Disclaimer: These characters and this narrative are mine, so there is nothing to disclaim in this here story.  You will need an open mind to read it, though.  If you find something you think needs disclaiming, you are more than welcome to let me know.  It won’t change anything, but it may make you feel better.   Ugliness will earn you a smack to the back of your head.

 

Thanks: To my truly awesome Beta Team.  Thanks to Carol, Marsha, Phil and Liz for the editing and for the questions, comments, steering and encouragement.  You guys ROC!

 

Special Thanks: To the webmistresses who have to put up with my funky, pain-in-the-ass formatting and post my stories anyway. J

 

Author’s Note: This story is not part of the Valiant Series.  It is a stand alone story with two completely new characters.  The Storyteller’s Cardinal Rule is in effect.

 

 

Most Cherished Dreams

By D

 

 

Prologue: Once Upon a Time....

 

April 1847

 

Journal entry: I had the dream again last night, and I am beginning to go mad because of it.  Those eyes surround me and invade my soul, and yet I cannot find them when daylight strikes the Earth. 

 

Papa has agreed to take me on the next voyage.  Perhaps I will find what my soul seeks there.

 

 

 

September 1851

 

Journal entry: I found eyes similar to the ones I have spent a lifetime searching for, but they were not the eyes that belong to me.  It was mostly by accident I think, and I tried to warn the man away from my ship.  He didn’t seem put off that I was a woman, the Captain, nor the fact that we bore flag of a pirate ship.  If I did not know better, I would say he was relieved to have found us.

 

The man, Michael, spent quite some time on board as if he were searching for answers to an unknown riddle. He must have been satisfied with what he found, for when he left us, he was in much better spirits than when he arrived. 

           

I am glad he found his answers, if he did.  His last comment to me has made me a bit unsettled, and has strengthened the resolve of my search.

 

“You will find her, for she will come to you in due time.”

 

How could he know what haunts my dreams?

 

 

 

May 1853

 

Journal entry: The dreams grow increasingly more frequent.  I cannot imagine what I did to anger God in such a way so as to be cursed like this, for I had these visions long before I took to the seas.  And the priest assures me that what we are doing is not wrong in the eyes of God.

 

I almost dread the nightfall, and yet I eagerly embrace it as well, for I know that there I will find comfort in her arms.

 

She has become more clear to me as time has passed.  Green eyes, the color of the grass in what was once my home.  Golden hair that reminds me of the treasures that abound in these waters for those who know where to look.  A lithe body, muscles that speaks of hard work and softness addressed by womanly curves.  All of this I see, and still her face remains hidden, except for those eyes that have haunted me since I was a child.

 

I wonder if she dreams of me as I do of her.

 

 

 

June 1855

 

Journal entry: Something has changed, and for the first time in my life I feel a true sense of anticipation for the future.  Could it be our time has come at last?

 

Even the men have noticed the change, and go about their tasks in a brighter frame of mind.  Who can blame them... it seems as though we have been in this stretch of ocean for hundreds of years, instead of the few months we come this way every so often.  Truth be told, we have been here more often than usual, just because I feel the need to be.

 

I have hope now, for whatever reason.  I will find her.

 

 

 

Chapter I

 

October - Twenty Years Ago

 

“Are ya sure about this, Jack?  We can’t afford to be wrong.”

 

“I’m tellin’ ya, Mike.  It was the three-masted cutter of the legends.  I couldn’t make out the name, but there were people on board, Mikey, and they looked like pirates from two hundred years ago.”

 

“C’mon, Jack... we both know that there’ve been no pirates in those waters in a hundred years. You keep talking crazy like that, they’ll lock you up and throw away the key.”

 

“Mike, I saw the pirate banner.  I saw the cannons.  I saw HER.”

 

Now Mike got serious.  “Did you get the coordinates?”

 

Jack nodded.  “Oh yeah.  Wanna guess?”

 

“The Triangle?” Mike sighed.  He closed his eyes at Jack’s affirmative nod.  “Did she say ANYTHING?”

 

“Not a word.  She searched the area over two week period then disappeared into the mist.”

 

“Was there a pattern to the search?”

 

“Amazingly, yes.”  He unrolled a map out into the table, then place a grid on top of it.  “I didn’t think a pirate would be quite so methodical, but....”

 

“Daddy, what’s a pirate?”

 

The two men looked up at the question, and Mike smiled at his little girl.  Little five-year-old Hannah was the bright spot in his world.  Beautiful, with honey colored hair and bright green eyes, she was the spitting image of the mother who had died giving her life.  He opened his arms, and Hannah giggled as she ran to jump up into them.

 

“How’s Daddy’s angel today?  Did you have fun in school?”

 

“Oh yes, Daddy.  It was the mostest fun.  We colored and pasted and played hide-n-seek and....”  Mike laughed joyously at his daughter’s enthusiasm.  She reminded him so much of her mother, and though it was still sometimes a very painful reminder, he found great joy in that fact as well.

 

“I’m glad you like school, sweetheart.  Say hi to Uncle Jack.”

 

The five-year-old squealed.  “UNCLE JACK!!”

 

“Hiya pumpkin!  How’s my favorite niece?”

 

Hannah did the best grown up imitation she could manage snuggled up in her Daddy’s arms.  “Uncle Jack, I’m your ONLY niece.”

 

Jack Reilly laughed.  “That’s true, cutie.  I brought you something back from my trip.”

 

“Yea!!  Is it from the pirates?”

 

Both men looked startled at the question.  “Um, no.  But it is your very own piece of paradise.”  He handed her a conch shell.  “Hold it to your ear... like this.”  He demonstrated what he meant.  “You can hear the ocean.”

 

She did what he said, and the green eyes grew wide with amazement.  “Wow!  Daddy, can I go show Katie?”

 

“Sure sweetie.  I’m sure Mrs. O’Shea wonders where you are.”

 

Hannah smiled and kissed him before he set her firmly on the ground.  She ran to Jack and threw her arms around his neck, kissing him as well.  “Thanks, Uncle Jack!” she said before she left at a run for the next-door neighbor’s house and her very best friend in the whole wide world with her shell clutched tightly in both fists.

 

“Well, if the routine holds true, we have ten years to work on this puzzle.  After almost one hundred and fifty years of mystery, I don’t think waiting until tomorrow to start working on it is gonna make a difference.”

 

“I know you’re right, Jack.  I just...  can’t explain it really.  I need to solve this.”

 

“We will brother.  We will.”

 

 

 

September - Ten Years Ago

 

“Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust,” the minister’s voice intoned solemnly.  There were quite a few people gathered at the graveside, but the young woman sat alone by the casket.  The minister finished his benediction, and took Hannah’s hand to mutter a few final words of comfort.  She waited in silence for him to finish and nodded, willing him to leave her in peace.

 

The crowd began to disperse and still Hannah Reilly sat quietly by the casket.  Katie and her family stood by respectfully, waiting for her to say her final goodbyes.

 

“Daddy, I hope you finally found what you were looking for when you died.”  She closed her eyes and drew a shuddering breath before continuing.  “We haven’t been able to reach Uncle Jack yet, so I’m going home with the O’Sheas for now.”  A sob shook the small frame, and Katie started forward, only to be held back by her mother.

 

“Give her another minute, Kate.  I don’t think she’s done yet.”

 

“I love you, Daddy.  And I’m really gonna miss you.  Maybe I should have told you about the dreams.  You might have understood them, or at least... well, anyway.  Give Mama a real big hug and kiss for me, okay?  I’m glad you have each other again, ‘cause I know you’ve missed her.”

 

Hannah stopped talking and remained seated for another long minute.  Then she wiped her eyes and rose, nodding to the waiting funeral director.  She moved toward the O’Sheas.  Katie met her halfway, and Hannah gratefully returned the embrace she found herself in.  Her best friend topped her by four or five inches, and she found herself tucked under Katie’s chin while the curly auburn hair tickled her nose.

 

“I’m glad you’re coming home with us, even if it’s just til your uncle gets home,” Katie said softly.  “It’ll be nice to have another girl in the house.”  Hannah just smiled.  She knew Katie idolized her three older brothers and they doted on her.

 

“Are ya ready then, Hannah?”

 

“Yes ma’am.  Thank you for....”

 

“No need to thank me, dear,” Sarah O’Shea cut in smoothly.  “You’ve always been a part of the family.  We’re glad to have ya for as long as you’d like to stay.”

 

Tears welled in the green eyes again, but Hannah refused to let them fall.  Instead, she nodded slightly, and gave Sarah a watery smile.  The portly woman smiled back at her, and patted her graying red hair when a breeze blew through the graveyard. 

 

“C’mon, now,” Sarah continued.  “Let’s get home before it rains.”

 

Shamus had brought the car around to them and they all piled in and shut the doors just as the bottom fell out.  “Do you know when you should hear from Jack again?” the man questioned in the silence.

 

“No sir.  I thought he and Daddy were together, but apparently they split up to do some more research on the Triangle.  I expect to hear from him within the next two or three days, though.  He’s always been real good about calling me faithfully once a week whenever he’s been away on business or what have you since I was seven.”

 

“That’s good then.  You are always welcome in our home and in our family, you know that.  But I think he needs to know what happened.  It’s time they gave up that damned fool hunt.”

 

The last statement caught Hannah’s attention.  “Do you know what they were looking for, Uncle Shae?”  The children had always referred to the adults in this manner.  Hannah didn’t miss Sarah laying her hand on Shamus’ arm, nor the deep breath he took before answering.

 

“They were chasing a ghost, little bit.  They were looking for a legend.”

 

“Why?”

 

A simple question with no simple answers.  Shamus shook his head.  Sarah looked at Hannah compassionately.

 

“They felt it was important.  We were never really given any enlightenment on the subject.”

 

Hannah nodded, accepting the explanation, unsatisfactory as it might be.  She had questions for her Uncle Jack when he got home.

 

 

 

May - Five Years Ago

 

“I can’t believe you’re going to graduate with your Master’s degree a year before I even finish my Bachelor’s!” Katie good-naturedly complained.  Hannah had become more driven upon her father’s death, and that energy was channeled into her studies.  And her dreams... but those remained her own little secret.

 

Jack had returned home immediately once he got the news, but it was agreed that Hannah would remain with the O’Sheas whenever he was out of town. And after his brother’s death, that seemed to happen a lot more often.  Still he was good to Hannah, and doted on her as much as he could, and he made sure she always knew how precious she was to him.

 

He never told her precisely what he and her father had been working on when Mike was killed.  They had agreed early in Hannah’s life that this part of the family history was something she would need to discover for herself, if and when the right time for her to know ever came.  Shortly after Mike’s death, Jack put out a book on the Mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle, and he let her believe that the research that had gone into the publication was what had caused her father’s death.  Truth, as far as it went... just not the WHOLE truth.

 

So the time had come for Hannah to walk a second time.  She had already published two young reader books, and had a daily syndicated column in newspapers around the country.  Her future was quite bright, and she chuckled at the frustrated tone in Katie’s voice.

 

“Well, Katie, if you’d focus a little harder on your studies, and a little less on the parties....”  She let the thought trail off, then caught the pillow aimed for her head.

 

“Uh huh....  Well, someone has to have your share of the fun, since you don’t ever seem to have any.  I worry about you sometimes, working so hard.  What are you looking for?”

 

Green eyes turned inward for a minute at the suddenly serious turn in the conversation.  “I am trying to find where I fit, Katie.  I don’t feel like I belong here.”

 

“Hannah, we all feel that way sometimes.  But it seems to be the only thing that motivates you.”

 

Hannah shrugged.  “Maybe it is.  Sometimes the feeling is so overwhelming, I feel like I should be searching for my way home.”

 

Katie wrapped an arm around the Hannah’s shoulders.  “You’ll find it.  I have faith.”

 

Hannah stood on tiptoe and pressed her lips to her best friend’s cheek.  “Thanks, Katie.  I love you.”

 

“I love you too, hon.  Now,” changing the subject to lighten the discussion, “When is Jack coming into town?”

 

“Um, tonight, I think.  Uncle Shae is picking him up at the airport.”

 

“Cool!  Family reunion!  Cause you know the boys are coming too.”

 

Good... my kind of party!”

 

Katie rolled her eyes, but smiled inwardly.  She was glad to see Hannah excited and enthusiastic about something other than school or work for a change.  Maybe it was an indication of better times to come. 

 

 

 

June - Present Day

 

Katie whirled into the room, holding the wedding dress in front of her.  Her long auburn curls streamed behind her, and she giggled like the schoolgirl she hadn’t been for years now and looked at Hannah.  Her brown eyes twinkled in pure happiness.

 

“What do you think of this one?  Do you think Frank will like it?”

 

“Honey, Frank isn’t going to be looking at the dress,” Hannah remarked with a teasing grin.  “If you want my honest opinion, I like this one the best,” holding up a dress that had been tried on several dresses before.  “It suits you beautifully.”

 

“Do you really think so?”

 

“I agree with her, sweetheart,” Sarah said.  “And you know Hannah has always had been honest about how things look.”

 

Katie chuckled, remembering some of Hannah’s less-than-tactful, but frightfully honest comments she had been the recipient of through the years.  “Well, now that’s true.”  She looked at her blonde friend.  “Do you remember the green and pink Mohawk and that ugly red and purple raincoat I had?  And your comment when you saw them for the first time?”

 

Hannah laughed, and Sarah chortled.  “Um, yes.... though I’m sure now I could come up with a better way to say ‘that sucks’ than that.”

 

“I dunno,” Katie answered, still chuckling.  “That was actually pretty effective.”

 

They moved over to the bridesmaid’s area, and each of them took a different rack and began looking through the selections.  As a joke, Katie held up an outrageous feathered purple sequined number.  Hannah just raised an eyebrow. 

 

“I’m not auditioning for a part in ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’.”

 

Both of the O’Shea women squealed and Katie hung the dress back up.  “I want to know who would wear something like that.”

 

The saleswoman muttered as she passed them with an armful of clothing, “Some things are best left as a mystery.”

 

Three sets of eyes got big at the implication, and they turned their attention back to the racks.  Sarah found the next offering... a bright blue lace creation.

 

“I’m not sure the maid of honor should have on more lace than the bride,” was Hannah’s only comment.

 

“Good point,” Sarah answered as she hung it up again.

 

“What about this?”  The blonde woman held up her selection.

 

It was a simple sleeveless sheath in a blue-green satin that complimented both her tan and her eyes, deepening them and bringing them out beautifully. 

 

“Yes,” was all Katie said, and within minutes, their shopping was complete and the two friends were headed out to lunch together.

 

“I’ll see you girls at home,” Sarah called to them as she left them alone to catch up.

 

Once they were seated, Katie took up the conversation again.

 

“I’m so glad you were able to come home for this,” she said to Hannah solemnly.  The blonde woman ducked her head, acknowledging the gentle, unspoken reprimand.  As soon as she’d gotten her Master’s degree, Hannah had moved to the city and only rarely had come home for a visit.

 

“You know I wouldn’t have missed it.”

 

The waiter approached and conversation halted while he took their drink orders and gave them the day’s specials.  Katie waited until he was out of hearing before she spoke again.

 

“I know, but we’ve missed YOU.  Phone calls just aren’t the same.”

 

“I know, and I’m sorry.  I just....”

 

“Are you still having the dreams?” When Katie had come to see her after graduation, Hannah had finally shared with her a tiny bit about the dreams that she’d had since was a child.  The blonde head nodded, and she sighed.

 

“Yeah, and the more vivid they become, the less comfortable I am in my own skin, in my job, in my life.  And it seems to be worse here.”

 

“I’m sorry, Hannah.  I didn’t know.”  Katie clasped her hands over Hannah’s on the table.  “I wish there was something I could do to help.”  She paused briefly, then took the plunge.  “Ya know, Patrick still....”

 

“I know, Kate, and I love Patrick, but like a brother.  Besides, I am not comfortable with me.  How could anyone else be?

 

“I think you’re selling yourself short, hon.  I mean look at you.  You are a gorgeous woman, a successful author... and by the way, I recognize a few of the adventures Trudy and Evan have in those stories.”

 

Hannah laughed.  “I’ll bet you do.”

 

“Ahem,” Katie cleared her throat.  “ANYWAY... I should have said successful, award-winning author.”  Here the blonde woman simply blushed and lowered her head in acknowledgement.  Katie reached across the table and lifted her chin.  “Don’t be ashamed of your work, my friend.  I cannot tell you the number of ADULTS I know that read your books.  That is something to be proud of.  Not to mention the column that runs in how many countries now?  You are flourishing.”

 

The food arrived right then, and Hannah sighed.  The waiter refilled their glasses then left them in peace again.

 

“That is just my point, Katie.  I have everything.  I have lovely friends who keep in touch with me regardless,” and she gave the other woman a sheepish smile.  Katie smiled back broadly.  “I am thriving in my chosen profession, both of them, and have been recognized for my work.  I have a comfortable bank balance and a nice place to live, and still....”

 

The waiter returned, topped their glasses again and placed a carafe on the table, then left without another word.  Katie made a mental note to tip him well for his discreteness.   Hannah swallowed the bite of food and resumed her thought.

 

“Still, Katie, I don’t feel right.”

 

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean, Hannah.”

 

“I have never felt like I fit here, in this time and this place.”  She chuckled sardonically at herself.  “Don’t get me wrong.  I love my technology and my creature comforts, but it has always seemed a bit foreign to my nature.” She sighed in frustration.  “I really can’t put into words very well what I am trying to say.”

 

“That’s okay, hon.  I think I understand what you are getting at.  Almost like your karmic cycle is out of sync.”

 

Green eyes widened.  “My God, that’s *exactly* what I mean.”

 

Katie laughed.  “See I *did* pay attention in some of those classes.”

 

The blonde woman joined the laughter.  “I’m sure Aunt Sarah and Uncle Shae will be thrilled to know their money was well-spent on your education.”

 

“I’m not sure I would go that far, but....” She paused and selected a bite of chicken.  “Hannah, is there... someone... special in your life?”

 

It was silent for a time after that as the two women continued to eat while Hannah considered her answer.  “No, not really.  I’ve tried dating, but those eyes... they... I can’t find them, and they are the key to... everything, Katie.”

 

“You’re that sure, hon?”  Hannah kept her eyes locked on the brown ones across from her, and Katie saw the conviction in them before the blonde nodded her head.  “All right, then.  I have faith that when the time is right, you’ll find them and you’ll know.”

 

Hannah smiled.  “I’m glad one of us does.”

 

“Oh I do.  And probably when we all least expect it.  Now,” taking the check and adding the extra tip for the waiter, “Let’s go get some ice cream.  By the time we walk the two blocks to get there, I’ll have room.”

 

“Katie,” Hannah intoned seriously, “There is ALWAYS room for ice cream.”

 

************

 

“So, Hannah, are you ready to go through the house?  I think it’s time.”  Jack and Hannah were sitting in the old house that had been locked up for quite some time.  Jack had taken an early retirement seven months earlier, and had moved down to the islands he had visited so much.  It was more like home to him that his brother’s house had ever been, no matter how welcome he had been.

 

She sat curled into one corner of the couch with her hands loosely clasped together around one knee.  She missed her Uncle Jack, though they still talked regularly on the phone and communicated by email almost every day.  He looked better than he had in years though, and she was glad to see that retirement was agreeing with him so well.

 

“I think you’re right, Uncle Jack.  I can take some extra time off after Katie’s wedding.”  She paused and swallowed.  “Will you stay and help me?”

 

“You bet, darlin’.  I was hoping you’d ask.  I don’t think anyone should have to do this kind of thing alone.”

 

“Thanks, Uncle Jack. Um, how long can you stay?”

 

“I am my own boss.  I can stay here as long as you need me here.”

 

“Well, I have five year’s worth of vacation, comp and sick time I can draw on, so that gives me more than six months to work with.”

 

“Six months?!?  My Lord, girl... how the hell’d you manage that?”

 

“Oh, it’s easy when you don’t take vacation and you cover most of the major holidays.  So I think I am due some time off.  I have columns to cover six or eight weeks, so maybe I’ll take a month off.”

 

“You think it’ll take a month to clean this place out and get it ready to sell?”  Jack didn’t think his brother was THAT big of a packrat, but one never knew til they started cleaning.

 

Hannah chuckled, and the older man smiled at the happy sound.  It wasn’t one he got to hear all that often anymore, and sometimes he missed the bright-eyed child she had been.

 

“Um, no.  I don’t think it will take more than a week.  I was hoping maybe you’d let me invite myself down to your place for some time in the sun.”

 

And so it begins....  Jack thought to himself solemnly.  Aloud he said, “I think that is a great idea, hon, and I’d love the company.  I’ve missed you.”

 

“I’ve missed you too, Uncle Jack.”

 

************

 

The following day was the rehearsal, and the girls of the wedding party decided to spend the time before the rehearsal itself shopping.  Their first stop was a lingerie store, and amazingly, everyone found something scandalous they just had to have... except Hannah.

 

“C’mon Hannah.  You gotta get something outrageous.  Get into the spirit!”

 

The blonde woman took her friend aside.  “Katie, who am I gonna wear this kind of stuff for?”

 

Katie rested her forearms on Hannah’s shoulders and smiled down at her.  “Do you remember the talk we had yesterday?  I told you I have faith, so you need to be prepared.  Cause it’s gonna happen.”

 

Hannah smiled back at her, and gave her a quick, hard hug.  “Have I told you lately just how wonderful a friend you are?”

 

“Yes, but I don’t mind if you keep telling me.”  Hannah swatted her on the butt, and Katie squealed.  “Don’t you be getting fresh with me, missy,” she teased.  “I’ll have you know I am an almost married woman!  Now,” returning the swat, and pushing Hannah in the direction of the lingerie, “Find something

wickedly shocking.”

 

Green eyes twinkled mischievously.  “I think I can manage that,” she replied.  What she found didn’t have the material of a thong bikini, and the rest of the girls shrieked when they saw it.  It reminded them that their next stop was for swimwear, and away they trooped to the next store on their list.

 

This excursion elicited even more howls and screams as they went though some of the most interesting material scraps that were considered bathing suits.  Katie held up one that couldn’t have had more than a hundred threads to it.

 

“Where’s the rest?  It doesn’t cover anything.”

 

“I don’t think it’s supposed to,” Finola commented with a chuckle.

 

“My question is, why bother?  I mean really... what is the point?” Rebecca asked.  “May as well walk around bare ass naked.  At least then you don’t have to worry about tan lines.”

 

Hannah picked up a thong bikini that had enough material in the top that she wouldn’t pop out at the slightest intake of breath, and enough material in the bottom that she wouldn’t have to shave completely.  It helped matters that it was a cute tropical print.

 

“What about this, guys?”  She held the garment up for inspection.

 

“Hey, that’s cute!”

Niiice!”

“I like that one!”

 

Those and several other murmured comments answered Hannah’s query, and she smiled, pleased with the reaction.  She took her find to the counter.

 

“Um, Hannah... where are you gonna wear that?”  This from Katie.

 

“I thought I’d wear it to the pool at the complex.”  She waited for Katie’s eyes to go wide before she lost her composure and broke into laughter.  “You’re so funny.  I’m gonna go visit Uncle Jack after we get the house closed up and ready for sale.  I thought I’d wear it on the beach.”

 

Katie took a good long look at the suit, then Hannah’s behind, then back at the suit.  “Well, at least you have the ass for it,” was her only comment.  She had to cover her mouth with her hand to keep from howling at the expression on Hannah’s face.

 

Lunch was an interesting, high-spirited affair, and the entire restaurant smiled at the laughter that flowed from the table of women.  The afternoon offered more shopping, and when rehearsal time rolled around, five very tired women were hauling themselves into the church. 

 

Mary muttered to the rest as they crossed the threshold, “Next time we sit by the pool.” 

 

“It’ll be someone else’s wedding,” Katie said.  “’Cause I’m not doing this again.”

 

The group laughed and they set themselves for rehearsal.

 

************

 

The wedding was a beautiful affair, and by the time the bride and groom took their leave, everyone was in a state of happy exhaustion.  Jack and Hannah were among the last to leave, having helped the O’Shea’s to clean up once the reception was over.  There were quite a few willing hands to make the work lighter, and the caterer was surprised to see so many pitching in to get things wrapped up.

 

In short order, everything was done, and the Reillys were headed back to their home.  They dropped onto opposite ends of the couch and kicked off their shoes simultaneously.  Then green eyes met gray, and they broke into quiet, tired laughter.

 

“Guess you can tell we’re related, hmm?” Hannah commented.

 

“Maybe just a little,” Jack answered.  “It was a nice wedding, but damn... I’m beat.”

 

“Me too, but I’m glad I was here for this.  I think Katie and Frank will be happy together.  He’s been in love with her since we were kids.”

 

“What about you, little Hannah?”

 

“What about me, Uncle Jack?”  She looked directly at him.  “I’m not involved with anyone, if that’s what you’re asking.  Which makes this hysterical in the extreme,” indicating the bride’s bouquet she’d caught as Frank and Kate were leaving.

 

“Why not, Hannah?  You’re beautiful, pleasant and altogether charming and yet you remain alone.”

 

“So are you Uncle, and I don’t see an aunt around here,” she replied, turning the tables on him, and seeing the slightest hint of shadow cross his face.

 

“I couldn’t have the one I loved, and I wouldn’t settle for less,” he stated quietly but firmly.

 

“Neither will I, Uncle Jack.  I just haven’t found mine yet.”

 

“When you do, hold tight.  It’s not something you ever want to lose.”  He spoke with finality and she nodded, seeing clearly the remembered pain in his eyes and wondering at its cause. 

 

“C’mon,” she said, rising from the couch and bending over with a moan to pick up her shoes.  “Let’s go to bed.  We have a lot to do in the morning.”

 

“Isn’t that the truth,” the man replied with his own groan as he stood.  “I’ll start in my room.  At least I know what is there... mostly.”

 

“That sounds good,” Hannah answered as she started up the stairs.  I don’t have very much in mine, so I’ll start in the attic.  That by itself will take a bit.”

 

“Good, we can work out the rest as we come to it,” Jack said as they reached Hannah’s room.  He leaned over and brushed his lips across her cheek, and she returned the gesture with a hug.  “Good night, my dear.  Sleep well.”

 

“You too, Uncle.”

 

And the house settled into quiet for the night.

 

************

 

“Holy Moses!” Hannah exclaimed as she peeked her head into the large attic space.  It was much bigger than she remembered it being, and there seems to be a lot more... stuff.  She stepped into the room, and flung open the windows.  “I think I’d better go get some more coffee,” looking down at the single mug in her hand.  “Maybe I should bring a thermos.”

 

Several minutes later, she could hear Jack still chuckling at her when she headed back up the stairs.  The she heard his footsteps behind her and turned to see him coming up behind her.  She moved into the attic, and allowed him room to enter the space.  He looked around, and his jaw dropped. 

 

“Tell ya what, honey.  I’ll help you do this first.  I didn’t realize there was such a mess up here.”

 

“Thanks, Uncle Jack.  Me either, actually.  You want left or right?”

 

They were pretty well evenly matched with things, and Jack couldn’t even tell what most of it was.  “Doesn’t matter, really.  Six of one....”

 

“True.  Okay, you start there, I’ll start here.” 

 

They turned on two small oscillating fans and opened the windows on either end of the room to encourage air circulation.  Then silence settled around them for a bit as each tried to determine the best place to start, then beginning to set things into different piles for disbursement.  Occasionally, they would find pictures or such, but even those memories were set aside in the desire to get done with their task.  By lunch, they had made a considerable dent in the attic and worked up quite a sweat in the process.

 

“My God, “Jack griped as they moved a few of the picture boxes into Hannah’s room.  “I didn’t realize they had so much up there.  So much that belonged to Mama and Grandmother.”  He set the boxes carefully down.

 

“Are you sure you don’t want to keep some of this stuff, Uncle Jack?”

 

“Sweetheart, I told you.  You go through and pick out what you want to keep, then send me the rest.”

 

“All right.  I just don’t want you to miss out on what should be yours.”

 

“Nope, not a problem.  Now let’s go get some lunch.  I’m starving.”

 

************

 

It took the rest of that day and most of the next before they finished in the attic.  Hannah ended up with two trunks and several boxes of pictures and mementos that she was slowly sorting through in the evening.

 

Jack finished with his room while Hannah tackled the study, and when he joined her after lunch the third day, he found her sitting in the middle of the floor surrounded by books, cradling her head in her hands.

 

“You okay, sweetheart?”

 

“I was just thinking how much I miss my Daddy.  So many of my memories of him are tied into this room.”

 

“Do you want me to do this?  You want to go do the kitchen or his bedroom or...?”

 

“No, I think I need to do this.  But you can sure stay and help me if you like.”

 

“I like.  A lot of my memories of him are wrapped up in this room too, ya know.”

 

“Yeah, I guess they would be.  Ya’ll did a lot of your research together here.”

 

“Yep, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to ship any books you don’t want to the Island.  We’re a fairly small community, and I’d like to start a library in his name.”

 

“Oh, I like that idea, Uncle Jack.  And I think he would too.”

 

************

 

It took them two days to do the study, and Hannah only kept a handful of books out of the hundreds that were in the room.  Jack smiled to himself at her choices, but didn’t say anything to her otherwise.  The kitchen, living room and her father’s bedroom had already been mostly done, so by the end of the sixth day things were pretty much packed up.

 

“I’m tired,” Jack said plaintively as they sat in a favorite restaurant.

 

“I can totally sympathize,” Hannah replied, before turning and waving the O’Sheas over to join them. 

 

“My goodness, the two of you look beat,” Sarah said bluntly as she took a seat.  Shamus scowled at her.

 

“Now, Sarah....” he began, but she cut him off.

 

“No Shamus.  It’s true.  So you are both gonna let the girls and me come over tomorrow and help with the cleanup, right?”

 

Hannah and Jack looked at each other.  “You don’t have t....”

 

“I know we don’t dear,” Sarah said, patting Hannah’s hands gently.  “But it’s the right thing to do.”

 

“Well, then,” Jack answered heartily, “We accept with alacrity and thankfulness.”

 

Sarah chuckled.  “There are days, Jack Reilly, when I’ve suspected you of being a poet.”

 

“Not me.  I’m just a dream chaser.  It makes me... verbose.”  He cleared his throat.  “Tell ya what.  We’ll all help get it cleaned up tomorrow, and then I’ll treat the entire gang to pizza and beer for lunch and the Driftwood Restaurant for dinner.”

 

Shamus looked at Jack solemnly.  “Well that will get the boys here for sure.  They never miss an opportunity to eat there, even if it requires a jacket and tie.  You sure you wanna do that?”

 

“Yep.  I’d like to get this finished, and I’ve always enjoyed eating there myself.  We have a shipper coming in the morning to pick up the boxes that I am sending home and that Hannah is keeping.  Otherwise, everything else can be taken out tomorrow, and we can turn the keys over to the realtor on Monday.”

 

“Sounds like we have a plan then,” Sarah commented.

 

“Yep, except for deciding what we want for dinner tonight.”  Shamus’ observation made them look at their menus, and conversation turned to other subjects.

 

************

 

Monday morning arrived and so did the realtor.  Hannah was surprised to see Mary standing on her doorstep.

 

“Hi, Mary!  C’mon in.  I’m sorry I can’t offer you coffee or a place to sit,” motioning to the empty house, “But I’m waiting for the realtor, and then I’m headed back to the city.”

 

“I’m the realtor, Hannah.  Richard gave me the listing this morning.”

 

“Wonderful.  Then I know the house is in good hands.”

 

Mary smiled warmly.  “I already know of several couples who might be interested in the property.”

 

“Really?  I didn’t think....”

 

“Oh yes.  I wouldn’t be surprised to have an offer on the table by the end of the week.”

 

“Wow, so soon?”  At Mary’s enthusiastic nod, she continued, running a hand thru her hair.  “Um, wow,” she repeated.  “Um....”

 

Mary placed a concerned hand on her arm.  “Hannah, are you all right?”

 

“Uh, yeah.  Just surprised, I think.  I didn’t think it would be so quick.  I’m gonna be out of town for a couple weeks on the Island with Jack.  Is that gonna cause a problem?”

 

“No, I can still reach you out there.  Besides, while I wouldn’t be a bit surprised, it may take a while.  Sometimes it does.”

 

“I’m sorry, Mary.  I didn’t mean to freak out on you.”

 

“Not a problem.  You didn’t really freak.  I kinda broad sided you.”

 

“Well, I sure didn’t think about it selling quickly until then.  But that is a good thing, I think.”

 

“As long as you don’t forget about your friends here.”

 

“I don’t think Katie or Aunt Sarah would let me get away with that even if I wanted to.”

 

Mary laughed, remembering some of their escapades together as children, and unconsciously rubbing her backside.  “I think I can agree with that.” 

 

They laughed, and Hannah gave Mary the keys, taking one last look around at what had always been home to her.  Then without glancing back, Hannah stepped out and firmly closed the door on her past, and headed out to find her future.

 

 

 

Chapter II

 

It was a four-hour drive back to the city, and Hannah was just a little tired when she pulled into her garage beneath the building where she lived.  The doorman recognized her car, and came to see if she needed help getting her things in.  She’d made friends with Harry when she’d moved into the building three years previously, and the older gentleman had always made an effort to extend every courtesy he could to the young woman.

 

“Hello, Miss Hannah.”

 

“Hi Harry.  How was your week?”

 

“Very quiet.  Mrs. Jenkins’ cat got out again, and Mr. Mark had to take Dolby to the vet.  Miss Christa passed her audition, and Mr. And Mrs. Andrews left for a month long tour of Alaska.  Otherwise,” he stated as he reached for her suitcase, “it’s been dead around here.”

 

“Well, I’m leaving this afternoon for a two week vacation.”  Harry’s eyes widened, but he didn’t show any other sort of surprise.  Instead he held the elevator doors open for her and stepped in behind her.  He swiped his key, and the lift began its long climb to the top floor.

 

“Good for you, Miss Hannah.  You’re due for a bit of fun.”  He paused.  “Oh, before I forget... two trunks and a couple boxes arrived for you on Saturday.  I had them delivered to your living room as you instructed.”

 

“Thanks Harry.  I have to catch a shuttle to the airport at six.  Can you call them for me please?”

 

“Surely.  Will you need help with your bags?”  The car stopped and the door slowly opened into her penthouse apartment.  Harry brought her bag in and set it by the couch.

 

“Thank you Harry.  I don’t think so.  I am going to se my Uncle Jack in the islands, and I don’t think two or three swimsuits will make for very much luggage.”  She smiled at him, and he returned it with a light chuckle.

 

“No ma’am, given what I’ve seen of bathing suits these days, I would be inclined to agree with that observation.  But if you find yourself taking more than that, you let me know, and I will be up to collect it.”  He tipped his hat at her, and stepped back into the elevator.  “Have a nice day, Miss Hannah.”

 

She smiled and gave him a little wave as the doors closed on him.  Then she looked at the trunks and boxes, and sank into the couch with a moan.  “Oh, geez, I’m tired.”

 

She lay there in a half doze for about half an hour before her stomach reminded her that it was noon and time for lunch.  She slid off the couch and padded to the kitchen.  Then she snorted in disgust when she realized she’d cleaned the refrigerator out before she’d left for her long weekend.

 

“Well, I suppose that’s to the good, actually, since I stayed a week,” she grumbled to herself as she grabbed the phone and a takeout menu for the deli at the curb.  “And that means I don’t have to do that before I leave this afternoon.  Guess I should call Charlie though.”

 

She called the deli first and gave her name to Sally, who promised her usual would be downstairs in fifteen minutes, then Hannah hung up so she could dial her editor.

 

“Jones.”  The voice was gruff and Monday morning harried.

 

“Hi, Charlie.  It’s Hannah.”

 

“Reilly, are you sure you need to take a vacation?  I need you here.”

 

She chuckled soundlessly.  Charlie was severely lacking in the humor department on Mondays, and Hannah didn’t want to make things worse for her or anyone else by laughing aloud.  Still, the plea was not unexpected, and Hannah found it mildly amusing that Charlie was so predictable.

 

“Charlie, you don’t need me.  You need my work.  And I am sending you the next month’s worth of columns to you by courier.  You’ll have them by three this afternoon.”

 

“Honey, I will always need you, and why are you sending me a month’s worth?  You’re only supposed to be gone for two more weeks.  I’m not sure things will stay on course without you here.”

 

Hannah knew that Charlie had always had a bit of a crush on her, but her editor had never crossed the lines of friendship they’d both set up for themselves when their association developed beyond purely business.

 

“Sure they will, Charlie.  You’re good at keeping everything together.  Besides, I figured you’d be more comfortable having the columns there as opposed to locked on my hard drive.  I have another month’s worth there.”

 

“Okay.  You’re right.  I *would* feel better about having them here.  But don’t you go and do something stupid that makes me have to use them, all right?” 

 

“I’ll do my best Charlie.  It’s just a vacation.  My most exciting plans call for an emergency trip to the corner store for sunscreen when I run out.”

 

Finally Charlie laughed.  “That sounds good.  Relax, and have a good time, huh?  You’ve earned it.”

 

“Thanks, Charlie.  I will.  And who knows... maybe I’ll come back with material for a novel.”

 

Harry brought her lunch up shortly thereafter, and she sat down in front of one of the trunks.  The first one, the red one, she’d already gone through.  It had been filled with pictures and mementos that her grandparents and great-grandparents had saved... some of it dating back to the mid 1800’s.  There was one in particular that almost... well, it was familiar in a way it couldn’t possibly have been, since it had been taken more than a hundred years before she had even been born.

 

So she slowly lifted the top of the blue trunk and peered inside.  Her eyebrows rose at the compartmentalization of the contents.  There were stacks of shoeboxes, each neatly labeled with names and dates. Hannah picked up each box and read the content’s description before neatly setting each one to the side.  Towards the bottom of one side, she came to a flat box that took up the entire half of the trunk.  She paused and reached for it, hesitating briefly when she saw its only description was “Pirates”.

 

“What the hell?” she muttered to herself.  “I always did wonder what Daddy and Uncle Jack were talking about.”  Her curiosity got the better of her, and she grasped the box in both hands and drew it out gently.  Moving to the sofa, she sat and raised the lid, then sat and stared at the contents.

 

The first thing she noticed was the map and grid she’d seen on her father’s table all those long years ago.  There were several pictures, hard to make out, but with the vague outlines of a ship.  There were other photographs of different spots in the water, Hannah assumed.  She turned them over, and noted that each had a longitude and latitude written on them in Jack’s clear firm hand.  At the very bottom was a thick notebook, and Hannah remembered having seen it on her father’s desk many times during her childhood.

 

She opened it reverently, and noted that there were several different handwritings on the pages.  Her father’s she recognized, as well as the notes that Jack had made, but the rest....  Some of it was very old, and she was intrigued.

 

“Guess I’ve found my vacation reading,” she commented to herself.  She put the diary aside, and moved back to the trunk, smiling as she got to pictures and memories she’d remembered making.

 

Hannah spent the remaining time before she left looking at the photographs she’d found.  She tucked a few carefully away to give to Jack, and went to pack her bag.

 

She did take a bit more than three swimsuits, but not much.  And she wasn’t at all surprised to hear the elevator coming up at five minutes of six, nor to see Harry standing in the doorway.

 

“The shuttle is here, Miss Hannah.  I told the girl you’d be right down.”  He looked at the bag on the floor.  “Is that all you’re taking?”  He hefted the bag, a little surprised at the weight.

