Anthem of the Sea

By: Thom Collins

Book one in the Anthem series

An ocean of possibility. For love, revenge and murder.

Daniel Blake, a handsome young singer, boards the Atlantic Anthem in Portugal for the final voyage of her maiden season. The state-of-the-art ship is the jewel in the Royal Atlantic cruise fleet. For Daniel, a one-time boy band member and TV talent show winner, it’s an honor to perform on board such a vessel. Daniel loves the freedom and adventure of the sea. He began his solo career as a cruise ship entertainer and returning to the ocean as a headline act brings him full circle. He isn’t looking for love.

Neither is comedian Elijah Mann. Working at sea has given Elijah’s career the boost it desperately needed. Often considered too good-looking and sexy to be funny, he’s found work hard to come by since his TV show was canceled. With a potential new career opening up, he must remain focused. But when Elijah meets Daniel the attraction is mutual and instant. As the ship sets sail for England they have three days to get to know each other. Elijah can’t let that opportunity pass.

The voyage home is far from smooth. Also on board is a figure from Daniel’s past. A man who’s been holding a grudge for years, waiting for his moment. As a storm builds in the North Atlantic, Daniel and Elijah discover that the trip of a lifetime could be their last.





Prologue





Sunday morning



The cry went out at one in the morning. An urgent call to the bridge.

“Man overboard! Starboard side. Turn. Turn. Turn.”

Gale-force winds and fifty-foot waves had battered the ship since mid-afternoon and Captain Roman Rassimov was already on the bridge when the distress call came. A call dreaded by every captain at sea—man overboard. In twenty-seven years of service, this was his first. It had to be tonight, in this storm from hell.

Despite its three-hundred-fifty-meter length and one-hundred-sixty-seven-ton weight, the massive Atlantic Anthem turned swiftly in the violent ocean, aided by twin-propeller pods and four-bow thrusters. But it was no easy ride. In devastating winds and tremendous seas, the ship listed heavily on both sides as the swells tossed it as freely as a cork. Tables and chairs were overturned. Bottles and glasses smashed. Frightened passengers clung to any secure fixture to stop from going over.

Within minutes Captain Rassimov raised a call to other craft in the area, urging for help with the search and rescue.

By four o’clock, the area of low-pressure weather that had hounded the ship for fifteen hours pushed toward land and the sea conditions became more manageable. Spotlights were trained upon the waves and the captain deployed lifeboats to patrol the water level. A Norwegian cruise ship, coming back from a Mediterranean voyage, diverted from its course to join the hunt for the missing man.

As dawn broke around seven-thirty, a notice came back from one of the lifeboats. The man had been found.

A glimmer of hope flared in the captain’s heart. “Is he alive?” he asked, offering a silent prayer.

The wait for the response was interminable.

“Negative, captain. There’s nothing we can do. He’s stone-cold dead.”





Chapter One





The taxi collected Daniel Blake from the hotel on time. He liked that. Punctuality, efficiency and professionalism—three things he valued in all areas of his career. Be on time and be prepared—that had been his motto since he was fourteen years old. Fifteen years later, he continued to live by it.

He helped the driver load his gear into the trunk. There wasn’t much of it. When on the road, he traveled light with just a medium-sized case, a holdall and a suit carrier. He’d arrived in Lisbon the previous morning, disembarking from a cruise ship, where he’d performed for two nights. His shirts would need washing and his suit pressing before his next show. There was plenty of time.

He gave the driver directions to his designated cruise terminal and climbed onto the back seat. Thankfully, the air conditioning was running. Though it was late October, the outside temperature remained in the mid-eighties and it wasn’t even eleven o’clock. Last night he had heard some of the hotel staff complain about the weather turning cold, but for a boy like him, born and raised in the northeast of England, these climates were well above average. Back home, this would be a hot day in June or July.

It was a short drive to the port. Early in the day, but the streets were busy. Three massive cruise ships were anchored in the harbor, discharging thousands of eager tourists into the city. British, American, German, Japanese, they scurried through the streets, clutching backpacks and maps, keen to explore as much as they could of the historic Portuguese city in the few hours they had here.

Daniel smiled at their faces as they zipped by.

Lisbon, his last stop before home.

The car arrived at the port and within ten minutes Daniel stood beside the gangway with his luggage, waiting for the necessary security calls to be made that would allow him to board the ship. The enormous vessel towered above him, casting a huge shadow across the dock. The Atlantic was one of the biggest and most spectacular cruise ships in the world.

There were a lot of criticisms for super ships such as this. He’d heard them described as floating shopping malls, grotesque monstrosities and budget hotels at sea, but for Daniel there was something quite majestic about the craft and its design, to say nothing of the engineering that went into the construction of such a huge vessel.