Cruising the Danube
Once Again, Book 9
July 19, 2023
“Mature romance at its best!” 5 Stars
“You have to look long and hard to find a writer who does romance and emotions better!” 5 Stars
The romantic Danube, the cruise of a lifetime, and two sisters who aren’t looking for love. But love just might be looking for them. Especially when they each meet sexy, irresistible silver foxes…
Cathe Girard is still struggling to come to terms with the loss of her husband, but all her beliefs are challenged when she meets the charming and magnetic Jack Kelly. Despite her attraction to him, Cathe is convinced her heart will always belong to her late husband. And she can never love again.
Still reeling from a bitter divorce, Celia Winters is on the lookout for a good time, determined to prove to herself that she still has what it takes to attract a man. When she meets the sophisticated and intriguing Gray Ellison, she finds herself irresistibly drawn to him. But even as they embark on a delicious fling, she remains convinced she can never trust another man with her heart after her ex-husband’s betrayal.
Amid the picturesque backdrop of the Danube, from breathtaking historic Budapest to stunningly beautiful Vienna, the two sisters find themselves torn between their fears and the undeniable pull of love.
Can they let go of the past and open their hearts to a second chance at love?
Let yourself be swept away on a journey of love, healing, and self-discovery in the later in life, second chance, holiday romance.
For those of you who loved Dancing in Ireland, you’ll once again enjoy Agnes, Declan, and Rose as they join Cathe and Celia on this cruise of a lifetime!
More in the Once Again series…
Dreaming of Provence
Wishing in Rome
Dancing in Ireland
Under the Northern Lights
Stargazing on the Orient Express
Memories of Santorini
Siesta in Spain
Top Down to California
Cruising the Danube
Beachcombing in the Bahamas
Cruising the Danube
©2023 Jennifer Skully
“Oh my God,” Celia said with an awe Cathe hadn’t heard in months. Not since Celia’s divorce a year ago. And probably not for a couple of years before that.
It was hard to drum up enthusiasm after the long flight. “What?” Cathe grumbled. They’d upgraded seats for extra legroom and better food, but it wasn’t first class, and she hadn’t slept. Since the plane had left San Francisco late in the day and they didn’t arrive in Budapest until late afternoon, she’d been up twenty-four hours.
“You have to see this view.” Celia waved her hand.
Cathe pushed herself off the bed, joined her sister at the window, and gasped at the breathtaking view that lay before them. All right, it was worth getting up.
Their corner room offered a magnificent view of the Hungarian Parliament Building across the Danube, its domes a deep burgundy against the evening sky. Matthias Church, gleaming in the setting September sun, was right next door to the hotel.
“Quick.” Cathe grabbed her phone. “We need pictures.”
Camera phones in hand, they snapped their first photos of Budapest, from the Parliament Building across the river, to Fisherman’s Bastion with its Romanesque lookout towers below their window, to the spire of Matthias Church and its unique mosaic roof tiles in mostly geometric patterns.
Celia grabbed her, hugged her. “I can’t believe we’re in Budapest and ready for our river cruise.”
They’d been planning the trip for months. “I thought it would never happen.”
Their hotel was on Buda Hill. Everyone called the Hungarian capital Budapest, but it was actually two cities, the Pest side and the Buda side, which was famous for its medieval castle. To the east on the Pest side stood the iconic Parliament Building she’d seen in so many photos, along with St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
“Too bad about the Chain Bridge.” Celia groaned. “We can’t even see the lions it’s so famous for.”
Below them, the oldest bridge connecting the east and west sides, lay covered in scaffolding, closed for renovations. They’d wanted to walk across it, probably with a million other tourists. Instead, they’d have to cross the Danube over either the Elizabeth Bridge to the south or the Margaret Bridge to the north.
Entranced by the views, Cathe sighed out her pleasure. “It’s so amazing to see it for real. I never thought we’d make it.”
The last couple of years have been tough for them both.
Her husband Denny had died of a heart attack two years ago. Two whole years. It didn’t seem possible.
But she couldn’t think about that now. They were here to enjoy themselves, and she wouldn’t go down the rabbit hole of grief. Not here, not now.
“I’ll be right back.” Celia headed to the bathroom, leaving Cathe with the view.
Celia, being the amazing sister she was, had planned this sisters-only cruise, along the Danube from Budapest to Vienna to Germany and a lot of small towns in between. She’d insisted Cathe needed to get away. They would have gone last September, a year ago, if Celia’s marriage hadn’t imploded.
Celia and her husband Bart had problems long before Denny died. They didn’t fight, but there was a lot of passive-aggressiveness between them. The issue came down to the biggie, sex. Bart didn’t want it anymore, Celia did. It was supposed to be the other way round, right? The woman hits menopause and loses her interest. But not for Celia. And quite frankly, it hadn’t been that way for Cathe either.
In her opinion, Bart and Celia should have divorced years ago, but they’d stayed together for the kids. Now all three of her nephews were well-adjusted adults. And hopefully they’d learned a thing or two about marriage and what they didn’t want. Cathe could only hope.
The marriage had ended when Celia discovered Bart was having an affair with his former girlfriend from college. They’d reconnected and had been carrying on hot and heavy for six months. While he was claiming he wasn’t interested in sex anymore, he’d been diddling his first love, his only love, Celia had decided.
She’d been livid, devastated, broken. And humiliated. When Celia got angry, she went for the jugular, and she’d taken Bart for everything he was worth, which was a lot since he was a partner in a firm of over one hundred lawyers.
They’d postponed the trip while Celia took Bart to the cleaners.
But they were here to forget. Not that Cathe would ever forget Denny. He was the love of her life. She almost lost herself when she lost him.
But he wouldn’t have wanted her to shut herself away in their house for the rest of her life. And she was doing her best by coming on this cruise with her sister.
Putting her phone down, Cathe stood at the window really seeing the amazing view in front of her eyes. The Fisherman’s Bastion—built as a fortification that was never actually used—lay below with its splendid statues and steps leading up to a promenade that ran atop its colonnade.
She made out the form of a man seated on a step beside the fountain, another man leaning on a walker two stairs above him. Though she could see nothing of the seated man’s face, she imagined the two were close, maybe father and son.
The sight reminded her of Denny. He’d taken such good care of his father who’d eventually succumbed to Alzheimer’s. He’d been a good son, a good father, a good husband.
She blinked away tears as Celia strolled out of the bathroom where she’d fixed her makeup. “Let’s get something to eat. I need—” Celia groaned, fisting her hand in her blouse. “—a champagne cocktail.”