 

“Yep, that’d be it,” she answered, looking around one last time to make sure everything was set.  “I can carry it, Harry.”

 

“I know you can Miss Hannah, but it is my pleasure to do so for you.”  He sketched her a neat half bow.

 

She smiled in return and gave him a slight curtsy before stepping into the elevator.    “Ya know, Harry, if it wasn’t for the fact that there is a Mrs. Padulous for you to go home to every night, I’d have to marry you.”  Hannah smiled in sympathy with the deep red blush that moved up his face.  The car started its downward trek.  “You’re a sweet man, Harry.  I’m glad you’re my friend.  I hope she appreciates you.”

 

“She surely does, Miss Hannah. We’ll be celebrating fifty years together this August.”

 

“That’s amazing, Harry.  Just wonderful.”

 

“We both think so.  And by the way, Bonnie will continue to keep an eye on your plants for you while you’re gone.  No one has a green thumb like my girl does.”

 

They reached the garage level and stepped off towards the waiting shuttle.  “You’re not kidding.  Some of those plants haven’t looked so well in years.”  She held out her hand to him and he took it, looking at her in surprise.  She held up her other to forestall his protest.

 

“Let me, Harry.  You have always been so nice to me, and looked out for me like I was your daughter.  Let me do something nice for you and Bonnie.  Take her to dinner and a movie on me, okay?”

 

The old man gazed into her eyes and saw the sincere desire to do this, and he capitulated with a nod.  “Thank you, Miss Hannah.  We’d like that very much.”

 

“Good,” she said as she grinned.  “I can’t wait to hear all about it when I get back.” 

 

He opened the door and she slid into the seat.  “Take care, Miss Hannah, and enjoy your vacation.”

 

“Thanks, Harry.  I plan to.”

 

************

 

The flight was relatively smooth, and Hannah was surprised to be gently awakened by the stewardess.  She smiled sheepishly at her, and stood to grab her bag from the overhead.  She’d flown into Bermuda, and would be picking up a chopper to the island where her uncle had a home the following morning.

 

The air as she stepped from the plane was humid and salty, and she welcomed the freshness she could smell above and beyond the jet fuel that was prevalent on the tarmac.  Hers was the last flight in for the evening, and she joined the small group boarding the hotel shuttle.

 

It didn’t take long, and she settled in for the evening.  After a quick call to room service, she settled into the comfortable bed and pulled out the diary.

 

She began by reading the most recent entries that belonged to her father and Jack.

 

 

 

            I saw the ship today, and she who commands it.  That much of the legend is true then.  We will have to see if we can discover who she is and what she seeks.  We only have what the rumors, myths and this book say about her.  I wonder how much of it is true. --M

 

            Jack has gone out this time.  We are trying to find the cycle that exists for her appearances.  According to all the legends we have researched, when the “Maiden” was first seen, the intervals were approximately twenty-five years apart.  But that seems to have changed, and she is coming into the Triangle more frequently.  There is still no indication of who she is for sure or what she is searching for aside from the stories we have in this journal.  We do know that she does no harm to those she encounters, and has even given aid to the distressed on occasion. --M

 

            The ship is simply amazing.  I got close enough to see it clearly this time before it vanished again in the mist.  I am making notes on when and where it appears, because there seems to be a methodical search in progress instead of random appearances.  So it is true that the beautiful Captain of this boat is hunting for something of great value to her.  Otherwise, why keep looking? --J

 

            I have spoken to Donovan and members of her crew after they rescued me from a hellacious storm. I now know what it is she seeks, though she has never shared the actual fact with me.  I know because I have been alone for the last fifteen years, and I recognize the look of longing as she scans the horizon.  There are still things about this vessel and its mission that I do not comprehend, but I do not expect to make it to the next sighting.  I am bleeding, and there is nothing they can do to stop it.  When I leave this ship, it will be so I can go home to be buried. --M

 

 

 

Hannah had to stop reading then, both because of the tears that clouded her vision, and the knock at her door as her dinner was delivered to her room.  The waiter asked politely if she was all right, or if she required anything else.  She shook her head and smiled at him, giving him the best grin she could manage.  He nodded and accepted the signed check assuring her he was on call all night if she needed anything further.

 

She lifted the cover from her steak, please to see that the chef here understood what medium rare meant, and sniffing in approval at the scent that wafted up from the marinade.  She moved the journal to the table, and began methodically decimating her meal while continuing to read.

 

 

 

            The cycle is coming more often now.  It has gone from twenty-five years to eighteen years, to ten years, and now it seems to be every five.  I believe Michael was right in his belief, and I will continue to observe and make notes for myself, but it is no longer necessary to keep the journal.  The time for fulfillment is near. --J

 

 

 

Hannah set the notebook aside then pondering the words as she finished her meal.  She set the tray outside the door, and moved herself and the journal back to the bed.

 

“Maybe I should have started from the end.  Since the new stuff seems to be on top, maybe the original story is in the back.”

 

But she soon discovered that wasn’t the case.  Everything was somewhat randomly shoved between the two covers, and she would need to sort through it to get any kind of order out of the chaos.  “I cannot believe Daddy and Uncle Jack were so unorganized.  How did they find anything in that mess?” muttering to herself.  She set the book gently to one side of the bed and turned off the light.  “I’ll deal with it tomorrow.”

 

************

 

When morning arrived, it arrived wet and overcast.  The blinking light on her phone was a message from Jack, letting her know the helicopter that brought those seeking seclusion and peace on the tiny island where he lived was going to be delayed until the weather cleared.  Hannah made arrangements at the front desk for a possible late check out, then called room service again to order breakfast. 

 

She noted the journal still lying on the unused side of the large bed and shook her head.  “Shower first, I think.  I need to be able to see clearly and think rationally before I try to tackle that.”

 

Half an hour later, she was wrapped in the complimentary robe and answering the door to let the waitress into the room.  Hannah draped the towel she was drying her hair with over her shoulders and signed the check.  The girl smiled and nodded and left without saying a word.

 

The blonde woman removed the tray covers, eyeing the fresh fruit cup and adding plenty of butter and syrup to her pancakes.  She hummed in enjoyment over the first bite, but didn’t take too much time to dawdle.  She was too anxious to get the journal put into some sort of order that she could read comprehensively.

 

Finishing quickly, she dressed and moved over to the bed.  Hannah opened the journal, and began to remove the pages, spreading them out so she could organize them by date.  When she finally got them into chronological order, she took a second look at the dates listed on her father’s and Jack’s entries.  I need to check my diary to be sure, but I’ll just bet you....  She let the thought trail off, knowing that she would have plenty of time to check since she never went anywhere without it.

 

The phone ringing startled her, and she jumped even as she reached to answer it.  “Yes?”

 

“Ms Reilly, the weather has turned, and the island hopper will be landing in approximately half an hour. We can arrange a shuttle for you in twenty minutes if that is acceptable?”

 

Hannah glanced at the clock, surprised that the morning had passed so rapidly and that it was now almost noon.  “Yes, that would be fine, thank you.”

 

“Very well,” the cultured voice spoke.  “Your bill has been taken care of.  Would you like us to send up a bellman for your bags?”

 

“No, thank you.  I will be downstairs to catch the shuttle in twenty minutes.”

 

“Thank you, Ms Reilly.  We hope you have enjoyed your stay with us and will return again soon.”

 

************

 

She was the only passenger on Jack’s small helicopter, and she gave him a big hug when he exited the craft.  He looked around in confusion.

 

“Where’s the rest of your luggage?” he shouted over the whirr of the blades.

 

“This is it, Uncle Jack.  I don’t plan to do much of anything except rest and relax on the beach and hang out with you.”

 

He grinned broadly in response to her own wide smile.  “That sounds like a winning plan to me.”

 

The flight was a short hop, and soon they were touching down on the small helo pad near the secluded resort.  Hannah marveled at its ingenuity and privacy.  They climbed into the waiting jeep, and began moving through the resort, and out towards Jack’s home.  “Is this your design?” she asked, motioning to the different bungalows they passed.

 

“Well, the concept was mine.  But there are several of us who are partners on this project.”  He was obviously proud of the resort, and he was happy to expound on its origins to his only niece.

 

“Years ago, some buddies and I were talking about the kind of resort we’d like to build in the islands here.  Not something for tourists, but a place where people could be alone, or interact with others like them if they chose.  The restaurant is actually the main meeting place.  It houses the small check in area.  Otherwise, each bungalow is a separate entity, and they are each well hidden in their own little dell.”

 

“That’s fantastic... how many do you have?”

 

“We have twenty cottages of various sizes.  Several corporations have research teams in the area, and they usually reserve the larger ones and keep everyone together.  You know how paranoid suits tend to get over company secrets.”  He smirked at her.  “Most of them are much smaller, catering to individuals and couples.  It’s quiet, and the locals enjoy the boost in income without the destruction of their island and way of life.”

 

“I can’t wait to explore.  I didn’t realize how badly I needed a break until I decided to take a vacation.”

 

Jack looked at her then, and noted the twinkling eyes and smiling lips.  “Well,” he drawled with a smile, “I’m glad you decided to spend it with me.  Though I promise not to hover.”

 

Hannah chuckled.  “Me too,” she replied, her chuckle turning to a full-fledged laugh when the flush rose up his cheeks.

 

Soon, they were headed up a short incline, and through the trees, the most beautiful vista stretched before them.  The water started out a green almost the color of her eyes, and gradually darkened to a shade of blue that sapphires would envy.  The white sand sparkled and beckoned, and in the near distance, Hannah could make out the darker shape of two other islands.

 

“This is simply lovely, Uncle Jack.”

 

“Uh huh, and you haven’t even really seen it yet.  C’mon in the house.”

 

It was then that Hannah saw the small structure that blended into its surroundings so well she didn’t even notice it until Jack motioned her towards it.

 

The outside of the house did nothing to indicate the spaciousness or state-of-the-art technology she found inside.  She realized that part of the house was actually built into the hillside, which aided in both its camouflage and its roominess.

 

“This is amazing.  I’m gonna have to get out my thesaurus if this keeps up, ‘cause I’m running out of adjectives.”

 

Jack just laughed and watched as his niece turned in a slow circle taking in everything around her.  The limestone and granite cavern hosted the bedrooms, study and bathroom area.  The living and kitchen spaces were actually some sort of native lumber that appeared to have moss growing both inside and out.  Her eyebrows rose at....

 

“A fireplace, Uncle Jack?”

 

“Yeah.  It reminds me of home a little, and it can actually get very cold here at night, especially if the wind is up.  Besides, it’s cozy.”

 

“The whole house is cozy.  No wonder you are so happy living out here,”

 

He grinned.  “This is true.  It’s my own little piece of paradise.  Of course,” he gestured her in to the small study, “I have all the creature comforts of the twenty-first century, too.”

 

“That’s it,” Hannah commented half jokingly as she slipped into the comfortable leather desk chair.  “I’m moving.”  She swung around to look at his system set-up, then turned her attention back to him.  “Do all the cottages have this kind of technology?”

 

“Um, no.  Some of the cottages don’t even have electricity, though they all have running water and modern plumbing.  People come here for a respite from their world, so the technology stays home... or in the safe until they are ready to leave.  The corporations provide their own gear, and the generators to run it, so that works out well for us as well.”

 

“Very sweet set up, Uncle Jack.  If I get inspired while I am here, I may have to borrow it.”

 

“You are more than welcome to, but I don’t think you’re gonna want to work once we get you settled in and you get a chance to start relaxing.”

 

“That is very true, but already I can feel the creative juices flowing.  There’s an energy here that... well, I told Charlie I might have enough material for a novel when I left.  I feel like I am on the precipice of starting something new.”

 

A momentary fear clutched at Jack’s heart, but he covered it almost immediately with a lightly strained laugh.  “You are, my dear.  You’re gonna learn how to relax and enjoy life for a change.”

 

Hannah laughed with him, not seeing his clenched fists.  “I do like the way that sounds.  Maybe I’ll take up basket weaving while I’m here.”

 

They left the study, and Jack moved to the kitchen area where he had left lunch waiting in the fridge.  “Well, you could ask one of the native ladies to teach you,” he replied, setting cold cuts and sliced fruit on the bar top.  “But I’m warning you it is actually quite difficult and arduous.  Maybe you should try a sport... sailing for instance.”

 

“Do you have instructors for that?”  She started opening cabinets looking for glasses.  Then she grabbed the iced tea out of the fridge and poured them each a glass.

 

“Oh yes, we have instructors for every activity the resort offers in the guide book.”

 

“Well, I may just have to take a look.  See what new activities I’d like to try while I am here.”  She paused to take a bite of food before continuing.  “But first I want to try the beach this afternoon.  I intend to go home with a tan that will be the envy of the world.”

 

“I have a private strip of beach,” Jack said, swallowing his mouthful and washing it down.  “C’mere.”

 

They walked to the windows that made up the sea side of the house and he pointed.  “You see that?” pointing to the beach down sloped just slightly from where they stood.  “Between the two trees marked with the bright yellow ribbons,” indicating two very large palms some distance apart.  “That is my private beach space, and everyone respects that.”

 

“Even the original inhabitants?”

 

“Even the locals.  It’s a long story, and maybe while you’re here I’ll tell it to you.”

 

“I’d like that.”

 

Jack smiled at her boundless curiosity, once again seeing a flash of the inquisitive child she’d always been.  “Okay, but you should know I use it as a nude beach.”  Hannah blushed and her uncle continued speaking.  “You don’t have to, of course.  I usually swim first thing in the morning.  If you’d be more comfortable, we can set up some sort of signal here to let one another know when we’ll be at the beach, or at least when we’ll be nude there.  I rarely go down there except in the early mornings though.  This place keeps me busy.”

 

“Well, I doubt that I will ever do the nude thing, but maybe we should work out a signal just in case I become a bold and daring adventurer while I’m here.”

 

“All righty.  We’ll come up with something.  In the meantime, I want you to settle in and relax.  This is your home too.”

 

Hannah leaned over and gave the grizzled cheek a kiss not saying a word.  Jack patted her hands affectionately, and they finished lunch in happy silence.

 

When things were cleaned up, Jack took Hannah’s bag, raising his brow at the weight.

 

“I brought some reading,” she chuckled.

 

“What? War and Peace?  You want to relax.”

 

“Nah,” she answered nonchalantly.  “Some of Daddy’s books.”

 

“Gotcha,” Jack replied, trying to remember what she’d kept.  Then he shook his head, figuring he’d remember or she’d tell him eventually.  “C’mon, hon.  Let me show you your room.”

 

They walked into the natural part of the house, and the temperature dropped noticeably.  It was not unpleasant, just unexpected, and Hannah shivered slightly.

 

“Sorry, I forgot to tell you about that.  The temperature in here is pretty constant... around sixty degrees.  That is why I added the rugs.  Stone cold floor first thing in the morning is really not a happy way to wake up.”

 

Hannah smiled but didn’t have the chance to comment because Jack stopped and opened a door right then.  The room was quite large and surprisingly airy, due in large part to the wall of thick glass that faced the water.

 

“I couldn’t stand the dark so some of my engineering buddies worked it out so I could put windows in back here.”

 

“It’s gorgeous.”

 

And it was.  The room had been whitewashed and was decorated in blues and greens that complimented the view.  The bed itself seemed an extension of the wall, and the lighting was recessed and well hidden.

 

“Now, I’ll leave you to get settled in.  I have a couple things I need to do this afternoon, so the beach is all yours.”

 

“Okay.  Would you like me to cook tonight?”

 

“I thought we’d go to the restaurant if you’re up to it.  Then I can show you the town a little more, and you can be introduced to folks.”

 

“As long as I don’t get too burned this afternoon, you’ve got yourself a date, Uncle Jack.”

 

He smiled.  “See you later then.  Enjoy.”  And he closed the door behind himself as he stepped out of the room.

 

Hannah stood looking around for a moment more simply absorbing the atmosphere.  Then she shook herself from her reverie and opened her bag to begin putting things away.  “Time to go have a little sun and fun, and see if I can discover the mystery of these pirates.”

 

 

 

Chapter III

 

The skimpy tropical print thong bikini necessitated quite a coating of sunscreen, but finally Hannah was ready to go down to the beach.  She picked up the journal, her diary and slipped into the bathroom that was shared between her room and Jack’s.  She looked around in approval at the white and deep blue scheme, her eyes lingering on the sunken tub. 

 

“Oh I could definitely get used to this,” she commented to no one in particular as she snagged a towel.

 

A short stroll downhill brought her to hot white sand, and she stood for along moment just looking out at the water before setting everything down.  A quick glance around showed her a small shed, and inside she found several beach chairs, more towels and a tiny shower.  She nodded in approval, then grabbed a chair and moved to the water’s edge.  She arranged the chair and towel to her satisfaction, then took the books and sat down.

 

“Now, let’s see if we can make sense of this.”

 

 

 

October - 1847

 

            Today marks the end of my daughter’s first voyage on the “Warrior Maiden” and I have to say I am well pleased.  Most of the men of my crew were skeptical and superstitious about allowing her on board, but she won them over by sheer persistence and presence.  Her mother will not be happy to hear this.  She had different dreams for our daughter. I believe at this point, though, the crew would follow her as Captain if need be.

 

            An odd note... while we were at 32* N, 64* 90’W we came across refugees of some sort.  I’ll admit to being a bit confused by their manner and mode of speech and dress but they seemed harmless.  We landed them on the nearest island and made the Crown aware of the new settlement.  I will be interested to see how they fare.

 

            Ernst Scott - Captain, Warrior Maiden

 

 

 

There was more scribbled down at the bottom of the page in another hand.  Hannah’s eyes widened as she read the words.

 

 

           

              I am convinced I will find the green eyes I seek at sea.  I do not know when or where yet, but I will find you, my love.  We are meant to be one together in this lifetime. --DS

 

 

 

Hannah closed her eyes and pictured the crystal blue eyes that had haunted her since she was a small child.  She reached for her own diary, and opened it to one of the earliest entries.

 

 

           

               I herd dady and unkl Jack tawkin bout pirats today. I ast bout wat they wer but dady dint tell.  I think I no tho cuz I had a dreem bout a pretty lady with blue pretty Iz and long dark hare. She was beyutifull.  She was lik the pirat in my pitur book.

 

 

 

Hannah froze.  Until that moment, nothing was clear about that memory except the eyes that continued to haunt her to this day.  And yet, having read the diary entry, she wondered what her younger self had dreamed of.  Even though the image was unclear, she saw the eyes and the dark hair blowing in the wind.

 

With a sigh, she realized she needed something to drink and marked her place before going to the small shed in search of something cold and wet.  She smiled when she saw the small refrigerator, and was pleasantly surprised at the options available to her there.  She took out a bottle of water, and moved back out to her beach chair, opening the journal to the next entry.

 

 

 

October 1851

 

This mission has been fraught with difficulty and peril.  Papa was injured early in our travels, but he refused to turn around and go home.  I have been acting as Captain in his stead.  The men are satisfied with my leadership and things in that regard have gone smoothly. 

 

Papa will most likely recover, but will be unable to return to his life at sea.  Mama will be happy to have him home more, I think.  Maybe she will eventually forgive me for following in his footsteps with him there.

 

We found an injured sailor, and did our very best for him.  He insisted upon leaving though it was clear to all that he was dying.  I suppose he wished to see his home once more.  And who can blame him?

 

The game we play has become hard, but still we do so, because it is the right thing to do.  It is unfortunate that we have to become pirates to keep people alive because of the greed of a few.

 

Donovan Scott - Acting Captain, Warrior Maiden

 

 

 

Hannah closed the book with her finger marking her place and stared at the water for long minutes.  Instead of making anything clearer, she was simply becoming more confused.  She was sure the whole story was here, she just had to assemble all the pieces she had in the right order.  She opened the journal again and turned the page over and found to her surprise a note written on the back of the thick paper.

 

 

 

                        My daughter did an outstanding job commanding this vessel during my injury and convalescence. She is correct though, that I will be unable to return to sea.  I feel the hand of destiny in this, but the truth is Donovan is driven by something far greater than her love of the sea.  I only hope I live to see it to fruition. -- ES

 

 

 

Hannah closed the book, setting it and her diary on the lounge chair before taking the two steps necessary into the warm, clear water.  She waded out until she was waist deep, then plunged head first into the surf.  She swam quite a distance, enjoying the relative warmth of the water and the sun on her body.  Pleasantly tired, she turned and headed to shore, stopping to sit and rest on a sandbar about halfway back.

 

She looked out at the water, marveling yet again at the myriad of color depth she was surrounded by.  Hannah brought her right hand up to move the hair from her face and found her attention caught by the ring she wore there.

 

It had been the last present her daddy had given her before he’d died, and she always wore it.  Now she realized she’d found a color to match the stone in it.

 

************

 

She’d been surprised by it, really.  She was just fifteen, and Mike was scheduled to go out to the Triangle to do some more research.  Hannah knew her dad felt that whatever he was doing was important, but they’d never really discussed his work.  And she’d never shared the dreams she had of the ice blue eyes that beckoned to her.  So she’d been taken aback when he’d called her into his study.

 

“Hannah, you know I’m leaving in two days.”  She nodded and waited.  “I have something for you, and I hope you like it.”  Mike handed his daughter a small jewelry box.  “Go on... open it.”  She did so and her mouth dropped open in shock.

 

“I... it... it’s beautiful.”

 

And it was.  The stone was a crystal clear blue, the exact shade of those haunting eyes.  But her dad had no way of knowing that.  She looked back up at him for an explanation.

 

“It reminds me of the water out there... and it seemed suited to you for some reason.”

 

“Thank you Daddy.”

 

“Wear it in happiness, my girl.  I love you.”

 

“I love you too, Daddy,” Hannah muttered aloud as she came back to the present.  She looked around, surprised by the angle of the sun.  “Guess I’d better get back to the house if I want to use that wonderful tub before we go to dinner.”  She headed herself for shore once more.

 

************

 

A light knocking on the door woke Hannah from the doze she’d fallen into.  Instead of a long soak in the tub, she decided on a quick rinse in the large shower.  She was so relaxed when she stepped out that it only took a moment and she was asleep on the bed still wrapped in her towel.  She blinked her eyes open when she heard Jack’s voice.

 

“Hannah, are you in there?”

 

“Um, uh... yes, Uncle Jack.  Uh… ugh, hang on a minute.”

 

She rolled off the bed and grabbed the robe he’d left hanging on the back of the door for her and slid into it.  She picked her discarded towel off the floor and opened the door.  Jack was leaning against the doorframe with a crooked smile on his face.  She blushed and returned his smile.

 

“Guess I fell asleep,” she muttered.

 

“That’s not a bad thing, honey,” he chuckled lightly.  “Do you feel up to going out tonight or would you prefer to stay in?”

 

Hannah ran a hand through her still damp blonde mane and bit back a yawn.  “Well, if you can give me a few minutes to wake up and get dressed....”

 

“I can do that.  I’ll be in the living room when you’re ready.”

 

Twenty minutes later Hannah emerged from the back part of the house in a casual sundress and sandals.  Jack took one look at her and whistled wolfishly.

 

“You are very lovely, my dear.”  He extended his arm to her and she took it lightly even as a blush suffused her face.  “C’mon.  Dinner awaits.”

 

Jack was quick to notice the attention their entrance into the restaurant drew, and he chuckled silently to himself as everyone in the place, both men and women, made their way over to his table.  Hannah met them all graciously, but did not show particular interest in any of them.  Several offered to spend time with her, but all were politely turned down.

 

He did note with some interest that she studied everyone’s eyes, and that occasionally her glance would drift down to the ring she wore.  He wondered how much she knew about the significance of the stone.  He made a mental note to ask her about it later.

 

They stepped out into the cool evening after dinner, and made their way over to the jeep.  “People seem to be friendly here,” was her only comment to the almost overwhelming attention she’d received during the meal.

 

“You are a beautiful woman, Hannah.  Surely you are used to such attention.”

 

“No, Uncle.  I don’t go out much.  I never got into the scene.”

 

He started the engine and directed the vehicle towards home.  As they drove up into the yard, he finally turned to her and asked, “Are you lonely, Hannah?”

 

“Yes... no... it’s hard to explain.”

 

He opened her door and helped her from the jeep.  “Try, please?”

 

“Um, well, it’s like I told you before.  I haven’t found my tree in the forest yet, so in that sense, I suppose I am a little lonely.  But I know there is someone out there for me, and one day... well, I’ll know when it happens.  That’s all.”  She couldn’t help glancing down at her ring.

 

“You sound sure,” Jack said as he opened the house door and gestured her to go in ahead of him.

 

“I am sure.”

 

“If it’s not too personal, can I ask why?”

 

She couldn’t hide the blush the crawled up her face, but she met his eyes squarely.  “Ask me again in a few days.  I should have an answer I can share with you then.”

 

He nodded, accepting her hesitation.  “I can do that.  And I’ll tell you the story behind your ring as well.  Now,” he asked, changing the subject gracefully before she could say a word.  “Would you like to walk on the beach with me?  I find it very peaceful out there this time of night.  It is very relaxing.”

 

“Sure, I’d like that,” Hannah responded.  “Should I change?”

 

“Entirely up to you, my dear.  Whatever you’re most comfortable in.  I’m going to.”

 

“Okay,” she answered, heading for her room.  “Meet ya back here in five.”

 

************

 

They walked along in silence, simply enjoying the salt tang of the breeze and the swish of the waves and the softness of the sand as they walked along together barefooted.  The moon was about halfway through its cycle, and made a tiny path on the water.

 

“Ya know,” Hannah finally said quietly as they stood looking out over the vast ocean, “I always wondered where the moon’s path would lead if I ever tried to follow it.”

 

Jack smiled in the darkness, though she did not see it.  “Well, I think it depends on the person involved.  My path led me here.  Yours will undoubtedly lead you to your dreams.”

 

Hannah looked at him startled, but remained silent.

 

************

 

The following morning, Hannah prudently stayed away from the windows until she heard Jack come in and close the door to his bedroom.  Then she got up and went into the kitchen to start breakfast for the two of them.

 

“Wow... I think I like having you here if you’re gonna cook like this for me,” Jack teased as she set a loaded plate in front of him.  She smiled.  “Actually,” he continued before she could comment, “I like having you here regardless.  I’ve missed you.”

 

“Me too, Uncle.  I’m glad I came down.  I may have to make this a regular event.”

 

“Or you could just move.”

 

He’d flummoxed her with the statement he knew, by the dazed look on her face.   “It’s not something you have to decide right now, or even while you’re here, but I would like you to consider it.”

 

“I... I... um... wow.”

 

He smiled and covered her hand.  “Think about it, okay?”  She nodded and he pulled his hand away and picked up his fork.  “So what big plans do you have for today?”

 

“Nothing major,” Hannah replied, still trying to wrap her mind around his invitation.  “I have lots of reading and sunshine to catch up on.”

 

“I have a suggestion then, if you’re open to it.” Jack offered.  She nodded.

 

“Would you like to go sailing with me for a bit this morning?  We could take a picnic lunch, and I’ll take you to one of the prettiest spots on the whole island.  You can read and sun while I do some fishing.  Maybe you can even learn to sail a bit.”

 

“You sure I’m not messing up your plans?”

 

“Yep.  I wouldn’t have offered otherwise.”  Jack grinned rakishly and waggled his eyebrows at her, and for an instant, Hannah was taken back years.  Before the adult world and responsibilities came between them, and Jack had simply been her doting uncle.

 

“I’d like that,” she answered honestly, finishing up her breakfast.

 

“Good,” Jack said.  “Since you made breakfast, I’ll take care of lunch.”

 

“Sounds like a plan, Stan,” Hannah replied as she stood and moved to wash her dishes.  “See ya out here in ten.”

 

************

 

The boat was fairly small, comparatively speaking, but it was plenty big enough for the two of them.  Hannah took a seat in the bow with her bag, and watched fascinated as Jack maneuvered them around with expert skill.

 

They came to a small inlet and Jack guided them into it.  He tied off the anchor, and stripped off his shirt.  “I’m going swimming.”

 

Hannah stretched out and pulled out the journal.  Jack’s gray eyes widened when he recognized the item she had, but he didn’t say a word.  Oh, Mikey... we were right.  His smile was bittersweet.  Then he jumped into the warm waters and began stroking away from the shore.

 

Hannah opened the journal to her stopping place, then grabbed her diary out of the bag and looked for the corresponding entry she was sure was there.  An earlier note caught her attention and she stopped to read it.

 

 

 

June

 

I had the dream again last night.  It is the same one I always have.  I am looking for... someone, or they are looking for me.  It is so hard to tell. 

 

The only thing clear in my dream is those eyes. Not a form, or a face.  I am haunted by ice blue eyes.

 

August

 

I wonder what Daddy would think about what those eyes mean.  They are the one consistent factor in my dreams.  They are always the same.  Maybe I will ask him about them when he comes home.

 

September

 

The eyes look at me now with love and compassion, almost as though they know of my sorrow.  I need to find them.  I think they hold the answers to my questions.

 

 

 

Hannah stared off into space.  She remembered the confused teenager she’d been then and smiled wistfully to herself.  It had been then she’d decided that whether her blue eyes belonged to a man or woman, fair or dark skinned, believer or agnostic, it would not matter to her.  It had made her into the caring and considerate human being she’d become.  It also made falling in love impossible for her, for deep in her heart, she knew she belonged to the one she called “Blue Eyes”.

 

She took up the journal, realizing that the dates coincided with her graduation, and she recalled with a blush the end result from the intensity of some of the dreams she was having then.  Yet the only clear visual she could summon from her mind was... she looked down at her ring again, studying the stone intently.

 

“How did you know, Daddy?”

 

“Did you say something to me, sweetheart?” Jack ran a hand through his buzz cut and climbed back onto the deck.

 

She considered, then looked up at him.  He stood apart from her, so as not to drip on her books.  He toweled himself off while gazing at her inquisitively.  “Uncle Jack, will you tell me the story of my ring now? I think I need to know.”

 

He tossed his towel on the deck and took a seat studying her.  She returned his regard and he smiled.  “Yes, but I have to go back a ways.  And you have to know how I came to have an interest in this island first.”

 

She marked her places and set the books aside, giving Jack her full attention.  “Okay,” she answered, clasping a hand around one knee.  “Tell on please,” she instructed, smiling impishly at him.

 

He shook a finger at her.  “Ya know, kiddo... one of these days....”

 

She laughed out loud.  “You’ve been threatening me with that since I was knee high.  It’s kinda lost its punch.”

 

He got up and started menacingly towards her.  She scooted back on her behind, not liking the mischievous look in his eyes.  He took another step towards her and she backed up into the railing.  Then she held her hands up in contrition.  “I give... I give.  I don’t need today to be the day.”

 

Jack clasped his hands together and raised them above his head.  “The winnah and still champeen!!” he intoned.  Hannah stuck her tongue out at him and then broke into laughter.

 

“Now where was I?” he asked, resuming his seat.

 

She raised a blonde brow.  “The beginning?”

 

“Oh yes, well... you have to realized that this happened five years before you were even born.”

 

************

 

“I’ll be back in time for the wedding, Mikey.  I don’t want Mama or Elizabeth on my ass for missing it.”

 

“It’s not even necessary, Jack.  The “Maiden” shouldn’t be seen for another five years.”

 

“I know, Mike, but since I have to be in that vicinity for the other project, I may as well swing by that way and check things out.  You’re just getting wedding nerves.”

 

Mike cuffed him on the back of the head. “I’ll show you wedding nerves, buddy.  Just be careful, all right?  You’re the only kid brother I got, and it has been a rough storm season down there this year.”

 

“I’ll be fine.  And I’ll be back before rehearsal.”

 

“You’d better,” Mike muttered, “Or I’ll sic Mama on you.”

 

Jack shuddered.  “No need to threaten a fella.  I’ll be here... promise.”

 

************

 

“You have to understand that your daddy was right... it had been unusually fierce in this area that year.  I took care of the paid project, then headed over this way to work on our pet one.”

 

“Uncle Jack, what was so fascinating about the Triangle for ya’ll?”

 

He shook his head at her.  “That is something you will have to discover without me telling you.  That is how it has always been with this place... in this family.”

 

“But....”  Hannah stopped when the older man held up his hand.

 

“I’m serious, Hannah.  Either you will figure it out or you won’t, but I CANNOT tell you.”  It was easy to read the intent behind his gaze.

 

“Okay, Uncle. I’m sorry.  I just feel like it is important.  Please continue with your story.”

 

“I headed over this way in a speedboat from Bermuda.  That was our base of operations for a long time.  About halfway here, I noticed a horrible storm out in front of me, and I could only hope it would miss me.  It was nasty... the clouds were so low they looked like they rested almost in the water, and the lightning was constant.  In fact, I had decided to turn around.”

 

************

 

Lightning hit very close to the boat and the engine stalled.  In the silence that followed, Jack heard a cry for help.  He peered into the downpour, searching for the cause of the sound.  Finally, his eyes lit on the source, and they widened perceptibly. 

 

There, not fifty feet away was a tiny raft bobbing in the rough waves on the outer fringe of the storm. On the raft sat three huddled children, clinging to one another desperately in an attempt to keep together and stay on the raft.

 

Jack tried to restart his engine, getting only a click in response to his effort.  He gritted his teeth together and tried again with the same response.  “C’mon you goddamn engine!!” he screamed in frustration.  The he watched in horror as a wave lifted the raft up and nearly overturned it.

 

He slid from his seat and grabbed the throttle cord, praying for a manual start.  He jerked the cord as hard as he could, and to his relief, the motor sputtered to life.  Jack looked back to where he had last seen the small raft, and gave thanks for the miracle he saw... the three children were still on the slippery craft.

 

Swiftly, he turned the boat in their direction, and in a matter of minutes had all three youngsters on his boat.  Now it was raining so hard, he was afraid of losing his bearings, and he looked at the children again.

 

“Do you know where your home is from here?” he asked the oldest, a girl of about eleven.  She nodded and pointed through the storm, and he could just make out the darker edges of what he hope was an island.

 

“All right, guys.  Sit down and hang on.  We’ll get you home soon, safe and sound.  I hope.”  The last was muttered under his breath.

 

The ride seemed to take forever, but in reality took less than five minutes before he landed in relatively calm waters with an anxious group of villagers getting into their boats and canoes.  When the girl stood up in the back of his boat and waved at them, a cry arose, and he was welcomed into the village with open arms.

 

************

 

“It turned out that the older girl, Merryweather, was the headman’s grandchild, and the two younger children were his great-niece and nephew.  They had gone out fishing when the storm came out of nowhere and caught them unaware.”

 

“My God, that’s amazing.  Talk about right place, right time.”

 

“No kidding.  And as token of their esteem for what I had done, they offered me the land that I now call home.  I tried to refuse it, until Jacob made me understand that to do so would dishonor them.”

 

“Jacob is the headman?”

 

“He is now. He is Merry’s father.  He is one of the reasons the island is the sanctuary it is today.  He understood what I wanted to do, and he helped me convince the others, both of his tribe and my business partners.”

 

“He was the tall, dark, attractive older gentleman who stopped and spoke to us last night, correct?  Dark blue shirt and black slacks?”

 

“You have an outstanding memory, my dear.  Maybe you should consider politics.”

 

“Oh no.  No, thank you.  That requires more compromise than I am willing to give.”  She paused a moment and thought.  “That was a great story, Uncle Jack, but what does it have to do with my ring?”

 

“My word, you are an impatient little thing, aren’t you?”  His smile took any sting from the teasing words.  “I was getting to that.”

 

“The next trip I made out here was after your parents married, and they came with me.  In fact, we traveled out together many times before you were born.  Elizabeth enjoyed the travel as much as Mike and I did, and she was quite interested in the research we were doing.”

 

“The last trip we made together was for Merry’s sixteenth birthday, and her betrothal celebration.  We were invited as special guests, and it is when your mother got pregnant with you.”

 

Hannah’s eyebrows rose.  “And you can pinpoint this so exactly how?”

 

“Because the shaman here confirmed it.”

 

“Oh, I can’t wait to hear this.”

 

************

 

The trio was warmly welcomed by the headman and his family when they stepped onto the island.  Merry was not present, as she was being made ready for the ceremony and celebration that would start later in the evening.

 

They were escorted to their quarters.  Jack was in the process of slowly carving himself the home he now occupied, and Mike and Elizabeth had a small house in the village.  Everyone was instructed to rest for the evening’s festivities.

 

As the sun touched the horizon, the drums drew the villagers to the center square, and then the ceremony began.  Merryweather’s betrothed began his claiming dance, reaching her as the sun slipped below the sea and left darkness in its wake.  The village cheered, and the celebration began in earnest.

 

As the feasting started, Cyrus, the village shaman took a seat next to Mike and Elizabeth.  Jack sat on the other side of his sister-in-law, and what the shaman said next cause the three of them to blush for very different reasons.

 

Cyrus placed a large gentle hand on Elizabeth’s belly and she froze.  Then he looked deep into her eyes.  “I see some of you did not rest this afternoon as instructed.”  He smiled at her.  “The life you now carry within you is very precious.”

 

Mike and Elizabeth sat stunned.  They had been trying for a baby for three years.  How could this gentle giant know...? But the conviction in his voice and eyes gave them unlooked for hope.  Cyrus reached into his pouch and withdrew a brilliant blue stone.  He passed it to Mike. 

 

“This is for the Angel.  You will know when the time is right to give it to her, and she will understand its significance when you do.”

 

 Mike looked at Cyrus for a long moment before extending his hand and accepting the stone.  “Thank you, Cy.  For everything.”

 

The tall man nodded and moved away.  Mike and Elizabeth gazed at one another.  “We’re gonna have a baby girl, honey,” Elizabeth whispered.  “We’re gonna have a daughter.”

 

Mike blinked the tears out of his eyes, and tenderly wiped them from his wife’s face.  “Yeah, we are.  And Jack gets to be an uncle.”

 

Whoo hoo!” the younger man cheered loudly, needing to let loose some of the emotion flowing through him.  “This is just too cool!”

 

************

 

“When we got back home, Elizabeth went right to the doctor, who confirmed that she was indeed pregnant with you.  Mike put the stone way, and to be quite honest, I forgot all about it until I saw you wearing it after he left the last time.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me about it then?” Hannah asked quietly while the tears streamed silently down her face. 

 

“Oh honey.  You were fifteen years old and already going through so much.  I figured when you were ready to hear about it, you’d ask.”  He smiled at her.  “And you did.”

 

She nodded.  “That’s true.  I’m not sure I would have been ready to hear that story before today, but thank you for sharing that with me.  I’m glad to know it.”

 

“Good.  Are you hungry yet?”  Jack’s stomach grumbled loudly.  Cause I’m starving.”

 

Hannah laughed, an outlet for her emotion as much anything else.  “Yeah, I’m hungry too.  Let’s see what you packed us that’s good.” They got down to the serious business of eating.

 

 

 

Chapter IV

 

“Uncle Jack?”  The two of them were almost dozing in the early afternoon sunlight, having eaten their fill of the lunch Jack had provided. Her words were barely more than a murmur, and Hannah cracked an eye open to see if the older man had heard her.  He felt her regard and tipped his head in her direction.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“I was just wondering about something.”

 

He turned his head completely and cupped a hand over his eyes to shade them.  He might have been raising his eyebrows in question, but he was squinting so hard it was difficult to tell.  “ ‘bout what, pumpkin?”

