Most Cherished Dreams by D

Most Cherished Dreams
By D

Prologue: Once Upon a Time….

April 1847

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

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

September 1851

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

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

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

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

How could he know what haunts my dreams?

May 1853

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

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

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

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

June 1855

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

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

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

Chapter I

October – Twenty Years Ago

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

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

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

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

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

Jack nodded. “Oh yeah. Wanna guess?”

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

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

“Was there a pattern to the search?”

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

“Daddy, what’s a pirate?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yea!! Is it from the pirates?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We will brother. We will.”

September – Ten Years Ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are ya ready then, Hannah?”

“Yes ma’am. Thank you for….”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?”

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

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

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

May – Five Years Ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good… my kind of party!”

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

June – Present Day

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

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

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

“Do you really think so?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You know I wouldn’t have missed it.”

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

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

“I know, and I’m sorry. I just….”

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah laughed. “I’ll bet you do.”

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

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

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

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

“Still, Katie, I don’t feel right.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ve missed you too, Uncle Jack.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wickedly shocking.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey, that’s cute!”

Niiice!”

“I like that one!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The group laughed and they set themselves for rehearsal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about you, little Hannah?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You too, Uncle.”

And the house settled into quiet for the night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You okay, sweetheart?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really? I didn’t think….”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They laughed, and Hannah gave Mary the keys, taking one last look around at what had always been home to her. Then without glancing back, Hannah stepped out and firmly closed the door on her past, and headed out to find her future.
Chapter II
It was a four-hour drive back to the city, and Hannah was just a little tired when she pulled into her garage beneath the building where she lived. The doorman recognized her car, and came to see if she needed help getting her things in. She’d made friends with Harry when she’d moved into the building three years previously, and the older gentleman had always made an effort to extend every courtesy he could to the young woman.

“Hello, Miss Hannah.”

“Hi Harry. How was your week?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi, Charlie. It’s Hannah.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks, Harry. I plan to.”

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

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

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

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

She began by reading the most recent entries that belonged to her father and Jack.
I saw the ship today, and she who commands it. That much of the legend is true then. We will have to see if we can discover who she is and what she seeks. We only have what the rumors, myths and this book say about her. I wonder how much of it is true. –M
Jack has gone out this time. We are trying to find the cycle that exists for her appearances. According to all the legends we have researched, when the “Maiden” was first seen, the intervals were approximately twenty-five years apart. But that seems to have changed, and she is coming into the Triangle more frequently. There is still no indication of who she is for sure or what she is searching for aside from the stories we have in this journal. We do know that she does no harm to those she encounters, and has even given aid to the distressed on occasion. –M
The ship is simply amazing. I got close enough to see it clearly this time before it vanished again in the mist. I am making notes on when and where it appears, because there seems to be a methodical search in progress instead of random appearances. So it is true that the beautiful Captain of this boat is hunting for something of great value to her. Otherwise, why keep looking? –J
I have spoken to Donovan and members of her crew after they rescued me from a hellacious storm. I now know what it is she seeks, though she has never shared the actual fact with me. I know because I have been alone for the last fifteen years, and I recognize the look of longing as she scans the horizon. There are still things about this vessel and its mission that I do not comprehend, but I do not expect to make it to the next sighting. I am bleeding, and there is nothing they can do to stop it. When
I leave this ship, it will be so I can go home to be buried. –M
Hannah had to stop reading then, both because of the tears that clouded her vision, and the knock at her door as her dinner was delivered to her room. The waiter asked politely if she was all right, or if she required anything else. She shook her head and smiled at him, giving him the best grin she could manage. He nodded and accepted the signed check assuring her he was on call all night if she needed anything further.

She lifted the cover from her steak, please to see that the chef here understood what medium rare meant, and sniffing in approval at the scent that wafted up from the marinade. She moved the journal to the table, and began methodically decimating her meal while continuing to read.
The cycle is coming more often now. It has gone from twenty-five years to eighteen years, to ten years, and now it seems to be every five. I believe Michael was right in his belief, and I will continue to observe and make notes for myself, but it is no longer necessary to keep the journal. The time for fulfillment is near. –J
Hannah set the notebook aside then pondering the words as she finished her meal. She set the tray outside the door, and moved herself and the journal back to the bed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is simply lovely, Uncle Jack.”

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

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

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

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

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

“A fireplace, Uncle Jack?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Even the original inhabitants?”

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

“I’d like that.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I brought some reading,” she chuckled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s gorgeous.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah stood looking around for a moment more simply absorbing the atmosphere. Then she shook herself from her reverie and opened her bag to begin putting things away. “Time to go have a little sun and fun, and see if I can discover the mystery of these pirates.”
Chapter III
The skimpy tropical print thong bikini necessitated quite a coating of sunscreen, but finally Hannah was ready to go down to the beach. She picked up the journal, her diary and slipped into the bathroom that was shared between her room and Jack’s. She looked around in approval at the white and deep blue scheme, her eyes lingering on the sunken tub.

