One Night in Budapest
City Nights, Book 20
Ebook ISBN: B01C7U3FBG
[ Contemporary New Adult Romance, MF ]
After an unexpected break-up, Hermione’s in Budapest alone. Determined to make the most of it, she goes on a night-time river cruise, the perfect opportunity to see the city’s beautiful sights after dark. She meets Emil, and what follows is an unforgettable night which will transform her life forever.
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.
Fortunately, she spotted a table tucked away at the back, and made for it. Taking the seat beside the window, she returned her attention to the view. Peering up at Buda Castle, perched imposingly on the hill, the funicular railway carrying people up and down the steep incline, she looked forward to seeing the building when it was full dark. Not just the castle, but also the citadel atop Gellert Hill, the Gellert Spa, the Fishermen’s Bastion, and, of course, the Hungarian Parliament building.
In spite of the stunning view, she sighed. Travelling alone hadn’t been the original plan. This long weekend was meant to be a romantic getaway for her and Stephen before they both went back to their respective universities at opposite ends of England to complete the final year of their degrees. He’d been acting weird in the run up to the Christmas break, and when they’d both arrived in their hometown and met up, he’d seemed odder still. Gentle questioning had gotten Hermione nowhere, so she’d just left Stephen to his strange mood, resolving not to let him ruin Christmas with her family.
Apparently he’d had the same idea. The day after Boxing Day, everything became clear.
“I’ve met someone, H.” He’d looked terrified and relieved all at once, and that had told Hermione everything she needed to know.
“And you love her?”
Taken aback by her blunt response, Stephen had opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, then nodded. “Yes. I’m so sorry.”
“Okay.” To this day, she had no idea how she’d remained so calm.
Or did she? How did one stay calm when breaking up with one’s boyfriend of three years?
Maybe if one hadn’t been as deeply in love as one thought…
Hermione shook her head, hoping to dislodge the unpleasant memories of the recent past. It didn’t matter now, anyway. It was over. She’d insisted on taking the trip to Budapest—mainly to spite him, so he couldn’t whisk his new girlfriend away on the romantic weekend break that she’d planned and booked. No way. If he wanted to romance his new woman, he could damn well organise it himself.
So here she was, making the most of it. Soon after arriving in the country, she realised she’d done the right thing—missing out on such a place would have been a travesty. From the start, the people had been wonderful—a middle-aged woman pointing her in the right direction at the airport so she could get transport into the city centre, and a man about her age helping her to lift her suitcase into the luggage rack when she got on the bus.
And now here was Emil—seemingly determined she should get the same happy hour offer as everyone else, despite being a solo traveller. Not that paying full price would have been much of a problem. Even for a student, the prices of, well, everything in Budapest were incredibly cheap. She’d wondered many a time if she was being undercharged for things in shops and restaurants, but apparently, you just got seriously good deals in the city.
Soon everyone was seated, and a tinny-sounding female voice was piped out of speakers mounted on the wall nearby. “Okay, everybody. Welcome on board the Hop-On, Hop-Off River Cruise, and thank you for choosing us. The tour is approximately two hours, takes a circular route, and is made up of three stops along the river. You may of course stay on board for the entire trip if you wish. From our position on the Danube River, you will see such sights as the Hungarian Parliament Building, the Fishermen’s Bastion, the Chain Bridge—which you can see now, of course—the National Theatre and much more.” She paused as the vessel fired up, waited until the initial roar of the engine died down, then continued. “We are beginning our tour now. Please enjoy yourselves, and if you have any questions or requests, please ask a member of staff. We will be pleased to assist you. Thank you.”
The speaker crackled as the microphone switched off, and almost immediately a low buzz of chatter and activity came from the other passengers. They retrieved cameras and maps and began admiring the scenery, pointing things out, nudging each other and laughing.
Trying hard to ignore the pang of loneliness in her stomach, Hermione pulled her own camera from her bag and turned back to the window. The glass would no doubt make reflections and cause her photos to be blurry, especially as the sky grew ever darker, but it didn’t matter. The images were for her own use, her own memories. Who cared if they were perfect, as long as months and years down the line, they made her smile?
They bobbed along, rocking only slightly. Slowly, on Hermione’s side of the boat, Buda Castle grew smaller, and the Elizabeth Bridge and the Citadel grew larger. On their return journey she’d be able to enjoy what was on the opposite bank of the Danube. For now, though, she began taking photos, admiring how the structures looked, particularly the sprinkling of snow atop Gellert Hill. It hadn’t settled on the lower ground, or on the Pest side of the river, which made things much safer and more pleasant when walking, but it was very pretty up in the distance and up high.
The Cave Church; Liberty Bridge; Gellert Spa… each lovely landmark passed by at just the right pace to allow her to click plenty of shots on the camera. Then, just as the architecture and buildings went from iconic to merely pretty, someone behind her cleared their throat.
She’d seen Emil approach in the reflection on the window—it seemed the reflection wasn’t always a bad thing—so she wasn’t startled. Turning with a smile, she said, “Hi, Emil. Everything okay?”
“Yes, thank you,” he replied, and held a small notepad and pen aloft. “I have come to take your drinks order.”
“Oh!” Bloody hell—she’d been so intent on sightseeing that she’d completely forgotten to look at the menu on the table. “I’m so sorry, but I haven’t looked yet. Do you want to come back in a minute?”
He shrugged. “I believe everyone else’s orders have been taken, so I can wait while you look at the cocktail list.”
“All right.” She flashed an apologetic smile and snatched up the menu. Skimming through until she spotted something she liked the sound of, she said, “I’ll have a Woo Woo, please.”
A little heat infused her cheeks at asking for something that sounded so utterly ridiculous, but Emil didn’t seem to notice. He was probably used to worse. After all, the menu also listed Sex on the Beach, Blow Job, Screaming Orgasm, Quick Fuck and Slippery Nipple as options. Woo Woo was nothing in comparison. She herself shouldn’t be quite so sensitive to the daft names—after all, she spent enough time out on the town with her university friends, who often sipped on cocktails, screaming with laughter as they told each other what they’d got. Hermione usually had drinks with non-embarrassing names —asking for a bottle of cider was no problem at all, even when stone-cold sober.
Emil made a note on his pad. “Very good. Would you like to choose your second drink now, or later?”
“Later, I think. Thank you.” That would, at least, give her time to peruse the options at a more leisurely pace so she could find something else she fancied that didn’t have a name with sexual connotations.
She couldn’t help wondering whether she would be bothered about that had Emil not been so attractive. Would she have been able to ask a woman, or a man she didn’t find attractive, for a Screaming Orgasm or a Quick Fuck without bursting into laughter or dying of embarrassment? As she watched Emil walk away, his backside tight and luscious in his uniform trousers, she figured she wouldn’t be able to find out the answer to that question any time soon. He’d clearly assigned himself to her table, probably to ensure she got her bargain drinks. Christ, if they got any cheaper, they’d be paying her to drink them.
Therefore, the way she saw it, she had three options: have another Woo Woo, find something else that didn’t have a smutty name, or suck it up and order whatever the hell she wanted, smutty name or not.
Shaking her head at her own silliness, she turned back to admiring the city as it floated by the windows. At least she had a little while to make up her mind—her first stupidly named drink had yet to come.