 

“You make me feel like a kid again.”

 

“You *are* a kid, Hannah.  But I’m sure that’s not what you were wondering about.”

 

She laughed.  “No, actually,” she replied.  “I was thinking about names.”

 

His eyebrows hiked up visibly and he sat up to peer at her from beneath his shading hands.  “Names?”  He couldn’t imagine the train of thought that had brought about this subject for discussion.

 

“Yeah.  All the natives that I’ve met so far, or that you’ve talked about have British names... Jacob, Ernest, Scott, Cyrus, Harold, Robert.  Even the woman... Merryweather.  They are all good solid *British* names.  Not what you would expect to find on an island in the Caribbean.”

 

“Oh,” he answered, suddenly enlightened and cursing his dilemma.  He lay back down and closed his eyes, considering where to begin his tale.  “It’s tradition,” he said finally breaking the silence.  “Many years ago, a ship bearing British sailors gave aid to the people of this area. As a result, many of the people took the British names, both first and last, and named their children after the sailors.  It’s become something of a legacy.”

 

“It sounds like it.  Will you tell me the story?”

 

“Later perhaps.  I’m going to take a bit of a nap first.”

 

“That sounds like a good idea.”  The gentle rocking of the boat lulled them both to sleep.

 

 ************

 

“Ow!  Oh!  Damn, that was stupid,” came the muttered curses from Hannah’s lips.   From the angle of the sun, and the soreness she could already feel, she was not going to be a very happy camper over the next couple days.

 

“Uncle Jack?” she called, pleased when the man stirred immediately.  “I think we need to head back in.”

 

Jack sat up disoriented.  He looked around in alarm.  “What? Oh, damn!  Been a long time since I fell asleep like that.”  He looked at Hannah and motioned her to turn over.  “Well, you’re about evenly done.  Looks like you flipped over sometime in your sleep.”

 

“Great... the only part of me that’s not a crispy critter is the bottom of my feet.”

 

“No worries, hon.  I have some stuff at home that will take out the sting, and will help turn the burn to tan.”  She looked at him skeptically.  “Honest... the locals swear by it.”

 

Hannah sat up gingerly, and winced when the padding rubbed against her skin.  “Well, I’ll try anything.  I don’t want this to screw up my vacation.”

 

He smiled, and got up to head the sailboat towards home.

 

************

 

“You have got to be kidding me,” Hannah said flatly when she stepped into the bathroom.  The smell was... incredible.  “There is no way in hell I am getting into something that smells like that.”  Her nose wrinkled reflexively, and she almost gagged.  “What IS it, anyway?”

 

“It’s a panacea the locals use.  I’ve used it several times myself.”  Her eyebrows rose into her hairline.  “It’s easy,” he continued hurriedly.  “You sit and soak in the mixture of lukewarm water for about thirty minutes, then just sit in here out of the water for another thirty.  Then a lukewarm shower to rinse off the scent to a tolerable level.  In the morning, you will be tanned and can shower as normal.”

 

“I have to smell like this all night??”

 

“By the time you get to bed, you won’t even notice it.  I promise.”

 

“By the time I get to bed, I won’t have any olfactory sense left, you mean,” she muttered, but moved to her room to strip out of her suit.  “You realize,” she called through the closed door.  “We’re gonna be doing a lot of laundry tomorrow.”

 

Jack chuckled in response.  “Won’t be the first time, honey,” he replied.

 

Despite the smell, Hannah felt much better by the time she was allowed to shower off.  And true to Jack’s word. She hardly noticed the scent by the time she stepped from the bathroom.  He’d given her an aloe mixture with the comment, “It’ll take out the rest of the heat.”  She’d covered herself in it while he soaked, sat and showered.

 

She felt better once she had the cream rubbed in and went into the kitchen to see about fixing some dinner.  When Jack stepped from the back, the olfactory senses Hannah had been complaining about earlier were filled with the scent of fresh biscuits.

 

“Oh, I can see I’m gonna have to watch myself while you’re here,” he commented with a chuckle.  “I could get to be the size of a barn real easy otherwise.”

 

“Didn’t you always tell me - ‘Enjoy life to the fullest, Hannah.  You’re not gonna get a second chance at this.’ ?”

 

He reached for a biscuit and liberally applied butter to it.  “You’re right.  I did.”  He bit into the bread and hummed contentedly.  “I’ll get new clothes.”  He washed down the biscuit and reached for another.  Hannah just laughed.

 

************

 

 The next morning, Hannah woke up darker than she’d expected to be in her whole two weeks of vacation and smiled at her reflection.  She jumped in the shower while Jack was at the beach, glad to scrub the lingering remains of the scent from her body.

 

“Ya know,” she commented to her uncle as they sat down to eat breakfast.  “If it wasn’t for the smell of the remedy, these guys could make a fortune with that.”

 

“I’d though of that.  But I have been assured that whatever combination of things makes it stink is also what makes it work.”  He paused.  “So what are your plans for today?”

 

“Aside from laundry, you mean?”  He chuckled and nodded.  “I think I’d like to do a little exploring.  See what I can see.”

 

“That sounds like fun.  Will you need the jeep?”

 

Hannah thought about that for a long moment, then shook her head.  “I don’t think so.  I think I’ll just walk along the beach.”

 

Jack nodded.  “All right, but be careful.  You don’t want to run into trouble.”

 

Her brow furrowed.  “You think I will?”

 

“No, but I do want you to remember that human beings are the same the world over, and not everyone is as nice and helpful as the folks you’ve already met here.”

 

“That makes sense.  Even Paradise had a serpent.”

 

He laughed at her analogy.  “Very true, my dear.  C’mon.  Let’s get the laundry started.  I have several clients to pick up today.”  It didn’t take long and the two of them were heading out to begin their respective days after making plans to meet for dinner.

 

************

 

Hannah slipped into another bikini, this one a shimmering green that brought out the depth of her eyes.  She pulled on a pair of shorts and grabbed her tennis shoes, sticking those, the journal and her diary in a backpack.  Then she moved into the kitchen and snatched up a water bottle and several pieces of fruit and walked out the door heading down toward the beach.

 

She turned right when she got to the beach, heading west.  The sun was warm on her back, but thanks to Jack’s cure-all, it wasn’t painful.  She trudged along through the sand, noting the small homes and neatly kept yards along the way.  They grew more plentiful and Hannah realized she was moving in towards town and smiled, altering her course just slightly. 

 

The town consisted of the restaurant, a grocery/supply store and the dock that housed several sailboats, a few Seadoos, two fishing trawlers and a couple speedboats.  Hannah made a beeline for the grocery store, and stepped across the threshold.

 

It was like stepping back in time.  The counter was solid wood, and had the oldest, most authentic turn-of-the-last-century cash registers the writer had ever seen.  The shelves had several modern, recognizable products, but there was also a bottled Coke machine, a wall that held bolts of cloth and other sewing supplies, and an ice cream counter.

 

Hannah walked over to the ice cream, and began looking at the twelve different choices of hard-packed ice cream offered there.  Vanilla, chocolate, pineapple, mango, passion fruit, orange mint?  Hmm... coconut, wildberry... wonder what kind of wild berry?  Banana, pineapple coconut, honey, and mint chocolate...  Well, I feel daring today.

 

“A scoop of wildberry, please.”  The woman behind the counter gave her a generous scoop, and took her money, and Hannah exited the store.  She took a good look around town, returning the waves of a few of the locals who she recognized from Jack’s introductions.  She saw Jack lifting off in his chopper, and she lifted a hand to him.  He gave her a thumb’s up and a big smile before heading the bird toward Bermuda.

 

Hannah turned when he was out of sight and made her way back towards Jack’s.  She’d seen this part of the island, and was interested in investigating the parts that she hadn’t seen yet.  She was glad for the ice cream break though.  It was good ice cream.

 

She stopped back at the small shed and picked up a new water bottle.  Then Hannah continued walking east toward the sun. 

 

She noticed that along this side of the island everything had been left to grow naturally.  There were no houses or walking paths or anything that gave an indication of any form of human habitation.  It was peaceful though, and Hannah let the calm pervade her soul.  She wondered briefly why the natives left this side of the island uninhabited, and then shrugged to herself as she spread out the towel she’d pulled from the pack.

 

The writer eased out of her shorts and sat down, pulling out her lunch and her books.  She grabbed up an apple and opened the journal to the next entry.

 

 

 

June 1852

 

Journal entry - the story begs to be told, and so I do so here in the pages of my private journal.  There it will remain hidden and private for if the truth were to get out, my men and I would all be hanged for treason to the Crown.

 

Papa was not happy with many things within the Navy, and I found that he had surrounded himself with likeminded officers and men.  The crew of this vessel has always been treated with dignity and respect, and they have accorded my father and myself the same.  It is one reason I was accepted into their ranks as readily as I was.  That and a lot of hard work on my part, but I digress.

 

Over the years, we have tried to correct wrongs done to the people we deal with, and in return they are good to us when we come into port.  Always, ALWAYS when we do this, we leave behind the trappings of the Navy and become “pirates of the high seas.”

 

We do not take from the poor.  Rather, we take from those who steal from those who are without and give back to them, much in the footsteps of the legendary Robin Hood.

 

Six weeks ago, we came upon a tiny island that was being exploited to the point of destitution.  The natives were starving, as the merchant who was doing Crown business grew fat on the wealth of his spoils.

 

My men and I snuck onto his ship, and in the middle of the night emptied his hold, intent on returning everything to the natives he had stolen from. Imagine our surprise when we found not only food and such, but children shackled like animals.

 

We didn’t even have to discuss it.  With only a few looks, the children were freed and silently moved to the boats we had waiting for booty.  The rest went in search of the crew.

 

We decimated them, and set the ship on fire.  It will be months before this ship is missed.

 

Do I sound cold and heartless?  I am not, and I was violently ill when we returned to our own vessel, as were many of my crew.  This was the first time we had to utterly destroy a target, but we could not let their actions go unpunished.  The natives will let the word get around in the right channels that that kind of behavior will not be tolerated.

 

As it is, we have quite the reputation as pirates, and we are careful not to destroy our credibility with the Navy either.  The priest has assured me that our actions were warranted, and may make things better for the people on these islands.  I hope so, for I grow weary of the greed and deceit I see in so many of my fellow countrymen out here.

 

Could you forgive me for what I have done here, Green Eyes? I long to find you and take you home.  Perhaps I will take you to America where we can live in peace.  I will find you, my love.  I know that you are out there, for I have seen you in my dreams.

 

 

 

Hannah sat back, absently reaching for the pear and biting into it.  She thought about what the Captain had said and done and wondered if she could have done the same thing... probably not.  But could she understand and forgive the actions... most definitely.  In fact, if she was honest with herself, Hannah agreed with what that Captain and crew had done... on many levels. 

 

She wished she knew the full story.  They sounded like interesting characters.

 

Hannah finished eating a banana and packed her trash neatly, then folded the blanket and put it away.  Then she resumed her eastern trek.

 

She’d been walking for about another ten or fifteen minutes, when what looked like an overgrown footpath between two very stout trees caught her attention.  Intrigued, she thought a moment, then slipped into her shoes and started down the trail anxious to see where it led.

 

The trees began to thin out as she approached what appeared to be a glade.  Hannah took careful note of her surroundings, not wanting to get lost, and saw that there were several plants growing wild that she did not remember as being indigenous to the area.  Hannah frowned as she stopped to study them a moment, then shrugged.  She would do some research when she got back to Jack’s.  In the meantime, her curiosity had been piqued, and she was anxious to see what lay hidden in the dell.

 

She broke through the trees and stood motionless just taking in the scene.  The field was a riot of color, and Hannah again saw some plants that didn’t compute as native.  Everything had been left to grow wild. And the beauty was intoxicating.

 

In the center of the grove stood the remains of what had once been a house, Hannah thought.  Actually, it still was mostly, or could be with a little work, she thought to herself.  She moved closer to get a better look.

 

The cottage still had four walls and a roof, though there were shingles missing from what looked like storm damage.  Several of the windows were missing their protective casings, and one of these was missing glass panes as well.  There were a few that had escaped unscathed, and these still had wooden shutters covering them.  The steps leading up to the door were stone, and slick with moss and lichens.  The whole place had the sense, not of neglect, but of sacredness... almost as though it was hallowed ground that was waiting for its caretaker to come home.

 

Hannah walked around slowly, wondering at the story behind the old place.  She stepped on the stairs carefully, not wanting to risk a slip and fall out here all alone.  She peered in the window, her curiosity overcoming her natural caution. Prudently, she reached for the door latch, surprised to find it unlocked.  The door did not want to open easily though, swollen from years of disuse and exposure to the weather.

 

She pushed against it gently, then with more force, jumping in startlement at the loud cracking sound the wood made as the door opened.  A whoosh of old, stale air rushed against her and Hannah felt a momentary pang of guilt about encroaching on private property washed over her.  She hesitated on the threshold, then felt her curiosity and... something deeper... pulling her into the room.  She crossed into the room, and the door fell shut.

 

It was like coming home... in a different era.  Dark mahogany wood graced the floors and walls and gave the cottage a warm, homey look.  The furniture was slip covered and Hannah lifted the coverings to find heavy, solid wood antiques beneath the dusty cotton.  The cushions and seats were done in a slightly moldy brocade, but it was still remarkably well-preserved considering its age.

 

The empty fireplace was done in stones that had bits of moss growing sporadically, and there were leaves scattered liberally around both it and the broken window.  It was quite dark, the room lit only by the two windows that were uncovered.

 

Hannah hesitated, unwilling to trespass too much, but feeling a familiarity that beckoned her further.  She shook her head.  I think I need some more information, and I know I need some more light.  She looked at her watch, surprised to find it was mid-afternoon.  I will come back tomorrow.  There is something about this place....

 

Hannah stepped back out slowly, careful to close the door behind her.  She walked back down the path with more than one backward glance.  When the house was out of sight, she picked up speed, and made her way back down the beach towards Jack’s place.

 

************

 

When Jack returned home at almost sunset, he found his study a mess and his niece pacing furiously up and down the beach outside, apparently talking to herself.  He stood at the window and watched her for several long moments as she pounded the air and stomped across the sand.  Finally, she dropped to the ground in frustration, and he turned his attention back to the room.

 

The journal sat open on the desk, and several books had been pulled from the boxes he’d had shipped from his brother’s home.  His smile was bittersweet when he realized that she was beginning to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  And he wondered how long they would have together before she felt compelled to start the search that had consumed his family for years.

 

He remembered how he felt when he knew for certain that all his research was not for his own benefit, but for Hannah’s.  He’d been so sure....  Jack shrugged his shoulders.  He didn’t begrudge the fact that Hannah would be the one to solve this particular mystery.  He just hoped he would be able to see the conclusion through to fruition.

 

Jack moved to his bedroom as he saw his niece rise from the sand and head for the house.  He did not want to put her on the spot about her findings, nor did he want to be asked questions he couldn’t answer.  He knew she was close to discovering everything.

 

************

 

The walk along the beach into town was quiet, and dinner, surprisingly, was not a strained affair.  It was almost as if by unspoken consent, they had put untouchable subjects aside and instead focused on other interests they had in common.  They found a mutual liking of musical theatre, science fiction, and roller coasters.  They also discovered an honest dislike of rap music, bad art, and cocktail parties.

 

More people stopped by their table to exchange greetings and meet Hannah.  The lady from the general store said hello, and Hannah complimented her on her ice cream.  The woman smiled and blushed.  “It is homemade.”

 

“Well, it’s very good.  I’ll be back to try more of it.” 

 

“Had a sweet tooth craving this morning, huh?  I wondered how long you’d make it before you sniffed out the ice cream.”

 

Hannah chuckled.  “You knew it wouldn’t be long.”

 

“I know.  I could never understand how you stayed so thin with as much ice cream as you ate.”

 

“Good metabolism.”

 

“I guess, but it was frustrating as hell for me.”  He patted his belly.  “I always had to watch that.”

 

She looked at him wryly.  “Uh huh,” she said drolly.  “Try telling that to someone who didn’t eat banana splits with you on a regular basis.”

 

“Ahem.  Whoops, I forgot about that.”

 

“Yeah, I’ll just bet you did,” Hannah laughed at him.  She looked around and sighed in contentment.  “I really do like it here, Uncle Jack.  I can see the appeal, and really understand why you stayed here.”

 

He didn’t say anything, just gazed at her with quiet knowledge.  “Oh,” he said as an afterthought, “before I forget.  The annual Pirates’ Ball is in ten days, two nights before you are scheduled to fly home.  So you need to be thinking about a costume.”

 

“Pirates’ Ball?  Costume?”

 

Jack chuckled.  “Well, you got the essentials.”  At that moment, a tall, dark grizzled man stopped at the table.  Jack stood in respect, and held out a hand.  The elder man shook it and looked to Hannah before returning his gaze back to Jack.

 

“May I?” came the soft-spoken question in a deep voice.

 

“Please,” Jack answered, and gestured to an empty chair.  “Hannah, this is Cyrus, the village shaman.  Cyrus, this is Hannah Reilly, Mike and Elizabeth’s daughter.”

 

Hannah held out her hand, and the shaman accepted it, gazing at her eyes for a long moment.  Then he smiled at her.  “It is very nice to meet you, Hannah Reilly.  I have waited a long time for this.”

 

“Well, it is nice to meet you too, Cyrus.  I’m sorry you had to wait so long.  This is a very beautiful place.”

 

“Yes, it is,” he agreed.  Jack just sat back and watched their interaction.  “Can you tell me, what color are your eyes?”  Seeing her startled look, he continued.  “I apologize, but my sight has become such that I no longer see very well.  I cannot tell if they are green or blue in this light.”

 

“They’re green.”

 

A frown crossed his face.  “Hmm, I’d have thought....  Well, no matter.  I am glad to have made your acquaintance.  Your parents were lovely people, and Jack here is a good friend.”  The older man rose.  “I look forward to seeing you around.  You will be here for the celebration, yes?”

 

Hannah looked at Jack.  “I dunno.  Will I?”  He nodded.  “I guess I will then.”

 

The older man rose.  “Good.  I’ll look forward to it.”  Cyrus slipped off into the night before Hannah or Jack could respond.

 

They settled their bill and exited the restaurant, slowly walking back along the beach to Jack’s.  “So tell me about this Pirates’ Ball.  I got that it is some kind of costume party but otherwise....”  Hannah trailed off and lifted her hand.

 

“Well, the Costume Ball is actually a culmination of the day’s events, but I figured it would take you a little time to get a costume together.”  He watched as her eyes went introspective, then a blinding grin crossed her face.

 

“Got it covered,” she answered, pleased.  “I just need to make a phone call.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“You’ll just have to wait and see.  Now, tell me more about this celebration.”

 

“Well, every June twenty-fifth, the people of this island and the small islands surrounding us come together to celebrate the heroics of a group of pirates.”

 

Waitaminute, Uncle Jack.  HEROIC pirates??”

 

“Yep.  They were pirates because they were stealing from the British merchant ships.  They were heroes because their actions helped all the native people, and they did so without thought of gain.”

Hannah cast her mind back over the journal entry she’d read earlier, and a tiny piece of the puzzle clicked into place.

 

“So anyway,” Jack continued, oblivious to her wandering thoughts, “every year they get together and have a field day.  Races, contests, some really good food and games.  Then the night ends with the Pirates’ Ball.  Almost everyone keeps in the spirit and dresses in the 1850’s style.”  He paused.  “Rumor has it that sometimes the Captain and her crew actually show up for the festivities.”

 

“WHAT??  C’mon Uncle Jack.”  Hannah chuckled.  “I’m sure it makes for a good ghost story, but....”

 

“Don’t discount anything, Hannah,” Jack said soberly.  “Remember, this *IS* the Bermuda Triangle.”

 

 

 

Chapter V

 

It was late when Hannah left the solid, strong warmth of the arms that surrounded her in her dreams.  The reality of them was so genuine that she looked around in bewilderment for the missing body before she realized the truth.  It almost brought her to tears.

 

The penetrating scent of breakfast finally pierced her senses, and she shook her blonde head to clear it before moving to join Jack in the kitchen.

 

“Well, well,” he teased as he handed her a cup of coffee.  “Someone must have had a late night.”

 

He knew she’d been up a while after he’d retired.  He’d awakened twice after retiring to check on her only to still see light pouring from the study and to hear movement and mumbling as well.  Jack wondered how her search had gone.

 

It had been the wee hours of the morning before Hannah had given up in frustration.  She couldn’t seem to pinpoint where she needed to be searching.  The island had no records from the era, and no historical database she’d tapped into referenced any ‘heroic pirates’.  She’d looked in some of her father’s books, but there wasn’t much in them either. 

 

She’s grabbed up the journal again, and read the next entry.  Her brain had been jolted at what she’d read, and she’d searched frantically for her diary.  By the time she’d recalled where it was, her eyes were too tired to focus properly, and she’d given up and gone to bed, only to have the dream become a living reality.  Her cheeks flushed in remembered sensations.

 

Jack watched the play of emotions across her face, and wondered at the thoughts behind them.  He set a plate in front of her, and reached to refill her coffee cup.  He startled her when he put it down.

 

“Oh, sorry.  Thanks, Uncle Jack.  You were right... I was up late.  Guess I’m not really awake yet.”

 

“Everything okay?” wondering if she was ready to talk.

 

“Hmm?  Oh yes, just doing a bit of reading and some research.  I really think I will be able to get a novel out of this trip.”

 

“Very good.  I will look forward to it.”  He smiled at her encouragingly.

 

The phone rang then, interrupting them, and Jack excused himself to answer it.  When he came back, his face was troubled.

 

“Problem?” Hannah asked him.

 

“Depends.  I have to fly to Bermuda.  I will be there overnight, possibly two, but it shouldn’t be longer than that.  Would you like to go with me, or would you prefer to stay here?  Your choice.”

 

Hannah looked at him seriously, weighing her options.  She wanted a chance to spend time with Jack, but she needed to finish her research.  “If you don’t mind, I would like to stay here.”

 

Jack nodded his head in agreement to the not unexpected answer.  “That’s fine, honey.  I will let Jacob know to keep an eye out for you.”

 

“That’s really not necessary, Uncle Jack.”

 

“I know, but it makes me feel better.”

 

************

 

An hour later, Hannah drove back from the helo pad where she’d dropped Jack off.  She found it an interesting experience to be driving on the left hand side of the road, and was glad to have had the road to herself.  She was sure everyone was safer that way. She was a little proud though.  She’d managed to stall the jeep only once, and only twice had turned on the wipers instead of the turn signal.  This was a new skill to practice, but later.  She was gonna take the journal and her diary down to the beach, and do some comparisons. 

 

A quick change into a blue swimsuit later and she snatched up a towel and the books she needed.  Hannah settled herself in the chair, sighing in contentment at the warm sun, the cool breeze and the expanse of beauty surrounding her.  The she opened the journal, and began rereading the passage that had given her such wonderful dreams the night before.

 

 

 

May 1853

 

She came to me again last night, and it was so very real.  And though her face still is not clear to me, her eyes are engraved in my soul.  It is how I recognized her.

 

She is short of stature and fits against me perfectly.  Her breasts are full and heavy and her hips are round and firm.  Her waist is small, but she is tanned and muscular as I am, which is very unlike any of the other women I have seen.

 

Slowly, I peel her clothing away, revealing her to my hungry eyes.  Her skin is smooth as silk as I discover it, and she trembles in my arms as my touch traces her features and lingers over sensitive places on her body.  She reaches for my own clothing, frustrated when then ties refuse to loosen.  I take her smooth hands in my own and kiss the fingers one by one, laving the fingertips with my tongue.  I feel the moan she makes in the center of my being.

 

I undress for her, watching those green eyes deepen in lust and passion.  I reach for her, and she comes to me, and the joining is a completion of body and soul. I dip my head down, capturing her lips even as we lay down together on the bed.  What happened then is a private affair between us, but it is fair to say I love this woman with all of my heart, all of my soul, all of my mind.  Now I have but to find the flesh and blood incarnation of my dreams.

 

She is out there.  What we shared last night is too real for her not to be.  I love you, Green Eyes.  Wait for me, because I will find you.   

 

          

 

Hannah let out a trembling breath, recognizing the arousal the words had inspired in her yet again.  She closed her eyes, seeing again the reality of the dreams she had lived the night before. 

 

“Okay, this isn’t working.  Maybe a swim will cool me off.”

 

************

 

The water was warm and soothing, and Hannah enjoyed body surfing... until she ended up with a mouthful of sand.

 

“<Cough, cough> Ick!  Ew! Pah, pah, phooey!”  She spit out the sand and salt water she’d inhaled, and looked around, realizing she’d forgotten to grab a water bottle on her way out the door.  She dragged herself from the surf, pushing her blonde hair out of her eyes and walked to the small shed.  She retrieved a bottle from the fridge and rinsed her mouth out first, spitting the water out.  Then she guzzled half of what remained.

 

“Oh yeah.  That’s much better.”

 

Hannah strolled back over to the chair and snatched up the towel, rubbing herself dry and resuming her seat.

 

“All righty then... where was I?”  She lifted the journal, noting the date, then picked up her diary and opening it to the marker, seeing the similarity in the dates.

 

 

           

May

 

I am graduating with Summa cum Laude with my Master’s degree today, and yet all I can think of is the dream I had last night. I know now for a certainty I have fallen in love with a woman, and my soul and body ache to find her in the flesh.

 

I dreamed of her last night and she became real to me.  I cannot see her face... only her eyes are clear.  But her body was mine for the taking, and it was beautiful.

 

She offered herself to me, and claimed me for her own as well. The vividness of my dream made me wake feeling sated and loved.  I have never felt as loved and cared for as I did last night under her ministrations.  I only wish I could find the reality of her.  We fit, like nothing or no one I have ever known, and I want it to be more than just a dream.

 

 

 

Hannah sat back after reading her own words, and remembered the sensation she’d awakened with that very morning.  It recalled to her this very time... well-loved, satisfied, protected and at the same time lost and confused.  She stared into nothingness for a time before jumping up and grabbing her stuff.  She headed into the house, setting her books in her room and hanging the towel up to dry before slipping into the kitchen for a bite of lunch. 

 

************

 

When lunch was finished, she slid into a pair of shorts, snatched up a towel and her shoes, and picked up a flashlight.  Then she determinedly made her way down toward the beach and headed east, looking for the path she’d discovered the day before.

 

Stopping at the path, she set her towel down, and stepped into her shoes.  Then she started up the trail to the cottage.

 

The door opened a little easier this time, though the house still smelled old and musty.  Hannah crossed the threshold and moved further into the house.  The furniture was still draped in cotton coverings, and the floor creaked just slightly under her weight.  She walked in, turning on the flashlight and looking around in curious interest.  Aside from the coverings, there were two portraits on the wall she had not noticed before.

 

The first painting made her hold her breath, gazing in wonder at the eyes she had known all her life.  A woman in the uniform of a Captain in the British Navy done by the loving hand of a true artist.  Hannah stepped closer to the picture, not recognizing the artist’s name, but drawn to closer inspection of it.  The figure wore white breeches and waistcoat, topped by a blue dress coat.  Imposing, but not nearly as fascinating as the face.

 

She’s gorgeous, the writer thought to herself.  Long raven hair flowed freely over the woman’s shoulder’s framing the tanned lean face.  Piercing blue eyes glowed with intensity from beneath slim, arched brows and the high cheekbones accented the planes of her face.  There was the slightest hint of a quirk to the full lips, and this was magnified by the twinkle lurking in the depths of blue.  Hannah found her own lips creasing into an answering smile.

 

“Who are you, I wonder?”

 

The writer turned, and focused her gaze on the other picture in the room.  It appeared to have been done by the same hand as the first, and what she saw made her drop the flashlight in startlement.  It was with shaking hands that she retrieved it and Hannah continued to stare at the picture in true shock.

 

The scene was of two women standing on the very beach this house sat on looking out over the water.   The taller stood behind her shorter companion, arms wrapped around her in complete contentment.  It was impossible to see their faces, but the wind whipped their hair together, blending the blonde and brunette into a single entity.

 

“I recognize this... I *remember* this,” Hannah breathed to herself.  “What am I saying??  I can't remember this."  She shook her head again.  "But it is so... familiar."  Almost she could hear the wind, smell the tang of the sea, feel the warmth of those strong arms around her.  She pulled herself away forcefully, deliberately turning her back the sense of coming home the picture communicated to her soul. 

 

Instead, she walked towards the back of the cottage, finding a small, old-fashioned kitchen area complete with a table and two chairs set against the shuttered window at the back of the house.  The handle pump beckoned to her, but she found it in desperate need of priming and was unable to move it.  The sink and drainage set up was quite clever and advanced considering its age, and she was surprised to find stored foodstuffs still in the pantry.

 

The house had dishes in the cabinets, and some of the finest bone china Hannah had ever seen.  It was completely furnished for living, she realized.  A partially opened door off the kitchen revealed a bathing room with a huge, old-fashioned claw-footed tub, and the most peculiar plumbing she had ever seen.  She opened a small closet and found the tattered remains of what had once been linens.

 

She stepped back out of the room, and opened the door from the kitchen back into the main living part of the house.  It was then that the flashlight caught the reflection of a door handle on either side of the fireplace, and she moved to the nearest one.

 

It took a little effort, but Hannah managed to push it open, then stopped dead.  It was a bedroom, and from one of the windows missing its covering the light was allowed to flood in.  A four poster canopied bed stood regally in the center of one wall, and was the focal point of the room.  Bits of cloth draped each post, bare reminders of their needed function.  Each side had a small table with a lamp, and an armoire stood on the wall nearest the bathing room door.

 

There were two fireplaces... the one that backed into the living room and one on the wall towards the outside.  There was a door next to this one, and Hannah wandered over towards it.  She noted an empty frame above one fireplace, and two crossed swords over the other. It occurred to her then that the house had been built for a single person or a couple, and every indication was that it was a home for two.

 

There was a cozy niche opposite the armoire near the second fireplace, and here resided what looked to be two very plump, cushy chairs.  Hannah lifted the covering enough to peek, sneezing at the dust she stirred in the process.  These chairs were much more worn that the ones in the living room, and she suspected the occupants spent a lot more time here than in the formality of the outer room.

 

Hannah looked toward the door, and walked over to it, surprised when it swung open almost easily.  This room was filled with books... very old and very well kept.  A map hung above the fireplace, and a massive desk stood against one wall.  The writer's eyes glowed in appreciation for the treasures she'd found in this room, and she delicately touched the bindings on the shelves nearest her.

 

She walked slowly around the room, green eyes taking in with interest the variety of titles and topics the library held.  There were books overflowing onto the desk and filling every conceivable space on the shelves. She noted the beautiful rug on the floor and the layer of dust covering everything, and felt sadness at the neglect of so many wonderful things that had obviously been such a part of someone's life.

 

Hannah took a last look around, then walked out the front door, closing it tightly behind her again. Then she took a seat on the steps, mindless of the stains the algae was leaving on her shorts.  She closed her eyes and put her head in her hands.  It was so easy for her to picture what this place might have been like when it was still breathing and full of life.  The thought that it no longer was alive brought unexplained tears to her eyes, and she let them roll silently down her cheeks for a moment before getting up and wiping them away.

 

She turned and faced the house again, smiling now at the image she had of it and its occupants.  Then she stepped back onto the path towards the beach without a backwards glance, her mind rapidly putting together the pieces of a new story. 

 

Hannah chuckled silently as she emerged onto the beach from the path.  She slipped her shorts off and folded them on top of her towel.  Then she squealed in pure happiness and plunged into the warm surf.

 

************

 

"'Tis a beautiful day out, Mr. Merryweather.  There's a feeling in the air...."

 

"I'll agree with that sentiment, Fitz.  And our Captain seems to be in a fine mood."  From their positions near and at the wheel, both men looked toward the forecastle where the Captain stood looking out across the expanse of sea.

 

"Aye, sir.  She does.  And it does my heart good."

 

The officer put a hand on the shoulder of the steersman.  "Agreed again, my friend.  I worry about her sometimes.  What we do is hard on all of us, but her especially."

 

"I hope she finds what she's been looking for out here."  The first officer didn't answer, but squeezed Fitz's shoulder as he moved towards the bow of the ship.

 

"Mr. Roberts, trim the sails."  He stopped to look as several of the sailors braided and coiled rope and gave an approving nod.  Another group was busy cleaning, and Merryweather had to laugh at the military spic-and-spanness this 'pirate' crew maintained.

 

"Mr. Merryweather!"  The voice from the crow's nest beckoned.  The tall blonde man turned his attention upwards.

 

"Yes, Mr. Cyrus?"

 

"Land ho, sir!"

 

"Excellent work.  I'll notify the Captain."

 

The first officer snapped his fingers at the cabin boy who scampered over to him.  "Yes, Mr. Merryweather?"

 

"Fetch the Captain's spy glass, Harold.  Quickly."

 

"Aye, sir," and the youngster ran to do his bidding.

 

The officer made his way to the front of the ship where the Captain continued to stand looking out towards the west, waiting for the island to come into view.  She couldn't help the smile that crossed her face from time to time.  The dream the night before had been so real, so vivid that she knew for a certainty that destiny was approaching.

 

Donovan didn't even turn around when her first officer approached.  He stood quietly behind her watching as running footsteps joined them.  Merryweather reached out his hand and the boy slipped the spy glass into it.  The officer nodded his dismissal, and then handed the glass to the Captain.  "Sir," was all he said.

 

"Thank you, Mr. Merryweather," came the low voice said gently.  Then she lifted the scope to her very blue eyes, closing one so she could focus.  Her sight swept the familiar shoreline of the island that had become a home away from home to both her and her crew.  She missed it when they were away too long, though she understood her men's need to go back home, and of course, their official orders dictated it regularly.

 

Without warning, her eyes lit on a vision emerging from the tree line that led to her cottage.  She focused harder, willing herself to see the woman more clearly.  A gasp fell unbidden from her lips and she sagged slightly before she felt Merryweather place a hand on her shoulder in silent support.

 

Donovan let it remain there for a moment before she straightened and he removed his hand as a matter of course.  "Bring the ship about Mr. Merryweather.  Hard to port."

 

"Captain?"

 

"You heard me, mister.  We need to come in to the Eastern side of the island.  I have to get to the cottage immediately."

 

"Captain?"  Never in the eight years they'd served together and in the four years he'd served as her second had she ever put herself or her needs above the crew or their duty.  The need in her eyes now was so apparent it was painful to see, and the blonde man simply nodded in acquiescence.  "Aye, sir."

 

"Mr. Fitzgerald, bring her about to port, sir!  Mr. Roberts and Mr. James, man the sails.  And Mr. Cyrus, keep a sharp eye out.  We don't want to hit the reef!"

 

A chorus of "Aye, sirs!" answered his instructions and immediately the ship began maneuvering to come in to the east.  The Captain had raised the glass to her eye again and seemed to be focused intently on something he could not yet see.  No matter.  She had always done her best for them.  It was time to do their best for her.

 

Oh, Green Eyes... have I found you at last?

 

************

 

Hannah was tired but very relaxed when she waded out of the water some time later, and she already had a basic outline of her new novel in her head.  She smirked to herself.  Charlie is gonna be so surprised, and so is Anita knowing the reactions of both her editor and her publisher.  Both women had been after her for quite some time to try her hand at writing for adults instead of pre-teens.

 

She walked over to her towel, shaking it open and drying off.  She stood with her eyes closed absorbing the sun for a long moment, and when she opened them caught a glimpse of a huge three-masted ship.  She swiveled her head around, but there was nothing there.  She blinked but still saw nothing, so she shrugged and wrapped the towel around her.

 

She grabbed up her shorts and shoes and stuck them in the bag with the books.  Then she started back down the beach towards Jack's house.  Unexpectedly, a blast of cold air blew across her, and she shivered in reflex.  She looked around again and hugged the bag to her, picking up speed.

 

She was exhausted by the time she reached the house.  She took a quick shower, and dropped into bed for a quick nap.  The sun was just hitting the horizon when she woke up.

 

"Oh... wow!"  Hannah scrubbed a hand through her hair.  "Hmm, I think that's gonna need a little water," she chuckled as she looked in the mirror at the hair standing up all over her head.  She stepped into the shower, correctly figuring it would be the fastest and easiest method to deal with her hair.  She dressed and threw a load of towels into the washer, then headed out the door to town.

 

She was glad the road was empty, because navigating backwards in the dark was harder than she'd imagined it would be.  She arrived in town to pick up the dinner she'd ordered, and was stopped by Jacob on the way in to the restaurant.

 

"Is everything okay, Hannah?  You look like you're enjoying our island," he smiled at her engagingly.

 

"I'm fine, Jacob.  Thank you for asking.  And I love your island.  It is so beautiful here... so peaceful."

 

His wife Elizabeth took her hand and answered.  "It is, and we are glad you've come to visit.  You will be here for the Pirates' Ball, won't you?"

 

"Yes ma'am.  I have already called for my costume," remembering the surprise in Sarah's voice when she'd called.

 

"Good.  It’s a great party.  You’ll love it."

 

The waitress came over then and brought Hannah her dinner.  She paid the woman and nodded her thanks, then turned back to Jacob and Elizabeth.  "Thank you for checking on me. It makes me feel a part of the community here."

 

"You are, and we're glad you're here," Jacob responded.

 

"Now go eat your dinner while it's hot, dear," Elizabeth added.  "We'll talk more later."

 

Hannah nodded and made her way back to the jeep and headed for home. 

 

************

 

"Are you sure about this Mr. Merryweather?" the yeoman asked as they rowed the longboat back to the ship.  The first officer had brought the ship to the closest point to the cottage that he could manage, and offered to take the Captain ashore.  She hadn't refused and they had dropped her almost at the path's entrance.

 

"Yes, Mr. Jacobs.  I am sure."

 

"Good," the younger man responded. "It's time she found some happiness as well."

 

************

 

Donovan stepped from the longboat and took her bag from her second with a nod.  He offered her a salute.  "Sir, we will continue on around the island and take care of business.  We will be back around to pick you up after the Ball."

 

"Very well, Mr. Merryweather.  Carry on."  Her expressive eyes said what her lips could not utter.

 

"Aye, sir.  Enjoy your reprieve."

 

She smiled genuinely then, and lifted a hand in salute and farewell.  She pushed them back from the shore, then picked up the bag she'd set to one side and headed for the place she loved to call home.

 

She ran a critical eye over the house as she stepped into the grove, pleased with what she found. The cottage looked to be in good shape.  All the windows were shuttered, and though a few shingles appeared to be loose, they were all there and seemingly in good condition.

 

Donovan noted that the steps needed sweeping, but were in good repair, and she pushed open the door easily, smiling in relief as the familiar scents of home greeted her.  The furniture was covered, but that took only a moment to correct, and wood lay in the fireplace ready for lighting.  She opened the shutters to allow the light in and opened the windows to let fresh air to flow through the house.

 

She gazed wistfully at the portrait of the two women together she had painted two years previously, after a very intense erotic dream.  Soon, Green Eyes.  Donovan opened the door to the bedroom and set her bag down, carefully putting its contents away.  She took fresh sheets from the cedar closet and carefully made up the big bed, tying back the canopy netting until it would be needed later that night.