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

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

“Now, let’s see if we can make sense of this.”
October – 1847

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

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

Ernst Scott – Captain, Warrior Maiden
There was more scribbled down at the bottom of the page in another hand. Hannah’s eyes widened as she read the words.
I am convinced I will find the green eyes I seek at sea. I do not know when or where yet, but I will find you, my love. We are meant to be one together in this lifetime. –DS
Hannah closed her eyes and pictured the crystal blue eyes that had haunted her since she was a small child. She reached for her own diary, and opened it to one of the earliest entries.
I herd dady and unkl Jack tawkin bout pirats today. I ast bout wat they wer but dady dint tell. I think I no tho cuz I had a dreem bout a pretty lady with blue pretty Iz and long dark hare. She was beyutifull. She was lik the pirat in my pitur book.

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

With a sigh, she realized she needed something to drink and marked her place before going to the small shed in search of something cold and wet. She smiled when she saw the small refrigerator, and was pleasantly surprised at the options available to her there. She took out a bottle of water, and moved back out to her beach chair, opening the journal to the next entry.
October 1851

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

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

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

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

Donovan Scott – Acting Captain, Warrior Maiden
Hannah closed the book with her finger marking her place and stared at the water for long minutes. Instead of making anything clearer, she was simply becoming more confused. She was sure the whole story was here, she just had to assemble all the pieces she had in the right order. She opened the journal again and turned the page over and found to her surprise a note written on the back of the thick paper.
My daughter did an outstanding job commanding this vessel during my injury and convalescence. She is correct though, that I will be unable to return to sea. I feel the hand of destiny in this, but the truth is Donovan is driven by something far greater than her love of the sea. I only hope I live to see it to fruition. — ES
Hannah closed the book, setting it and her diary on the lounge chair before taking the two steps necessary into the warm, clear water. She waded out until she was waist deep, then plunged head first into the surf. She swam quite a distance, enjoying the relative warmth of the water and the sun on her body. Pleasantly tired, she turned and headed to shore, stopping to sit and rest on a sandbar about halfway back.

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

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

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

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

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

“I… it… it’s beautiful.”

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

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

“Thank you Daddy.”

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

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

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

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

“Hannah, are you in there?”

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

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

“Guess I fell asleep,” she muttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes… no… it’s hard to explain.”

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

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

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

“I am sure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah looked at him startled, but remained silent.

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

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

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

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

“Or you could just move.”

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

“I… I… um… wow.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The eyes look at me now with love and compassion, almost as though they know of my sorrow. I need to find them. I think they hold the answers to my questions.
Hannah stared off into space. She remembered the confused teenager she’d been then and smiled wistfully to herself. It had been then she’d decided that whether her blue eyes belonged to a man or woman, fair or dark skinned, believer or agnostic, it would not matter to her. It had made her into the caring and considerate human being she’d become. It also made falling in love impossible for her, for deep in her heart, she knew she belonged to the one she called “Blue Eyes”.

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

“How did you know, Daddy?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She raised a blonde brow. “The beginning?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jacob is the headman?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because the shaman here confirmed it.”

“Oh, I can’t wait to hear this.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah laughed, an outlet for her emotion as much anything else. “Yeah, I’m hungry too. Let’s see what you packed us that’s good.” They got down to the serious business of eating.
Chapter IV
“Uncle Jack?” The two of them were almost dozing in the early afternoon sunlight, having eaten their fill of the lunch Jack had provided. Her words were barely more than a murmur, and Hannah cracked an eye open to see if the older man had heard her. He felt her regard and tipped his head in her direction.

“Hmm?”

“I was just wondering about something.”

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

“You make me feel like a kid again.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her brow furrowed. “You think I will?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer eased out of her shorts and sat down, pulling out her lunch and her books. She grabbed up an apple and opened the journal to the next entry.
June 1852

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good metabolism.”

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

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

“Ahem. Whoops, I forgot about that.”

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

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

“Pirates’ Ball? Costume?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They’re green.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh?”

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

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

“Waitaminute, Uncle Jack. HEROIC pirates??”

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

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

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

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

“Don’t discount anything, Hannah,” Jack said soberly. “Remember, this *IS* the Bermuda Triangle.”
Chapter V
It was late when Hannah left the solid, strong warmth of the arms that surrounded her in her dreams. The reality of them was so genuine that she looked around in bewilderment for the missing body before she realized the truth. It almost brought her to tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Problem?” Hannah asked him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 1853

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh yeah. That’s much better.”

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

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

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

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

She offered herself to me, and claimed me for her own as well. The vividness of my dream made me wake feeling sated and loved. I have never felt as loved and cared for as I did last night under her ministrations. I only wish I could find the reality of her. We fit, like nothing or no one I have ever known, and I want it to be more than just a dream.
Hannah sat back after reading her own words, and remembered the sensation she’d awakened with that very morning. It recalled to her this very time… well-loved, satisfied, protected and at the same time lost and confused. She stared into nothingness for a time before jumping up and grabbing her stuff. She headed into the house, setting her books in her room and hanging the towel up to dry before slipping into the kitchen for a bite of lunch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who are you, I wonder?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“‘Tis a beautiful day out, Mr. Merryweather. There’s a feeling in the air….”

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

“Aye, sir. She does. And it does my heart good.”

