Successful fashion designer Marina Artamova is determined to reunite her small family. Her orphaned nephew has vanished into the Russian welfare system, and her mission is his rescue.
After months of searching, Marina locates Stefan--but not before he's adopted by David Anderson, an American teacher. She books passage on Alexandra's Dream, the cruise ship David has chosen as a treat for the uncharacteristically reserved boy before taking him to the U.S. Marina is single-minded in her quest to gain custody of Stefan, despite the romantic ambience of the cruise ship and her undeniable attraction to David.
Marina and David have no idea that the boy's silence hides a secret about his parent's deaths...and that the man responsible will stop at nothing to keep him quiet.
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June 11, 2007
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Excerpt from From Russia, With Love by Ingrid Weaver
Piraeus, Greece May, nine months later
"THERE SHE IS, Stefan. Alexandra's Dream." David Anderson squatted beside his new son and pointed at the dark blue hull that towered above the pier. The cruise ship was a majestic sight, twelve decks high and as long as a city block. A circle of silver and gold stars, the logo of the Liberty cruise line, gleamed from the swept-back smokestack. Like some legendary sea creature born for the water, the ship emanated power from every sleek curve. Even at rest it held the promise of motion. "That's going to be our home for the next ten days."
The child beside him remained silent, his cheeks working in and out as he sucked furiously on his thumb. Hair so blond it appeared white ruffled against his forehead in the harbor breeze. The baby-sweet scent unique to the very young mingled with the tang of the sea.
"Ship," David said. "Uh, parakhod."
From beneath his bangs, Stefan looked at Alexandra's Dream. Although he didn't release his thumb, the corners of his mouth tightened with the beginning of a smile.
David grinned. That was Stefan's first smile this afternoon, one of only two since they had left the orphanage yesterday. It was probably because of the boat. According to the orphanage staff, the boy loved boats, which was the main reason David had decided to book this cruise. Then again, there was a strong possibility the smile could have been a reaction to David's attempt at pocket-dictionary Russian. Whatever the cause, it was a good start.
The liaison from the adoption agency had claimed that Stefan had been taught some English, but David had yet to see evidence of it. David continued to speak, positive his son would understand his tone even if he couldn't grasp the words. "This is her maiden voyage. Her first trip, just like this is our first trip, and that makes it special." He motioned toward the stage that had been set up on the pier beneath the ship's bow. "That's why everyone's celebrating."
The ship's official christening ceremony had been held the day before and had been a closed affair, with only the cruise line executives and VIP guests invited, but the stage hadn't yet been disassembled. Banners bearing the blue and white of the Greek flag, as well as the Liberty circle of stars logo, draped the edges of the platform. In the center, a group of musicians and a dance troupe dressed in traditional white folk costumes performed for the benefit of the ship's first passengers. Their audience was in a festive mood, snapping their fingers in time to the music while the dancers twirled and wove through their steps.
David bobbed his head to the rhythm of the mandolins. The musicians were playing a folk tune that seemed vaguely familiar, possibly from a movie he'd seen. He hummed a few notes. "Catchy melody, isn't it?"
Stefan turned his gaze on David. His eyes were a striking shade of blue, as cool and pale as a winter horizon and far too solemn for a child not yet five. Still, the smile that hovered at the corners of his mouth persisted. He moved his head with the music, mirroring David's motion.
David gave a silent cheer at the interaction. He hoped this cruise would provide countless opportunities for more. "Hey, good for you," he said. "Do you like the music?"
The child's eyes sparked. He withdrew his thumb with a pop. "Moozika!"
"Music. Right!" David held out his hand. "Come on, let's go closer so we can watch the dancers."
Stefan grasped David's hand quickly, as if he feared it would be withdrawn. In an instant his budding smile was replaced by a look close to panic.
David squeezed the boy's fingers and leaned in to give him a hug. He was tempted to scoop the boy into his arms and tickle him until he giggled, just the way he did with his nieces and nephews back home, but he knew better than to push things.