 

She looked around at the sparse room.  I really should find something to put above the mantles.  then she shrugged.  Not like I spend enough time here to do that yet.  Then she smiled.  She knew she would one day.  Already she had a number of creature comforts installed, thinking of the brand new tub she had installed on her last visit, and the gorgeous rug she'd found for her study this trip.  She was still working, but more and more this place was becoming a home.

 

Donovan carefully laid the rug out in front of her desk, nodding in approval at the way it brightened the room.  She glanced at the partially filled shelves, noting that she would have to meet the ship at some point before they left to pick up the crate of books she'd left on board. They would almost fill an entire shelf, leaving her with only four more shelves to fill.

 

The Captain moved into the kitchen, knowing that she would need to do some trading for some fresh supplies while she was here.  She primed the pump, letting the water run for a moment before grabbing a glass and rinsing it out then filling it up and taking a long cool drink.

 

"Ah, that hits the spot."  She knew most of her men eschewed the thought of drinking fresh water, but to her, it was nectar after weeks at sea.  She filled a metal basin and set it on the stove, then lit the fire.  She moved back to the bathroom, starting the water running into the tub, and congratulating herself once again for her ingenuity.  Now, if I could just figure out how to heat it before it got here.

 

Shrugging, she pulled her boots off with a groan of relief, then slid out of her leather pants and cotton shirt.  The trousers were laid over the back of a chair and the shirt was put into a corner for washing.  She stopped the water and went back to the kitchen.

 

"Well, that is going to take a while," she muttered, moving back to the study.  "Let's see what we can find to read."  She grabbed the book she'd been reading on her last visit and moved back into the bedroom.  Laying down on the bed, she started reading, but it wasn't long before exhaustion took over, and she feel into a deep sleep.

 

The sun was just beginning to set when Donovan opened her eyes.  "Holy Mother!" she exclaimed as she rolled swiftly from the bed and raced to the kitchen.

 

The water, in the still mostly full pan, was gently roiling.  Donovan blew out a breath of relief, and grabbed the basin with two pot holders and moved into the bathroom.  She poured the hot water into the tepid water already in the tub, and took the container back out to the kitchen.  Then she shucked her undergarments, sighing in ecstasy as she settled into the cleansing warmth.

 

It didn't take long, and she was clean and smelling faintly of cinnamon.  She smiled as she thought of her mother preparing the soap especially for her.  She dressed carefully, sliding into clean leather and silk.  Her still wet hair she combed through and braided back tightly.  She wiped her boots off and stepped into them, pulling them up and settling them firmly.  She stamped her feet and looked around, then stepped out the door and went in search of her destiny.

 

 

 

Chapter VI

 

Hannah dropped the bag on the table and transferred the towels to the dryer.  Then she took her dinner and put it on a plate, deciding to sit in the small garden alcove that overlooked the beach and eat by the light of the moon.

 

The sound of the waves was mesmerizing and she took her time enjoying the spicy island fare.  She watched as the moonlight traced a path in the water, and wondered again where it would lead her if she followed it.  So absorbed in her thoughts was she that it took a few moments before she became aware of the rhythmic sound of footsteps approaching her.

 

Strangely, she was not alarmed by the sound.  They were sure and steady, not stealthy, and she took comfort in that fact.  Obviously it was a native who had wandered too far without realizing they'd crossed the boundary.  It didn't dawn on her that the sound was coming from the east and not the west.

 

She was still eating when the figure emerged and she just looked for a long moment, trying to discern if she'd met the person now standing down from her facing the water.  The individual was tall, strength evident in the breadth of the shoulders and the molded leather pants.  Dark hair was braided tightly and rested against the strong back. 

 

The figure turned then, and the profile was silhouetted by the moonlight.  Hannah drew in a breath.  The vision was a woman, and so familiar.  Hannah searched her memory, trying to recall the woman's name, but nothing fell into place.  The tall woman turned slowly as though searching for something.

 

"Excuse me, but are you lost?"  Hannah called out quietly.  Donovan spun on her heel.  She couldn't see much of anything... a bare outline from the direction the voice had come from.  The Captain didn't answer the question.  She was trying to place the tender voice.

 

"I'm sorry," Hannah said again, "but you are trespassing on private property.  Can I help you find something?"

 

Donovan came to herself then, and shook her head.  "I beg your pardon, m'lady.  I was not aware this bit of land had been claimed.  If you will excuse me...."  And the Captain bowed with a flourish and headed back down the beach before Hannah could recover her wits which scattered at the low, rich lilt that had rolled across her hearing when the dark woman spoke.

 

The blonde ran her hands through her hair in frustration.  There was something so familiar in that body, that profile, that voice....  But she couldn't place it and the harder she pushed, the more elusive the memory became.

 

"I think I need to take a break. I have been trying so hard to solve whatever this mystery is that my brain is on overload.  Tomorrow I'm gonna do nothing but relax."  She looked in the direction the tall woman had retreated.  "Maybe I'll go meet the new neighbor... if I can find her."

 

************

 

Donovan strolled back down the shoreline, a preoccupied frown etched on her face.  That voice, she was sure that she'd heard it before, but there was no way to be certain without being able to see the owner.  She was frustrated.  The darkness had made it impossible to follow what she thought was Green Eyes' trail, even by moonlight.

 

She stopped suddenly.  "Wait just a damn bloody minute," she cursed to herself.  She turned and glanced back in the direction she'd just come from.  "Do you suppose...?"  She took two steps back toward that voice before jerking to a halt and shoving her hands in her pockets.

 

"Waitaminute, Donovan," she muttered.  "You do not need to go in there scaring the young lady half to death.  If you are right, she might understand.  If she has been having the dreams, anyway.  But if you are wrong, they will send you to the loony bin for sure."  She ran one hand over her head, loosening the braid and letting her hair fly free in the breeze.  "You have waited this long.  Waiting until it is daylight not going to kill you."

 

She increased her pace until she was moving at a near run.  "Maybe I will see her in my dreams tonight."  That thought caused her exuberance to soar and the emotion made her almost giddy.  She increased her pace and jumped into the air, doing a lazy somersault before returning her feet to the earth, then running exuberantly all the way home.

 

She was still smiling when she settled down to sleep.

 

************

 

A face slowly began to form around the loving blue eyes.  Nothing clear, but a profile which was resolving itself into a familiar shape.  Hannah reached up with trembling fingers and gently traced the planes of the Angel face, and sifted her hand through the free-flowing dark hair.  She felt large, work-roughened hands grip her gently at the waist, and ran her other hand up the soft, strong chest to wrap in the raven tresses.

 

Hannah tugged gently on the head in her hands, and was delighted by the twinkle in the blue eyes reflected in the growing smile as the dark head lowered. Then those full smiling lips captured her own, and the blonde lost herself in the passion that ignited between them.

 

Donovan let her hands wander down from the small waist and over the shapely hips, pulling the lithe body more firmly into her own.  She smiled into the kiss as the blonde began massaging her scalp, taking a firmer grip on her hair.  The kiss went on interminably until the two were forced to pull away for a lack of air.

 

Blue and green gazed at each other for long moments, speaking words that their lips did not say.  Donovan caressed a smooth cheek, smiling when Hannah closed her eyes and leaned into the touch.  "You are very beautiful."

 

Hannah had no chance to answer the compliment, for Donovan covered her lips again and claimed them passionately.  Hannah let her hands wander, loosening the ties she found on Donovan's shirt and sliding her hand inside to touch the silky skin hidden there.

 

Donovan pulled away from Hannah just slightly, causing a furrow to crease the blonde's brow, until she realized Donovan's intent.  The Captain shrugged out of her shirt and returned to the kiss-swollen lips, untying the knot at the neck, then dropping Hannah's dress to the floor.  Without breaking the kiss, Donovan lifted Hannah and encouraged her to wrap her strong legs around Donovan's waist.  Then the ship's Captain walked them over and tenderly lowered them to the bed together, making their dreams reality once again.

 

************

 

Hannah woke up late morning wrapped around a pillow instead of the warm body she'd expected to find there and frowned.  It was so real, considering how loved and sated she felt.  Then she smiled.  I will find you, Blue Eyes.  Very soon.  She stretched and swung her legs out of the bed.  But first I need a shower.  And then I'm gonna go meet this new neighbor I seem to have gotten.

 

It didn't take long.  Hannah dressed in the tropical print thong she'd found shopping with Katie, and tied a sarong over her hips.  Then she looked through the fridge, putting together a picnic for two from the abundance of things Jack had available.  Nodding in satisfaction, she headed out the door and down the beach.

 

Her thoughts wandered while she walked, reviewing the dream she'd had the night before.  Hannah was in quite a state by the time she'd reached the footpath, and stopped a minute just to breathe.  Finally feeling herself under control again, she hefted the basket and started down the trail.

 

"Hello?  Hello?" she called.  "Is anyone here?"  Hannah felt foolish.  Her two previous visits had shown her there was no one here, but her logical mind dictated that the woman had to have come from here.  It was the only place within reasonable walking distance from this direction.  The town itself and all the locals she'd met lived on the other side of Jack’s.

 

"Excuse me," came the lilting voice from the night before from a position high above her.  "Are you lost?  You are trespassing on private property."

 

Hannah flushed slightly, remembering these exact words falling from her lips the night before.  God, I didn't realize how snotty that sounded.  She looked around for the speaker and cleared her throat.

 

"No, I'm not lost.  I'm looking for someone."

 

"Well, there is no one here but me."  The voice was still out of sight, but Hannah detected the slightest hint of a smile in it.

 

"Perhaps you are the one I am seeking.  Could you step out where I can see you, please?"

 

Donovan rose to her full height then, and stepped to the front of the roof.  She'd awakened at dawn so refreshed and full of energy that she'd taken a run.  When she'd gotten back to the cottage, the sun had been up, and she'd decided to check the roof.  The haze on the horizon meant a storm this afternoon, and Donovan wanted everything tight and cozy before then.

 

Hannah stared in astonishment at the vision that stood to greet her.  The woman was fierce in her presentation, backlit by the sunshine that outlined her sculpted, muscular upper body.  She felt her mouth drop slightly, but couldn't seem to tear her eyes away.

 

Donovan had been almost finished when she'd heard the young woman's approach.  She looked down at herself in disgust.  She was sweating profusely, and in the rough trousers and shirtless state she’d been working in, she was in no position to receive company.

 

She snatched up the shirt she'd taken off early in her task, and slid it over her shoulders, leaving it untied, so her breasts were covered, but her muscled abdomen was still visible.  She stepped from the eave and slid down the ladder.  Donovan landed with a bit of a flourish and turned, freezing when blue eyes met green for the first time.

 

Hannah moved closer, reaching up a shaking hand to catch the drop of sweat rolling down the dark brow, their gazes locked and searching each other.  She stroked the sensitive skin of the cheekbone, tracing the taller woman's features before sliding her fingers into the damp locks.

 

Donovan felt her breath catch in her throat as she realized that Green Eyes was finally flesh and blood within her grasp.  She watched fascinated as Hannah made the first move to bring them together, almost groaning at the first touch of skin on skin.  She forced herself to keep her eyes open while the blonde woman explored her face, unwilling to lose the reality that was becoming hers.  Only when Hannah twined her fingers in the raven hair did Donovan finally allow herself to reach out and grasp the slim waist and draw Hannah firmly into her.

 

No words were exchanged.  None were necessary in this first real physical communication between them.  Donovan leaned in slowly, offering Hannah the opportunity to pull away if....  Then she felt her head being drawn down and their lips met, and everything except the reality of them melted away into nothingness for a timeless moment.

 

"Finally," Donovan breathed.  "Finally I have you in my arms.  I have dreamed of you, you know, since you were a child.  I watched you grow up in my dreams."  Donovan said quietly when their lips reluctantly parted.  "You became my dream."

 

"And now?"

 

"And now, I want to make you my reality. I am going to take the time to get to know you personally... to court you the way a lady deserves to be courted.  I find you to be a most beautiful woman.  I want to know all about you, and I would like to take you home to meet my father and mother."

 

Hannah gasped slightly.  "This is all so sudden.  And yet, I've waited a lifetime for you."

 

"As I have for you, Angel.  I have spent my life falling in love with you in my dreams."

 

"I'd like to do it for real."

 

"Then you'll come home with me?  Meet my parents?"

 

"I promised Uncle Jack I would stay for the Pirates' Ball.  But if you still want me when that is over... yes, I will come home with you and meet your folks.  And in the meantime, we can get to know each other outside our dreams."

 

Blue eyes lit with uncontrolled happiness.  "I think I would like that.  It is something I have looked forward to for a long time."

 

Hannah couldn't help the grin that plastered her face.  "Me too.  So will you join me on a picnic for lunch?"

 

"Well, that depends," Donovan answered seriously as thunder rumbled ominously in the background.  A cool wind followed the sound and Hannah shuddered slightly.  Donovan tightened her grip slightly.

 

"On what?" Hannah asked curiously.

 

"Will you tell me your name?"  The dashing grin on Donovan's face made Hannah blush, and that simply made the grin broaden.  "I will go first.  I am Donovan Scott."

 

"Hannah Reilly."

 

"Well, Hannah Reilly, if you would consent to allow me a few moments to clean up, I would be delighted to join you on a picnic."  The thunder rumbled ominously again.  "Though we may end up having to eat it in the house." 

 

Hannah smiled, her nose crinkling up in delight.  "Well," she started, bending over to retrieve the basket she had dropped when Donovan had stood up on the roof.  Donovan slipped it gallantly from her grasp, and extended an arm.  Hannah took it as a matter of course and let the taller woman escort her toward the cottage door.  "I think I could do that."  She smiled impishly, now.  "Though a little rain never hurt a body."

 

Donovan chuckled.  "I will remind you of that while we are standing in the middle of the meadow getting soaked together."

 

Hannah's eyes widened at the implications and she swallowed hard.  Donovan missed the expression since she'd moved slightly ahead of the smaller woman to open the door for them to enter the house.

 

Donovan swung the door open and gestured for Hannah to step in ahead of her.  Immediately Hannah was struck by several subtle differences from her visit the previous morning.  The first thing she noticed was the abundance of light that shone in the room, and the fresh air that greeted her.  The absence of dust coverings was apparent, and she noted that the furniture seem almost new.

 

Unconsciously, she looked for the two paintings that had so captured her attention the day before, and realized that only one hung in the room now.  Her brow furrowed.  How very odd, she thought to herself, but found her feet moving to stand before the portrait of her and Donovan on the shore.

 

Donovan set the basket in the kitchen, and came back out to see Hannah mesmerized by the seascape.  She walked up behind the blonde gently, and tenderly laid her hands on Hannah's shoulders.

 

"I did that one about two years ago," she whispered, her warm breath a caress on Hannah's ear that sent goosebumps skittering along her skin.  "After the most incredible dream with you."

 

Hannah flushed, and knew Donovan could feel the heat.  "I remember that," she mumbled, leaning back into the strong body behind her.  "It was the first time we made love together in our dreams.  And before we left we stood on this shore together, wrapped around one another just like this."  She sighed when Donovan's hands slid around her waist and cradled her carefully.  "It was so wonderful."  Her face scrunched up in thought.  Though I thought it was five years ago.  Whatever.

 

"Our first real time will be even more wonderful, I promise."  Donovan felt Hannah laugh, and pulled back slightly to peer into her eyes.  "What?"

 

"I'm not sure either of us could survive it," Hannah smiled impishly, watching Donovan's smile light up her whole visage.

 

"Aye, but what a way to die.  Now, if you will excuse me for a moment," she continued without pausing for breath, “I need to clean up before I stink up the place."  She placed a light peck on Hannah's cheek.  "Be right back."

 

Hannah heard the water running and sank into the small couch, her eyes again regarding the portrait while her hand rested on the still tingling spot that Donovan's lips had touched.  "Whoo boy, I think a cold shower might do me some good too."

 

Hannah sank into the couch, eyes still focused on the portrait, and letting that visual carry her back to the events that had inspired its creation.  That was five years ago... I *KNOW* it was.  Because that was the night before my Master's graduation.  She shrugged. Not that the *when* actually matters.  Nothing is going to change the way that I feel or what we shared.  Absently, she stroked the brocade's newness and let her thoughts drift.

 

A hint of cinnamon reached her nostrils and Hannah smiled in reflex.  "Hello, love," she whispered, sighing in contentment as two strong arms wrapped around her from behind.  "You smell nice."

 

Donovan chuckled and sat down, stretching an arm out in invitation.  "Better than before then, yes?"

 

"Well, different."  Hannah scooted over until they were touching, sitting side by side.  Donovan curled the arm around her, and Hannah turned just slightly in the embrace.   "You have a very pleasant natural scent actually, and though I will admit to being partial to the aroma of cinnamon, clean sweat does have its charm."

 

Donovan grinned, and not for the first time Hannah noticed the roguish sex appeal it held.  "Does it now?" she asked, leaning into Hannah just slightly and feeling inordinately pleased when Hannah returned the pressure.

 

"Um hmm," she answered, leaning even closer and brushing her lips over Donovan's, and the Captain lost no time in returning the kiss. Her arm tightened around Hannah, and she brought her other hand up to cup the blonde woman's face. The embrace deepened, and two sets of breathing had gone ragged before they separated and looked into one another's eyes.

 

"We don't have to give up the kissing while we do this courting thing, do we?"  Hannah asked on a breathless note.  Donovan captured her lips again briefly, passionately.   "I'll take that as a no," Hannah replied with a smile.

 

"You would be taking it rightly then," Donovan said, gently stroking the skin underneath her hand, happy when Hannah's eyes closed and she leaned into the touch.  "I do not want you to think... I mean, I want to know you... um, I uh...."

 

Hannah laid her hands on Donovan's chest, feeling the rapid beat of her heart.  "Donovan, I am touched that you want to court me.  I'd like the chance to do the same... to spoil you a little.  And I am looking forward to getting to now you as a person and not just a dream.  But nothing, NOTHING is going to change the way that I feel about you.  All right?"

 

Donovan read the sincerity behind the words in Hannah's eyes.  "Very well," she nodded.  "I just do not want you ever to feel like you are being taken advantage of."  She stopped speaking as fingers covered her lips.

 

"I have never been taken advantage of by you.  I have only been well loved."  Hannah leaned forward and kissed Donovan lightly on the lips.  "Now c'mon," she said, looking out an open window.  "The sun is shining, and the thunder is gone, so maybe the storm passed by us.  Let's go picnic."

 

Donovan stood and helped Hannah to her feet.  Hannah looked at Donovan who stood casually in cotton trousers and shirt.  The shirt had no sleeves and was tied just below her ribcage and Hannah was again impressed with the musculature she could see. "Come," Donovan said quietly, extending a hand out to Hannah.

 

They walked out through the kitchen, and Donovan snagged the basket Hannah had prepared.  Then they walked out the back door, and for the first time, Hannah noticed the stone patio. "Oh, how lovely.  I like it here."

 

Donovan looked around and took a deep breath.  "As do I," she smiled.  "This is my sanctuary.  The men helped me build the basic structure, but I have been working on it every chance I get when we come here."

 

"How often do you come?"

 

Donovan shrugged.  "For the past four years, a couple weeks, every six months or so.  This year has been a little different.  This is actually our fourth trip here."

 

"Why?"

 

Donovan turned and faced Hannah, and the smaller woman rested her hands lightly on Donovan's hips.  The Captain smiled.  "I was chasing my destiny.  I had a feeling I would find you... I just had to keep trying."  Hannah smiled and blushed charmingly.  Donovan kissed her on the nose.  "Besides, it gave me a chance to get some things done around here."

 

"Well, I like what you’ve done here.  It's beautiful."  Hannah looked around again.  "You have very talented hands."

 

Donovan waggled her eyebrows.  "Thank you, my dear," she said with a roguish smile.

 

Hannah blushed again, and slapped her arm.  "Behave, you!"  Donovan laughed out loud and they resumed their walk.  They didn't go very far... just out of sight of the cottage.  Donovan set the basket down, and Hannah retrieved the blanket she'd packed on top.

 

Donovan took a side and together they laid it on the ground.  Then Hannah began unpacking the lunch she'd brought for them to share.  The basket had been an old one she'd found at Jack's and it had been quite the challenge to figure out how some of the old-fashioned containers worked.  So the first thing she did was pull everything out and set it to one side.

 

Donovan was investigating the contents of each of the boxes with incredible ease, Hannah noted absently, considering her own difficulty.  Then she remembered that this woman had built her own house from the ground up and figured the engineering involved in a picnic basket wouldn't be terribly hard for her.

 

"What do we have here?" Donovan muttered as she opened the first lid.   She sniffed carefully.  "Fried chicken?"  She looked up at Hannah.  "Potatoes, hmmm... I like potatoes.  And biscuits... this just keeps getting better."  She took the fourth container from Hannah's hands.  "You know, these are quite clever.  I don't believe I have ever seen anything quite like them."

 

Hannah nodded her agreement, pulling an old canteen from the bottom of the basket.  "Neither had I, actually, but it was all I could find at Uncle Jack's place.  I guess he's not big on picnics." 

 

"Maybe he's waiting to find someone special to share them with."  She picked up the last container.  "Now, what could this be?"  The perplexed look did not leave Donovan's face, even when she opened the box.  Cautiously she lifted it nearer her nose and inhaled.  "Well, it smells pretty good... like chocolate," arching an eyebrow at Hannah.  "What is it?"

 

"Chocolate cake."  Hannah's brow furrowed when the brow remained cocked.  "You've never had chocolate cake?"

 

Donovan shook her dark head.  "I do not think so.  It does not smell like anything I have ever eaten."

 

Hannah took the container from Donovan, and scooped up a blob of icing on her finger.  She lifted the finger to Donovan's lips and waited.  Donovan sniffed at it again, then shrugged and extended her tongue to cautiously taste the offering.  Very tentatively she tasted the morsel she'd licked from Hannah's finger, then with a primordial growl clasped Hannah's wrist and drew the finger into her mouth, cleaning it thoroughly.

 

Hannah swooned and nearly fainted from the sensations Donovan was causing to cascade over her body.  Donovan looked up and was treated to raw passion and desire flushing Hannah's face and making her eyes darken and glow.  Donovan cleared her throat as she slipped the finger from her mouth.

 

"I uh... I am sorry Hannah.  I... that was, um... delicious. And so was the chocolate," muttered under her breath.  Hannah heard her though, and she couldn't control the flaring of her nostrils.  Donovan caught the look and smiled nervously, suddenly feeling like a rabbit in a cage with a cobra, and she felt a distinct chill skitter across her skin.  It wasn't an unpleasant sensation, but it was definitely different than what she was used to or expected.  She cleared her throat again and inhaled a shaky breath.

 

"Maybe we should concentrate on eating lunch?" Donovan suggested in a questioning tone.

 

Hannah took a deep breath of her own and closed her eyes, willing herself to calmness.  When she felt her breathing slow and her heartbeat resume a more measured tempo, she opened her eyes and stared at Donovan.  "Maybe we should, because if you play with fire...."

 

"I know.  And I would still like to know you as a person before I get branded for life."  This said with a grin that twinkled in the depths of her eyes.

 

"Oh," Hannah replied with a mischievous smile.  "You've been branded.  You just don't know it yet."  She smirked.  "But you will.  I promise you will."  Hannah handed Donovan a full plate and winked.  Donovan got into the spirit of the conversation.

 

"Guess I had better find a ring and a minister then.  I need to make an honest woman out of you.  Although actually...."  The thought trailed off, and it wasn't until Hannah realized that Donovan was lost in thought that she picked up the thread.

 

"Actually what?"  She lightly prodded Donovan on the leg.  The Captain started and began to eat the meal in her hand.

 

"Oh, um, my father is a ship's captain, or he was until he retired from service.  He could marry us."

 

"Would he, though?  It's not like this is an accepted lifestyle by most people."

 

"I think he would.  He has never wanted anything more than for me to be happy.  He would understand that you make me happy.  Mama on the other hand...."  Donovan looked up and let her eyes meet Hannah's.  "I do not know how Mama will react.  She was not happy when I went to sea with Papa.  And she has never been comfortable that as far as the world knows, I am a man."  Hannah's eyes grew startled.  "Oh, the men of my crew know, of course, as do my parents, but as far as the rest of the world is concerned, Donovan is a man.  And that bothers Mama."

 

"What about you?"

 

"What about me?  Even as progressive a time as we live in, I cannot do what I love to do as a woman.  The Royal Navy will not allow me to serve as a Captain.  So when my father retired, I became a long-lost nephew who was found to assume his title and command.  I had already been serving for four years at that point."

 

"How do your men feel about the deception?"

 

Donovan smiled gently.  "We all have things to hide, and we have learned to trust one another with our lives and our secrets."

 

"I'm glad," Hannah said.  "Do you think I could meet them?"

 

Donovan shrugged.  "I do not see why not.  I need to meet up with the ship at some point to get my latest case of books off."

 

"Good," Hannah replied, taking Donovan's now empty plate from her and placing a thick wedge of chocolate cake on it.  "Here," she added, opening the canteen.  "You're gonna need this to wash it down with."

 

Donovan took a small sip and smiled.  "Milk?  I cannot remember the last time I drank milk."

 

"Yeah, well, it is the best thing with chocolate cake."  Hannah gestured with her fork.  "Dig in."

 

Donovan couldn't contain the moan that welled up in the back of her throat as the first taste hit her tongue.  She moaned and growled in turn as she savored each and every bite, going so far as to lick her fork and plate clean.  Grabbing the canteen, she chugged the milk down, delighting in its cold, clean taste.  "Oh Hannah," she groaned with repletion, leaning back on her elbows and looking up at the canopy of trees surrounding them.  "If I wasn't already madly in love with you, you'd have won my heart with your cooking.  That was absolutely delicious."

 

Hannah cleared her throat.  "I'm uh... glad you liked it.  Would you like my piece as well?" offering Donovan the still untouched slice of cake.

 

"No, Angel.  I am full.  But thank you for offering, because it was simply wonderful."

 

Hannah smiled.  "Tell ya what... why don't I put this away for you, and you can have it tonight?"  Donovan's eyes shone in delight even as her head shook negatively.

 

"I could not do that, Hannah.  You should have some too."

 

"Sweetheart, I have more at home.  You take this one."

 

"You are sure?" Donovan questioned.  She smiled in appreciation when Hannah nodded.  "Thank you, Hannah."  She leaned in for a kiss, a little overwhelmed by the ferocity which greeted her, but melting into the touch.  The embrace went on for long moments as they explored one another.  Only the suddenly nearby, utterly ominous rumble of thunder separated them.

 

They looked up then, and were pelted with fat, heavy drops of rain.  Almost immediately, it went from shower to storm, and they snatched up the basket and blanket and made a mad dash for the cottage.

 

 

Chapter VII

 

Hannah hit the stone patio running, and felt the stupidity of that decision as her feet slid right out from under her.  She closed her eyes, bracing for the impact she knew was going to hurt, but it never came.  Instead, she found herself caught in strong arms and cradled against a comfortable chest.

 

Donovan pushed the kitchen door open and stepped inside before she looked down at the warm wet body in her arms.  "Careful there, Angel.  That is a sure way to get hurt."  Hannah nodded silently, and Donovan lowered her slowly to the floor.  "Come.  Let me get you a blanket, then I will light a fire and we can talk a bit til this is over."

 

Hannah smiled, her teeth chattering just slightly from the loss of warmth when Donovan pulled away.  Almost immediately Donovan returned and wrapped Hannah in a warm woolen blanket that smelled of cedar. She briskly rubbed her arms then scooped Hannah up like she was a child. 

 

"Ah... but... uh...."  Blue eyes twinkled down at her.

 

"Just hold tight."  And Hannah put her head down and closed her eyes, absorbing the warmth Donovan was giving off so abundantly.  The taller woman gently set her precious bundle on the couch.  "Do not go anywhere now," she said with a wink, moving to the fireplace and picking up her flint and striker.

 

It didn’t take long til a brisk fire was burning and Donovan moved to the small couch to sit next to Hannah.  She immediately snuggled up to Donovan, who extended an arm and pulled her closer.  Hannah opened the blanket and covered them both partially. Donovan just looked down and smiled. 

 

“There are times when dressing like a native is not always a good thing, hmm?” indicating the expanse of exposed skin on Hannah’s body.  She felt the unseen blush.

 

“No, I guess not,” came the chagrined answer.  “It’s just so much easier.  Besides,” Hannah looked up and her nose crinkled as she smiled.  “Who expected it to rain cold in the tropics in the middle of summer?”

 

“Yes, well technically solstice is not for another few days, and summer does not actually start til then.”

 

Hannah narrowed her eyes at Donovan.  “Let me guess... you do good in math too.”

 

Broad shoulders shrugged.  “I do all right, I guess.  It plays into navigation and such.”

 

“Figures,” Hannah muttered.  “I always hated math.”

 

“What did you like?”

 

Reading, writing... history was interesting.  Science was okay, I suppose, but there was so much math intertwined with it, I never was really comfortable with it.  And after the chemistry fiasco, I was excused from participating.  It was safer for everyone that way.”

 

“What happened?” from Donovan. The only people she knew who did chemistry were doctors, and Hannah did not give her that impression of lordly stuffiness.  Besides, women just didn’t do that sort of thing.  It was considered too complex, though *that* thought made Donovan snort.  She knew better.

 

Hannah blushed, remembering the embarrassment that disaster had caused her.  “Um, too much reactive and not enough neutralizer.  The uh... explosion was small, but there was a LOT of smoke.  Real smelly smoke.  The chem lab never smelled the same after that.”  She could feel the vibrations of laughter running through Donovan’s body.  Hannah glared up at her, then broke down and laughed.  Donovan took her cue and let loose, her hearty laughter ringing like bells in the small cottage.

 

“I am sorry, Hannah, but that was funny.  Most women I know would never TRY something like that, much less admit to failure.  Although....”  Her thoughts trailed off for a moment.  “Depending on what you were trying to achieve, that could have been a very successful experiment.”

 

Hannah cocked her head and thought about it.  “That’s true, but stink bombs weren’t on the agenda.”

 

Donovan chuckled again.  “Tell me about your dreams,” she said in an abrupt change of subject.

 

Hannah frowned slightly.  “You know about my dreams.  You were in them.”

 

“Not really.  For a very long time, you were only a set of beautiful, sea green eyes to me.  Your face was unclear.  Even your body... it wasn’t until we made love for the first time that I was certain you were a woman.  I suspected, of course....”

 

“Did it bother you... my being a woman?”

 

Donovan frowned now, and looked deeply into Hannah’s eyes to see where the question was coming from.  She cupped Hannah’s face in her hands and pulled her in for a kiss.  Hannah tangled her hands in the dark hair, and endeavored to draw Donovan closer to her.  Only when their breathing grew ragged did Donovan ease back just slightly.

 

“No, I was not unhappy you were a woman.  I was, um... hoping you were, actually.  I knew you were out here waiting for me to find you, and I decided once I found you, we would be together, regardless.”  She waited a beat.  “Does it bother you?” nonchalantly, but Hannah felt the heartbeat so close to hers speed up noticeably.

 

Hannah took a moment to look deeply into the blue orbs that had accompanied her dreams most of her life.  She slid a hand out of Donovan’s mane and gently traced the smoothness of her decidedly feminine face.

 

“When I was five years old,” Hannah intoned quietly, “I dreamed of you for the very first time.  All I saw was blue eyes and long dark hair, and I just assumed you were a woman.”  She chuckled lightly.  “I thought you were a beautiful lady pirate.”

 

Donovan smiled shakily and felt the bands of anxiety constricting her breathing ease up just a bit.  Hannah’s fingers brushed her lips and she kissed them tenderly. 

 

“You were very sporadic in my dreams then, though even as a child I always looked forward to seeing you.  You were a warm, friendly presence in my dreams, and I always felt loved and protected whenever I saw you.”  Hannah smiled wistfully.  “I wrote about you in my diary every time you came.”  She paused for breath.

 

“Fifteen is such an awkward age... too old for children’s games, and not yet an adult.  And my life was so turbulent then.  That is when my father died.”  Hannah stopped her stroking, and Donovan’s eyes slowly opened to me hers.  “Did you know about that?”

 

Donovan’s gaze went inward as she focused her thoughts on the past.  “Was your father’s name Michael?”

 

Tears welled up in Hannah’s eyes even as her head nodded affirmatively.  “Yes, it was.”

 

“I thought so.  His eyes were so familiar... you have his eyes, you know.”

 

Hannah smiled through her tears.  “That’s what I’ve always been told.”

 

“It is true,” Donovan agreed.  “We did our very best for him, but it was not enough and we all knew it.  He wanted to go home to say goodbye, but we found out shortly after he left us that he did not make it.  I wanted so much to be able to comfort you, because I saw the sadness in your eyes.”

 

“I saw the compassion in yours, and it was right then I think, that I fell in love with you.  I decided that it didn’t matter to me whether you were a man or a woman, what your nationality was, what God you believed in or what your skin color was.  All that mattered to me was that you were a loving, caring individual... someone I had known since childhood, who protected me.”

 

Hannah looked down and swallowed hard.  Her voice grew so quiet that Donovan nearly didn’t hear her next words.  “My biggest fear was that I would never find you.  My second biggest fear was that you would not love me.”

 

Donovan smiled.  “No worries about that, Angel.  I was captured from the very first.  Even though I was still a child as well, your eyes betrayed your youth and innocence.  So I watched over you, and I waited for us both to grow up.”

 

Donovan took a deep breath.  “It seemed like it was taking forever, time was passing so slowly.”  She smiled wryly.  “And it was not like I saw you every night.  For a long time, I was not sure if I was cursed or blessed.  Then we picked up Michael.”

 

Hannah shuddered and looked up into Donovan’s eyes, her own filling with tears.  “What happened to him, Donovan?”

 

“I really cannot say, but I think the weather took him by surprise.  We found him after a terrible storm.  He was bleeding quite badly, and the priest, who is also our doctor, said he was malnourished and somewhat dehydrated.  We did the very best we could for him, Hannah... you have to believe that.”

 

Hannah held Donovan’s gaze.  “I believe you, love.  I would never, ever blame you for that.  There was something about this place.  He was on a quest, driven by it... searching for something.  I was angry with him for a long time after he died.”

 

“He loved you very much, you know,” Donovan said.  “He talked about you quite a bit while he was with us.”

 

“I know he did.  But there was something about this place that called to him, and even I couldn’t overcome his obsession.”

 

“I think he was doing it for you,” Donovan murmured thoughtfully, turning her gaze to the fire.  Hannah sat up and pulled herself away from the Captain’s warm body.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

Donovan shifted slightly so she could regard Hannah directly.  “We talked at some length, and more than once I got the distinct impression he was interrogating me.  Almost... almost like he knew that you were the Green Eyes of my dreams.”  She hesitated and looked back at the flames before turning again to Hannah.  “Did you ever tell your father about your dreams?”

 

Hannah chuckled embarrassedly.  “Um, no.  When I was little, I didn’t understand you were real.  By the time I understood that, I was almost thirteen, and that was just not something I was ready to tell him.”  The expression on Hannah’s face grew sad.  “I was thinking about talking to him that summer.  I had about decided to do it when he came home.”   She drew a short, sobbing breath.  “Then we got word of his death, and I never had the chance.”  Hannah tucked herself back under Donovan’s chin and shivered.  The taller woman wrapped her arms more securely around Hannah and kissed the top of her blonde head.  “I still miss him.”

 

Donovan almost missed the barely whispered words.  “I know you do, Angel.  Just remember that he loved you very much.”

 

They were silent for a time after that, each absorbed in their own thoughts.  The room grew warmer as the rain continued to pour down around them.  Hannah let the blanket slide down, but made no effort to move from the heat of Donovan’s embrace.  As it grew darker outside, the light from the fire seemed to grow.  Finally, Donovan cleared her throat to speak.

 

“Hannah?”

 

The blonde woman stirred, the peace and security she found in Donovan’s arms having lulled her into a state of blissful contentment.  “Hmm?” she mumbled sleepily.  Donovan smiled down, rubbing her cheek against Hannah’s hair.

 

“What do you think your father would think of us... as a couple, I mean.  Would he approve... or at least be happy that you had found happiness?”

 

“What kinds of questions did he ask you?” Hannah asked suddenly without answering.  Donovan frowned at the sudden change of subject and scrambled to kick-start her mind in a new direction.

 

“Uh... well, he asked a bit about my family, and we discussed my Naval career and my plans for the future.”  Her brow furrowed.  “We talked about art and literature and education, and even a little bit about our hobbies.  Almost as though....”

 

“Almost as though you were a suitor,” Hannah finished the thought.  “But....”  Now her own thoughts trailed off.  “I know he and Jack were searching for something out here.  Even if their actions didn’t prove it, Jack told me as much the other day.”

 

“Do you know what they were looking for?”  Donovan asked quietly.

 

“No.  As a child I was never privy to anything like that.  And by the time I figured out that they were searching for something, Daddy died.”  Hannah sighed then continued.  “I just started reading the journals about their explorations, but so far it’s not really clear on what specifically they were searching for.  I asked Jack about it, but he refused to answer.  Said I had to figure it out on my own.”

 

“Have you?  Figured it out, I mean.”

 

“No, not really.  I have some clues, but nothing that makes any sense yet.”  Hannah shrugged.  “It’ll fall into place eventually.  It’s just gonna take a while.  But for now, I’m not gonna worry about it.”  She hugged Donovan hard, pleased with the fervent response she received.  “I have you here and that is everything.  The rest will wait.”

 

Donovan leaned down, tilting Hannah’s chin up to receive her kiss.  Hannah didn’t hesitate, but deepened it immediately, anxious to convey just exactly how she felt.  Donovan moaned, almost overwhelmed by the depth of emotion Hannah was communicating to her soul.  She responded in kind, sliding her hand into the blonde hair and pulling Hannah so close that even air couldn’t pass between them.

 

Donovan pulled away from Hannah’s mouth to plant kisses along her jaw line, Hannah’s warm breath in her ear making her shiver.  She reached Hannah’s earlobe and bit gently, eliciting a whimper in response.  “I cannot begin to tell you,” Donovan said in the barest of whispers, “How truly wonderful that makes me feel.”  She kissed down Hannah’s neck, lingering on her jugular and sucking lightly.  Hannah’s grip on her hair grew almost painful as the smaller woman forced Donovan’s head up and captured her lips passionately.

 

Long moments passed before they came up for air, and still they were close enough to breathe one another’s air, foreheads touching.  “But I plan on showing you every single day for the rest of our lives,” Donovan stated firmly and quietly.

 

Hannah licked her lips and gazed up into familiar blue eyes.  “You’d better be planning on longer than that.  This is a forever kind of thing for me, love.”

 

The smile on Donovan’s face broadened at those words until it seemed to light the whole room.  “I am not sure that forever will be long enough... but it is a good start.”

 

Hannah couldn’t contain the happiness that bubbled up and she giggled.  “I’ve spent twenty-five years dreaming about you... falling in love with you. I want to spend eternity getting to know you.”

 

The rain had tapered off to less than a drizzle and the cloying smell of wet earth and steam rose to scent the air around them.  Hannah stood and Donovan followed suit.  “I need to get home... see if Jack is back yet.  Will you join us for dinner tonight?  Say around sunset?”

 

Donovan hesitated, not sure she was ready to meet this “Jack”, but knowing Hannah had agreed without hesitation to travel home with her to meet her parents, she nodded solemnly. 

 

“He may not even be back yet, but I am anxious for the two of you to meet.  We were always close while I was growing up, and when Daddy died, he became like a Dad to me in a lot of ways.”