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

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

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

“Mr. Merryweather!” The voice from the crow’s nest beckoned. The tall blonde man turned his attention upwards.

“Yes, Mr. Cyrus?”

“Land ho, sir!”

“Excellent work. I’ll notify the Captain.”

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

“Fetch the Captain’s spy glass, Harold. Quickly.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Captain?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m fine, Jacob. Thank you for asking. And I love your island. It is so beautiful here… so peaceful.”

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

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

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

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

“You are, and we’re glad you’re here,” Jacob responded.

“Now go eat your dinner while it’s hot, dear,” Elizabeth added. “We’ll talk more later.”

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

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

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

“Yes, Mr. Jacobs. I am sure.”

“Good,” the younger man responded. “It’s time she found some happiness as well.”

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

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

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

“Aye, sir. Enjoy your reprieve.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It didn’t take long, and she was clean and smelling faintly of cinnamon. She smiled as she thought of her mother preparing the soap especially for her. She dressed carefully, sliding into clean leather and silk. Her still wet hair she combed through and braided back tightly. She wiped her boots off and stepped into them, pulling them up and settling them firmly. She stamped her feet and looked around, then stepped out the door and went in search of her destiny.
Chapter VI
Hannah dropped the bag on the table and transferred the towels to the dryer. Then she took her dinner and put it on a plate, deciding to sit in the small garden alcove that overlooked the beach and eat by the light of the moon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was still smiling when she settled down to sleep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I’m not lost. I’m looking for someone.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And now?”

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

Hannah gasped slightly. “This is all so sudden. And yet, I’ve waited a lifetime for you.”

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

“I’d like to do it for real.”

“Then you’ll come home with me? Meet my parents?”

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

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

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

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

“On what?” Hannah asked curiously.

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

“Hannah Reilly.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How often do you come?”

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

“Why?”

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

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

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

Hannah blushed again, and slapped her arm. “Behave, you!” Donovan laughed out loud and they resumed their walk. They didn’t go very far… just out of sight of the cottage. Donovan set the basket down, and Hannah retrieved the blanket she’d packed on top.

Donovan took a side and together they laid it on the ground. Then Hannah began unpacking the lunch she’d brought for them to share. The basket had been an old one she’d found at Jack’s and it had been quite the challenge to figure out how some of the old-fashioned containers worked. So the first thing she did was pull everything out and set it to one side.

Donovan was investigating the contents of each of the boxes with incredible ease, Hannah noted absently, considering her own difficulty. Then she remembered that this woman had built her own house from the ground up and figured the engineering involved in a picnic basket wouldn’t be terribly hard for her.

“What do we have here?” Donovan muttered as she opened the first lid. She sniffed carefully. “Fried chicken?” She looked up at Hannah. “Potatoes, hmmm… I like potatoes. And biscuits… this just keeps getting better.” She took the fourth container from Hannah’s hands. “You know, these are quite clever. I don’t believe I have ever seen anything quite like them.”

Hannah nodded her agreement, pulling an old canteen from the bottom of the basket. “Neither had I, actually, but it was all I could find at Uncle Jack’s place. I guess he’s not big on picnics.”

“Maybe he’s waiting to find someone special to share them with.” She picked up the last container. “Now, what could this be?” The perplexed look did not leave Donovan’s face, even when she opened the box. Cautiously she lifted it nearer her nose and inhaled. “Well, it smells pretty good… like chocolate,” arching an eyebrow at Hannah. “What is it?”

“Chocolate cake.” Hannah’s brow furrowed when the brow remained cocked. “You’ve never had chocolate cake?”

Donovan shook her dark head. “I do not think so. It does not smell like anything I have ever eaten.”

Hannah took the container from Donovan, and scooped up a blob of icing on her finger. She lifted the finger to Donovan’s lips and waited. Donovan sniffed at it again, then shrugged and extended her tongue to cautiously taste the offering. Very tentatively she tasted the morsel she’d licked from Hannah’s finger, then with a primordial growl clasped Hannah’s wrist and drew the finger into her mouth, cleaning it thoroughly.

Hannah swooned and nearly fainted from the sensations Donovan was causing to cascade over her body. Donovan looked up and was treated to raw passion and desire flushing Hannah’s face and making her eyes darken and glow. Donovan cleared her throat as she slipped the finger from her mouth.

“I uh… I am sorry Hannah. I… that was, um… delicious. And so was the chocolate,” muttered under her breath. Hannah heard her though, and she couldn’t control the flaring of her nostrils. Donovan caught the look and smiled nervously, suddenly feeling like a rabbit in a cage with a cobra, and she felt a distinct chill skitter across her skin. It wasn’t an unpleasant sensation, but it was definitely different than what she was used to or expected. She cleared her throat again and inhaled a shaky breath.

“Maybe we should concentrate on eating lunch?” Donovan suggested in a questioning tone.

Hannah took a deep breath of her own and closed her eyes, willing herself to calmness. When she felt her breathing slow and her heartbeat resume a more measured tempo, she opened her eyes and stared at Donovan. “Maybe we should, because if you play with fire….”

“I know. And I would still like to know you as a person before I get branded for life.” This said with a grin that twinkled in the depths of her eyes.

