Locating the correct pier, Hermione pulled her ticket from her pocket and showed it to the girl welcoming passengers onto the boat. The girl—the badge pinned to her blouse giving her name as Reka—glanced at the ticket, and smiled. “Thank you. Please take a seat inside until the boat arrives. Enjoy your trip.”
With a nod, Hermione gingerly headed along the gangplank and boarded the vessel, wondering what Reka meant. Surely this was the boat? She shrugged, smiling at the other members of staff she passed, and followed the buzz of chatter to find the other passengers. Maybe it had been a misunderstanding, her meaning lost in translation or something.
Heading up a couple of steps to a bar room full of other tourists, she quickly took a seat at an empty table by the window. She’d have a great view of Budapest’s riverside highlights from here—and she was sure they’d look different again once night fell. Already the sky was darkening—it was almost four p.m. on a chilly January day.
She was so intent on admiring the Chain Bridge that she didn’t know there was anyone beside her until someone said, “Excuse me, madam? Would you like to take advantage of our special drinks offer?”
Turning to the source of the voice, her fluttering heart the only indication that she’d been startled, she smiled. “Maybe. What’s the offer?”
Her smile widened as she studied the man who’d spoken. He looked to be around her age—early twenties, and damn cute. Dark, slightly overlong hair curled on his head, deep brown eyes gave him an intensity that increased the flutters in her heart, and the dimpled smile he flashed as he replied lit up his handsome face. “It is happy hour. Two drinks for price of one.” He paused, looked at the empty seat beside her, then glanced over his shoulder as though checking if anyone was coming to join her at the table. “But perhaps you would only like one? Maybe I can see if yours can be half price…”
“It’s okay,” she replied firmly. “I’m going to be on the boat for a while, I’m sure I can manage two drinks. I don’t have to have them at the same time, do I?”
He shook his head. “No. I will be serving on the other boat in a moment, so I will look after you and your drinks to make sure you get special price.”
Immediately following his mention of an additional boat, a loud voice rang out. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are now ready for you to board the tour boat. Please be very careful while stepping from one boat to the other. As soon as you are all seated, we will begin the trip. Thank you.”
It was then Hermione realised that as she’d been gazing out of the window to one side, a smaller boat had pulled up alongside the one she was on. Everyone was getting up and moving to the staircase. “Thank you,” Hermione said, glancing at the man’s name badge. “Emil. I would absolutely like to take you up on your offer.”
He smiled, and she returned the gesture, only allowing the grimace to take over her face once she was out of his view. She was glad of any language barriers at that moment—hopefully it had prevented Emil recognising the blatant double entendre in her words, inadvertent though it had been.
As she emerged into the main space of the tour boat, she worried there wasn’t enough room for her and she might have to share a table with someone else. Not that it would be the end of the world, but over the past couple of days in the Hungarian capital, she’d become accustomed to her own company, even begun enjoying it. And the beautiful city had been more than enough of a distraction, in any case.