 

Donovan cleared her throat, but her voice still cracked slightly when she spoke.  “Um, do I need to prepare for another interrogation?”

 

“No, I don’t think... I mean... um, well, he might... I mean uh, yeah, maybe....  Oh God!”  Hannah dropped her now flushed face into her hands.  “Yes, you should probably be prepared for a lot of questions when you meet him.”

 

Donovan groaned. 

 

“Don’t worry, though,” Hannah answered the unspoken plea.  “I’m not leaving your side.”

 

“I am counting on that, Angel.  I already told you.”  She took Hannah’s smaller hands in her own.  “Are you sure I cannot come with you now?”

 

Hannah kissed the large hands clasping her own, marveling at the strength so evident in them.  “I want to go home, make something sinfully scrumptious for dinner, soak in the tub for a bit, and become beautiful for you.”

 

Donovan smiled.  “You already are beautiful for me.”  She pressed her fingertips to Hannah’s lips to halt her speech.  “But I know what you mean, and I understand the sentiment.”  She walked Hannah to the door.  “May I keep the picnic boxes?  I would like to plan an outing, but I do not have such intriguing containers.”

 

“Sure.  Would you like me to take them home and wash them first?”

 

Donovan rolled her eyes and smiled.  “Despite popular belief to the contrary and my mother’s firm confidence otherwise, I am capable of doing a few dishes.”  She mock glowered in Hannah’s direction.  “However, if you ever feel the need to share that bit of information, I will deny I ever said it and you will be walking the plank.”

 

“You really don’t think I am going to share the soft side of you with anyone, do you?” Hannah asked, ignoring the outraged look Donovan was casting her way.  “I am a very selfish person... and I don’t share well with others.”

 

“Soft???  Did you just call me soft?!?”

 

“Yeah, I did.  You wanna make something of it, tough stuff?”

 

Donovan stared at the fire sparking from those green eyes and smiled sheepishly, shaking her head.  “No ma’am.  I know when to surrender.”

 

“Don’t worry, love.”  Hannah said as she ran her hands through Donovan’s dark hair.  “I would never do anything to embarrass you.”

 

“I know....” she reached out and swatted Hannah’s backside.  “Now go, before I change my mind about letting you go alone.”

 

Hannah stood on tiptoe and pressed a swift kiss to Donovan’s cheek.  “See you in a few hours, love.”  And she rushed out the door and down the steps, turning to wave before she disappeared into the foliaged pathway.

 

Donovan stood at the open door for long moments after Hannah was gone.  “My word, I have it bad.”  She shook her dark head ruefully and went back inside, deciding a hot bath was a pretty good idea, and she whistled while she prepared her water... again.

 

************

 

Hannah arrived home rather quickly, and went directly to start the hot water running in the tub.  She’d hit another cold patch of air on the way home, and was now distinctly chilled.  She took a quick look through the house, noting that there was no sign of Jack’s return and letting her shoulder slump just slightly.  She was truly looking forward to him and Donovan meeting one another.

 

She crossed to the refrigerator and pulled a couple of steaks from the small freezer.  She shivered again when the cold air blasted her, and she set the packages on the tray to thaw, then moved back towards the bathroom.

 

Hannah sighed in relief as the warmth of the steam crept into her bones, and she quickly stripped her suit off and slid into the depths of the tub and closed her eyes.  Immediately, her thoughts were filled with Donovan, and she felt the smile broaden her lips.

 

She didn’t linger too long in the tub, though the water had cooled considerably and she was quite warm when she exited.  She wrapped in a robe and walked back to the kitchen, pleased by the fact that the steaks were nearly thawed.  She spiced and marinated them, then stuck them into the fridge.  A glance at the clock showed her that she still had a couple hours before Donovan was due, and she decided to lay down for a bit.  The events of the day were overwhelming, and she felt the need to consider everything that had happened.

 

She never even realized when she fell asleep.

 

************

 

Donovan was startled from her reverie by a loud pounding on her door, followed by Harold’s youthful voice calling out to her.

 

“Cap’n!  Captain Scott!  Are you there?”

 

Donovan groaned, for she knew that Harold’s coming to her place of refuge boded no good for her.  The men respected her need for privacy in this place, and were loath to disturb her for less than a life or death emergency.  She moved to the door and flung it open, towering above the young lad and causing him to become mute for a long moment.

 

Donovan almost chuckled at the expression on his face.  Instead she schooled her features and asked gruffly.  “What is it, boy?”

 

Harold swallowed hard and nodded, remembering the importance of his assignment.  “Cap’n, Mr. Merryweather sent me to fetch you, sir.  One of the merchant ships, that’s been robbin’ these folks blind, just pulled into port, sir.”

 

Damn! Damn! Damn!  Why here?  And why now?  Donovan banged her head on the door sill, letting it rest there for a long moment.  “Come in, Harold,” she stated as she walked to the kitchen and moved the water off the stove.  “I need you to do something for me.”

 

The boy followed her, trying to be discreet as he studied his surroundings.  His Captain was a very private woman, and none of the crew had been out here since the day they had helped her to raise the walls.  He waited with his hands stuffed in his pockets while she retrieved a thick sheet of paper, ink and a quill.

 

Harold stood at the doorway between the kitchen and living area, and found his attention riveted to the portrait on the wall.  He recognized the Captain and wondered briefly who the other woman was, and if she was the reason they had been back to the island so much lately.  Not that he was complaining, he thought with a smirk.  He had met the cutest girl here and had been looking for an opportunity to get to know her a little bit.  Harold sighed soundlessly.  This turn of events would put all kinds of damper on the plans he had been making in that regard.

 

He was brought out of his thoughts and back to rigid attention when Donovan rose from the table and

stopped in front of him.  “Come with me.”

 

She walked with him to the end of the pathway, and took out her knife, cutting a few of the lovely wildflowers that grew there.  She handed the bunch of them and the paper to the cabin boy and caught his eyes with a piercing stare.

 

“If you follow the coast for about a mile to the west, you will find a house there.”  She gestured in the direction he needed to go.  “I need you to take this note and these flowers, and deliver them to the woman who lives there.  You do not have to say anything to her, just make sure she gets them, all right?”

 

There were a thousand questions he wanted to ask.  He knew better than to give them voice, and simply nodded his acceptance of her statement instead.

 

“Good lad.  This is important.”  She looked off in the direction that her heart was pulling her, angry that she had to give up her evening with Hannah because of someone else’s greed.  Donovan closed her eyes and swallowed hard.  When she reopened them, Harold noted the sky blue had been replaced with colorless gray and he knew he was now looking at the Ice Princess.  It was something the merchants they preyed upon as pirates had nicknamed Donovan when confronted with her cold-hearted fury towards them.  It was an apt description.

 

He brought his attention back to her words when she began speaking again.  He knew for all her fairness to her officers and men, she could not abide slovenly work or ineptitude.

 

“I will take your horse and go to the ship immediately.  As soon as you have completed your task, you make all haste on foot to join us.  If we are not there, wait on the dock.  I do not expect this to take too long.  I have better things to be doing with my time tonight.”

 

“Captain?”  Harold questioned hesitantly.

 

“Go boy, and be quick!”

 

“Aye, sir!” the youth answered with a smart salute, and took off running down the beach as fast as his legs would carry him.  Donovan sighed, and moved back in the house to change into her ‘other’ uniform.

 

************

 

Hannah awoke with a start, disoriented, heart pounding.  It took a few minutes for her to get her bearings and catch her breath.  She wondered briefly at the flashes of image that remained from her dream.  Nothing concrete, but oddly terrifying nonetheless.  She could still feel the violence... smell the coopery scent of blood... feel the anger and adrenaline....  The memory coaxed a shiver from her body and she rubbed her face with her hands.

 

“Ugh,” she mumbled to herself.  “That was bizarre.”  She looked around the room, suddenly noticing that it was nearly dark outside.  “Oh God... I overslept.  What is Donovan gonna think?”

 

She stumbled out of the bedroom looking for any sign that Donovan was waiting for her.  She flipped on the lights, noting to her dismay that they didn’t respond.  “Dammit!” she muttered.  Hannah nixed the dress she had planned to wear and slipped into a pair of comfortable shorts and a long silk shirt she left untucked.  Then she set out to find some sort of lighting. 

 

Finally, after ten minutes worth of mutterings and cursings, Hannah managed to find a single kerosene lantern and a handful of candles.  She stepped out onto the patio, realizing that there’d been another storm while she’d been sleeping and wondering vaguely if that had been what had given her such disturbing dreams.  She shook her head, and moved to the woodshed for some wood to stoke the barbeque pit Jack had built.  It would suit her needs admirably this evening.

 

Hannah looked at the sky again, wondering what was keeping Donovan, though she understood it was very likely the other woman had fallen asleep and overslept herself. The power outage tended to throw everyone’s timing off.

 

She built a small fire in the pit and left it to burn while she went back into the house to finish her preparations.  “Ya know,” she muttered to herself, “You’d think that a man would have at least one flashlight in the house.”  She set the lantern on the counter and snagged a couple potatoes from the bin, cleaning them and wrapping them in foil with butter, salt and pepper.

 

She took the steaks and the potatoes and juggled them and the lantern as she eased back outside to the grill.  With a glance she saw that the fire was still burning, and Hannah set the potatoes on the back away from the flame.  She placed the steaks to one side wanting to wait until Donovan arrived before starting them.

 

Hannah sat back as the stars began to come out and the moon began to create its own path on the water.  After a bit, her eyes followed its path into the yard and she noticed a lump that hadn’t been there previously.  Curiosity got the better of her and with a glance at the now glowing embers, she grabbed the lantern and moved down the pathway towards the spot.

 

Her breath caught when she noticed it was a bouquet of wildflowers carefully placed in the center of the path.  She brought them to her nose and sniffed, a smile crossing her face.  I guess she came and when she didn’t get an answer left these for me to find.  A frown crossed her face then.  Wonder why she didn’t leave them on the porch? 

 

She looked back at the barbeque pit and then in the direction of Donovan’s cottage, and gave in to the longing to go find the woman.

 

************

 

The cottage was dark when Hannah approached and her frown deepened.  She knocked but the only reply she received was silence.  She walked around the small house, assuring herself that Donovan was nowhere around.  Hannah was torn between anger and concern.

 

Finally, frustrated at herself, at Donovan, at whatever had happened, she turned and made her way back down the beach to Jack’s place.

 

When she got back to the beach house, she removed the now cooked potatoes from the grill and placed the steaks on to cook.  Hannah wasn’t really hungry, but she didn’t see the point in letting the stuff go to waste.  She stepped inside and set the potatoes on the counter, seeing that the power had come back on in the interim.

 

“Good.  I’m glad something is finally working right this evening.”

 

 Hannah finished cooking up the steaks and scattered the embers to allow them to cool faster while she put the steaks in the house.  She walked back out onto the patio, allowing the breeze to riffle through her hair and breathing deeply of the fresh, salty air.

 

She blew out the lantern and retrieved the wine and a single goblet.  She poured a half a glass and sat back listening to the waves rush to the shore.  She watched the moon extend its path into the sea as she sipped at the wine.  She never felt her eyes slide shut, and she never saw the figure that stood in front of her like a specter hours later.

 

It was unnerving when she woke up in her own bed at daybreak the following morning.

 

 

 

Chapter VIII

 

Hannah awoke just as the sun completed its rise over the horizon feeling oddly refreshed, though she looked around her room in confusion with sleepily blinking green eyes.  I don’t remember coming to bed last night.  She sat up and glanced down at herself as the sheet slid down her naked torso.  And I certainly don’t remember getting undressed.  Hannah slid from the bed and stood up stretching, noting that the house was still eerily quiet.  Well, either Jack is down at the beach or he didn’t get home last night.  Surely he didn’t....

 

Hannah shook her head, knowing that Jack would never presume to put her to bed like that.  He would simply have awakened her and coaxed her to do it herself.  She frowned... it bothered her that she didn’t remember what happened.  I didn’t dream either.  Hmm....

 

She turned toward the mirror and regarded her reflection solemnly.  She viewed herself critically, wondering not for the first time how Blue Eyes... how Donovan saw her. Did she find her attractive, beautiful?  Or was Hannah too muscular, too short, too....  The blonde head fell back in frustration and the eyes closed.  This is ridiculous, and is getting me nowhere fast.  There is a perfectly good reason she didn’t make it last night.  Why not give the woman a chance to explain before you start making assumptions and accusations?

 

With a nod to herself, Hannah snatched up her robe and up her robe and tied it off.  “Let me go start the coffee and then we’ll see if I can think a little more clearly.”

 

Flipping the switch on the already prepped pot, Hannah glanced out the patio doors toward the beach, but didn’t see any movement.  She shrugged and headed in to the bathroom, content that the coffee would be ready when she got out of the shower.

 

Fifteen minutes later, she stepped out of the bedroom dressed in shorts and a tank top feeling much better.  She walked the few steps to the kitchen, stopping short when she saw a cup of coffee sitting ready on the counter.  Before she could think about it though, she heard the toilet flush and moments later saw Jack’s head pop out of the hallway.  They greeted one another with smiles.

 

“You nearly gave me a heart attack, ya know,” Hannah commented to him as she pulled back from their hug.  “When did you get in?”

 

Jack handed her the mug of coffee he’d left fixed on the counter for her and looked at the clock.  “Oh about fifteen minutes ago, I guess.  You started the shower just as I passed the bathroom door.”

 

“How’d your trip go?”

 

He shook his head and frowned.  “Not well.  I’m gonna be spending a lot of time going back and forth in the next few weeks.  Pisses me off too, I’ll tell ya, because we’re supposed to be getting some quality time in together.  The timing on this just stinks.”

 

She grabbed the fruit bowl from the fridge and set out two bowls and spoons.  Then she seated herself at the bar and motioned for him to do the same.  “Can you share?” She helped herself to some fruit and passed him the container.  “Or would you prefer not to?”

 

He scooped a portion of the fruit into the bowl in front of him and spooned some into his mouth, nodding his agreement.  “I can share,” he said after he swallowed, “but it really won’t make much sense.”

 

Jack took another bite and chewed thoughtfully.  “Something peculiar is happening to the weather currents suddenly.  Something that has no logic behind it, and it seems to be affecting other things as well.”

 

“Like what?”  Hannah asked as she continued to eat.

 

“Like fishing... or any water sport.  And attitudes.  People are acting more bizarre than they usually do, even for tourists,” he added with a smile.

 

“Bizarre how?”

 

“Um, well... there was the group of nuns that went gambling in the casino.  And the seniors’ group that went sunbathing naked.  We’ve had the same group of people doing that particular tour for fourteen years, and they have NEVER been nude sunbathing... especially on a public beach.  Then of course there were the college kids that decided to have a prayer meeting in the middle of the road.  That particular fraternity has had more overnights in the drunk tank than any other single group of people that have visited the islands.”

 

By now, Hannah’s eyebrows were in her hairline.  “Okay, Uncle Jack.  I think I am getting the picture.”  She poured them each a second cup of coffee.  “What exactly can you do about it though?”

 

“I’m not sure, but the Triangle and its effects are my areas of expertise.  I think if we can figure out the ‘why’, fixing the problem should be fairly easy.”  He studied his empty bowl before he looked up to catch her gaze.  “Unfortunately, even with my state-of-the-art office, a lot of the equipment is at a research lab on the big island.  So it means a lot of back and forthing for me.”

 

“Wouldn’t it be easier for you just to stay there?  I mean....”

 

Jack looked into Hannah’s face squarely.  “Yeah, it would, but that’s not right.  It’s not fair to you that....”  He stopped speaking when she covered his lips.

 

“You go and you do what you need to.  It will probably go faster if you just stay there and get it done.”  She arched a brow at him.  “Won’t it?”  At his nod, she continued.  “I’ve been thinking about your offer... about moving here on a more permanent basis.  That idea is becoming more and more appealing the longer I stay here.”  She smiled when she felt his lips twitch in a grin under her fingertips.  She moved them.

 

“You mean that?”

 

“Yeah, I do.  It would be nice to be near family again.”

 

“And you’re sure about being alone for the next couple weeks?  Cause I don’t know how long this will take.”

 

“Will you be here for the Pirates’ Ball?”

 

“Oh yes!” came the adamant reply.  “There are some things that one just does not miss on this island.  That would be at the top of the list.”

 

“Go then, with my blessing.  Just call me once in a while, will ya?  Let me know how things are going?”

 

“You got it, sweetheart.  With any luck this will take less time than I imagined.”

 

“That would be nice.”

 

“All right,” he said standing up and taking their dishes to the sink.  “Let me go and get done so I can get back.”  He leaned over and kissed her cheek.  “You’re a good niece Hannah, and a good friend.  I’m glad you’re here.”

 

She smiled back at him.  “Me too, Uncle Jack.  Me too.”

 

************

 

Within an hour, Jack was showered, shaved and repacked.  “I still feel bad about leaving you here alone, Hannah.”

 

“I’m not alone, Uncle Jack, and so many of your friends are becoming mine as well.  So it’s not a bad thing.  Now I’ll see you on the twenty-fifth if not before, right?”

 

“Yep, though I will try to make it home for the weekend... if I don’t get caught up in things.”  He scratched the back of his neck absently.

 

“Happens a lot, hmm?”  Hannah teased gently.

 

“Yeah... it’s gotten me into trouble more than once.”

 

“Just don’t forget to call me once in a while, and you’ll be fine.”

 

A horn sounded and he moved to the door.  “Thanks for calling Harry to pick me up.  I’ll call you tonight when I get settled in.”

 

“Have fun, Jack.  I haven’t seen you this excited about a project in years.”

 

It was quiet once he left, and Hannah turned her attention to the day outside.  She was debating with herself on whether or not she wanted to go see if she could find Donovan.  She still hadn’t decided if she was more concerned, angry or upset when Donovan appeared at the end of the path, waiting hesitantly to see what sort of reception she was going to receive.

 

Hannah stood looking at her for a long moment, and Donovan cocked her head slightly in supplication.  The blonde stepped off the patio and moved down the path towards the Captain. Donovan stood stock still, not sure of her welcome.

 

Hannah stood looking into contrite blue eyes for a minute before reaching out and taking Donovan’s hand in her own.  “We need to talk, I think.”  The dark head simply nodded in agreement and Donovan allowed Hannah to lead her to the porch.

 

“Have a seat,” Hannah offered.  “I’ll get us something to drink.”

 

Donovan glance around at the house she had only til now seen in the darkness.  It was nothing spectacular, though she found the use of the natural rock very clever.  The patio and several of the seats thereon seemed to be carved from it.  She noted the amount of glass windows, and figured that Jack must be a very wealthy man to have used it so lavishly.  It had taken her almost a year’s wages to buy all the glass she had used in her own cottage, and they were nowhere near the size of the sheet that served as the door that Hannah re-emerged from.

 

Hannah was relieved of the tray as she stepped across the threshold, and she had to smile at the gallantness of her intrepid companion.  Donovan set the glasses down on the rough hewn wooden table very cautiously, and Hannah felt more than heard the sigh of relief she emitted when the chore was complete.

 

Hannah smiled and spoke softly.  “I take my tea unsweetened, but perhaps you like sugar... or... something in yours?”

 

Donovan shook her head.  “Unsweetened is fine.  I like to taste the tea.”

 

Hannah nodded and poured a glass.  She handed it to Donovan, who accepted it with widened eyes.  “What?” she questioned, looking around for a problem.

 

“You use ice so liberally?”

 

“Um, yes.  It’s the best way to drink iced tea that I know of.”  Hannah realized that it was probably not that common on the rest of the island.  “It’s just how we always had it growing up.”

 

Donovan took a tentative sip.  “That is very cold,” was her comment before taking a larger swallow.  “I like this.”  And she gave Hannah a big grin.  A grin which faded when it was not returned.  “Hannah?” she queried.

 

“What happened to you last night, Donovan?  No word, no note, nothing.  And I know you weren’t home because I went down to check.”

 

Donovan scowled.  Waitaminute.  What do you mean... no note or anything?  I sent my cabin boy Harold over with specific instructions to give you flowers and a note personally.  To put them directly into your hands.  You mean to tell me he did not do that??”  The Captain stood up full of ire, and started to stomp away.  Hannah placed a calming hand on Donovan’s forearm, and she halted in her tracks.

 

“I am sorry, Hannah.  I do not blame you for being upset with me.  I need to go take care of Harold.  My crew knows the penalty for disobedience.  I need to find out what happened before I set his punishment.”

 

“Hold on a minute, Donovan.”  Hannah tugged on Donovan’s arm and pulled the tall woman back down into the seat beside her.  “I found some flowers at the end of the path after moonrise last night... but there was no note.  They may have been there earlier and I just didn’t notice them.  I don’t know... it’s hard to say at this point what happened.  Maybe he left the note and it blew away.”

 

“Maybe.  But his directions were to give them TO you... not leave them in the path or on the porch.  He disobeyed a direct order, and will have to be disciplined accordingly.”

 

“In the meantime, that does not tell me where you were last night.”  Hannah paused, realizing just how possessive she sounded.  She continued in a quieter voice, “I was worried.”

 

Contrite blue eyes glanced down before rising to meet green.  “I am sorry to have worried you,” Donovan said quietly.  “We had an emergency last night, and it had to be dealt with immediately.”

 

Hannah waited, but when no more information was forthcoming, she asked, “Can you share with me?  I’d like to understand.”

 

Donovan sighed soundlessly.  She trusted Hannah not to betray her, but she was still unsure what the woman’s reaction would be to the reality of what they did.  “We had to take care of some merchants who were stealing from the tribes here again.  They think they can because they have money, but it is not right.  So we do not let them.”

 

Truth, as far as it went, just none of the gorier details.  That was something Donovan hoped she never had to share.

 

Hannah thought about that for a while.  “That makes sense,” she said at last.  “They shouldn’t be allowed to take advantage of these people and their culture just because they think they can.”

 

Donovan nodded with agreement and sighed with relief.  She was glad that Hannah agreed in principle, even if she didn’t understand the practice behind it.  “I am sorry to have missed dinner with you last night.  Do you think we could try again?”

 

Hannah looked at Donovan, gauging the sincerity in her eyes.  “I think we could.  I think I can make steak salad and twice baked potatoes from what was supposed to be dinner last night.”

 

“Twice baked potatoes?”

 

“Go with me on this.  It’s wonderful... trust me.”

 

“I do.”  And with those words, Hannah felt her hurt feelings melt away into the warmth of belonging.  She gave Donovan a dazzling smile.  “What would you like to do today?”

 

“What I would like to do, and what I am going to do are two entirely different things.”  The leer she cast in Hannah’s direction caused a distinct warming of her whole body with the implications.  “I must go speak with Harold first.  I cannot let such impudence go unpunished.  It is bad for morale, and it is bad for discipline.”

 

Hannah thought about this then nodded her slow agreement.  “May I go with you?  I won’t interfere, but I don’t want to give up the day with you.”  She hesitated then tilted her head and added, “Please?”    

 

Donovan smiled.  There was no way she could resist that much adorable thrown directly at her.  Truth be told, she didn’t really want to.  “I think we could do that.  It is quite a walk, though.  And um, you probably do not want to go dressed like that.”

 

Hannah looked down at her shorts and tank top, then at Donovan’s linen trousers and shirt, and her brow furrowed.  Donovan caught the look and hastened to explain.  “*I* like it, not as much as your native garb,” she said with wiggling eyebrows.  That got her a smack on her abs.  “Oof!” she mock coughed.  “Pay a woman a compliment and she beats you black and blue.”  Hannah snorted.

 

“Anyway,” Donovan continued, “Like I was saying, *I* like it. But I do not want men leering at you.  That is my privilege,” she said casting another leer in Hannah’s direction for emphasis.  “My men would probably be the best behaved, but I see no reason to throw temptation deliberately at them.  The others I cannot control and I am not sure the world is ready for the consequences.”

 

Hannah caught the burning faraway look in Donovan’s eyes, and she shivered at the intensity the Captain was emitting in roiling waves.  She took a breath to speak and Donovan turned, her gaze softening as soon as their eyes met.  Hannah smiled, relived when Donovan returned the look and reached for her.  Hannah pulled the strong hand to her waist and lifted her own hand up to stroke Donovan’s smooth face.

 

“I can see your point, but I don’t have much else.  Especially since the alternative of going native is probably not a good option.  Unless....”  She tapered off and Donovan raised a dark brow in question.

 

“Unless...?” she prompted.

 

“Uh... wait here a minute.  I’ll be right back.”

 

Hannah disappeared into the house and Donovan resumed her seat, closing her eyes and frowning slightly as images from the previous evening assaulted her senses.  She focused her thoughts and her breathing toward nothingness, and she almost didn’t hear Hannah return.

 

For her part, Hannah stood at the closed door for a long moment just admiring the beauty of the woman who sat on the patio.  When she pushed the door aside, Hannah felt and saw those piercing blue eyes turn her way, and she flushed under the frank admiration there.  Donovan smiled in true appreciation.

 

“You are beautiful.”

 

She reached out her hands to Hannah, who accepted them without thought.  Donovan looked the smaller woman up and down and nodded her head in approval.  She reached a tentative hand out to touch the dark green material, and sighed when she made contact with silk.  More and more she was starting to realize the gulf that existed between herself and Hannah.  While her family was by no means destitute, and was in fact titled and well-respected, the luxuries she had seen Hannah take for granted were well beyond her means.  The thought caused her to withdraw just slightly.

 

Hannah caught Donovan’s hand before it could slide was from her completely.  “I don’t like that look,” she stated frankly.  “What are you thinking?  Is the outfit not going to work?”

 

Donovan turned away so her face was to the sea.  “It is nothing,” she muttered.  Hannah wasn’t having any of that and moved into her line of sight to confront her.    

 

“No,” Hannah said so firmly that Donovan’s eyes tracked to her automatically.  “No, something is bothering you and I want to know what it is.”  She paused.  “If we are going to be together, love, we’re going to have to be honest with one another.”

 

Donovan looked into earnest eyes.  “All right, but let us walk... it takes awhile to get to the port from here, and I need to take care of this now.”

 

“Then this outfit is okay?”

 

The outfit is perfect, though it does not do you justice.”  She smiled at Hannah’s blush.  “Come.  Walk with me, Angel.”  She extended a hand that Hannah accepted immediately.  With a smile, the two women headed down the path to the beach.

 

Somewhat to Hannah’s surprise, they turned east towards Donovan’s cottage.  She started to speak, but held her tongue when Donovan’s fingers touched her lips.  Instead, she licked the appendages and smirked at the growl the action drew from the depths of Donovan’s chest.

 

When they reached the path to the cottage, Donovan turned and pulled Hannah with her.  They walked until they reached the steps, and Donovan moved the smaller woman to stand in front of them as they both faced the small home.

 

“Take a good look,” she whispered into the nearby ear.  Hannah had to focus on the sight in front of her rather than the feeling of being locked in Donovan’s strong embrace.  Donovan realized when Hannah’s attention shifted from her to the house and she waited a few minutes.

 

“Now, I want you to think about something... hush and let me finish.”  Donovan waited for the blonde head to nod compliance before she continued.  “I have seen how you live, Hannah.  You use glass for your doors and wear yards of silk and use ice so liberally.  I cannot provide that for you, much as I would like to.”  She sighed and took a seat on the stone step she herself had built.  “The glass you see in these windows took me almost a year’s salary to buy.  The two silk shirts I have I only wear on special occasions to keep them from wearing out.  I live comfortably, but have nowhere near the means to support you as you have become accustomed to.”  She looked down at the ground now.  “I thought you should know.”

 

Hannah knelt down in front of Donovan, raising her head until their eyes met.  “Donovan, do you think so little of me that you believe I would put material possessions before what we share... what we have shared for twenty years?”

 

“No,” came the instant response.  “No... I, um... no, not... not really, but, um... I, uh... I wanted you to know the truth upfront.  I do not want you to think I am taking advantage of your wealth.”

 

Hannah laughed out loud at this statement, and moved to sit in Donovan’s lap.  The Captain was surprised but pleased at the action and welcomed Hannah with open arms.  “Honey, I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m really not wealthy.  Comfortable, like you.  Besides, we’re partners, right?”  She waited for Donovan to process her words and watched the dark head nod agreement.  “Right, and that means we share.  What’s mine is yours, all right?”

 

“All right,” Donovan said emphatically.

 

Hannah started to get up then sat back down rather abruptly.  “Oh, and one more thing....”  She caught Donovan’s chin in her hand and made sure she had her attention.    “I want you to understand this if you don’t understand anything else, okay?”

 

“Okay,” Donovan answered.

 

“If all we had was a blanket for shelter, I would be happy as long as we were sheltered together.” She stared deep into trusting eyes and willed Donovan to believe.  “Now, are we clear on this?”

 

Donovan kept the gaze up for another long moment before she pulled Hannah’s lips to meet her own.  “Yes ma’am,” she whispered against Hannah’s mouth.  “We are clear.”

 

Hannah had no opportunity to reply as Donovan took possession of her lips and claimed the very air that she breathed.  When they separated, Donovan rose and brought Hannah up with her.  “Come,” she said on a breathless note.  “If we stay here much longer I will not be responsible for what happens to your virtue, and I really need to get to the ship.”

 

Hannah flushed at the brazenness of Donovan’s comment, then made one of her own.  “You keep kissing me like that and my virtue won’t be a problem.  I’ll make sure there isn’t any left.”

 

Donovan’s ears turned bright red as she led the way down the path back towards the beach.

 

“You know, when I was a child there were a lot of nights I did not see your eyes in my dream,” Donovan stated quietly moving the conversation into different waters.

 

Hannah waited silently, knowing there was more.

 

“On those nights, I was in a meadow very similar to the one here.  As a matter of fact, that meadow is the main reason I decided to build here.”  She sighed.  “It was a wonderful place... full of wildflowers and shady trees....”

 

A gasp.  “And a cave that was perfect for exploring on rainy days.”

 

Donovan’s head swung abruptly towards Hannah, and her eyes widened.  “How did you...?”

 

“Because I was there.  It was generally just the two of us, though there were a few times that I was there alone.  We ran and laughed and played together.  It was my favorite dream, next to seeing your eyes.”

 

Waitaminute... that was YOU??  That was us... together??  How come... why didn’t we recognize each other?”

 

“I dunno,” Hannah answered slowly.  “I don’t remember ever seeing your eyes there.  I don’t think the time was right.  We were children together, becoming friends, and making memories without realizing their importance to us until right now.”

 

“So in our dreams we got to grow up together.  We got to be friends.”  Donovan’s smile was blinding and Hannah returned it wholeheartedly.  She wrapped her arms around the tall woman and squeezed tightly.

 

“Yeah, we did.  And I think that is wonderful.  All my most cherished dreams....  You have always been a part of them... a part of my life.”

 

Donovan returned the embraced, leaning down to steal a kiss.  “I am just glad that our dreams have finally become reality.  The dreams were wonderful, but reality is so much nicer.”

 

Hannah turned in Donovan’s arms and laced her hands behind the dark head.  “It certainly is, and it’s only gonna get better.”  She urged Donovan’s head lower, until they were a mere hairsbreadth apart.

 

“You sure about that, beloved?” the Captain asked.  The tickle of warm breath across Hannah’s lips started a tingling sensation a lot lower, and she pulled Donovan’s mouth into her own.

 

“Uh huh,” she mumbled, and it was the last coherent thought for quite a few minutes.  When they separated, Hannah looked down at Donovan’s hands that had crept completely up under her top and were now resting considerably higher then her waist.   She looked into Donovan’s eyes and grinned at the blush that crossed her face.

 

“Oh, um....”  The Captain began to slide her hands away from Hannah’s body, when strong arms locked them in place.  She looked at Hannah in shocked confusion.

 

“Don’t move them on my account,” came the sultry whisper from Hannah’s lips.

 

Donovan cleared her throat.  “I am moving them on mine, because I do not want our first time to be in the sand on the beach.” 

 

Hannah thought about that and nodded, tying the fastener she’d loosened on Donovan’s blouse.  “I agree with you on that.  Sand is just not my idea of romantic.”

 

Donovan chuckled.  “No, not really.  It *sounds* romantic I know.  But if you spend anytime at all on the beach naked, you learn the fallacy of that idea pretty quickly.”  She reached for Hannah’s hand to start their journey back to the ship, and was surprised when Hannah froze, standing still with her hands on her hips, green eyes glaring slits.

 

“Um, Hannah?”

 

“Do I want to know how you know about being on the beach naked?”  Her tone was sharp and biting, but she couldn’t seem to help it.  The sudden surge of jealously she felt was overwhelming.

 

“It is how I go swimming when I am out here, and the first couple times I just dropped into the sand without thinking about it,” was Donovan’s quiet response.

 

“Oh, uh....”  Hannah dropped her gaze.  “Sorry, I’m not real sure where that came from.”

 

Donovan lifted Hannah’s chin until their eyes met.  “It is okay. It is actually a little flattering for me.  I have never had someone get jealous about me before.”

 

Now Hannah’s look turned to one of disbelief.  She clasped Donovan’s face in her hands and stared hard at her. 

”You’re kidding me right?  God, Donovan, you’re gorgeous.”  Donovan blushed at the compliment, but maintained eye contact with Hannah. 

 

“Thank you, Angel.  But you are the first person to get close enough to say so.  I have always been a bit of a loner.  The friends I have would not think to comment on something like that.  It would not occur to them.”

 

“Well then,” Hannah answered, “I’ll make sure to tell you every single day for the rest of our lives.”

 

Donovan had no response to make, so she extended her hand to Hannah once again.  When Hannah accepted, she was pulled firmly into Donovan’s body.  “I love you,” Donovan whispered, running her fingers lightly along Hannah’s smooth cheekbone.  That got her a blinding smile in return.

 

“I love you too.”  Their lips met in an exchange that was as much an affirmation of their love as it was of their passion.  They broke apart and their foreheads met for a long moment.

 

“C’mon,” Hannah said.  “We’re not making much progress here.”

 

“No, we certainly are not,” Donovan agreed laughingly.  She pulled on their linked hands and began jogging down the beach.  Hannah squealed and ran to keep up.

 

************

 

It took them about half an hour of jogging and walking before they came around the bend in the island that led to the port.  Hannah slowed and Donovan took three steps before she realized that Hannah had come to a full stop.  She turned and saw the astonished expression and moved swiftly back to Hannah’s side.  “Angel?”

 

Hannah’s mouth moved soundlessly for a minute before her arm rose and she pointed.  “Donovan, that’s a British Man o’ War.”

 

Donovan turned and glanced proudly at her ship.  “Yes ma’am.  It certainly is.  She is the finest ship in the fleet.”  Her focus reverted back to Hannah when she felt the small hand clutch at her arm.  “Hannah?”

 

“Donovan,” the blonde woman whispered.  She swallowed twice, trying valiantly to speak normally. It didn’t help.  “Donovan,” she tried again.  What year is it?”

 

Confusion crossed the tanned features, but she answered the question anyway.  “It is the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and fifty-five.”

 

She caught Hannah as she crumpled before her body touched the sand.

 

 

 

Chapter IX

 

“Captain!!” the blonde man called when he saw the tall woman staggering through the sand towards them.  He wondered briefly about the green bundle in her arms, but not enough to question it at the moment.  Instead he shouted at the crew. 

 

“Mr. MacKensie, Mr. Trilby, see if you can assist the captain.”  The two men moved down towards the gangplank.  Trilby stopped and did an about face, snatching up a litter to make carrying the bundle easier.

 

MacKensie reached Donovan and gave her a salute that she acknowledged with a nod of her head.  Trilby was close behind him, and nudged him with the pallet.  Mac turned with a growl, then took the end of the travois.  Between them they spread the litter to accept the Captain’s burden.  Their eyes widened with their first glance at the beautiful woman Donovan carried, then they moved away out of respect.

 

Donovan smiled.  She knew she could count on her men, at least most of them, being gentlemen around Hannah.  The few she was worried about... well, those she would take care of if and when the need arose, though she hoped it never did.

 

She laid Hannah tenderly on the pallet and took the small hand in her own as she accompanied the litter to the ship.  The men did not speak, but there was no need.  As soon as they reached the deck, Donovan resumed her hold on Hannah and took her below decks to her own quarters.  The priest was waiting there for them.  

 

He examined Hannah carefully, under Donovan’s watchful gaze.  Satisfied, he moved to his Captain’s side and spoke in hushed tones.

 

“I canna find a problem, Cap’n.  There’s no physical reason for her condition.”

 

“Thank you, Father.”  She hesitated and he waited.  “Could shock or surprise do this, do you think?”

 

“Aye, sir.  I b’lieve it could, if the shock was profound enough.”

 

Donovan sat down in the chair and ran her hands through her dark hair.  Then she brought her clasped hands to her lips and let them rest there as she reviewed the last two days detail by detail, searching for the missing clue that would explain Hannah’s reaction to the date.  She never even noticed when the priest slipped out the door.

 

************

 

There was a cool breeze blowing around her, scented with the smells of wet oak and sea water.  The platform she felt under her was rolling gently.  The screech of gulls could be heard nearby and Hannah spent several moments just processing the sounds and smells before green eyes opened mere slits.

 

There was a porthole above her head that was open, letting in both the breeze and enough light to allow her to observe her surroundings.  She eased up on her elbows and took a good look around the small cabin.

 

It was a neat room, though sparsely furnished.  The small cot she lay upon was long and obviously made for a single individual.  There was a desk with a very old world map tacked to the wall above it, and several ancient navigation tools upon it.  Across from the bed was a long cabinet, and two smaller ones.  Underneath the cabinets sat Donovan in the room’s only chair, sharp blue eyes focused intently on Hannah.

 

Hannah gasped and sat bolt upright, clutching her head in her hands.  Donovan knelt by her side instantly, glad beyond measure that Hannah did not flinch or try to pull away from her touch.

 

Hannah leaned into the strong body trying to get her bearings.  The hands that caressed her back were soothing and familiar, as was the scent she breathed deeply into her lungs.  Donovan continued the light touches, feeling Hannah gradually relax beneath them.  Eventually, Hannah felt steady enough to push away slightly so she could look into Donovan’s eyes.

 

Donovan cupped her face gently.  “Are you all right, love?  You scared me.”

 

Hannah shook her head slightly.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to scare you.  I think I had a blonde moment.”  She ran a shaky hand through her blonde mane and chuckled nervously.

 

“How so, Angel?”  Donovan was more than a little concerned.  It was very apparent that whatever had happened, it had shaken Hannah badly.

 

“I must have misunderstood you earlier, Donovan.  I don’t know why, but I imagined you said it was eighteen fifty-five.”

 

Donovan’s brow creased.  “You did not imagine anything, Hannah.  That is what I said.  It is June sixteenth, eighteen hundred and fifty-five.”

 

Hannah’s hand came up to cover her mouth, and she spent several minutes trying to breathe without hyperventilating.  “Donovan, love.  That’s not possible.”

 

“Um, Hannah... not only is it possible, it is also the truth.  Did you hit your head?  I thought I caught you before you hit anything but....”  She reached her hands towards Hannah’s head, only to find them captured in Hannah’s.

 

“My head is fine sweetheart.  Except for the fact that I seem to have crossed into the twilight zone, I mean.”

 

“Twilight zone?” from Donovan, her brows frowning at the unknown reference.

 

Hannah looked up into clear blue eyes and saw nothing but honest confusion and frustration at the situation that she was having difficulty understanding.  She gasped.