“Oh,” Hannah replied with a mischievous smile. “You’ve been branded. You just don’t know it yet.” She smirked. “But you will.
I promise you will.” Hannah handed Donovan a full plate and winked. Donovan got into the spirit of the conversation.

“Guess I had better find a ring and a minister then. I need to make an honest woman out of you. Although actually….” The thought trailed off, and it wasn’t until Hannah realized that Donovan was lost in thought that she picked up the thread.

“Actually what?” She lightly prodded Donovan on the leg. The Captain started and began to eat the meal in her hand.

“Oh, um, my father is a ship’s captain, or he was until he retired from service. He could marry us.”

“Would he, though? It’s not like this is an accepted lifestyle by most people.”

“I think he would. He has never wanted anything more than for me to be happy. He would understand that you make me happy. Mama on the other hand….” Donovan looked up and let her eyes meet Hannah’s. “I do not know how Mama will react. She was not happy when I went to sea with Papa. And she has never been comfortable that as far as the world knows, I am a man.” Hannah’s eyes grew startled. “Oh, the men of my crew know, of course, as do my parents, but as far as the rest of the world is concerned, Donovan is a man. And that bothers Mama.”

“What about you?”

“What about me? Even as progressive a time as we live in, I cannot do what I love to do as a woman. The Royal Navy will not allow me to serve as a Captain. So when my father retired, I became a long-lost nephew who was found to assume his title and command. I had already been serving for four years at that point.”

“How do your men feel about the deception?”

Donovan smiled gently. “We all have things to hide, and we have learned to trust one another with our lives and our secrets.”

“I’m glad,” Hannah said. “Do you think I could meet them?”

Donovan shrugged. “I do not see why not. I need to meet up with the ship at some point to get my latest case of books off.”

“Good,” Hannah replied, taking Donovan’s now empty plate from her and placing a thick wedge of chocolate cake on it. “Here,” she added, opening the canteen. “You’re gonna need this to wash it down with.”

Donovan took a small sip and smiled. “Milk? I cannot remember the last time I drank milk.”

“Yeah, well, it is the best thing with chocolate cake.” Hannah gestured with her fork. “Dig in.”

Donovan couldn’t contain the moan that welled up in the back of her throat as the first taste hit her tongue. She moaned and growled in turn as she savored each and every bite, going so far as to lick her fork and plate clean. Grabbing the canteen, she chugged the milk down, delighting in its cold, clean taste. “Oh Hannah,” she groaned with repletion, leaning back on her elbows and looking up at the canopy of trees surrounding them. “If I wasn’t already madly in love with you, you’d have won my heart with your cooking. That was absolutely delicious.”

Hannah cleared her throat. “I’m uh… glad you liked it. Would you like my piece as well?” offering Donovan the still untouched slice of cake.

“No, Angel. I am full. But thank you for offering, because it was simply wonderful.”

Hannah smiled. “Tell ya what… why don’t I put this away for you, and you can have it tonight?” Donovan’s eyes shone in delight even as her head shook negatively.

“I could not do that, Hannah. You should have some too.”

“Sweetheart, I have more at home. You take this one.”

“You are sure?” Donovan questioned. She smiled in appreciation when Hannah nodded. “Thank you, Hannah.” She leaned in for a kiss, a little overwhelmed by the ferocity which greeted her, but melting into the touch. The embrace went on for long moments as they explored one another. Only the suddenly nearby, utterly ominous rumble of thunder separated them.

They looked up then, and were pelted with fat, heavy drops of rain. Almost immediately, it went from shower to storm, and they snatched up the basket and blanket and made a mad dash for the cottage.
Chapter VII
Hannah hit the stone patio running, and felt the stupidity of that decision as her feet slid right out from under her. She closed her eyes, bracing for the impact she knew was going to hurt, but it never came. Instead, she found herself caught in strong arms and cradled against a comfortable chest.

Donovan pushed the kitchen door open and stepped inside before she looked down at the warm wet body in her arms. “Careful there, Angel. That is a sure way to get hurt.” Hannah nodded silently, and Donovan lowered her slowly to the floor. “Come. Let me get you a blanket, then I will light a fire and we can talk a bit til this is over.”

Hannah smiled, her teeth chattering just slightly from the loss of warmth when Donovan pulled away. Almost immediately Donovan returned and wrapped Hannah in a warm woolen blanket that smelled of cedar. She briskly rubbed her arms then scooped Hannah up like she was a child.

“Ah… but… uh….” Blue eyes twinkled down at her.

“Just hold tight.” And Hannah put her head down and closed her eyes, absorbing the warmth Donovan was giving off so abundantly. The taller woman gently set her precious bundle on the couch. “Do not go anywhere now,” she said with a wink, moving to the fireplace and picking up her flint and striker.

It didn’t take long til a brisk fire was burning and Donovan moved to the small couch to sit next to Hannah. She immediately snuggled up to Donovan, who extended an arm and pulled her closer. Hannah opened the blanket and covered them both partially. Donovan just looked down and smiled.

“There are times when dressing like a native is not always a good thing, hmm?” indicating the expanse of exposed skin on Hannah’s body. She felt the unseen blush.

