Chapter One


June 15, 1912

Rose stood at the back of the church, trembling. At the front of the church, the organist began the notes of the wedding march.

Slowly, clutching her bouquet in her sweat-slicked hands, Rose started up the aisle toward Cal. She strove to control the shaking in her hands.

Why was she doing this? Why was she marrying Cal? That night, in the water, she had promised Jack that she would go on, that she wouldn't give up. But that was exactly what she was doing.

She didn't want to marry Cal. She still didn't understand why, after Cal had found her on board the Carpathia, she had returned with him to first class. Her mother had been overjoyed to see her, but she had still insisted that Rose go through with the wedding. Rose hadn't wanted to, but the joy in her mother's eyes had made her feel guilty. She remembered her words to her mother on the Titanic—"Oh, Mother, shut up!" "Good-bye, Mother."

Where would her mother be without this marriage? She had few skills. She knew little of the outside world. Ruth Bukater probably would end up working as a seamstress in some sweatshop, or worse. Rose had no choice.

As she walked up the aisle, she saw Cal watching her. To everyone else, he seemed the perfect gentleman, a noble man waiting for his fiancée, even after she had betrayed him with another man. Rose knew differently, though.

From the first, she had sensed that something was not quite right about him. He had always acted like a perfect gentleman in public, and, at first, Rose had wondered if her distrust of him was simply nervousness brought on by having had little experience with men. Her mother had thought him the ideal man, and had strongly encouraged Rose to accept Cal's proposal of marriage. When Rose had balked, her mother had informed her of their financial situation, impressing upon Rose that if she did not accept Cal's proposal, they were both likely to wind up on the streets.

Rose had been frightened of the prospect of poverty, and had finally accepted Cal's proposal. Cal's behavior toward her had changed almost immediately. Feeling that he had her under his control, he began to treat her like a possession, caring little for what she thought, mostly concerned with how others viewed them. When Rose had displeased him, he had taken to beating her—but only where no one was likely to see. At least, no one who had the power to do anything about it. Trudy had looked shocked at the bruises when she had helped Rose to dress, but Rose, too ashamed to admit to what was happening, had blamed the bruises on a fall from her horse, and had thereafter dressed herself after Cal had beaten her.

That hadn't been the end of it, though. During their trip to Europe, Cal had booked adjoining rooms for himself and Rose in several hotels. Because it was his money that was paying for the trip, Cal felt that he was entitled to more from Rose than a few chaste kisses, and had forced himself upon her.

Rose had tried to tolerate it, had even tried to please him, but Cal had seemed to relish causing her pain. After he had beaten her with his belt several times, Rose learned to keep quiet and just do whatever he wanted, stifling her cries of pain. Cal had insisted that he was doing it because he loved her, but Rose knew better.

After Cal had visited her in her room the second night on Titanic, Rose had had enough. The following night, as the rest of first class had been at dinner, Rose had tried to jump off the ship. Deep down inside, though, she had been grateful when Jack Dawson had shown up and convinced her not to jump.

It was Jack that she had learned to love, and Jack who had shown her that what happened between a man and a woman could be a wonderful, beautiful thing. Rose was glad that she had pulled him into the back seat of the Renault; at least once in her life she would be able to experience lovemaking, rather than rape.

Rose's thoughts returned to the present as she approached Cal. In just a few moments, she would be joined to him forever.

Rose's steps slowed. She looked at Cal, feeling as if she was seeing everything from a great distance—Cal's cool smile, her mother's beaming face, the bridesmaids clad in their lavender gowns. The heavy veil on her head seemed to weigh her down, the weight of the diamonds and pearls decorating it digging into her head. The Heart of the Ocean was heavy around her neck, an expensive bauble decorating an expensive possession. In just a few moments, she would belong to Cal, to be used and abused as he saw fit.

Rose stopped, her hands shaking. Frozen in place, she stared at Cal. She heard her mother hiss at her to get moving, but her feet seemed to be glued to the floor.

Suddenly, something inside her snapped. She couldn't do it! She just couldn't do it!

Dropping her bouquet, Rose whirled around. Lifting her skirts, she ran back down the aisle and out of the church. She could hear shocked voices echoing inside the building, could hear Cal shouting after her, but she didn't stop. Racing down the sidewalk, Rose ran around the corner, oblivious to the shocked stares of people on the street.

Her veil snagged on a bush. Stopping momentarily, Rose yanked the pins from her hair, letting the veil fall to the ground, then ran on. Her hair, freed from its perfect coiffure, whipped around her as she ran, but Rose paid it no heed. Heels clacking on the ground, she headed for home.