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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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