 

“This isn’t a joke is it?  You’re not just toying with me about the date are you?”

 

“No, Hannah, I am not.  Why would I?”

 

Hannah brought their joined hands to her lips.  “Let me see if I can make this make sense for you, ‘cause my mind is still spinning.”  Donovan nodded and squeezed Hannah’s fingers.

 

“Okay.  Right here, right now it is the middle of the nineteenth century.  It is eighteen fifty-five.”  Donovan nodded again, wondering where this was leading.  “Donovan, I am from the twenty-first century.  I will not even be born for more than one hundred years.”

 

Donovan looked deep into her eyes, seeing a truth there that belied the ludicrousness of the statement.  “You’re serious.”  A flat statement.  The blonde head nodded.

 

“Oh boy.  Though now Harold’s statement makes a lot more sense.”

 

Hannah’s eyebrow rose in question.  “How so?  What did he say?”

 

For answer, Donovan went to the door and signaled a crew member.  With a few muttered words to the man, he scurried off and she closed the door.  Donovan resumed her seat after moving the chair next to the bed.  Within two minutes, a light knock was heard, and in her best Captain’s voice, she bade the person to enter.

 

The door opened and a small lad of about eleven crossed the threshold and stood at attention.  “Stand at ease, Harold,” Donovan said quietly, and the boy visibly relaxed, though not without several darting glances at the woman in the bed.  He waited silently for his Captain to speak.

 

“Harold, I want you to tell your story to Miss Reilly here.  I want you to tell her exactly what you told me earlier.”

 

The youth nodded and swallowed nervously.  “Aye, sir.”  He swallowed again.  “Um, after I left you yesterday, I went west, like ya said.  I went forever, seemed like, til I saw the town comin’ into view, and I knew I musta missed the path.  So I headed back t’other way, til I got to your house again.”  He stopped and cleared his throat.  “It was nigh unto dark by now, and I knew I was gonna be in terrible trouble if I didn’t find the house, so I started back west, and this time I counted off my steps.  When I got to where a mile was, I started looking for the pathway that shoulda been there. T’wasn’t nothing there that I could see in the dark, but then the moon lit up a path that led me to the tiniest nitch in the woods.  I pushed through the brambles til I come to a clearing that held that rock formation ya spoke of.  I never did see no house ma’am, so I laid the flowers on the note and left them at the end of the path.”

 

He looked at Hannah directly for the first time.  “I’m sorry ma’am.  I dinna know what else to do.  I couldn’t find ya, cause there was nothing there like the Cap’n said.  And I had to get back here.”  He turned and faced Donovan.  “I’m sorry sir.  I was gonna tell ya this mornin’, but you was gone when I got up.”

 

Donovan nodded.  “That will be all for now, Harold.  We will discuss your punishment later.”

 

He came to attention.  “Aye, sir.”  He turned and nodded at Hannah.  “Ma’am” was all he said, respectfully.  Then he slipped out the door before Donovan changed her mind.

 

Hannah sat quietly absorbing the information he had given them, then finally nodded.  “It makes perfect sense, if anything in this whole scenario can.”

 

“What do you mean?” Donovan asked.  Her head was beginning to ache trying to wrap her mind around what Hannah was telling her, and what she was slowly trying to accept as the truth of their situation.

 

“We, you and I can cross time.  We have done so for years in our dreams and now that we are physically in the same place, we can also physically cross to share the same time.  But no one else would necessarily be able to do that.  We’ve never had others in our dreams.  There is no reason why anyone else would need to cross time like that.”

 

Donovan nodded, impressed with her logic, and waiting to see if she would continue.  She didn’t have long to wait.

 

“I need to check the journals.  It is entirely possible that our answer lies there.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Donovan, my father and Jack spent their entire lives studying the Triangle.  Now that I think about it... now that we have actually met, it occurs to me that what little bit I’ve read of the journal ties in to us.”  She shrugged.  “It’s worth a shot.”

 

Donovan studied Hannah a moment more, then nodded briskly.  “Very well.”  She ran a large hand through Hannah’s hair.  “How do you feel?”

 

“Honestly?  Physically, I am fine.  The rest of me is kinda overwhelmed at the moment.”

 

Donovan gave her a shaky, crooked grin.  “We are in agreement there, Angel.”  She blew out a breath with force enough to lift her bangs.  “Would you like to rest a while longer or would you like a tour?”

 

“I think I would like a tour, Cap’n,” Hannah replied with a grin.  Donovan rose and smoothed her linen trousers before extending a hand to help Hannah to her feet.  “Can I ask you a question first?” Donovan’s brow rose and she nodded.    “Is there a reason that Harold referred to you as sir?  Surely he knows....”  Hannah let her thoughts trail into silence.

 

Donovan put her arms around Hannah’s waist and pulled the smaller woman into her so Hannah’s back was to her chest.  “All the men under my command know I am a woman, Hannah, and they afford me whatever privacy they can because of it.  When we are not acting in an official capacity, we are more like family than a captain and crew.  However, I *am* still the Captain, and as such I am given the respect due my position, and it is easier for everyone to keep things straight for me to be referred to as sir.  It causes less confusion than trying to switch back and forth.”

 

Hannah looked at her confusedly.  “Huh?”

 

Donovan motioned around the tiny cabin, and opened the tall closet.  Inside hung a Naval dress uniform complete with sword and plumed hat, and several less ornate uniforms as well.  “This is the Captain’s cabin on a British Naval vessel... commanded by a man as law and tradition dictates.”

 

Donovan turned Hannah in her arms then and watched as the confusion cleared from green eyes and Hannah’s brow rose.  “Oh, okay.   I gotcha.  That way they don’t get their sirs and ma’ams mixed up, especially in public.”

 

“Precisely.  It is a practice that has served us well.”

 

“I will try to remember that, Captain, sir,” Hannah said seriously.

 

“Hannah, I will be happy to hear you call me Donovan for the rest of my days.”

 

“Oh, I think I can work with that scenario,” Hannah said, before reaching up and placing a tender kiss on Donovan’s lips.  “Now show me your boat.”

 

“Ship, Angel.  She is a ship, and the proudest of the fleet.”  They left the cabin with Hannah’s light laughter trailing behind them.

 

************

 

Donovan took her time showing Hannah around until she noticed the rocking and rolling of the vessel below decks was causing the blonde woman to turn the shade of her eyes.  With a muffled curse, she hastened to get Hannah back above deck and into the fresh air and sunshine.

 

“Are you all right, Hannah?” Donovan asked solicitously as she rubbed the woman’s heaving back.  They had barely made it to the railing before everything became too much and Hannah proceeded to lose her breakfast.

 

The blonde head nodded.  “Yes, love.  I think everything just finally caught up with me and the motion of the bo... ship made it all come to a head.”  She chuckled despite herself.  “So to speak.”

 

“Well, I think maybe I should take you home, or maybe into town to get something to eat?”

 

“Maybe just off the ship for a while?” Hannah said piteously. “I think I would just like to feel stable again for a few minutes.”

 

“I think we can arrange that.  Mr. Merryweather!” Donovan called, and Hannah stood amazed at the instant change in her companion’s voice and demeanor.

 

“Aye, sir.”

 

“I am very pleased with the progress.  You and the rest of the crew make sure you get some shore time while we are here.  I will be back later in the week.  I would like my books dropped off at the cottage.”

 

“Aye, sir.  What of Harold?”

 

“I am still considering his punishment.  I will let you know when I have decided.”

 

“Aye, sir, I’ll have your books delivered to the cottage this afternoon.  And if I may be so bold, Captain, congratulations.  I am glad to see you’ve found your dream at last.”

 

Ice blue eyes pinned him in place for a long moment and for the first time since their very first fight, John Merryweather was afraid he had stepped where angels feared to tread.  That fear melted into a nothing when the blue eyes warmed and Donovan smiled at him. 

 

“Thank you, John,” the Captain answered quietly, shocking him with her use of his first name.  “I have, though we will have to discuss how you knew of my dreams later.”

 

He nodded and lowered his eyes.  “Aye, sir.  At your convenience.”

 

“Very well then, Mr. Merryweather.  Carry on.  I will see you before the end of the week.”

 

The man saluted sharply and Donovan returned the salute before she and Hannah headed down the gangplank to the dock.  When they reached the end of the short pier, Donovan tucked Hannah’s hand into the crook of her elbow and covered it with her hand.  Then she smiled down into sparkling eyes.

 

“Better, Angel?”

 

Hannah nodded briskly, still adjusting to the lightning changes in Donovan’s deportment. She was amazed at the sheer presence Donovan exuded in her ship’s captain persona.  So very different from the private person Hannah felt she knew so much better.

 

Slowly they strolled in the direction of town, and Hannah’s first thought was one of amazement at how very similar it was to the one of her own time.   There was a trading post that Hannah could see resembled the general store, and the beach area had several canoes and small boats.  There was what appeared to be a communal meeting house, and a large pit close to it. 

 

“Where do the sailors stay?” Hannah asked, motioning back to the ship.  “I don’t see a hot... an inn.”

 

“We are the only ship that stays here longer than overnight anymore, and my men stay on the ship or sleep on the beach.  Mostly they stay on the beach, glad just to be on dry land.”

 

“Did there used to be an inn for them?  When the other ships came?”

 

Donovan scratched the back of her neck.  “Um, no.  We stepped in before that became a possibility.  We stumbled on this little island about six years ago.”

 

Hannah was quiet for a bit.  They continued walking around the small village, noting the numerous small homes set back in the trees.  Donovan took Hannah into the trading post, and she was pleasantly surprised by both its size and the variety of goods available there.  Hannah spied what she was looking for along the back wall and clasped Donovan’s hand in her own and moved to where the material was stacked on the shelves.

 

“Captain Scott!”  Donovan turned at the hail, and her face broke out in a smile.  She opened her arms and the small woman embraced her in a crushing hug.  The growl she heard at her back made her smile broaden perceptibly.  Donovan loosened her hold on the young native, and the other woman gave her three swift, hard kisses.

 

Donovan moved completely out of the embrace, and stepped back to wrap herself possessively around Hannah.  She felt the blonde woman’s struggle with her jealousy, and whispered, “I love you, Hannah.”  Donovan felt Hannah relax back against her and kissed her ear when Hannah’s hands came up to tangle in her own.

 

The other woman watched the proceedings with interest.  She’d never seen the Captain so alive, and she squashed down the jealousy she felt for the blonde woman to rejoice in Donovan’s happiness.  She extended a hand toward Hannah who naturally reached back.

 

“How do you do?  I am Satosh Nairoah.”

 

“Hannah Reilly.  It’s nice to meet you.”  Amazing how easy it was to be gracious to this woman when she was enveloped in Donovan’s arms.

 

“It is a pleasure to meet the woman who brings such joy to Captain Scott’s face.  I have never seen her so happy.”  She and Hannah shared a laugh over the deep flush that covered Donovan’s skin.  “What can I do for you today?”

 

Hannah hesitated, not sure what Satosh’s position was.  Donovan sensed the problem and answered the unspoken question.

 

“Satosh’s family operates the trading post.  Her father Debendra is the tribe’s shaman.”

 

“It is true.  So how can I help you, Hannah?”

 

Hannah looked down at the silk pajamas she was wearing.  “I was looking at the material.  I need a few more clothes than I originally thought I would.  I just... um... I’m not sure....  I can’t sew.”

 

“That is not a problem,” Donovan said quickly.  “Satosh does work that can rival the finest seamstresses on the continent.  She does most of my sewing and that of my men.”

 

Hannah felt the jealousy flare again and wondered why she felt that way.  Donovan hadn’t given her a reason to think there was a need for it.  Then she recognized the expression on Satosh’s face.  Before she could compose herself to comment, the young native woman spoke up.

 

“I would be most pleased to help you if you wish, Hannah.”  She motioned to Donovan.  “My father wishes to speak to you.  Hannah and I can handle this alone.”

 

Donovan gazed into Hannah’s eyes for a very long moment before she nodded.  “I will be right outside.  Call me if you need me.”

 

“I always need you,” Hannah confirmed instantly.  “But you go on.  Satosh and I will be fine.”

 

Donovan brushed a light kiss across Hannah’s lips and squeezed her tenderly before letting her go and walking back to the front of the store and out the door.  Hannah and Satosh regarded one another for a silent moment, before the blonde decided to lay all the cards on the table.

 

“You love her,” Hannah stated.  Satosh held her eyes briefly before she nodded and dropped them to the floor.

 

“From the moment she rescued me from slavers three years ago.”  She stepped behind the counter and began lifting down bolts of cloth.

 

“But you never told her... why?”  Hannah started sorting through the bolts, laying those she liked to one side.

 

Satosh turned from the shelves then and faced Hannah eye to eye.  “I knew she was not meant for me, nor I for her.  She told Da that her destiny and mine followed different paths.  You already owned her heart.”

 

“As she owned mine.”

 

Satosh nodded.  “I can see what is between you.  It is hard to accept such blunt truth, but I have known it in my heart always.  Confronting it face to face is a little different.”

 

Hannah reached out then and covered Satosh’s hand with her own.  “You will find someone, Satosh.”

 

The younger woman smiled crookedly with tears in her eyes.  “You sound like my mother.”

 

“Hannah chuckled.  “Listen to her.  I’ve been told they know *everything*.”

 

Satosh laughed now and added, “Or they like to think they do anyway.  It is scary how they seem to know the minute you decide to misbehave.”  She caught the melancholy in Hannah’s eyes.  “Hannah?  Have I said something to upset you?”

 

Hannah shook her head.  “No, no... I just... I never knew my mother.  She died giving birth to me.”

 

Satosh reached over and squeezed her hands gently.  “Then I shall introduce you to mine.  She will adopt you much like she did Captain Scott, I expect.”

 

“I’d like that.” 

 

Silence fell for several moments as they continued to sort through the material.  Satosh restored the ones Hannah did not want to the shelves and then turned back to the stack that was left.  “Do you have any ideas on how you would like these made up?”

 

Hannah thought about it seriously for a bit, knowing she was going to have to fit into clothing and styles of which she had no concept.  “I dunno, really.  Something along the lines of what Donovan has, I guess.  Maybe a dress or two?”  She shrugged slim shoulders.  “What do you suggest?”

 

Satosh took a long moment to look Hannah up and down thoroughly.  “Undress for me please.”

 

Hannah’s brows shot to her hairline.  “Excuse me?”

 

“I need to measure you.  I know what to do for you.  So remove your clothing please so I can get your measurements and get started.”

 

Hannah looked around at the wide open store.  Even though the two of them were alone at the moment, she was not about to chance taking off her clothing where just anyone could walk in and see her.  “Um, Satosh... I can’t do that here.  What if someone walks in?”

 

The native woman had already turned her attention to the material on the counter, separating it into piles for trousers, shirts and dresses.  “What?  Oh, I beg your pardon.  Come with me.”  She drew Hannah into a small alcove off the dry goods area.  “Let me know when you are ready for me.  It will not take us but a few moments.”

 

Hannah ran her hands through her hair, wondering when her life had turned so completely upside down.  Then she visualized Donovan’s face and relaxed.  This will work.  It has to.

 

Satosh was all business when she came back into the changing room.  She mumbled to herself, and made notes on a small piece of paper with a stubby little pencil.  When she was done, she left without a word and Hannah proceeded to redress herself before stepping back into the store.

 

“Do you know when Captain Scott is leaving?”

 

“Not exactly.  After the Ball, but....”

 

“That gives me about ten days.  I will ask Mama and Tri to help me.”

 

“Oh, I don’t want to put you out or anything.”

 

“It will be our pleasure.  Obviously you are in great need.  And despite myself and the place you hold in Donovan’s heart, I find that I like you, Hannah Reilly.”

 

“I’m glad, Satosh.  It would be nice to have another friend.”  She paused then forged ahead, her curiosity getting the better of her.  “Um, can I ask you something?”

 

“Certainly,” Satosh replied.  “I can always refuse to answer.”

 

Hannah chuckled.  “Good point.  I was just wondering about your English.  It is perfect... much better than mine.  Where did you learn to speak it so well?”

 

“Captain Scott.  Four years ago, the village nursed her and her men back to health after they came into port with a terrible sickness.  I do not think my father knows to this day what it was or where it came from.  In return, she offered to teach us to read and write English to better enable us to deal with the merchants who came here.  It gave us a great advantage in dealing with them, as we could understand them, and they did not know it.”

 

Satosh paused in thought then continued.  “It made me angry at first to be learning this odd language.  Why did we need it, I thought.  I didn’t want to be bothered with most of the men that came here, nor did I want their trade.  Of course, I was still a child then, and most arrogant.”

 

“Did you feel the same way about Donovan and her crew?”

 

“No.  I was angry at them for introducing the language and forcing its use upon my people.  But to their credit, they all learned to speak mine fluently as well.  It was the slavers who made me see differently.  Because if I had understood their language, I would have known what they were up to.”

 

“So after that....”

 

“After that, I made sure we ALL learned to speak this odd English language.  Come... let us go find my mother, so I can introduce you.  It is almost time for lunch, so we will find Da and Donovan wherever she is.”

 

“You sound sure.”

 

“You have not tasted my mother’s cooking.  Trust me... they will be there.”

 

The two walked out the front door and Satosh closed it firmly behind them.  Hannah looked at her.  “You don’t lock it?”

 

“There is no need.  The door is closed.  They know that we are not opened for business.”  Without another word, Satosh led the way to a cot not far from the trading post.  Hannah shook her head in amazement, dreading the day that that sort of trust would disappear from this world and followed without another word.

 

 

 

Chapter X

 

“You wanted to see me, Debendra?” Donovan extended a hand as she approached the shaman outside of the trading post.  He came around the side of the building to receive her greeting then gestured to her towards his home.

 

“Come.  Mama is expecting us, and Satosh will know where to find us when she and Hannah are done.”

 

“No, Debendra.  I told Hannah I would wait for her right outside.”

 

“You do not trust Satosh to do her best for Hannah?”

 

“Hannah was uncomfortable.  This is all very new to her.”  No-nonsense blue eyes pinned the shaman in place.

 

“Very well.  Let us at least wait in the shade though.  It is too warm to be standing around in the sun if one is not working.”

 

Donovan nodded, and they moved to one side of the store to sit at the base of a large tree.  Donovan could hear the murmur of conversation floating out the open window, and though she could no longer see the front door, she felt comfortable about being able to keep an ear out for Hannah.  

 

Debendra sat quietly for a time, simply observing his young friend, noticing instantly the difference in her demeanor.  “You have found her at last, I see. Love becomes you, my friend.”  Donovan’s head snapped around so quickly it was surprising to the older man that it didn’t go flying off.  Questions burned from the eyes that seared into his and he held up a hand and smiled.

 

“Calm yourself, Donovan.” Her eyes widened further.  Only very rarely did anyone outside of her family call her by her given name.  “I have known about the dreams for years... since you came to us with the sickness.  You called for her.  You called for Green Eyes.”

 

“You didn’t see her eyes.  You couldn’t have.”

 

“No, but I can see the difference she has made in you.  You have a glow about you now... a peace that was not there before.”

 

Donovan dragged her eyes away from his then, contemplating the truth of his words.  She did not realize how self evident the change she felt deep in her soul was to those around her.  She wondered if she had made the same difference in Hannah’s life.

 

“Yes, you have,” Debendra rumbled.  Donovan turned to look at him again, her brows furrowed.  “You were wondering if you had made such a change for Green Eyes.  The answer is yes.”

 

“How did... do…?”

 

Debendra chuckled.  “It was easy to see what you were thinking just following your body language.  I simply furthered your train of thought.  As for her... well, you will just have to trust that as a shaman, I know these things.  I do have to have some secrets, you know.”

 

Donovan smiled.  “I can respect that.  And her name is Hannah.”

 

“A lovely name... what is its meaning?”

 

Donovan smiled.  This she knew.  She had done some searching in the early morning hours after she had returned from her fight with the pirates, hoping it would give her some insight into the woman she had fallen in love with and yet was just learning to know.

 

“It means favor, grace.”

 

“Then if she is as aptly named as yourself, you are most fortunate, my friend.”

 

Donovan nodded.  “I think I would be, even if she wasn’t.”

 

“She has snared you very well.”

 

Donovan shook her head and looked Debendra directly in the eyes.  “No, my friend.  She didn’t trap me.  I walked willingly to stand at her side.  That is my place.  It always has been.”

 

“That is good.  Now perhaps Satosh will give up her foolish dreams and turn her attention to her own future.”

 

“What?”

 

“Come now, Donovan.  Surely you know she has affection for you.  She has never hidden how she feels about you.”

 

“She’s always been like a sister to me Debendra.  You know that.”

 

“Yes, and now she will realize it as well.”

 

Donovan shifted uncomfortably on the ground before moving to stand.  “Maybe I should go back inside.  I don’t want Hannah....”  A large hand on her arm kept her in place and she turned her attention back to the shaman’s serious eyes.

 

“Satosh will not bring dishonor to herself or me by overstepping her bounds.  It is a truth she has long known.  She is just facing the reality of it now.”

 

“But....”

 

“Trust, Donovan.  If not me or Satosh, trust in Hannah’s ability to take care of herself.  I think you will be surprised at the outcome.”

 

“You know something?”

 

“Only the strength of will that I sensed in her.  She will call you if she needs you.”

 

Donovan nodded, and they sat silently for a time.  Then she turned her attention back to him.  “What did you need to see me about?”

 

“I was simply curious about what happened last night.  Were they the same merchants as before?”

 

The Pirate Captain turned to look at the shaman, and his soul was pierced by the burning fierceness of her stare.  He felt amazement at the change so evident in her behavior and wondered again how she could bear the weight of responsibility she carried.  He was glad for her decision to accept it though, as it had saved his people and many others from unspeakable atrocities.

 

“It was Blackthorne again, yes.  We are going to have to step up our efforts to stop him.”

 

“Do you think that is wise?” he asked.

 

“No, but I do think it is necessary.”

 

Debendra nodded.  “Do as you think best, my friend, but remember you have the welfare of another to consider now.”

 

Conversation died after that, and they sat wrapped in their own thoughts as the fitful breeze blew around them.  It seemed like forever but was in fact only minutes before they heard the door shut, and saw two slight figures come around the corner and stop short.  Debendra chuckled, and he and Donovan stood.

 

“You expected us to be with your mother, young one?”  Satosh nodded and he chuckled again.  “You know me well.  And we would have been, but that Donovan gave her word to Hannah that she would wait right outside.  So that is what we did.”  Debendra turned to Donovan.  “Will you introduce me?”

 

Donovan stepped to Hannah’s side, and took her hands.  She gazed deep into Hannah’s eyes, pleased by what she saw there.  Donovan wrapped herself around Hannah and looked at the shaman.  “Debendra, permit me to introduce you to Green Eyes... also known as Hannah Reilly.  Hannah, this is my friend Debendra Nairoah... Satosh’s father and shaman of the island tribe.

 

“How do you do, Hannah?  It is a pleasure to finally meet you.”

 

“Likewise, Mr. Nairoah.”

 

“Who?  Oh, Debendra, please.  Otherwise I will never remember to answer you.  Now come.  Mama is waiting, and it is never a good idea to keep Mama waiting when lunch is ready.”

 

Donovan and Satosh both laughed.  “That is very true.”

 

Hannah took Donovan’s hand in her own as they followed their hosts on the short trip to their cot.  She was looking forward to meeting the formidable Mama.

 

************

 

Had it not been rude to stare, Hannah felt quite sure that is exactly what she would have done.  Mama was the tiniest, spunkiest whirlwind she had ever seen, and she could see precisely why Mama ruled the roost so effortlessly.

 

As soon as they crossed the threshold, she scattered the rest of the family, insuring that she and Hannah were alone.  Hannah felt the stare that drilled into her as Mama studied her, but she bore it as stoically as she could manage.  Satosh had been sent to find her sister and Donovan and Debendra had been banished to another part of the small home to wait until called for the meal.  Donovan hesitated, but a look from Mama and a nod from Hannah sent her scurrying behind Debendra into the other room.

 

“I am glad to meet you at last, Hannah,” Mama said in her soft, powerful voice.  “Donovan has searched for you for a long time.”  Hannah did not know what to make of that statement and she stayed quiet.  “Tell me a little about yourself.”

 

Mama took up a knife and a loaf of bread, and motioned Hannah to the stack of plates and cutlery on the table.  Hannah moved obediently to follow the silent request, and started setting the table even as she considered the best way to answer the older woman’s question.

 

“Um, well.  There’s not a lot to tell really.  I, uh... I’m a writer, and I came here with Donovan.”

 

“Your parents approved of this?”

 

“My parents are not living to disapprove.  I only have an uncle left of my immediate family.

 

“He approves then?”

 

“I am an adult, so I haven’t asked for his permission or approval.  I don’t need it, but he would be happy that Donovan and I found each other, as would my father were he still living.”

 

“And if he wasn’t?”

 

“It would be his loss.  I won’t give her up... not for him.  Not for anything.”

 

Mama gave her a smile then and a nod of approval.  “You are the one in her dreams.  You are Green Eyes.”

 

“Yes ma’am.  I am, as she is the one in mine.”

 

Mama nodded again, as though she had expected this revelation.  She moved to the fire and removed the pot that was sending such enticing odors throughout the small home.  Hannah blushed when her stomach rumbled as the scent wafted up to her.  Mama chuckled.

 

“That is a very high compliment.  Let me call the family in and we will see if you find the taste as good as the smell.”

 

It didn’t take but a minute for the family to gather around the small table, and Debendra seated everyone, putting Hannah near Mama and Donovan between Hannah and himself.  With his daughters seated side by side across from Hannah and Donovan, they were ready to eat, and he began to dish up lunch for everyone.

 

It was quiet for a few minutes as each person applied themselves wholeheartedly to the task of eating.  After several mouthfuls, Hannah wiped her lips and turned to Mama.  “This is spectacular.”

 

“Mama knows this is my favorite,” Donovan said.

 

“Would you share your recipe with me?” Hannah asked the woman at the head of the table.

 

Shocked silence blanketed the table, and Hannah looked round in alarm.  “What?  What did I say wrong?”

 

Mama chuckled again, and Hannah realized that all the lines in her face were really that... laugh lines, as though she found joy in everything.  She smiled expectantly.  “I am sorry, Hannah.  I do not laugh at you, but at the similar reactions around the table.  You see, no one has ever dared to ask for a recipe from me.  You are the first brave enough to do so.”

 

Hannah blushed furiously and reached out a hand to Donovan who immediately engulfed the smaller hand in her own.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean any offense.”

 

“Hannah,” Mama said, covering the hand that still rested on the table.  “I am not offended.  I am very pleased... for many reasons, and I would be happy to share this recipe as well as a few of her other favorites with you, if you would like.”

 

“Yes, I would.  Very much.”

 

“Good.”

 

Silence again as the family continued to at, then the younger sister finally spoke up, her curiosity getting the better of her.  “Hannah?” spoken so quietly that Donovan had to squeeze the blonde’s hand to get her attention.  She cocked an eyebrow in question, and Donovan nodded over towards Tri.

 

“I’m sorry, Tri.  I didn’t hear you.  Did you ask me something?”

 

“Well, I was going to.”  She cleared her throat self-consciously and spoke a little louder.  “I was just curious as to where you were from.  You do not speak as Donovan or the rest of us do.”

 

Hannah closed her eyes.  She’d forgotten about the understated drawl she spoke with, and didn’t even hear the lilting brogue Donovan spoke with except for the music it made in her ears.  She opened her mouth to say... something... when she heard Donovan answer the question.

 

“Hannah is from the United States.  Her uncle is an American businessman with interests in Bermuda.”

 

Truth, as far as it went.  Just not the entire truth.  It was enough for Tri and Satosh though.  Their brown eyes gleamed with excitement.

 

America?  That sounds like a wonderful place to live.”

 

“I have to admit that even with all its screw-ups and difficulties, I love it.”  Hannah felt Donovan tense.  “But I would give it up in a heartbeat to stay with Donovan.”

 

The two younger women swooned at the declaration, and Mama chuckled.  Hannah felt Donovan uncoil and relax under her touch.  Donovan shifted slightly to look at her and the rest of the world faded from their consciousness.

 

“Would you really?” with aching need in her eyes.

 

“Where you go, I go, love.  You are my home now.”

 

Donovan reached a trembling hand out to Hannah’s cheek, caressing it tenderly.  Only Debendra’s throat clearing brought them back to the present and reminded them of the fact that they were not alone.  But they spoke a moment more with their eyes, reassuring one another, and making promises for later.

 

“So, Hannah... Mama says you are a writer.”  Hannah’s eyebrows went up, wondering when Mama could possibly have shared that bit of information with Debendra.  But she acknowledged the truth of the statement.

 

“I find that most intriguing.  What do you write?”

 

“Um, well... I write a column for the news service and I write books.  Uh, books for children and young girls.”

 

“A news column?  Is America so progressive then?  I was given to understand that the women of your country were expected to be good wives and mothers.”  This observation from Debendra was simply that, and tainted with nothing except honest curiosity.

 

“Well, I have always had a forward thinking family, and both my father and my uncle were always very supportive of my choices in life.”

 

“And what of the rest of your society?  Would they accept you and Donovan as we do?”

 

“Can I ask a question here first?” Hannah inquired quietly.  At Debendra’s nod, she continued, “Why do you accept Donovan and me so easily?”

 

A large grin broke across the shaman’s face and was echoed on those of his household.  “We are a very small community here on the island, and there are very few secrets among us.  Though we do not always agree or get along, we have learned to be nonjudgmental of those around us unless the situation warrants it.  Love between two people does not warrant judgment... it warrants acceptance of a beautiful gift.”

 

The tears streamed silently down Hannah’s face, and Debendra grew concerned on the sight of them.  “Oh, young one.  I did not mean to upset you.”  He would have spoken further but for the hand she held up to stop his speech.

 

She shook her head and bit her lip, trying to get her emotions under control.  Donovan sat silently with one arm wrapped around Hannah’ shoulders and the other holding her hand, stroking it gently.  Finally she took a deep breath.  “No, Debendra.  These are happy tears.  Even in America Donovan and I would not find acceptance like we have here.  Thank you.”

 

“I wish there was a way we could spread your philosophy,” Donovan muttered, “especially where my mother is concerned.”

 

“She will come around, Donovan,” Mama assured quietly.  “I have faith.”

 

“Rest assured then, my friend,” Debendra said, clapping Donovan on the shoulder.  “If Mama has faith, it will be so.”

 

“Enough of the sentimentality.  I want Hannah to tell about the books she has written.”

 

“Tri!” Mama exclaimed before turning to Hannah with a smile.  “The young are always so impatient.”

 

Debendra laughed.  “The same can be said for the not-so-young as well.”

 

“Yes, Mama.  We all want to hear about it,” Satosh said enthusiastically.  “We know of so few women writers.”

 

Hannah laughed, as much a tension relief as honest enthusiasm.  “Well, I have two young girls that I am writing a series about.  It is mostly stories of things that happened to my best friend and me when we were growing up.  We uh... we got into a lot of mischief, and that translates well to young readers.”

 

“Oh that sounds so interesting.  Do you have any of your books here?”

 

Hannah shook her head.  “No.  I uh, I didn’t think to bring any with me when I left.”

 

“Perhaps you could tell us one.”

 

“I don’t think....”

 

“Please?”

 

“Really, I can’t tell a story like I write one.  My thoughts flow much better when I write them out than when I try to speak them.  I’ll try to write one out for you to read before we leave.”

 

“Oh, that would be wonderful!”

“Thank you so much.  We would be so grateful!” both young women exclaimed together.  Hannah smiled broadly at their contagious enthusiasm.

 

The meal continued for a little while longer, conversation flowing between everyone while Mama served up a luscious dessert.  Mama saw the question in Hannah’s eyes and nodded imperceptibly.  Donovan watched their interaction and smiled.  Hannah had made a new friend, and without knowing it, added to her family as well.  Once Mama took you in, you were family for life.

 

“Can we help you clean up, Mrs. ... I mean Mama?  Doesn’t seem fair for you to do it all.”

 

“Not this time, Hannah, though I appreciate the offer.  I think Donovan is ready to leave and I do not want to hold you up.”

 

“We can wait fifteen minutes to help, especially since you cooked *and* ya’ll are sewing my clothes.”

 

Mama saw the determination in Hannah’s face and relented gracefully.  She understood well the need to be accepted as a contributing member of what she now thought of as Donovan’s family.  Within moments, Hannah and Donovan were standing alone in the kitchen with Hannah washing and rinsing and Donovan drying and putting things away.

 

Mama and Debendra stood in the doorway silently, watching the tableau unfold before them.  Hannah and Donovan operated like a well-oiled machine.  The looks and touches were simply an added confirmation of what they so obviously shared together.

 

“You know, Mama,” Debendra whispered into his wife’s ear as he nudged her out the door and back towards the trading post.  “I never thought we would see Donovan so completely captured.”

 

Mama elbowed him in the stomach.  “You just never thought to see Donovan in the kitchen cleaning up, old man.” 

 

His merriment rang out across the small village like bells, and the trill of her laughter made a wonderful counterpoint for the sound.

 

************

 

The couple pulled the cottage door behind them as they left, and waved to Debendra and Mama as they passed the trading post.  There was no need for words, and they remained quiet as they made their way back towards Hannah’s with hands clasped together.  The breeze was welcome in the afternoon heat and as they neared the beach house, they felt a distinct chill pass over them.  It was momentary, but it was distinct enough that they looked to one another to be sure it wasn’t imagination.

 

“You felt that, didn’t you?” Hannah asked.

 

“Yes, and as odd as it was, it was quite refreshing in this heat.  I wonder what caused it.”

 

“I don’t know.  Maybe I should do some more research on it when we get home.  It could be a phenomenon that Jack and Daddy studied.”

 

“That might not be a bad idea.  I wouldn’t mind a little more information if there is some kind of peculiar weather pattern in the area.  That could be useful.”

 

Hannah nodded.  “All right.  I’ll see what I can find out.  I have their journals with me.  I was reading them, comparing them to my diary.”  She couldn’t help the slight blush that colored her face.

 

Donovan wrapped Hannah in her arms and whispered in her ear.  “You are very beautiful when you blush.  May I know the reason for it?”  She felt Hannah laugh beneath her hands.

 

“I was just thinking how so many things tie together now.  Things that make a lot more sense since I met you... since I understood that we have been meeting across time in our dreams.”

 

“I know what you mean.  The fact that we met in our dreams and then found one another in real life is extraordinary.  The fact that we did so across time is fantastically unbelievable.”

 

“Ya know what, though?”

 

“What, Angel?”

 

“I like having my dream come to life.  And I like being a dream come true.”

 

Donovan tightened her hold.  “So do I.”

 

They stood wrapped around one another gazing into the horizon for long moments.  “Hey,“ Donovan continued to whisper and Hannah shook her head at the ticklish sensation that skittered across her neck.  Donovan chuckled.  “You up for a swim?”

 

“I don’t have anything to wear.”

 

“Neither do I, but we’re alone.  No one will see... except you and me.”

 

Hannah turned in Donovan’s arms and clasped her hands behind Donovan’s neck.  “Can I trust you to protect my virtue?” she asked coyly.

 

Donovan watched the embers in Hannah’s gaze turn to fire before she leaned down and captured the velvety lips and claimed them for her own.  Only when their breathing grew ragged did she pull back slightly. 

 

“Hmm,” Hannah said on an odd breath as she stepped back slightly out of Donovan’s reach.  She slowly began to unfasten her top.  Donovan froze, her eyes locked on the movements of Hannah’s hands.  “Was that a yes?”  She slid her top off her shoulders and dropped it to the sand.  “Or a no?”  The pants slipped off with ease, and Hannah wiggled just the slightest bit before she stepped out of them.

 

She turned her back to Donovan and heard the whimper escape from her throat.  Hannah smiled as she reached to unfasten her bra and slid it down slowly, feeling the growl before she felt two large hands at her waist.  She released the garment even as she leaned into the touch that was drawing her into the firm body behind her.

 

“You are a tease, wench!” Donovan complained, then bit lightly into the juncture between Hannah’s shoulder and neck.  Hannah moaned at the sensation.  “And paybacks are bloody hell,” Donovan said as she moved away from the warm body in front of her.   “Last one in is a rotten egg!” Donovan shouted, and proceeded to strip and make it into the water before Hannah opened her eyes.

 

She made the mistake of turning around to smirk at Hannah, and got caught by the vision of the woman who stood nearly naked before her.  “God, it is a good thing this water is cool,” Donovan muttered as she began swimming away from the shore.

 

By the time Hannah recovered her wits, Donovan was scurrying away her, and Hannah rushed to finish her undressing to join her.  The water was refreshingly cool, and after a bit they came together to talk and play a bit.  Finally, quite worn out, they walked jointly from the shore to their clothing.  Donovan took Hannah’s hand before she could grab her clothes and turned the smaller woman to face her.

 

“You are a very beautiful woman, Hannah Reilly, and I am blessed that you love me.”

 

Hannah couldn’t help the blush, but returned the compliment in kind.  “You are no more blessed than I am, Donovan Scott, and I am enjoying to getting to know you... in mind, in soul and in body... again.”  The last was said with a bit of impish tease and a smile.

 

“As am I, Angel.  Now get dressed,” she added with a growl, “before I forget the manners my mother tried so hard to instill in me.  And the gallantry my father did.”

 

Getting dressed was slow going, as they both were sneaking looks at each other.  Finally, though, they managed to be decent, and Hannah took Donovan’s hand and led her down the beach to towards the beach house.

 

When they reached Jack’s house, Donovan dropped into a chair on the patio.  “It is very nice here.  I could stay right here to watch the sun set.  Jack chose well when he built here.”

 

Hannah fell into the chair next to her.  “Yeah, he did.  I’m thirsty.  Would you like something?”

 

Donovan made to stand up and Hannah waved her back to her seat.  “I’ll get it.  Would you like some lemonade?”

 

“Are you sure?”  Donovan didn’t feel right about letting Hannah wait on her.   But Hannah for reasons she couldn’t out her finger on, had little warning tingles running up and down her spine.  There was something wrong with this scenario, but she didn’t know what it was.

 

“Yes, love.  I’m sure.  I’d like the chance to spoil you a little.”

 

Donovan captured Hannah’s hand and lifted it to her lips.  “Lemonade would be lovely,” she acquiesced.

 

Hannah nodded and pulled away and walked into the house. 

 

She noticed the light was blinking on the answering machine and she pushed the button as she made her way over to the refrigerator.  She grabbed the pitcher from the shelf as she listened to Jack’s voice, followed by the sound of Katie.  She chuckled listening to her best friend gush and ramble, and made a mental note to call her later.

 

Jack’s voiced reminded her to pick up the journal and her diary, and she flipped through the journal, trying to find the entry that was nagging at her.  Something about the barrier crossing.  Something tied to her father’s death that coincided with Donovan’s illness four years ago.  She rubbed her suddenly throbbing temples.

 

With her concentration focused elsewhere, Hannah wasn’t paying strict attention to what she was doing, and as she reached for the tumblers, one of them slipped from her grasp and crashed to the floor in a shattering of glass. 

 

“Yikes!”

 

Donovan heard her exclamation and the splintering of glasses, and rushed inside to see if she could help.  Just as she crossed the threshold, Hannah looked up, and realization dawned.

 

“Donovan, NO!”

