews as the three put a little distance between themselves and the passengers. “Of course, Mr. Andrews,” Brynne said eagerly. She was glad for the subject change. She was glad for anything that could distract her from Jeremy.
“I need the two of you to conduct the tour as a team,” Andrews said.
“A-a team?” Brynne asked.
“That’s right. The group I’ll be leading is small, but the group you’ll be leading is a bit larger,” Andrews explained. “I don’t want anyone to get lost or left behind, so I think it would be best if the two of you could work together to make sure your group stays together. That won’t create problems for either of you, will it?”
“I don’t see why it should,” Jeremy said.
Andrews smiled, confident his two protégés would have no trouble with this part of their job. They both knew this ship almost as well as he did.
“Bring them back here at the end of the tour,” Andrews instructed.
“Consider it done, Mr. Andrews,” Jeremy said. He looked the room over, and spotted some passengers approaching their position. He recognized them from the previous night; they’d been dining companions. Rose, her mother, Ruth, and her fiance, Cal. “Is that part of our group coming toward us now?” Jeremy asked.
Andrews looked where Jeremy was looking. “No, actually,” he said. “I’ll be leading Mr. Hockley’s party.” His eyes shifted to a different spot. With a slight nod in the direction, he said. “That’s your party there.”
Jeremy and Brynne turned to the group of 20 or so that had accumulated near the bottom of the staircase.
“Mr. Andrews,” Cal greeted jubilantly.
Andrews, Brynne, and Jeremy all turned at the sound of Cal’s voice.
“Mr. Hockley,” Andrews said. “Goodmorning.” He turned to Cal’s companions. “Mrs. DeWitt Bukater, Rose – Goodmorning. How was the religious service this morning?”
“It was quite lovely,” Ruth replied.
“You all remember my colleagues, Ms. Larence and Mr. Bratt,” Andrews said, stepping aside.
“Yes, of course,” Cal said. “You joined our party for dinner last night.” His brown eyes locked with Brynne’s, and Brynne automatically recalled the disagreement they’d had between courses the night before. She couldn’t hold it against him, though. He was a product of his environment and of the times. Most men probably felt exactly as he did concerning the matter of women working outside the home.
“Let’s get underway, shall we?” Andrews said cheerfully.
The tour wasn’t the painful event Brynne had thought it would be. It was hardly the case that she was alone with Jeremy, not with over twenty people constantly around them, always asking all sorts of questions about the ship.
And then they stopped at the gymnasium. Here, the gymnasium’s instructor, McCawley, took over for Jeremy and Brynne.
“Welcome, everyone, to Titanic’s state-of-the-art gymnasium,” McCawley began. “Here, you’ll find only the most advanced fitness technology available.”
Brynne and Jeremy remained near the door while the passengers encircled McCawley.
“We have to talk,” Jeremy whispered to Brynne.
“I thought we agreed that there was nothing to talk about,” Brynne whispered in reply.
“That was before I knew that you regarded last night as a mistake. Is that really how you feel?”
The door opened, surprising them both. Andrews stuck his head in. “Perfect timing,” he said. He opened the door wider and led Ruth, Cal, Rose, and the rest of their small tour group into room.
“Mr. Andrews!” McCawley said.
“I hope you don’t mind if we join in,” Andrews said.
“No, not at all. Please do.”
The small group joined the larger group in listening to McCawley boast about the devices in the gym.
Andrews turned to Brynne and Jeremy. “I trust everything has been well with your tour,” he said. “No major problems, I hope.”
“Everything has been running very smoothly, Mr. Andrews,” Brynne said. “In fact, we only have one more stop before we’re finished.”
“I knew my faith in you wasn’t misplaced,” Andrews said. He turned his attention back to the tour group, whose members had dispersed and were now milling about the gym. Some had hopped onto the exercise equipment, testing it out and experimenting.
Andrews studied his subordinates. He’d thought earlier that there was something amiss between the two of them, but he’d dismissed it as him looking for something were there was nothing to find. Now, though, he was sure that there was a disconnect between Brynne and Jeremy. The most apparent sign of it was the physical distance between them. Both had never looked so uncomfortable around each other before.
“Are you sure that everything is okay?” Andrews asked again. “There isn’t anything wrong that I should know about, or that I could, perhaps, help you out with?”
Brynne and Jeremy exchanged a brief glance. Then, Brynne answered for both of them. “No, sir,” she insisted. “We’re fine. At least, I am.”
“As am I,” Jeremy said.
Andrews didn’t believe either of them, but he let the matter drop. Co-workers had tiffs and spats all the time. Most likely, that was what caused the current rift between Brynne and Jeremy, Andrews concluded. As long as it didn’t affect their work performance, it wasn’t his place to meddle. They would get over it.
Andrews kept his eye on their progression around the room, and when he determined that their interest was beginning to wan, he decided it was time to move on.
“Well, looks like I’m off again,” Andrews said to Brynne and Jeremy. “I’ll see the two of you later.” He turned to address his group, which had made their way back to him. “The next stop on our tour will be the bridge. This way, please.” Ruth, Cal, Rose, and the others followed him out of the gymnasium.
Brynne grimaced internally. Once again, she found herself alone with Jeremy, who didn’t waste any time at all.
“Brynne please – we must talk,” he urged.
“I don’t think now is a good time, Mr. Bratt,” Brynne said icily.
“Will you please stop that?” Jeremy requested. “You’ve been calling me that all day.”
“Professionalism, Mr. Bratt. Professionalism.” Before he could protest, Brynne stepped forward and cleared her throat. “Ladies and gentlemen, we must be moving on now. If you’ll follow me, we’ll move on to the conclusion of our tour.”