“No, I guess not,” came the chagrined answer. “It’s just so much easier. Besides,” Hannah looked up and her nose crinkled as she smiled. “Who expected it to rain cold in the tropics in the middle of summer?”

“Yes, well technically solstice is not for another few days, and summer does not actually start til then.”

Hannah narrowed her eyes at Donovan. “Let me guess… you do good in math too.”

Broad shoulders shrugged. “I do all right, I guess. It plays into navigation and such.”

“Figures,” Hannah muttered. “I always hated math.”

“What did you like?”

“Reading, writing… history was interesting. Science was okay, I suppose, but there was so much math intertwined with it, I never was really comfortable with it. And after the chemistry fiasco, I was excused from participating. It was safer for everyone that way.”

“What happened?” from Donovan. The only people she knew who did chemistry were doctors, and Hannah did not give her that impression of lordly stuffiness. Besides, women just didn’t do that sort of thing. It was considered too complex, though *that* thought made Donovan snort. She knew better.

Hannah blushed, remembering the embarrassment that disaster had caused her. “Um, too much reactive and not enough neutralizer. The uh… explosion was small, but there was a LOT of smoke. Real smelly smoke. The chem lab never smelled the same after that.” She could feel the vibrations of laughter running through Donovan’s body. Hannah glared up at her, then broke down and laughed. Donovan took her cue and let loose, her hearty laughter ringing like bells in the small cottage.

“I am sorry, Hannah, but that was funny. Most women I know would never TRY something like that, much less admit to failure. Although….” Her thoughts trailed off for a moment. “Depending on what you were trying to achieve, that could have been a very successful experiment.”

Hannah cocked her head and thought about it. “That’s true, but stink bombs weren’t on the agenda.”

Donovan chuckled again. “Tell me about your dreams,” she said in an abrupt change of subject.

Hannah frowned slightly. “You know about my dreams. You were in them.”

“Not really. For a very long time, you were only a set of beautiful, sea green eyes to me. Your face was unclear. Even your body… it wasn’t until we made love for the first time that I was certain you were a woman. I suspected, of course….”

“Did it bother you… my being a woman?”

Donovan frowned now, and looked deeply into Hannah’s eyes to see where the question was coming from. She cupped Hannah’s face in her hands and pulled her in for a kiss. Hannah tangled her hands in the dark hair, and endeavored to draw Donovan closer to her. Only when their breathing grew ragged did Donovan ease back just slightly.

“No, I was not unhappy you were a woman. I was, um… hoping you were, actually. I knew you were out here waiting for me to find you, and I decided once I found you, we would be together, regardless.” She waited a beat. “Does it bother you?” nonchalantly, but Hannah felt the heartbeat so close to hers speed up noticeably.

Hannah took a moment to look deeply into the blue orbs that had accompanied her dreams most of her life. She slid a hand out of Donovan’s mane and gently traced the smoothness of her decidedly feminine face.

“When I was five years old,” Hannah intoned quietly, “I dreamed of you for the very first time. All I saw was blue eyes and long dark hair, and I just assumed you were a woman.” She chuckled lightly. “I thought you were a beautiful lady pirate.”

Donovan smiled shakily and felt the bands of anxiety constricting her breathing ease up just a bit. Hannah’s fingers brushed her lips and she kissed them tenderly.

“You were very sporadic in my dreams then, though even as a child I always looked forward to seeing you. You were a warm, friendly presence in my dreams, and I always felt loved and protected whenever I saw you.” Hannah smiled wistfully. “I wrote about you in my diary every time you came.” She paused for breath.

“Fifteen is such an awkward age… too old for children’s games, and not yet an adult. And my life was so turbulent then. That is when my father died.” Hannah stopped her stroking, and Donovan’s eyes slowly opened to meet hers. “Did you know about that?”

Donovan’s gaze went inward as she focused her thoughts on the past. “Was your father’s name Michael?”

Tears welled up in Hannah’s eyes even as her head nodded affirmatively. “Yes, it was.”

“I thought so. His eyes were so familiar… you have his eyes, you know.”

Hannah smiled through her tears. “That’s what I’ve always been told.”

“It is true,” Donovan agreed. “We did our very best for him, but it was not enough and we all knew it. He wanted to go home to say goodbye, but we found out shortly after he left us that he did not make it. I wanted so much to be able to comfort you, because I saw the sadness in your eyes.”

“I saw the compassion in yours, and it was right then I think, that I fell in love with you. I decided that it didn’t matter to me whether you were a man or a woman, what your nationality was, what God you believed in or what your skin color was. All that mattered to me was that you were a loving, caring individual… someone I had known since childhood, who protected me.”

Hannah looked down and swallowed hard. Her voice grew so quiet that Donovan nearly didn’t hear her next words. “My biggest fear was that I would never find you. My second biggest fear was that you would not love me.”

Donovan smiled. “No worries about that, Angel. I was captured from the very first. Even though I was still a child as well, your eyes betrayed your youth and innocence. So I watched over you, and I waited for us both to grow up.”

Donovan took a deep breath. “It seemed like it was taking forever, time was passing so slowly.” She smiled wryly. “And it was not like I saw you every night. For a long time, I was not sure if I was cursed or blessed. Then we picked up Michael.”