 

But it was too late.  Donovan was gone.

 

 

 

Chapter XI

 

Hannah rushed to the spot where Donovan had been standing, frantically searching the empty space, knowing in her soul that Donovan was gone, but needing to confirm it anyway.  She pushed the glass door aside, nearly breaking the glass with the force of her shove.

 

Hannah stumbled out the door and fell down the steps, scraping her knees and the palms of her hands. She never noticed the blood that seeped out or the tears that slid soundlessly down her face.   She ran around the house then out toward the beach.  She noted that there was only a single set of footprints leading up the path, and fell to her knees in agony.

 

“NOOOOOOOO!!!!” came the agonized scream and Hannah dropped her head to her knees as sobs wracked her frame.  The keening of her soul was sharp and swift, and she sat in the sand for an indefinite amount of time just breathing, focusing her energy on regaining rational thought.

 

“Okay, I need to get to the cottage.  She has to be at the cottage,” she muttered to herself, sitting up and scrubbing her eyes with her hands.  “Ow!”

 

Hannah turned her hands over to look at her palms.  “Well,” she mumbled.  “At least I did a good job while I was at it.”  She moved to stand and hissed at the pain that lanced through her knees.  “Jumping Jesus Christ, that hurts!”  She winced again as she ran her hands through her hair.  “Okay Hannah... think.  First let’s get cleaned up, and then we’ll take a walk to the cottage.  She’ll be at the cottage.”

 

Satisfied with her train of thought, Hannah eased back into the house and went straight to the bathroom.  She groaned when she saw the amount of damage that had been done to the silk trousers she wore, as well as the shredded skin beneath them.

 

She shucked her clothes and stepped into the shower, taking care to insure that her hands and knees were well cleaned before she shut off the water.  She made sure they were no longer bleeding, then slipped into a bathing suit and sarong.  Hannah grimaced at the pull in her knees, but walked down the steps and to the beach.  She hesitated, worrying about the single set of prints in the sand, then turned her feet and her attention to the east and Donovan’s cottage.

 

She couldn’t run, but she walked as swiftly as she could manage... until there was a burn in her legs and a lack of air in her lungs.  She made it to the path and stood for a moment, trying to catch her breath.  Something wasn’t right.

 

“C’mon Reilly... suck it up and go find her.”

 

Talking to herself out loud seemed to bolster her courage enough to move her down the path towards the cottage.  What confronted her when she got there made her heart shatter.

 

The cottage had reverted to its original state... that is to say it had become the uninhabited, in-need-of-repair shell that Hannah had stumbled across her first day on the island.  A hand flew to Hannah’s mouth to contain the sob that wanted to rip from her throat.

 

Hannah continued her trek up the slick steps and into the deserted house.  The furniture was cloaked once more and dust was thick in the air.  She instinctively looked to the wall, but the picture that had been there both times before was... destroyed.  The two women had been literally cut out of the scene and the sky had been painted an ominous, stormy black.

 

“DONOVAN!!!!”  Knowing it was pointless, but needing to try anyway.  Silence greeted her, and she moved to sit on the cold, mossy steps.  She ran her hands through messy blonde hair and thought.  I need to find a way to reverse this.

 

She closed the door firmly behind her and walked slowly down the path.  She paid careful attention to her steps on the way home, and as she reached her own porch, another piece of the puzzle fell into place.  There was no cold spot.  It must be the doorway, and it’s not open anymore.

 

Hannah would have cried, the pain was so biting, but she put it aside for later.  She was a woman on a mission, and she had work to do.

 

************

 

Donovan kept her eyes closed, content to let the world stop spinning at such a frantic pace.  When she finally did manage to open them slightly, she was surprised to find herself laid out flat on the ground.  The last thing she remembered was... “HANNAH!”

 

She tried to stand and promptly fell back onto her butt.  Donovan sat there for a long moment with her eyes closed trying to regain her equilibrium.  All right, let me try this again.  She opened her eyes and glanced around slowly.  The glen she was in was familiar, and at the same time, not.

 

Donovan stood up very gradually, not wanting a repeat of her first performance.  She took a deep breath, satisfied that the world wasn’t going to tilt and throw her off again.  Then she took a determined look at her surroundings. 

 

It was the rock formation that made her freeze in her inspection.  Wait just a goddamn minute.  What the bloody hell??  Where the hell is Hannah’s house?

 

Donovan walked down to the beach noting the single set of footprints leading to the pathway that she stood on.  Then she turned and made her way back to the glen, hoping that she’d just imagined the missing house.

 

She sighed in frustration when the house remained gone, and then reached for her head as a slicing pain ripped through it.  Oh God, not again was her last thought before the darkness claimed her.

 

************

 

Hannah hesitated at the threshold of Jack’s house, squaring her shoulders before she stepped back in.  The journal and her diary still sat on the counter, a stark reminder of the reality of her unexplainably bizarre situation.  She took two steps into the kitchen then hissed in pain.

 

“GODDAMNIT!” she screamed to the world at large, furious at herself and the circumstances she now found herself in.  She reached down and wiped gently at the gash on her foot, removing the splinter of glass.  Hannah grabbed a paper towel and wiped at the trickle of blood, then hobbled to the bathroom.  She washed the cut and bandaged it, then stopped in her room to retrieve her sandals before slowly returning to the kitchen to clean up the mess with grim determination.

 

When she was finished, she snatched the diary and journal from the counter and dropped onto the couch gracelessly.  She sat still for several minutes, tears welling in her eyes and her hand covering her mouth while she concentrated on breathing.  Finally she opened the journal and began a methodical search for the information she needed.

 

It was the ringing of the phone that brought her out of her meticulous study, and that was the first time Hannah noticed the lateness of the hour.  It was nearly sunset and she rubbed her eyes, which were stinging from the forced strain they suffered under as she focused hard on each and every word, hoping what she needed would jump in front of her.  Only when she heard Jack’s voice over the answering machine did she make a move to grab the phone.

 

“Hi, Hannah!  It’s just me chec....”

 

“Jack?” Hannah’s strained whisper alerted him to her state of mind more than anything else could have.

 

“Hannah?  Hannah, honey... what’s wrong?”

 

He could hear her breathing as she tried to regain control of her voice.  He wanted to reach out and comfort her, and cursed the fact that they were an hour’s flight apart.  Jack spoke slowly and calmly into the receiver, helping Hannah to focus on his voice.

 

“Hannah, breathe now.  Slowly.  In and out... that’s it... in and out.  Good girl.  Relax and listen to my voice and just breathe.”  He noted the gradual change in her respiration and decided to continue to talk, hoping it would relax her enough to share whatever had upset her so greatly.

 

“Hey, guess what?  I may be home sooner than I thought.  Something happened about an hour ago and the weather patterns seem to be returning to their normal routine.  I need to monitor it for a few more days, but if things stay like they are, I may be able to come home in for....”

 

“Jack?” Hannah said still whispering.  “Jack, I need you to come home now.  Please?”

 

Jack heard the plea in her voice and his heart broke.  There had only been twice in her life that she had ever expressed a need that great, and he could not deny it now any more than he had either of the other times she’d asked anything of him.

 

“I’ll make arrangements, Hannah.  I’ll be there sometime shortly after dark.”

 

“Thank you, Jack.  I’ll be waiting at the field for you.”

 

He would have protested, even knowing the futility of his words, but she hung up before he could speak again.  He muttered incoherently to himself instead, flinging his bag on the bed and beginning to repack his clothes.

 

************

 

As soon as she hung up the phone, Hannah grabbed the journal and diary and set them near the door.  She would study them in the village while she waited for Jack to arrive.  Then she walked to her room to get dressed.

 

It didn’t take long, and Hannah was ready to go.  Just as she came into the living room, the phone rang again.  She thought briefly of ignoring it and leaving, then decided she could wait the thirty seconds to see if it was Jack.

 

“Hi, Hannah!  It’s Katie again, if you’re there?”

 

The happiness in her voice made Hannah both joyful and agonized all at the same time, and she was suddenly overwhelmed with a desire to speak to the best friend she’d ever had.  With a shaking hand, Hannah brought the receiver to her ear.

 

“Hi, Katie!  How’s married life treating you?”  She smiled when she said it, picturing her friend’s face as she got married, but she could feel the tears pooling in her eyes.  And she knew by the intake of breath she heard on the other end of the phone that Katie could hear them in her voice.

 

“Better than single life is you it sounds like.  Hannah, what’s wrong?”

 

“Oh Katie... I lost her.  She’s gone and I may not get her back.”

 

“Whoa, whoa, hon.  Slow down and take it easy.  Can we start this at the beginning so I know what page we’re on?  Now who’s gone and where did she go?”

 

“Donovan.  I found my Blue Eyes, Katie, and her name is Donovan.”

 

“Blue Eyes?”

 

“I found where I belong, Katie, and the one I am meant to be with.  Donovan is the woman of my dreams.”

 

“That’s wonderful, Hannah.  I am so happy for you.  When do I get to meet her?”

 

Now the tears flowed in earnest.  “Oh Katie!”  It was all she could manage.  There was just no way for her to explain this, and it made her frustrated and aggravated.  More than anything, it hurt beyond words.

 

“Hannah?  I want you to listen to me, okay?” Katie waited until she heard Hannah’s breathing become hiccups and knew that she had Hannah’s undivided attention.  “If Donovan is the one you have been waiting for... if she is the one who makes you fit, then you will find her again.  I promise you.”

 

Without her conscious permission, Hannah felt a smile cross her face.  She and Katie never made promises they did not intend to keep.  “Oh you do, huh?”

 

“Yep, I sure do,” with absolute certainty.

 

“And how do you know?”

 

Katie hesitated, not sure she should share, then shrugged her shoulders.  It was the truth, and she and Hannah had always tried to be honest with one another.  “Because it’s meant to be, hon.”

 

“You sound so sure.”

 

“I am.  Trust me on this Hannah.  One day, hopefully very soon, you will be introducing me to this dream woman of yours, and I’ll get to have a little heart-to-heart talk with her.”

 

Now Hannah chuckled shakily.  “Uh oh... why don’t I like the sound of that?”

 

“Maybe because Jack and I have quite a screening process for any perspective suitors.”

 

“Perspective suitors?!?  Screening process?!?”

 

“Uh huh.  You remember the inquisition you and Daddy and the boys put Frank through?”

 

“Oh boy.”

 

“Yeah, it is fixing to come back and bite you in the ass.”

 

“Oh boy.”

 

“Uh huh,” Katie said again, giggling.  “And you get all of us plus Jack and Frank.  Donovan is doomed!”

 

Inexplicably, Katie’s firm belief that she would get the chance to grill Donovan lightened Hannah’s heart and restored her faith in possibilities.  Katie heard the change in her reply.

 

“I don’t think so.  She can handle you all with ease...  oh, Katie, she has the cutest lilt when she speaks.  Not quite a brogue, but not British.  I can’t wait for you to meet her.  I just....”  Her voice dropped to a whisper.  “I just have to find her again.”

 

“You will, Hannah.  I promised, didn’t I?”  Without giving Hannah an opportunity to speak, Katie continued, “Besides, I want to see her see you in this dress.”

 

“How?  When?  But....”

 

Now Katie laughed out loud.  “Mama left me a message after you called her.”

 

Waitaminute... she called you on your honeymoon??”

 

“Oh yeah... this was news that couldn’t wait.  Frank actually thought it was funny, especially when he found out WHY she was calling.”

 

“Oh my God... what did she tell you exactly??”

 

“She said that you had finally asked for the dress you had made for the masked ball several years ago.”

 

Ooookay.  And that meant what exactly?”

 

“It means that we will soon be making Donovan run the gauntlet.  Now listen,” Katie rushed on.  “Frank and I will be coming to the Pirates’ Ball.  So I will see you in a few days, hon.  Gotta run.”

 

“But... but... how... but…?”  But Hannah was sputtering to a dial tone and she finally gave up and hung up the phone with an exasperated laugh.  “I’ll have to have a word or ten with her when they get here.  I’m pretty sure I never said....”  Hannah’s thoughts trailed off, but her spirits were considerably lighter as she picked up the books and headed out the door.

 

************

 

She managed to make it to town without incident, and happily parked near the tiny restaurant.  Merry saw her approach and came out to greet her. 

 

“Hello, Hannah!  I thought we might see you this evening.  Papa just got a call from Jack asking him to light the field for a night landing.  We don’t do those very often.”

 

There was nothing in her tone to indicate her curiosity, but Hannah could feel the interest in the eyes that met hers.

 

“Yes, whatever he was working on cleared up, so he said he would come back.”

 

Merry looked closely at Hannah in the waning daylight.  Her eyes were shadowed, and Merry wondered what had happened to bring such sorrow to eyes which only a few days ago had been bright with anticipation.  She reached out and took Hannah’s hand.

 

“Will you join us for supper?  We will make sure you are on hand to greet Jack upon his return.”  She saw Hannah’s hesitation.  “Please.  I would like you to meet my children.”

 

Hannah noted the older woman’s earnest expression and relented.  It wasn’t like she could do a lot before Jack got here, and she nodded her acceptance.  “I’d like that very much.”

 

“Good, come with me.  It should be just about ready.”

 

Dinner was quite pleasant, and Hannah was charmed by Merry’s family.  She had twins who were just a year shy of Hannah’s own age, and the daughter was married and expecting her first child.  The son was on a vacation from his work on Bermuda.  He was bashful in his flirting with Hannah, but she was quick to make him see that she was unavailable.  He grumbled a little about his luck, which caused a bit of good-natured teasing and laughing.  But when Jacob stood and headed to the door, things settled quickly and they all moved to go to the landing strip.

 

Hannah was a little overwhelmed.  She’d hoped to greet Jack privately, but didn’t know how to politely refuse their company.  When they saw the choppers lights across the broad ocean, Merry motioned to her children and they bade Hannah goodbye and moved back towards town.  Hannah looked after them questioningly.  As the sound of rotors grew louder, Merry stepped up beside Hannah.

 

“I got the distinct impression you needed to greet your uncle privately.  We just didn’t want you to have to wait alone.”

 

Hannah was touched by the gesture and the thoughtfulness.  “Thank you, Merry.  I appreciate it... all of it.”

 

“You are welcome.  We will see you in a day or two hopefully.”

 

Jacob waited beside her until the helicopter touched down, then with a pat on her arm and a wave to Jack he followed his family back to town.

 

Jack stepped from the copter and ducked away from the blades until he reached Hannah’s side.  With a glance at her face, he took her in his arms and hugged her with all his considerable strength.  He pulled back far enough to plant a kiss on her cheek and then leaned forward to whisper in her ear.

 

“Let’s go home, honey.  We’ll talk there.”

 

Hannah nodded, taking a great deal of comfort from his mere presence.  She knew if anyone could help her find a solution to her current dilemma, Jack could.  That coupled with Katie’s promise made her heart just a little lighter.

 

************

 

They took ten minutes once they got back to Jack’s house to change into comfortable clothes and start some coffee before they sat down together on the couch.  Hannah set the journal and her diary on the table and focused her attention on her hands.  Jack’s brows rose when he noticed what the two books actually were, and after waiting a moment for Hannah’s attention, he reached over and covered her hands with his own.

 

“Are you ready to tell me all about it, Hannah?”

 

Hannah sat in silent contemplation, carefully considering how to start this conversation.  Finally she took a deep breath and stood to pace.  “Uncle Jack, do you know why I decided to be a writer?”

 

Jack looked stunned... not understanding where this was coming from.  He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, hoping she would give him a clue or get to the point.  He hated the feeling of complete confusion he was currently saddled with.

 

Hannah smiled sadly and began her story.  “When I was a child, just five years old, you gave me a diary.  Do you remember?” she asked, gesturing to the thick book on the table.  He nodded slowly.

 

“Yeah.  You were always writing, always making picture with your words, even then.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

 

“Oh, uncle.  It was the best gift you could have given me.  It was part of a major turning point for me.”

 

“You had a turning point in your life when you were five??”

 

“The very first dream I clearly remember I had at the age of five. It was when I found Blue Eyes, and it was where I met my imaginary playmate.”

 

“I’m afraid I don’t quite follow you.”

 

Hannah sighed loudly and ran her fingers through her hair.  “No I guess you couldn’t.  I’m not being really clear.”  She sat down facing him and looked Jack in the eyes.  “When I was five, I began to have two dreams on a regular basis.  One dream showed me blue eyes, and for the longest time, the entire focus of the dream was those eyes. For years they watched over me, made me feel loved, protected and special.”

 

“The other dream was different.  I found a playmate.  She was... she was so much fun.  We ran and played, climbed trees... just did kid stuff.  You know what I mean.”  Jack nodded again.  “It was so much fun I wanted to write everything down.  They were the basis for some of my first stories.”

 

“But I thought your stories were about you and Katie?”  Jack was getting more confused.

 

Hannah nodded and smiled sympathetically.  “The published ones are.  No one has seen the others.  They were just too private.”

 

“Okay,” Jack sighed.  “I can understand that.  So why are we talking about it?”  It wasn’t asked maliciously, but things weren’t getting any clearer.

 

“Because I found her.  I found my Blue Eyes, and she and my childhood dream playmate are one in the same.”

 

“She’s real?  But that’s great, isn’t it??”

 

“It would be, if we weren’t separated by time,” Hannah said despondently.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

Hannah scrubbed her face again and looked at him with tears in her eyes.  “Jack, you gotta level with me.  I need to know what you were looking for out here.  I have to know everything.”  She held up a hand.  “Please, Jack.  I don’t think I have very much time.  I know that you and Daddy were following a phenomenon that involved someone named Donovan, and I know some of the things she was involved in.  But I need to know everything. It’s imperative.”

 

Now Jack ran his hands through his own very short hair and blew out a breath.  “That important, huh?  All right... you’re gonna fill me in on just what exactly has happened.  Then I will tell you about the journal stories.”

 

Hannah bit her lip and nodded.  “All right.  Let’s get the coffee.  This is gonna take a while.”

 

************

 

“Donovan and I grew up together in our dreams.  From the time I was five until Daddy died, she was a playmate.  I didn’t know she was the same Blue Eyes that kept me company in my other dreams.  I never saw her that closely, and we never spoke.”  Hannah chuckled.  “We did laugh a lot, though.”

 

“Meanwhile, Blue Eyes was a prominent part of my other dreams.  Her eyes were all I saw of her, and they were kind and thoughtful and warm.  It was a very long time before I knew she was a woman.”  Hannah blushed.  “I fell in love with her, even though I knew she was just a dream.  I couldn’t help it.  We fit.”

 

“She is the reason you never showed interest in anyone?”

 

“Yeah.  No one could compare to what we had... even in our dreams.”

 

“Okay, so what happened to change things?”  Finally Jack felt like he was getting a focused picture of what was going on.

 

Hannah took a sip of coffee and scrubbed her hands through her hair.  “The first time it changed in college.”  She blushed furiously.  “Donovan and I... um, well that is when I realized she was a woman.”  The statement was almost whispered.  Jack flushed at the implication and swallowed hard.

 

“Ahem, well... then what?”

 

“Our encounters progressed and they started happening more and more often, and I was always faithful to record them in my diary.  When I found the journal, things started to click for me a little.  I mean... the bits I’ve gotten to read, well, every sighting that has been noted corresponds to a date in my diary.   And the few pieces of the old journal seem to tie in too.”

 

“Can you give me an example?”

 

Hannah leaned over and grabbed the books searching carefully for the records she needed.  “Here... you see this entry?”

 

Jack moved over to sit beside her, and paled slightly when he realized the event she has chosen.  “This was Mike’s final trip... the last account he made of his journey here.”

 

“Yes, it is.  Now look at this,” she said calmly, but her nervousness was betrayed by her shaking hands.  “This is from the journal also, but it is dated September 1851.  And it is written in the same hand that other entries were signed ‘Donovan Scott’.” 

 

“Okay,” Jack said with a nod.

 

“Finally we have my diary, and if you will look at these entries.  I saw the eyes in June, when Daddy left to come here, I saw them in August when he let you know the Warrior Maiden was in the area, and I saw them again in September.  And the look she gave me then made me believe she KNEW that the Michael she rescued belonged to me somehow.”

 

“Okay,” Jack said again slowly.  Sooooo....”

 

“I know that she is from the past Jack, but she is part of my future, and I need to find a way to get back to her.”

 

“Hannah, I’m not really sure what you’re asking me, or what you want me to do.”

 

“First I want you to understand that I believe that Donovan and I and whatever the weird weather patterns are that you are studying are all linked together.  Then I am going to tell you what happened to me while you were gone.”

 

He nodded and got up to refill their cups.  Hannah took a deep breath and started her story.

 

“There is a house down the beach to the east about a mile from it.  Do you know the one I am talking about?”

 

“Yeah.  Nice solid construction, needs a little work.  The locals keep a respectful distance since it belonged to their pirate savior, Don...”

 

“Donovan Scott.  I know.  My first day here, I went exploring, and I stumbled across it.  I found it intriguing and I took a closer look.  The door was unlocked, so I didn’t think it was really trespassing, especially since it was obviously abandoned.”  She swallowed.  “It was amazing, particularly considering the apparent age of the cottage.”

 

“Like?”

 

“Well, like the odd bathing room, and what I think was a crude water closet.  Um, a primer pump in the kitchen, and a sink unlike anything I have ever seen.  There were dust covers over antique furniture, and the whole place smelled of age and neglect.”

 

“Gotcha.  I’ve never ventured over there, and I forgot to tell you about the local custom.  Sorry.”

 

Hannah smiled brightly.  “I’m not, because I needed find it.  You see, the next day you were called to Bermuda and things started happening.  I had a visitor that night, but it was dark, and I couldn’t see clearly who it was.  So the next day, I decided to take a walk and see if I could find my mysterious visitor.”

 

“Oh, honey... even here, that could have been dangerous.”  Jack was appalled by his niece’s lack of discretion.

 

“No, Uncle Jack.  Despite the incredible nature of the truth that I was facing, I knew I was in no danger.  I had found Donovan in my dreams the night before, and I was going forward to find my future.”

 

“What happened?”

 

“I found her, Uncle Jack.  I found her in the cottage which had been completely restored, and it was the year 1855, though I didn’t know that then.  I was just overwhelmed that my dream had finally become a reality.  Reality was so much better than my dreams had ever been.”

 

“What happened when you realized that you were in the past and not the present?”

 

Hannah chuckled.  “Initially I passed out.  My mind just shut down until I put the pieces together and they started to fit.  Then Donovan took me around and I was so comfortable there, Jack.  It felt like coming home.”

 

“So what went wrong?”

 

“Yesterday morning, Donovan came here.”  Hannah drew a shaky breath.  “Everything was all right.  I mean we sat out on the porch for a while, and then I came in to get us some lemonade.”  Jack’s eyes lit in comprehension, but since she wasn’t looking at him, he let her continue.  “I was careless and Donovan came in to check on me....”

 

“And when she crossed the threshold she disappeared?”

 

“Yes, but it is worse.”

 

“How so?”

 

“She didn’t seem to have any difficulty crossing to this time, though no one else was able to do so.  Her cabin boy Harold tried unwittingly and failed.  And I had no problems crossing to hers until now.”

 

“You can’t get back?”

 

“No.” She clenched and unclenched her hands reflexively.  “I went back to the cottage this morning, and it has changed again.  Not only is it neglected and in need of repair again, the picture over the mantle has changed.  And it is scary.  I don’t like the message I am getting from it.”

 

Jack watched as the goosebumps rose over Hannah’s arms.  “Did you get to the part in the journal about Michael’s illness?  Where it tells what we think happened?”

 

She shook her blonde head, wrapping her arms around herself.  “I don’t think so.  I’m not sure.  I... I know I read something about the barrier and closing the door, but I can’t find it now,” she growled in utter frustration.

 

“Okay, one more thing.  When she crossed over the previous two times did you notice anything?  Did she cross the threshold then?”

 

“Um,” Hannah thought aloud while raking her hands through her disheveled hair.  “Yeah, every time someone tried to cross, I lost power.”  She crinkled her brow.  “Even when Harold only *tried* to cross, the electricity went bonkers.”  For the first time in a while, she looked directly at Jack.  “Is that important?”

 

“It could be.  It could definitely be something we could use.  What about Donovan?  Did she ever cross the threshold before that moment?”

 

“No.  The first time she stayed on the beach, and the second she sat on the patio looking at the furniture.  I think she found it fascinating.”

 

Jack laughed.  “I wouldn’t be surprised... most people do.”

 

Hannah grinned then sobered quickly.  “Do you think we can find her Jack?  Or at least open the door for me to get back to her?  I can’t be without her... not like this.  Not knowing what happened or where she is or... God, Jack.  Tell me we can fix this.”

 

“I think you have discovered enough on your own.  Let me tell you what I know, and then you can tell me if we can fix this.”

 

 

 

Chapter XII

 

“Several generations ago now... back I-don’t-know-how-many-greats removed, we had a grandfather who was a young merchant captain out in these waters.  It was his letters that my grandfather found about fifty years ago that spurred our research.”  Jack paused and ran his hands over his short hair. “We’ve got a few inconsistencies, but for the most part everything we’ve researched seems to be playing out.

 

“I’m not sure I follow you, Uncle Jack,” Hannah said quietly.

 

“Well, first and foremost there is Donovan’s disappearance.  What triggered it?  We know she was able to cross to some extent, so did an overload of technological exposure close the door?  And the flowers Harold left?  They should have been dust.”  Jack blew out a breath.  “Let me tell you the background and then we can worry about this.  I’m getting way ahead of myself.”

 

“It seems that our ancestor, Maxwell Reilly, was something of a rogue when he was young.  He figured to make a pile of money as a merchant.  On his very first run to the Caribbean he learned that honesty would work best.”

 

Hannah almost smiled.  “What happened?” having a very rough idea what the answer was going to be.

 

“He ran into a female pirate captain named Donovan Scott.”  This got a genuine smile from Hannah.  “Max was quick to realize she would make a much better friend than enemy, and they formed a friendship of sorts.  They talked occasionally, and he made friends with some of her crew.  Eventually he had enough of her story to be intrigued, and he wrote it down.”

 

“Then about fifty years ago, my grandfather, who was recently retired from the Navy, decided to go through all the things that were stored in his attic.”

 

Waitaminute, Uncle Jack.  You mean to tell me someone had already sorted through all that stuff it took us days to go through??”  Hannah’s voice was incredulous with disbelief.  Jack had to laugh out loud at the expression on her face.  He snagged his coffee cup, then grimaced as a lukewarm swallow slid down his throat.

 

“Ew.  I need a refill.  You?”

 

“No, thanks.  Water would be good though.”

 

Jack stood and walked over to the bar, reaching into the fridge for Hannah’s water before pouring himself a fresh cup of coffee.  He began fixing his coffee to taste and looked back to Hannah.  “To answer your question, no.  The very first trunk he opened had Maxwell’s letters about Donovan.  Granddad decided right then this was a mystery he wanted to solve.”

 

“What mystery?”

 

“The mystery of Green Eyes.”

 

Hannah’s mouth dropped open and the very green eyes spoken of widened perceptibly.  “Excuse me?”  The question came out as a garbled whisper.

 

“Exactly,” Jack agreed as he resumed his seat.  “Your eyes are a family trait, and Maxwell had brilliant green eyes just like yours.  Max caught her studying him one day and he asked her about it.  In a rare moment of private disclosure, Donovan told him a bit about the green eyes that were such a part of her dreams.  She didn’t reveal much, but it was enough to intrigue him, and he kept a record of her for years after that.  Donovan never invited inquiry about it again, almost as though she regretted revealing herself to him.  But he found other methods for obtaining information.”

 

“Why would he?  What made him obsess over her like that?”

 

“It wasn’t her, as much as it was her story.  Just like for Granddad... Donovan the person was secondary to Donovan the story.”

 

Hannah rubbed her forehead and closed her eyes.  “I’m getting a headache,” she mumbled.

 

Jack patted her back.  “It really is a lot easier than it sounds.  Donovan was out here following her dreams, looking for the eyes that held the other half of her soul.  That is what they... what we *all* found so intriguing.  The story was so beautiful, and it seemed to call to us.  So we followed where it led, which was to this island.” 

 

“There’s more to this, isn’t there?”  Hannah asked plaintively.  Her heart hurt, and it was becoming harder to maintain the focus she’d determined to have.  Right now she just wanted to fall into her dreams and find Donovan.  Maybe they could figure out how to fix what happened.

 

“Oh there’s lots more.  We just have to sort through what we have so we can fix this.”  He paused a moment and rose, extending his hand to her in invitation. “C’mon.  I think reading Maxwell’s letters may clear this up for you somewhat.  I know it all makes a lot more sense to me now having heard your story, though Donovan’s appearance here and subsequent disappearance is a somewhat unexpected development.”

 

“As long as we end up together.”

 

Jack clasped Hannah’s hand tightly.  “You will, Hannah.  We’ll find a way to make it happen.”

 

He led Hannah into his office and seated her in his big desk chair before turning to the wall.  He pressed a panel that slid aside to reveal a small safe.  A twist, turn and spin later, the steel door swung open and Jack reached in to draw out a small bundle.  He turned and handed the letters to Hannah.

 

“These are the letters that Maxwell’s wife Abigail kept that had to do with Donovan.  According to Granddad, they were separate from the other letters he wrote to her.”  He looked at her slumped shoulders and tired eyes.  “Why don’t you take these to your room, honey?  You look exhausted.  We can continue this in the morning.”

 

She looked ready to refuse, then a tear wended its way down her face.  “I am, Uncle Jack.  This day has been such a roller coaster ride for me.  I cannot begin to tell you.”

 

“I can only imagine.  My mind is still trying to wrap itself around the facts, and I’m not nearly as personally involved as you are.  I think though, that we can figure a way out of it, because you’re right about one thing... you are meant to be together.”

 

Hannah stood with the letters in one hand and let Jack’s strong embrace envelop her.  “Thanks, Uncle Jack.  That means everything to me.  She means everything to me.” She squeezed his neck.  “Though you are pretty special too.”

 

Jack chuckled, trying to keep the tears out of his voice.  “Oh you sweet talker, you.  You could turn a man’s head with that kind of flattery.”  He gently herded her out the door and into her room.  “Get some rest.  We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

 

Hannah nodded and shut the door.  She placed the bundle on the nightstand and pulled the covers down, then went into the bathroom.  It didn’t take long, and she stepped back into her room and dropped her clothes before crawling into the bed and picking up the letters.  She looked at them hesitantly, then took a deep breath and untied the ribbon, opening the missive on top.

 

                          My Dearest Abigail, (it read)

 

Hannah skimmed the letter until she reached the name she was searching for.  She read the short paragraph twice.

 

                          Captain Scott is a much better ally than enemy.  I have ne’er seen a pirate the likes of which she is.  I will have to learn more about her.

 

Hannah looked through the remainder of the note, but that was the only reference to Donovan.  So she put it aside and moved on to the next letter.

 

Angel Abigail, (it read)

 

I have asked ‘round about the sigil.  I have never seen one quite like it.  The crossed swords are not unusual, though the blue field is uncommon among pirates and privateers.  What sets this flag apart are the green eyes that seem to stare from above the swords... eyes that I see when I look in the shaving glass.

 

I canna find an explanation for the similarity to mine own... yet, but I will.  Meanwhile, I have learned that honest men respect this flag, and rogues justly fear it.  The ship Ice Maiden makes her own justice.

 

Hannah continued reading, but found nothing else relating to Donovan and she picked up the next letter in the stack.  This one went on a bit before she found Donovan’s name.  She noted to herself that she should take a little more interest in her heritage, and decided to be less dispassionate about it when Donovan was by her side again.  Until then, history could be damned.  Her breath caught when she found Donovan’s name.

 

                          I have finally been invited aboard the Ice Maiden by the infamous Captain Scott, and she is nothing like I expected her to be.  She is a clean ship with a sharp crew and an outstanding Captain.

 

                          I am more than a bit confused.  I am almost sure there is a British Navy ship by a similar name.  But she has a male captain and a regulation crew.  Stranger, I canna seem to find out anything about that ship, while this one is legendary.  Too much coincidence to my thinking.

 

“How long did it take you, Maxwell?  How long before you realized they were one and the same?” Hannah muttered, blushing when she realized she’d only made the connection when Donovan explained it to her.  She put the letter down and reached for the next envelope in the stack.  This one was surprisingly longer and it made her sit up and take notice when she found Donovan’s name.

 

Darling Abigail, (it read)

 

The most unusual thing happened today, and I feel the need to write it down before I forget any of the details.

 

We were in the islands again, and happened on a melee that ended with a merchant ship being taught some manners by pirates. It was of course the Ice Maiden and her infamous crew.  We managed to help, believe it or not, and when ‘twas over the natives invited us and the Maiden’s crew to the island for a celebration.

 

Bear with me, dearest... this is going to be quite long, but I feel it needs be told in its entirety.

 

The boys and I were happy to accept.  It has been a rough sailing as you know from my previous notes to you.  We were looking forward to a bit of time on dry land, and I figure the same could be said of the Maiden’s crew.  I dunno who crossed Poseidon this voyage, but I have na seen him this angry in a while.

 

The natives were very kind, and offered us great hospitality, though I noted well that we were treated as honored guests while the Maiden’s crew was welcomed as well-loved family.

 

It was still daylight when we arrived, and were told that the revelry would begin at sundown.  As the Captain, I was invited to join Captain Scott and the village headman, Debendra, for dinner and conversation. 

 

Debendra and his wife, who everyone refers to as Mama, fussed over Donovan, and having seen the haggardness in her appearance, I can certainly understand why.  Mama clucked over her like a hen with a chick, and the Captain surrendered to her ministrations willingly.

 

For a bit, they seemed to have forgotten my presence, and I was content to watch and listen.  There were a few vague references to green eyes and I noted more than one glance in my direction.  Mama especially seemed insistent, but Donovan was adamant in her refusal.

 

Debendra engaged me in conversation, but it was clear that his attention was split, and his heart was with Donovan and Mama.  When the pirate finally closed her eyes and Mama made her way to us, his attention focused on me and our talk turned toward more general topics.

 

When there was a break in our conversation, Mama took my chin in her hand and stared at my eyes.  AT them, Abby, not into them.  Almost as thought they were an answer to a question only she knew.

 

“MAMA!” Debendra exclaimed as he came back from the kitchen and she moved away from me.  But I did wonder what she was looking for.

 

They offered me a room to clean up and rest, and I was glad to do so. And before I knew it, it was time for us to join the celebration.  This is where it got... odd.

 

We went down to the meeting house where both crews and the village were gathered.  Debendra said a few words and the crowd cheered, then Donovan and I were seated on either side of the headman so the feasting could begin.

 

Mr. Merryweather (I never did find out the man’s Christian name) is Captain Scott’s first mate, and he was seated to my left.  We swapped several sea stories, as sailors are wont to do, but I noted that he kept looking at my eyes strangely.  We were cups into our rum, and it finally bothered me enough to ask.

 

He wouldn’t answer himself, but told me if I wanted to know I’d have to ask the Cap’n.  Well, I was drunk enough to ask, and surprisingly, she was drunk enough to answer. 

 

“Your eyes, Captain, have haunted my dreams for years.  But they were not your eyes.”

 

Abby love, I don’t know what that means, but one day... one day I will find the truth.  She didn’t say more, and her eyes made it clear she wouldn’t.  Meanwhile, I have learned not to drink so much rum.

 

Much love to you, dearest.

 

Max

 

Hannah set the letter aside and moved the rest of the letters to her nightstand.  She placed the already read letters beside them, and turned off the light.  With a sigh, she snuggled down into the cover, closing her eyes to keep the tears at bay.

 

“Oh Donovan,” she whispered, “Please let me find you.  I need you to be in my dreams tonight.  I love you.”  Then she fell asleep, escaping to their sanctuary.

 

************

 

Donovan felt her equilibrium settle around her after what seemed like forever.  She opened her eyes and looked around, realizing she was not where she’d been when she’d lost consciousness.  A sound caught her attention, and she sat up, hissing at the pain that ripped through her skull.  She clutched at her head and closed her eyes again, slumping back onto the bed she was laying in.  Donovan winced when Mama placed a hand on her head.

 

“Donovan?”  Mama spoke melodiously, almost as though she knew that anything else would hurt.  “Donovan, do you remember how you got here?  Do you know what happened, or where Hannah went?”

 

At the mention of Hannah’s name, Donovan flinched, her head throbbing in time with the beat of her heart. 

 

Mama felt the twitch beneath her fingers, and she moved away to retrieve the cup she’d prepared when Debendra had walked in the door with Donovan cradled in his arms.  The last time that had happened, Donovan had been out for days, and Mama had feared for the Captain’s life.

 

Now she walked back to the bedside, and spoke quietly again.  “Donovan, I need to get this medicine inside you.  Can you sit up on your own, or do you need some help?”

 

For a long moment, she wondered whether or not she was going to get a response, then the blue eyes blinked open, and Donovan reached a shaky hand out for the mixture.  She lifted the cup to her lips, and drank steadily until the concoction was gone.  “Thank you, Mama,” she said before closing her eyes and giving herself over to the healing properties of the herbs and sleep.

 

************

 

It was three long days and nights of vigils for Mama and Debendra before Donovan finally shook loose of the illness that held her in its grasp.  A sigh of relief was heard through the entire household when her sleep was broken.

 

“How long?” Donovan croaked, squinting into the murky darkness.  The windows had been covered by heavy blankets, and the air in the room was oppressive.

 

Mama reached a hand over and felt for fever, relieved when she found none.  She smoothed the dark hair back from the high forehead, and reached a cup up to Donovan’s parched lips.  Donovan took several small sips before easing the cup away and dropping back down drained.

 

“Three days,” Mama replied.  “How do you feel?”

 

“Exhausted, like I still need to sleep.”

 

“You probably do.  Your body has spent the last three days at war with itself.”

 

Without warning, Donovan shot up then fell back down.  “Oh my God!!  Hannah!!”

 

“She has not been round, Donovan,” Mama said, trying to hide the anger she felt directed at the small blonde woman.  Having witnessed their interaction herself, she could not believe Hannah would be so unfeeling, but she was not going to lie to Donovan either.  Surprisingly, Donovan did not show any shock at the revelation.

 

“She can’t, Mama.  She was taken from me.”  Not knowing how else to explain the reality of what had happened, Donovan closed her eyes.  Mama misunderstood the gesture and patted her shoulder.

 

“Rest now, my friend.  We will speak more later.”  But Donovan was already asleep, and searching her dreams.

 

************

 

Hannah was frantic.  For three nights she had sought Donovan out, and for three nights Donovan could not be found.   Jack was growing more and more worried by her pale, drawn features and shadowed eyes.

 

They had spent their days researching every bit of information they had, and had become convinced that the secret to the dilemma lay in Donovan’s belief of Hannah’s story.  Although Hannah knew that Donovan’s *heart* accepted her across time and space, she was sure the logical woman’s mind was having far more difficulty with the concept, even if she didn’t voice her fears aloud.

 

Hannah wanted to be angry, but couldn’t find it in her heart to be mad at Donovan for not understanding just what differences lay between them because of the time distinction.  Even she’d been somewhat overwhelmed by the reality of finding herself in the past, and she’d had an opportunity to study it and knew it had been reality at one point.  The future was an unknown, and Donovan had no idea what life was like there.

 

So Hannah was desperate to find Donovan to explain what was going on.   

