"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.
"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
"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.
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."
"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."
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."
"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."
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.
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.
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."
"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.