Hannah shuddered and looked up into Donovan’s eyes, her own filling with tears. “What happened to him, Donovan?”

“I really cannot say, but I think the weather took him by surprise. We found him after a terrible storm. He was bleeding quite badly, and the priest, who is also our doctor, said he was malnourished and somewhat dehydrated. We did the very best we could for him, Hannah… you have to believe that.”

Hannah held Donovan’s gaze. “I believe you, love. I would never, ever blame you for that. There was something about this place. He was on a quest, driven by it… searching for something. I was angry with him for a long time after he died.”

“He loved you very much, you know,” Donovan said. “He talked about you quite a bit while he was with us.”

“I know he did. But there was something about this place that called to him, and even I couldn’t overcome his obsession.”

“I think he was doing it for you,” Donovan murmured thoughtfully, turning her gaze to the fire. Hannah sat up and pulled herself away from the Captain’s warm body.

“Excuse me?”

Donovan shifted slightly so she could regard Hannah directly. “We talked at some length, and more than once I got the distinct impression he was interrogating me. Almost… almost like he knew that you were the Green Eyes of my dreams.” She hesitated and looked back at the flames before turning again to Hannah. “Did you ever tell your father about your dreams?”

Hannah chuckled embarrassedly. “Um, no. When I was little, I didn’t understand you were real. By the time I understood that,
I was almost thirteen, and that was just not something I was ready to tell him.” The expression on Hannah’s face grew sad. “I was thinking about talking to him that summer. I had about decided to do it when he came home.” She drew a short, sobbing breath. “Then we got word of his death, and I never had the chance.” Hannah tucked herself back under Donovan’s chin and shivered. The taller woman wrapped her arms more securely around Hannah and kissed the top of her blonde head. “I still miss him.”

Donovan almost missed the barely whispered words. “I know you do, Angel. Just remember that he loved you very much.”

They were silent for a time after that, each absorbed in their own thoughts. The room grew warmer as the rain continued to pour down around them. Hannah let the blanket slide down, but made no effort to move from the heat of Donovan’s embrace. As it grew darker outside, the light from the fire seemed to grow. Finally, Donovan cleared her throat to speak.

“Hannah?”

The blonde woman stirred, the peace and security she found in Donovan’s arms having lulled her into a state of blissful contentment. “Hmm?” she mumbled sleepily. Donovan smiled down, rubbing her cheek against Hannah’s hair.

“What do you think your father would think of us… as a couple, I mean. Would he approve… or at least be happy that you had found happiness?”

“What kinds of questions did he ask you?” Hannah asked suddenly without answering. Donovan frowned at the sudden change of subject and scrambled to kick-start her mind in a new direction.

“Uh… well, he asked a bit about my family, and we discussed my Naval career and my plans for the future.” Her brow furrowed. “We talked about art and literature and education, and even a little bit about our hobbies. Almost as though….”

“Almost as though you were a suitor,” Hannah finished the thought. “But….” Now her own thoughts trailed off. “I know he and Jack were searching for something out here. Even if their actions didn’t prove it, Jack told me as much the other day.”

“Do you know what they were looking for?” Donovan asked quietly.

“No. As a child I was never privy to anything like that. And by the time I figured out that they were searching for something, Daddy died.” Hannah sighed then continued. “I just started reading the journals about their explorations, but so far it’s not really clear on what specifically they were searching for. I asked Jack about it, but he refused to answer. Said I had to figure it out on my own.”

“Have you? Figured it out, I mean.”

“No, not really. I have some clues, but nothing that makes any sense yet.” Hannah shrugged. “It’ll fall into place eventually. It’s just gonna take a while. But for now, I’m not gonna worry about it.” She hugged Donovan hard, pleased with the fervent response she received. “I have you here and that is everything. The rest will wait.”

Donovan leaned down, tilting Hannah’s chin up to receive her kiss. Hannah didn’t hesitate, but deepened it immediately, anxious to convey just exactly how she felt. Donovan moaned, almost overwhelmed by the depth of emotion Hannah was communicating to her soul. She responded in kind, sliding her hand into the blonde hair and pulling Hannah so close that even air couldn’t pass between them.

Donovan pulled away from Hannah’s mouth to plant kisses along her jaw line, Hannah’s warm breath in her ear making her shiver. She reached Hannah’s earlobe and bit gently, eliciting a whimper in response. “I cannot begin to tell you,” Donovan said in the barest of whispers, “How truly wonderful that makes me feel.” She kissed down Hannah’s neck, lingering on her jugular and sucking lightly. Hannah’s grip on her hair grew almost painful as the smaller woman forced Donovan’s head up and captured her lips passionately.

Long moments passed before they came up for air, and still they were close enough to breathe one another’s air, foreheads touching. “But I plan on showing you every single day for the rest of our lives,” Donovan stated firmly and quietly.

Hannah licked her lips and gazed up into familiar blue eyes. “You’d better be planning on longer than that. This is a forever kind of thing for me, love.”

The smile on Donovan’s face broadened at those words until it seemed to light the whole room. “I am not sure that forever will be long enough… but it is a good start.”