 

Jack, meanwhile, had been keeping a close eye on the weather.  He was sure now the odd disturbances were directly related to Donovan’s appearances.  In the three days since her abrupt departure from the present timeline, the weather had reverted to its normal patterns.  But by mid-morning of the fourth day....

 

“Hannah,” Jack said, trying to keep the hopeful excitement out of his voice.  “Why don’t you go lay down?  You look exhausted,” he added, putting a tender hand on her shoulder and guiding her in the direction of her room.

 

Hannah scrubbed a hand across her eyes and ran it through her hair, mussing it up nicely.  Jack wanted to smile at the sight she made, reminding him very much in that moment of the five-year-old niece she’d once been.  But it was an agitated twenty-five year old woman who stood before him now, and he could feel she was nearing the end of her rope.

 

“C’mon,” he urged her again.  “Who knows?  You may find Donovan this time, but if not, you still need the rest.  I’m getting worried about you, honey.”

 

She wanted to argue and she wanted to cry.  Instead, she dropped her head to his shoulder, and let him comfort her for a long moment.  Then she sighed and nodded.

 

“I am tired, and it couldn’t hurt.  Will you wake me in a couple hours?”

 

Jack was fairly certain she’d kill him when he woke her in a couple hours if what he suspected was true really was the truth, so he hedged his bets.  “I will check on you in a couple hours.  If you are awake or restless, I will get you up.  How’s that?”

 

She looked up at him then, wondering what was going on in his mind, but his eyes didn’t reveal anything except for honest concern.  Her shoulders slumped.  “That’s fine.  I don’t actually expect to sleep anyway.”

 

Hannah let Jack walk her the short distance to her bedroom, then turned and kissed his cheek.  “Thanks, Uncle Jack.”

 

“What for, Little Hannah?”

 

“Caring.”

 

He didn’t answer, but gave her a hug, then gently pushed her through the open door of her bedroom.  Without another word, he closed it behind her, and moved back to the kitchen to finish making his iced tea.

 

************

 

Hannah regarded the closed door with a raised eyebrow then shook her head.  Jack had always been a good friend, and he had been like a rock for her sanity the last few days.  She would have to think of something incredibly sweet to do for him in return.  She yawned.  But not right now.  Right now, she just wanted to curl into that warm, comfortable bed and sleep... something she hadn’t been able to manage much of since Donovan had vanished.

 

She wondered if that might be part of the reason she couldn’t find her, but put the questions aside.  They weren’t going to help much at this point, and she was so tired right now her body ached.

 

Hannah slipped out of her clothes, and slid between the cool sheets with an exclamation akin to relief.  Within moments, she was out like a light.

 

************

 

Donovan looked around, recognizing the familiar glade, and noticing she was quite alone.  Her head dropped, and she moved over to the outcropping that overlooked the water to wait.

 

************

 

When Hannah opened her eyes, she saw that she was in their private hideaway, and she breathed in the fresh air with happiness.  She looked around, seeing the broad shoulders of her lover slumped in despondency as she sat on the rocks watching the water trickle lightly beneath her perch.

 

Hannah couldn’t help the tiny cry of joy that escaped her lips at seeing Donovan, and the dark head whipped around at the unexpected, though very welcome sound.

 

Donovan jumped to the ground and began running, even as Hannah began to run towards her.  Observing that Hannah was coming to meet her, she stopped and braced herself for the impact of their reunion.  With arms wide open, they met and hugged tightly, their momentum taking them to the ground.

 

No words were necessary as their bodies melded into one another, then Hannah drew back just enough to look into the blue eyes she loved.  Still silent, she leaned down, and captured the lips of the woman beneath her, and long minutes passed as their mouths became reacquainted.

 

Finally, breathless and gasping for air, they separated enough to lie forehead to forehead breathing one another’s air.  Donovan rolled them over so that she lay to one side, but still on top of Hannah with their legs tangled together.

 

“Oh Angel!” she whispered, before claiming Hannah’s lips for her own again.  Hannah wrapped her hands in the thick dark hair that was shielding her and reveled in the explosion of feeling she felt emanating from both herself and Donovan.

 

When they pulled back again, Donovan rolled over onto her back, and pulled Hannah onto her body, elating in the weight of Hannah’s body pressed into her own.  Hannah rested her head just above Donovan’s heart, and sighed in contentment as the regular rhythm beat a timely march in her ear.

 

“God, I missed you, Donovan!  I was frantic to find you, but you weren’t here,” said with just the faintest hint of hurt and reproach.

 

Donovan traced Hannah’s features lightly with a strong hand and the green eyes closed under the tender ministrations.  “I know.  I’m sorry.  I was three days fighting off an illness.  This is the first natural sleep I’ve had since you were taken from me.”

 

Hannah grasped the hand and brought it to her lips, kissing each fingertip, and lightly licking Donovan’s thumb.  She smiled at the swiftly indrawn breath.

 

“Actually, I may have some answers to all that.  But it’s kinda complicated.”

 

Donovan gave her a crooked grin.  “Of course it is... we are involved in it.”  She tightened her hold around Hannah’s body.  “But it will wait for a little while longer.  Right now, I just want to hold you.”

 

Hannah’s only answer was to tighten her hold.

 

************

 

They lay together at for the longest time, still entwined together tightly and enjoying the peace and contentment of simply being together again.  Hannah squeezed Donovan’s middle, smiling at the warm hug that enfolded her for long minutes.

 

“I could get used to this, ya know,” Donovan’s husky voice filled her hearing.  “Lying here with you in my arms.  I like the way this feels.”

 

Hannah sighed.  “So do I.  But we have a lot to talk about if we want to make it a reality.”

 

Donovan half rose so she could look into Hannah’s eyes.  “Have you changed your mind?  Do you not want this anymore?”  She didn’t really believe it, not with the greeting they’d shared and the peace that surrounded them, but she was a little bewildered by Hannah’s words and tone.  Her confusion showed plainly in her eyes.

 

“You know better, Donovan,” Hannah replied reaching up and bringing Donovan’s lips down to meet her own.  She spent some moments reassuring the Captain of just exactly how she felt, and pulled back only when she felt Donovan’s hands begin to wander.  “If you never believe anything else, never, ever doubt the way I feel for you.  That’s not gonna change.  Ya got it?”

 

Donovan’s heart leapt at the fierce love she saw reflecting from the green eyes she cherished.  She nipped at Hannah’s nose.  “I understand, Angel.”

 

Hannah chuckled.  “I will continue to remind you of that.”  She slipped off Donovan’s body and knelt beside her.  The she riffled her fingers through the long dark locks.  “I love you, Donovan Scott, and I plan on spending our lifetimes showing you that on a minute by minute basis.”

 

Donovan’s eyes widened and she sat up, cupping Hannah’s face in her hand.  “I love you, Hannah Reilly.  Marry me.”

 

Hannah reached her own hands to tangle in Donavan’s hair, urging her lips closer.  “Yes,” she whispered.  “Oh, Donovan, yes!”  Then their lips met, and the world faded from their reality for a very long space of time.

 

************

 

“Ya know, “Donovan stated as she trailed her hands up and down Hannah’s back.  “We are not getting much talking done.”  She watched as goose bumps followed the path that her hand took.

 

“No, we’re not,” Hannah sighed, “and we need to if we are ever going to get to have a life together outside our dreams.”

 

“What do you mean, beloved?”

 

Hannah rolled up and stood, reaching down a hand to help Donovan stand.  “C’mon.  Let’s go sit on the outcropping and talk.”

 

Donovan allowed herself to be pulled up, then she held tightly to Hannah’s hand, wondering what obstacles lay ahead of them.

 

 

 

Chapter XIII

 

“Donovan, do you remember the other day when we went to the Maiden?” Hannah asked when they were seated side by side.  They were facing each other and holding hands, and green eyes looked directly into blue as Hannah spoke.

 

Donovan nodded slowly.  “When you mentioned the twi... twi....”

 

“The twilight zone, yes... exactly.  Do you remember what I told you about myself?”

 

“Yes, you said you were from the future.  That you had not been born yet.”

 

“Did you believe me, Donovan?”

 

Donovan nodded, but averted her eyes.  Hannah gently grasped her chin and brought their eyes level again.  “Donovan,” Hannah asked again.  “Did you believe me?”

 

“My heart knows you are not lying to me Hannah, but my mind cannot seem to wrap itself around that truth.  I cannot understand how you can be here with me if you have not been born.”

 

“Well, that is the root of our problem.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

Hannah sighed.  This was the hard part.  “Jack and I have spent the last three days researching ... geez, everything.  The door worked for us because we were ignorant of the time difference between our two lives.  We didn’t realize we were from diverse lifetimes.”

 

“Until you crossed the threshold and saw the ship.”  Donovan’s brow crinkled.  “But that did not close the door, because we crossed back through to your time.”

 

“Right, but it was easier for me to accept being in your time because it has already existed for me.  I have read and studied history, and I know about the things that exist in your world.”

 

“I see,” Donovan drawled thoughtfully.  “So once my mind was presented with actual evidence of the truth....”

 

“It shut down, effectively closing the door between us.”

 

Donovan was silent for a time after that contemplating the bitter truth of Hannah’s words.  “I am sorry, Angel.  I never meant....”

 

“Shh, love.  Hush.  I know you didn’t.  It’s really not an easy thing to comprehend, and getting hit in the face with it, so to speak....  You say you’ve been ill.”  Hannah waited for Donovan nod affirmatively.  “Does this illness resemble in anyway the illness you had when you found Michael, my father?”

 

Donovan’s gaze turned introspective, and she cast her mind back.  Finally she looked squarely at Hannah.  “It is almost precisely the same thing.  My head hurt so badly, and according to Mama, I was in and out of consciousness for nearly a week.  I do not remember much.”  She shook her head.  “How are we gonna get around this?”

 

Hannah pressed her hands together and lifted them to her lips.  “I still need to do some more research, but maybe educating you about the future slowly is something we could try.  I don’t think it is me making you sick... maybe it is being hit so hard by the radical changes of the future.”

 

“That makes sense.  It cannot hurt to try, because I am not going to let anything come between us, especially not my own doubts of what the future really is.”

 

“You don’t seem to have a problem being *in* the future... just a problem with the future itself.  Am I making any sense at all here?”

 

Donovan chuckled.  “Yes, beloved.  You are making perfect sense to me.  Shall we get started on my education?”

 

“Sure.  Let’s start with something easy, like plumbing.  You already have a rudimentary understanding of that.”

 

************

 

Sometime later, Hannah leaned back and watched the smile draw across Donovan’s expressive features.  “That is astounding.  So I really am on the right track then.  I just need to... mmph?”  A dark brow rose into an equally dark hairline.

 

“You just need to shut up and kiss me.  We can worry more about the future later.  I want a little now time, now please.”

 

Blue eyes twinkled rakishly, and Hannah felt a wet tongue glide across her palm.  She jerked her hand away reflexively and Donovan wiggled her eyebrows.  “I am happy to oblige, Beloved.”  And without warning, Hannah found herself covered in six feet of sexy sea captain.  “Is this a better now?” Donovan purred.  Hannah just pulled the taller woman into herself and began to kiss her senseless.

 

************

 

She awoke with a smile on her face, then punched the pillow.  “Dammit!  We were just getting to the good stuff!”  Hannah turned her head and looked at the clock.  Surprisingly, two hours of real time had passed for her, and she wondered what had wakened her.  Then a knock sounded on her door, and realized what had brought her back from the lands of dreams.

 

With a growl, Hannah flung the cover back, and crawled from the bed, snatching up her robe and throwing it on.  She opened the door and scowled at Jack.

 

Yeeeeesssss?” she said with exaggerated sweetness.  The fire in her eyes made him take a step back.

 

“I just thought you should know that the odd weather pattern seems to be back, and a storm seems to be brewing.  I was just wondering, um... that is... I thought maybe... uh well....”  He scratched his head thoughtfully.  “I don’t suppose you, um... found Donovan, did you?”

 

She actually growled at him this time, and it was followed by a crash of thunder that seemed more than a little coincidental.  Jack studied her a bit more closely, and noticed beyond her sleep tousled look, she had a twinkle in her eyes and lightly swollen lips.  He grinned nervously and backed away another step.

 

“Ya know,” he said, backing further away.  “I think this will wait til later.”  He made shooing motions with his hands.  “Why don’t you just go back to bed and I’ll... whoa!!”

 

He got his arms up to catch her just as she jumped at him, and he held her in a firm hug for a very long minute.

 

“I am so happy for you, little girl,” he whispered into her hair as he felt the wet warmth of tears against his neck. 

 

“Thank you, Uncle Jack,” she said in return.  “I can’t tell you what all your help means to me... what it could mean to *us*.”

 

“I’ve got a real good idea, honey.”  He slowly released her and gently shoved her towards her door.  “Why don’t you just get back in there and see if you can get some more sleep?  It looks like the storm and the weather pattern may be here to stay for a while.  I’ll just go... do... something.”

 

Hannah gave Jack an all-out dazzling grin and kissed his cheek.  “I love you, Uncle Jack.”

 

“I love you too, Little Hannah,” he replied as he closed the door behind her and went back into his study to resume his work.  He had a feeling his research might be necessary now more than ever.

 

************

 

Hannah actually took a couple minutes to use the bathroom, splashing water on her face, running a comb through her hair and brushing her teeth.  She knew it didn’t make a difference in the dreamscape, but it made her feel better taking the time to do it.  Then she climbed back into the bed, curling herself around a pillow and closing her eyes.  She wondered if she could will herself to sleep faster, not even realizing when she dozed off.

 

When she awakened this time, Hannah found herself wrapped snuggly next to a warm, breathing body, and she kissed the shoulder beneath her lips contentedly.  Then she closed her eyes again firmly, luxuriating in the total satisfaction she found in simply being with Donovan. 

 

The third time she opened her eyes, she found her head pillowed in Donovan’s lap, and the pirate captain was gently stroking her hair.  Hannah stretched and purred like a relaxed, happy kitten, and she felt the belly at her cheek bounce slightly at Donovan’s soundless laughter.

 

“I like waking up here, in your arms. Was I asleep long?”

 

“Minutes, as far as I can tell.  I do like waking up to find you in my arms or me in yours, as the case may be,” Donovan smiled down at her, remembering Hannah’s body wrapped around hers. 

 

“That’s good,” Hannah said, “because it’s going to be a rest-of-our-lives kinda thing.”

 

“You think we can get past the time difference, then?”

 

Hannah looked at Donovan with a serious, quizzical gaze.  “Do you want to?”

 

“With my whole heart and soul,” Donovan answered with equal sincerity.

 

“Then we will.  When I awaken in my time, I’ll try the portal and see if it works.  If not, we will meet here and work on it until we get the breakthrough we need.”

 

The dark head nodded, and they sat in silence for a bit, each lost in their private thoughts.  Donovan continued her light stroking, and Hannah was lost in a comfortable half doze when the Captain spoke.

 

“You know, I have studied a bit of science.  It is exciting to know that so much of what I have read about is not only possible, but very successful.  It is almost like living another dream.”

 

“It’s no dream, love.  It’s real, and we are going to make it possible for you to understand and believe.”

 

Donovan grinned.

 

************

 

When Hannah awoke again, she was alone in her bed and groaned.  Their knowledge of the truth made things a little more difficult to manage.  Knowing that Donovan was waiting out there for here, alive and real, just in another time... Hannah rubbed her throbbing temples.  It gave her a headache if she thought about it too long.  She smiled.  She didn’t need to think about it.  She simply had to make their being together a reality.  Piece of cake, right?

 

Hannah swung her legs over the side of the bed and sat up, scratching her hands through her hair, then rubbing her face.  She looked at her clock, doing a double take when she saw it was late afternoon.  Hannah rose and walked to the window, realizing that the storm outside made it seem later than it actually was.

 

She paused to watch it for a long minute, noting the beauty and majesty the fury created.  She wondered if her separation from Donovan had anything to do with the ferocity she was witnessing, and made a mental note to talk to Jack about it.  Then she walked into the bathroom, and shut the door.

 

************

 

Jack was sitting at his desk, much as he had been since early afternoon.  The storm’s intensity seemed to be linked to Donovan’s reconnection to Hannah.  He decided it needed more study, and wondered how Hannah would feel about sharing the dates of her dream rendezvous with Donovan from her diary.  He decided it would do no harm to ask, and put a note on his monitor to ask her when she woke up.

 

He heard the shower running, and moved into the kitchen to begin preparing supper.  He had a feeling Hannah would need to talk about a few things at least. He knew he sure had some questions.

 

Jack smiled when Hannah crossed the threshold into the living area.  There was a sparkle in her eye and a bounce in her step that had been missing.

 

“You’ve got the answer,” he said calming, continuing to chop the vegetables in front of him.  She took up a knife and bumped him slightly, until he was sharing cutting board space.

 

“I think we were right.  If we can educate her to the future, she should be able to cross the portal again without incident.”

 

“Do you have enough time?  The ball is only a few days off, and historically, the Warrior Maiden leaves for Britain right after the party is over.”

 

Hannah lifted a bite of celery to her lips, adding a little cream cheese to it and chewing thoughtfully.  “I have to believe we do, Uncle Jack.  I think I only need to convince her of enough to open the portal.  Once that happens, we’ll have plenty of time.”

 

Jack looked at her seriously, considering her words.  “You’re going with her,” he said flatly.  “If you get the portal opened, you’re going to go back in time with her.”

 

Hannah returned his gaze evenly.  “Yes, I am.  And when she has learned enough, accepted enough, we will come back here.”

 

Jack smiled with sad understanding reflected in his eyes.  He knew the likelihood of that happening was nil, and he would be losing his niece to a fate decreed long before her birth.  Still, he knew from her expression that Donovan was what she needed, so he nodded his agreement.  “I believe you, little Hannah.  If anyone can make it happen, you can.”

 

She grinned at him enthusiastically.  “*We* can, Uncle Jack.  I never would have gotten this far without your help.”

 

He dropped the chopped vegetables into the skillet, turning the heat down and stirring as her faced her direction again.  “Would you be willing to return the favor... help me with my research a little?”

 

Hannah wiped her hands on a towel and crossed to the fridge to fix them each a drink.  “Sure, Uncle Jack.  What can I do for you?”

 

“Could you list the dates of your dream meetings with Donovan?  I think they coincide with some of the more spectacular storms we’ve had here.  I know her presence in this timeline makes the weather go wonky.  I just think ya’ll’s, um... reunions and separations affect it in another way all together.”

 

Hannah blushed slightly and nodded.  “Sure.  Let me go get my diary.”

 

************

 

They sat down to dinner with Jack’s notes and Hannah’s diary between them making comparisons.  There wasn’t much conversation except to point out similarities and slight differences between dates and occurrences.

 

“It’s almost like there is a lag,” Jack commented absently.

 

“Time for the portal to open and close, perhaps?”

 

“Very possible.”  Jack looked directly at Hannah now.  “Are you going to try to see her tonight?  In her real time, I mean.”

 

Hannah nodded. “I’ve been waiting for the storm to clear,” she said, regarding the clearing skies that reflected back to her in the setting sun.  “I think our encounter earlier may have been enough to open the door.”

 

“And if it wasn’t?”

 

She shrugged.  “If it wasn’t, we’ll try again.  I’m not giving her up, Uncle Jack.”

 

He smiled at the fire in her eyes and voice.  “I am proud of you, Hannah,” he said unexpectedly.  “Never forget that, okay?”

 

She looked at him quizzically, then stood and wrapped her arms around his neck.  She planted a kiss on his relatively unlined face.  “I won’t, Uncle Jack.  I’m pretty proud of you too.”

 

************

 

“Donovan, are you sure about this?” Mama asked again.  The Captain had wakened from her rest with the color in her face restored and her spirits high.  Mama secretly wondered if perhaps the illness had gotten to Donovan and given her a touch of madness.  It was the only explanation she could find for Donovan’s odd behavior.

 

“Yes, Mama,” Donovan answered patiently with just a touch of humor in her voice.  “I am sure.  I need to get home so I will be there when Hannah comes back.”

 

“I do not understand, but I can see this makes you happy.”

 

“It does, Mama.  It does very much. And I promise, if we can, we will come back and explain it all to you later.”

 

Mama nodded, accepting that.  “You are still coming to the ball, yes?  The celebration is in two days.”

 

Donovan smiled rakishly.  “Yes ma’am.  It is tradition, you know, and I think Hannah is looking forward to it.  She has sent for a special costume for the masquerade.”

 

Mama smiled at Donovan’s enthusiasm.  She hoped Donovan was correct in her reasoning for Hannah’s absence.  She had really liked the young writer, and knew without doubt that Donovan’s future was tied to Hannah.  She just wished she understood why Hannah had disappeared when Donovan had needed her the most.

 

“Have you seen it?”  Mama picked up the thread with no outward indication of the thoughts that were running through her mind.

 

“No.  It had not arrived when we got separated.”

 

“No peeking, then,” Mama said, shaking a finger in her direction with a smile.  “You know the rules, Captain.”

 

Donovan shook her head.  She knew the rules, and so far, she had chosen no one by the unmasking.  She’d been hoping to escort Hannah, but maybe this way would be better.  It would settle the rumors and the speculation once and for all.

 

“I know, but I will be with her at the unmasking.”

 

“You are so sure then?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Good,” was all Mama said as Donovan stepped out the door.

 

************

 

Debendra made sure Donavan got back to her cottage safely, then Donovan shooed him out of the house.  She was anxious to take a look at her bathing room to see if she could incorporate some the knowledge Hannah had imparted earlier.  Strangely, since meeting with Hannah in their dreams, Donovan felt no residual sickness.

 

She smiled, reliving the time they had spent simply holding one another.  That intimacy was something she found she craved more than she’d ever thought possible, and she hadn’t realized it until it was nearly taken away from her forever. Donovan shivered suddenly at the agony the mere thought left in her heart.

 

She sat down, staring at the painting of herself and Hannah and trying to catch her breath.  She wished Hannah had not asked Donovan to wait for her to try the portal first.  She had an impulsive, overwhelming need have Hannah here and in her arms.

 

Donovan stretched out on the couch, closing her eyes and wishing for Hannah’s presence.

 

************

 

Hannah stood for a moment at the end of the path watching as the sun slipped beneath the horizon.  Then she took a deep breath and turned her steps towards Donovan’s cottage.

 

She didn’t feel the coolness she had come to associate with the portal, and her heart sank.  Still, she continued on her way to the bungalow.

 

Hannah turned into the pathway, and felt her spirits pick up when she saw the building was once again in good repair.  She made her way up the steps and rapped lightly on the door before pushing it open and stepping across the threshold. 

 

She looked around and noted with satisfaction that the room had been restored, and the painting was back to its original design.

 

“Donovan?  Donovan?” Hannah called out as she entered the kitchen.  Her heart dropped again as she made a quick tour of the house and realized that she had not crossed into Donovan’s time, but she was encouraged by the state of her surroundings.  Things were looking up, and that was a good sign.

 

She traversed the small space back to the couch and lay down, hoping to find Donovan waiting for her in their dreams.

 

************

 

Donovan opened her eyes at the light stroking of her face.  She smiled when she saw Hannah, and pulled her down for a welcoming kiss.  They were slightly breathless when they separated, and Hannah withdrew just enough to rub noses with Donovan. 

 

“It did not work, did it?” Donovan asked, seeing tears pool in Hannah’s eyes.  Hannah bit her lip and shook her head negatively.

 

“Not completely,” she answered quietly, “but we have made progress.  The cottage has been restored in my time to resemble what it is like in yours.  Maybe you should try it.  Since the door closed on your side, you might have to be the one that has to step through first to reopen it.”

 

Donovan nodded thoughtfully.  “In a peculiar way, that makes perfect sense.  Shall I try it now or...?”

 

“That is up to you, love.  I am here in the cottage in my time.”

 

“Very well.  Let me wake up and see if I can cross the barrier.”  Hannah leaned down and brushed Donovan’s lips with her own before the dreamscape began to fade.

 

************

 

Donovan woke with a smile of her face, relishing the lingering scent of Hannah she could still smell from the dreamscape.  She stretched a bit and rose from the couch, running her fingers through her hair to order it somewhat.  Then she stepped out the door, and headed down the beach.

 

This was the tricky part, Donovan mused as she walked steadily and with purpose.  She had to cross the barrier and then return to the cottage where she would hopefully find Hannah waiting. The question was would they be in Hannah’s time or Donovan’s.

 

The Captain shook her head.  Circular thinking like that could give her a serious migraine.  She decided to just go with what she knew, and hope for the best otherwise.

 

About halfway between the cottage and Jack’s place, she felt the familiar, welcome chill.  With a brief grin and a triumphant look, she turned and headed back to her bungalow at a run.

 

Donovan slowed as she reached the path, uncertainty clenching her guts almost painfully.  She wanted so badly for this to have worked that she could almost taste it on the back of her tongue.  Hesitatingly, she took the stone steps and gradually eased the door open.

 

She squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath then stepped across the threshold.

 

************

 

Hannah twitched at the tickling sensation on her nose and swatted at it half heartedly in hopes it would go away.  She rolled over towards the back of the couch mumbling incoherently.  The tickly feeling followed, only it transferred its attentions to her now exposed ear.  The warm air caused her to shiver, but the nip caused her eyes to pop open.

 

Hannah swung around swiftly, nearly clocking Donovan in the face with her head.  Donovan snapped upright, keeping her hands lightly on Hannah’s shoulders.  Hannah looked hard at her, then gently raised her own hands to tenderly trace the planes of the now flesh and blood face before her.

 

“It...” she squeaked, then stopped to clear her throat.  “It worked?” she whispered, not needing an answer as she continued to touch Donovan, but getting one just the same.

 

“It worked,” Donovan grinned, leaning down to kiss Hannah again.  She could very easily get used to this, and knew without a doubt that she coveted the feeling for eternity.

 

Hannah responded enthusiastically, wrapping her hands in Donovan’s dark hair and pulling her closer still.  After a long moment, she released Donovan’s lips but not her head and she touched their foreheads together.  “Let’s not lose this anymore,” she instructed.  “The dreamscape is nice, but it so pales in comparison to the real thing.”

 

“I concur, Angel.  What is our next step?”

 

Hannah loosened her hold with one hand and leaned back slightly to scratch her jaw.  “I think we should try a practical test.”

 

“Such as?”

 

“Tomorrow, I’d like to take you inside Jack’s house.  Wait...” she added holding up a hand to forestall the argument she could see coming.  “A controlled test... one where I control what you see.”  She chuckled at Donovan’s raised eyebrow.  “Trust me.”

 

“I do,” Donovan answered immediately.  “Implicitly.”

 

Hannah kissed Donovan on the end of her nose.  “Good, because I do you too.”

 

Donovan got up and lit the few candles in the room and they sat for some time cuddling and just basking in one another’s company.  Finally, Hannah looked up at Donovan’s profile from where her head rested on the Captain’s shoulder and sighed.  “I don’t want to, but I need to get back.  There are some preparations I need to make before tomorrow.”

 

Donovan brushed a kiss on Hannah’s forehead and sighed, releasing her and standing beside her.  “I will walk you home.”

 

“Only partway,” Hannah cautioned.  “I haven’t explained everything yet, and I don’t want to take any chances on losing you through that doorway again.”

 

Donovan nodded her acceptance.  “Very well.”  She took Hannah’s hand, and the two made their way up the beach back to Jack’s place.

 

Just before they reached the pathway, Hannah turned and Donovan took her in her arms.  “I love you, Hannah.  I will see you tomorrow.”

 

Hannah wound her arms around Donovan’s neck and lowered her lips down to meet Hannah’s own.  “I love you, Donovan, and you will see me in our dreams.”

 

Donovan captured Hannah’s lips, and they took long minutes to leisurely explore one another.  When they separated, breathing sporadically, Donovan smiled, and gently pushed away from Hannah.  “Good night, Beloved.”

 

Hannah walked backwards slowly away from Donovan.  “Happy dreams, my love,” she said before turning and making her way up the darkened pathway.  Donovan watched until she passed from view, then spun on her heel and raced for home.  She had a lot to look forward to.

 

 

 

Chapter XIV

 

Hannah awoke refreshed with a smile on her face.  She and Donovan had spent the night cuddled together sleeping for the most part.  It was a rather peculiar phenomenon.  Since they had finally met one another face to face, it seemed easier to actually sleep together.  Not that they couldn’t do other things as well, as they still did.  But it was comforting to finally have the peace of sleeping in one another’s arms, knowing that reality couldn’t take them away from each other.  Hannah was confident that today would bring about Donovan’s bodily return to her.

 

She got up and went to the kitchen, surprised to see Jack inside instead of out for his morning swim.  He chuckled when he saw her... for two reasons.  The first is she reminded him very much of the wild-haired, wide-eyed little niece he recalled fondly.  The second was the look of sheer confusion as she tried to figure out why he was there.  It was apparent she wasn’t quite awake yet.

 

“Uncle Jack?”

 

“Haven’t looked out the window this morning, hmm, Hannah?”

 

Hannah took a minute to process his words before glance around and noting for the first time just how dark it was outside.  She continued to gaze outside for a moment longer before her eyes widened in realization.

 

“Wow!  That’s quite a storm!  Where’d it come from?  And isn’t it pretty sudden?”

 

“There’s a story there.  You want some coffee before I tell it?”

 

Hannah extended her arm, vein up, indication her need for a direct injection.  Jack laughed again, and handed her a double sized mug. 

 

“Here,” he said putting an arm around her shoulders and leading her to the couch.  “I think you need to be sitting for this, even with that double espresso in your cup.

 

He let Hannah take several sips as they both stared out the glass doors into the fury of the storm.  Finally, she ran her hands through her hair and set her cup on the table and turned towards him.  “Okay, Uncle Jack.  I think I am almost coherent now.  What’s the scoop?”

 

“You want the facts first or just the theory?” he asked, scrubbing his own short hair.

 

“Facts first, then theory.  I wanna see if you’re thinking what I am.”

 

“All right,” Jack said, and rose from his place on the couch to pace.  “The fact is that a lot of the weird weather patterns around here are directly related to Donovan’s comings and goings.  By everything I have been able to piece together, the storms come when she crosses into our time.”

 

“So you think she has crossed again?” Hannah asked hopefully.

 

Jack shook his head, hating to see the slumped shoulders and dulled eyes his response garnered.  “No, not this time.  This storm is different, both in origin and intensity.  Were I to hazard a guess, I would say that she is trying to open the door.”

 

“This storm is stronger, fiercer than most she has caused, isn’t it?”  Jack nodded an affirmative.  “Do you have a theory on why?”  He nodded again, but still didn’t speak.  “Would you care to share?” a little curtly.  Jack started as though coming out of deep thought.

 

“Sorry.  Got to thinking there.  I think the difference is that she actually has to open the door this time.  She has to accept on faith that crossing the boundary means crossing out of her world and into the relative unknown of yours.  It’s a huge step.”

 

“I’m not sure I follow you, Uncle Jack.”

 

He rubbed his hands over his face and through his hair before sighing.  “Let me see if I can explain it a little more clearly.  When you and Donovan crossed over before, it was no problem, because you were neither one aware that there was a big time difference between you.  Even when you realized that she was from the past, it was easier for you to accept because you have read and studied the past and can believe what your senses are telling you about the reality of that time and place.”

 

“I know all of that Uncle Jack.  What does that have to do with the storm, the portal, and Donovan getting back to me??”  Hannah’s frustration came through her tone of voice plainly.

 

“Donovan is fully cognizant of the portal and the time barrier between the two of you now.  I think the storm is her struggle to allow the truth of her knowledge to become her reality.  She has faith in you.  She just needs to believe in herself and cross over.”

 

Hannah’s eye widened in understanding.  “I need to go,” and she was out the door without shoes, a shower or an umbrella. 

 

She made it down the path and partway down the beach before she slowed.  “What am I doing?” she asked herself out loud.  “She has to come to me.  It is the only way this will work.  I have to go prepare things for her arrival, ‘cause I know she will make it back to me.”  She looked around at the storm and raised her voice.  “You hear me, Donovan??  I believe in you!!”

 

Then she turned and ran back to Jack’s without a backwards glance.

 

************

 

Donovan woke with a start, the ferocity of the storm outside her windows a perfect reflection of the turmoil that stirred in her mind.  She understood what Hannah had said, and even accepted the fact that it was true, but getting her mind wrapped around it was something all together different.  It gave her a terrible headache every time she tried to imagine existing more than a hundred years into her own future.

 

She shook her head violently to try and clear all conscious thought from her mind, and rose to start the water heating.  She wanted a warm bath and a cup of hot tea before she walked down the beach to find Hannah.

 

************

 

Hannah pushed her sodden hair out of her eyes as she carefully mounted the step.  Jack handed her a towel without a word and waited for her to drop the cloth around her shoulders before putting a mug of something steaming into her hands.

 

She sipped the sweet coffee gratefully, soaked to the bone by her recent excursion through the rain, and thoroughly chilled by the air that was on in the house.

 

“Quick trip,” Jack commented.

 

“Yeah, it occurred to me that I can’t do anything except believe in her. She has to get here on her own.”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

“So, in the meantime, after my shower, I’m going to prepare things here for her introduction to my world.”

 

“You’re so certain she will overcome her own disbelief then?” Jack asked, knowing that speaking it aloud would help Hannah confirm it in her own mind.

 

“Y... y...yes!” she answered vehemently, then clamped her jaws together to keep her teeth from chattering.   She shivered and sneezed. 

 

“All right.  That’s just about enough of that.  This is no time for you to get sick, young lady,” Jack said sternly.  Let’s go get you into a hot shower.”

 

Hannah nodded.  “S... s...sounds like a p...plan.  Even if...f...f it t...t...takes he...her a d...day or t...two, I wa...wanna b...be r...read... ready f...for her.”

 

By this time they were in the bathroom, and Jack turned on the water to warm it up.  “You get undressed and get in that shower, honey.  Then we’ll see what we can do to make things ready for Donovan.  I’ll be in the office if you need anything.”  Then he closed the door behind him without another word.

 

Hannah stepped into the warmth of the shower and sighed in relief. 

 

************

 

The next two days there were furious storms and Hannah was grateful to Jack for both his help and support.  They worked feverishly to hide as much of the modernity of the house as they could manage.  Jack built cabinet doors to hide the television and the refrigerator.  Hannah put away all the lamps and small appliances.

 

She knew there was nothing she could do about the glass or the plumbing, though she was glad that Jack’s window treatments were a cotton material, and his furniture tended towards wood and leather, much like Donovan’s did.

 

They decided to keep the study locked so Donovan couldn’t stumble into technology her mind was not ready to understand.  Hannah planned to introduce her to life in the twenty-first century very slowly, because being without her was just not acceptable.  She had no intention of allowing another separation like this one again if it were in her power to prevent it.

 

The third evening of storms found Jack and Hannah sitting together in the living room staring silently at the fire.  They’d finished up their preparations earlier that morning, and there was still no sign of Donovan.  In fact, the storm had grown exponentially with each passing hour to the point that Hannah feared they were sitting in the middle of a stationary hurricane.  She mentioned the possibility to Jack.

 

“I dunno, Hannah.  I wonder if my presence here is making it harder for her and her frustration is making itself known in the storm.  I’m gonna try something.  Tomorrow morning, I’m gonna go into town.  Maybe that will clear the way for her to make it through the door.”

 

“You think it will help, Uncle Jack?”

 

“I think it can’t hurt at this point.  We only have three days until the Pirate’s Ball.  I am almost certain she crosses then, but I think for her to be able to function in our time, she has got to be able to control her destiny as it were.  She has to consciously be able to cross back and forth like you did.”

 

“And you think your being here hinders that somehow?”

 

“I think the fewer obstacles in her way the better, at least until she gets a handle on things.”

 

“What if she can’t, Uncle Jack?  What if she can’t cross the barrier?  I haven’t seen her in my dreams the last two nights.”

 

Jack sat thoughtfully for a time after that.  “It could very well be she is afraid of failure, Hannah, and doesn’t want to see you until she can overcome what she perceives as her own breakdown in belief.  It could be that she is just so exhausted mentally trying to overcome this barrier that she is sleeping too deeply to hear you.  Whatever the reason, you have to decide whether or not you are willing to give everything up to be with her if she cannot come to you.”

 

“I am, Uncle Jack.  I told her I was.  But she has to open the door.”

 

Jack opened his mouth to say something, then stopped and patted her thigh.  “Well, we’ll try this tomorrow, and see if it makes a difference.  At the very least, I will get ice cream out of it.”  His eyes twinkled and he was glad to see the responding twinkle in hers. It had been a few days.

 

She chuckled.  “Uh huh.  I shoulda known there was a motive behind that.”

 

“You betcha,” he replied lightly.  “And if you are good, I may even bring home some for you and Donovan to share.”

 

“Introducing Donovan to the delights of ice cream, hmm?  I think I could learn to enjoy that rather quickly,” Hannah said saucily, though she couldn’t stop the blush that ran up her face.

 

Jack laughed, though he couldn’t hide his blush either.  “And on that note... I am going to bed.”  He stood then leaned down and kissed Hannah on the cheek.  “Goodnight, little Hannah.  Happy dreams.”

 

“Goodnight, Uncle Jack.”

 

She banked the fire, and went to her own room, hoping beyond hope to find Donovan in her dreams.

 

************

 

“Donovan?”

 

“Hannah?”  Donovan looked around in the darkness.  “Hannah, Beloved, where are you?”

 

“I’m right here with you Donovan.  Listen to the sound of my voice.  Can you see me?”

 

“No.  It is so dark here.  I cannot see anything.  I feel like I have lost you... like I am all alone.”

 

The absolute despair in Donovan’s voice made Hannah want to cry, but she steeled her resolve and focused her entire being on believing in Donovan... believing in *them*.

 

“You’re not all alone, love.  I’m right here with you, just like I have always been.  You just need to believe, Donovan.  I won’t let anything happen to you.  You have to have faith in me... in us.”

 

Donovan’s dream self closed her eyes, and she focused solely on the sound of Hannah’s voice.  Hannah continued speaking in smooth even tones until Donovan felt herself relaxing into Hannah’s warm embrace.  When welcoming solid arms closed around her, Donovan opened her eyes to see Hannah’s smiling face looking back at her.

 

Without speaking, she tilted her head up and captured the ardent lips just above hers.   For a long moment, she simply reveled in the sensation of them being together once more.  Then she pulled away and lifted a hand to tenderly trace Hannah’s features.  Hannah’s eyes fluttered closed involuntarily and she just let herself feel. 

 

Finally, Donovan wove her fingers into blonde locks and she pulled Hannah’s lips down to a mere hairsbreadth of her own.  “I missed you.  I am sorry I....”

 

“Shh,” Hannah whispered, covering Donovan’s supple lips with her fingertips.  “It’s all right, Donovan.  I know it’s hard.”  She removed her fingers and planted a kiss on Donovan’s mouth, then pulled back before Donovan could deepen it. 

 

“I want you to try something tomorrow.”  She waited until the dark head nodded a tentative agreement.  “I want you not to worry about crossing the barrier or opening the portal or stepping into the future, okay?  I want you to focus solely on coming home to me.  I want you to picture us together in the same time and place.  Can you do that?”

 

Donovan thought seriously about Hannah’s request, and about how much sense it really made.  “I can do that, if you will do something for me.”

 

“Anything, love.  You know that.”

 

“Focus all your thoughts on me.  <