Hannah couldn’t contain the happiness that bubbled up and she giggled. “I’ve spent twenty-five years dreaming about you… falling in love with you. I want to spend eternity getting to know you.”

The rain had tapered off to less than a drizzle and the cloying smell of wet earth and steam rose to scent the air around them. Hannah stood and Donovan followed suit. “I need to get home… see if Jack is back yet. Will you join us for dinner tonight? Say around sunset?”

Donovan hesitated, not sure she was ready to meet this “Jack”, but knowing Hannah had agreed without hesitation to travel home with her to meet her parents, she nodded solemnly.

“He may not even be back yet, but I am anxious for the two of you to meet. We were always close while I was growing up, and when Daddy died, he became like a Dad to me in a lot of ways.”

Donovan cleared her throat, but her voice still cracked slightly when she spoke. “Um, do I need to prepare for another interrogation?”

“No, I don’t think… I mean… um, well, he might… I mean uh, yeah, maybe…. Oh God!” Hannah dropped her now flushed face into her hands. “Yes, you should probably be prepared for a lot of questions when you meet him.”

Donovan groaned.

“Don’t worry, though,” Hannah answered the unspoken plea. “I’m not leaving your side.”

“I am counting on that, Angel. I already told you.” She took Hannah’s smaller hands in her own. “Are you sure I cannot come with you now?”

Hannah kissed the large hands clasping her own, marveling at the strength so evident in them. “I want to go home, make something sinfully scrumptious for dinner, soak in the tub for a bit, and become beautiful for you.”

Donovan smiled. “You already are beautiful for me.” She pressed her fingertips to Hannah’s lips to halt her speech. “But I know what you mean, and I understand the sentiment.” She walked Hannah to the door. “May I keep the picnic boxes? I would like to plan an outing, but I do not have such intriguing containers.”

“Sure. Would you like me to take them home and wash them first?”

Donovan rolled her eyes and smiled. “Despite popular belief to the contrary and my mother’s firm confidence otherwise, I am capable of doing a few dishes.” She mock glowered in Hannah’s direction. “However, if you ever feel the need to share that bit of information, I will deny I ever said it and you will be walking the plank.”

“You really don’t think I am going to share the soft side of you with anyone, do you?” Hannah asked, ignoring the outraged look Donovan was casting her way. “I am a very selfish person… and I don’t share well with others.”

“Soft??? Did you just call me soft?!?”

“Yeah, I did. You wanna make something of it, tough stuff?”

Donovan stared at the fire sparking from those green eyes and smiled sheepishly, shaking her head. “No ma’am. I know when to surrender.”

“Don’t worry, love.” Hannah said as she ran her hands through Donovan’s dark hair. “I would never do anything to embarrass you.”

“I know….” she reached out and swatted Hannah’s backside. “Now go, before I change my mind about letting you go alone.”

Hannah stood on tiptoe and pressed a swift kiss to Donovan’s cheek. “See you in a few hours, love.” And she rushed out the door and down the steps, turning to wave before she disappeared into the foliaged pathway.

Donovan stood at the open door for long moments after Hannah was gone. “My word, I have it bad.” She shook her dark head ruefully and went back inside, deciding a hot bath was a pretty good idea, and she whistled while she prepared her water… again.

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

Hannah arrived home rather quickly, and went directly to start the hot water running in the tub. She’d hit another cold patch of air on the way home, and was now distinctly chilled. She took a quick look through the house, noting that there was no sign of Jack’s return and letting her shoulder slump just slightly. She was truly looking forward to him and Donovan meeting one another.

She crossed to the refrigerator and pulled a couple of steaks from the small freezer. She shivered again when the cold air blasted her, and she set the packages on the tray to thaw, then moved back towards the bathroom.

Hannah sighed in relief as the warmth of the steam crept into her bones, and she quickly stripped her suit off and slid into the depths of the tub and closed her eyes. Immediately, her thoughts were filled with Donovan, and she felt the smile broaden her lips.

She didn’t linger too long in the tub, though the water had cooled considerably and she was quite warm when she exited. She wrapped in a robe and walked back to the kitchen, pleased by the fact that the steaks were nearly thawed. She spiced and marinated them, then stuck them into the fridge. A glance at the clock showed her that she still had a couple hours before Donovan was due, and she decided to lay down for a bit. The events of the day were overwhelming, and she felt the need to consider everything that had happened.

She never even realized when she fell asleep.

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

Donovan was startled from her reverie by a loud pounding on her door, followed by Harold’s youthful voice calling out to her.

“Cap’n! Captain Scott! Are you there?”

Donovan groaned, for she knew that Harold’s coming to her place of refuge boded no good for her. The men respected her need for privacy in this place, and were loath to disturb her for less than a life or death emergency. She moved to the door and flung it open, towering above the young lad and causing him to become mute for a long moment.

Donovan almost chuckled at the expression on his face. Instead she schooled her features and asked gruffly. “What is it, boy?”

Harold swallowed hard and nodded, remembering the importance of his assignment. “Cap’n, Mr. Merryweather sent me to fetch you, sir. One of the merchant ships, that’s been robbin’ these folks blind, just pulled into port, sir.”

Damn! Damn! Damn! Why here? And why now? Donovan banged her head on the door sill, letting it rest there for a long moment. “Come in, Harold,” she stated as she walked to the kitchen and moved the water off the stove. “I need you to do something for me.”

The boy followed her, trying to be discreet as he studied his surroundings. His Captain was a very private woman, and none of the crew had been out here since the day they had helped her to raise the walls. He waited with his hands stuffed in his pockets while she retrieved a thick sheet of paper, ink and a quill.

Harold stood at the doorway between the kitchen and living area, and found his attention riveted to the portrait on the wall. He recognized the Captain and wondered briefly who the other woman was, and if she was the reason they had been back to the island so much lately. Not that he was complaining, he thought with a smirk. He had met the cutest girl here and had been looking for an opportunity to get to know her a little bit. Harold sighed soundlessly. This turn of events would put all kinds of damper on the plans he had been making in that regard.

He was brought out of his thoughts and back to rigid attention when Donovan rose from the table and stopped in front of him. “Come with me.”

She walked with him to the end of the pathway, and took out her knife, cutting a few of the lovely wildflowers that grew there. She handed the bunch of them and the paper to the cabin boy and caught his eyes with a piercing stare.

“If you follow the coast for about a mile to the west, you will find a house there.” She gestured in the direction he needed to go. “I need you to take this note and these flowers, and deliver them to the woman who lives there. You do not have to say anything to her, just make sure she gets them, all right?”

There were a thousand questions he wanted to ask. He knew better than to give them voice, and simply nodded his acceptance of her statement instead.

“Good lad. This is important.” She looked off in the direction that her heart was pulling her, angry that she had to give up her evening with Hannah because of someone else’s greed. Donovan closed her eyes and swallowed hard. When she reopened them, Harold noted the sky blue had been replaced with colorless gray and he knew he was now looking at the Ice Princess. It was something the merchants they preyed upon as pirates had nicknamed Donovan when confronted with her cold-hearted fury towards them. It was an apt description.

He brought his attention back to her words when she began speaking again. He knew for all her fairness to her officers and men, she could not abide slovenly work or ineptitude.

“I will take your horse and go to the ship immediately. As soon as you have completed your task, you make all haste on foot to join us. If we are not there, wait on the dock. I do not expect this to take too long. I have better things to be doing with my time tonight.”

“Captain?” Harold questioned hesitantly.

“Go boy, and be quick!”

“Aye, sir!” the youth answered with a smart salute, and took off running down the beach as fast as his legs would carry him. Donovan sighed, and moved back in the house to change into her ‘other’ uniform.

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

Hannah awoke with a start, disoriented, heart pounding. It took a few minutes for her to get her bearings and catch her breath. She wondered briefly at the flashes of image that remained from her dream. Nothing concrete, but oddly terrifying nonetheless. She could still feel the violence… smell the coopery scent of blood… feel the anger and adrenaline…. The memory coaxed a shiver from her body and she rubbed her face with her hands.

“Ugh,” she mumbled to herself. “That was bizarre.” She looked around the room, suddenly noticing that it was nearly dark outside. “Oh God… I overslept. What is Donovan gonna think?”

She stumbled out of the bedroom looking for any sign that Donovan was waiting for her. She flipped on the lights, noting to her dismay that they didn’t respond. “Dammit!” she muttered. Hannah nixed the dress she had planned to wear and slipped into a pair of comfortable shorts and a long silk shirt she left untucked. Then she set out to find some sort of lighting.

Finally, after ten minutes worth of mutterings and cursings, Hannah managed to find a single kerosene lantern and a handful of candles. She stepped out onto the patio, realizing that there’d been another storm while she’d been sleeping and wondering vaguely if that had been what had given her such disturbing dreams. She shook her head, and moved to the woodshed for some wood to stoke the barbeque pit Jack had built. It would suit her needs admirably this evening.

Hannah looked at the sky again, wondering what was keeping Donovan, though she understood it was very likely the other woman had fallen asleep and overslept herself. The power outage tended to throw everyone’s timing off.

She built a small fire in the pit and left it to burn while she went back into the house to finish her preparations. “Ya know,” she muttered to herself, “You’d think that a man would have at least one flashlight in the house.” She set the lantern on the counter and snagged a couple potatoes from the bin, cleaning them and wrapping them in foil with butter, salt and pepper.

She took the steaks and the potatoes and juggled them and the lantern as she eased back outside to the grill. With a glance she saw that the fire was still burning, and Hannah set the potatoes on the back away from the flame. She placed the steaks to one side wanting to wait until Donovan arrived before starting them.

Hannah sat back as the stars began to come out and the moon began to create its own path on the water. After a bit, her eyes followed its path into the yard and she noticed a lump that hadn’t been there previously. Curiosity got the better of her and with a glance at the now glowing embers, she grabbed the lantern and moved down the pathway towards the spot.

Her breath caught when she noticed it was a bouquet of wildflowers carefully placed in the center of the path. She brought them to her nose and sniffed, a smile crossing her face. I guess she came and when she didn’t get an answer left these for me to find. A frown crossed her face then. Wonder why she didn’t leave them on the porch?

She looked back at the barbeque pit and then in the direction of Donovan’s cottage, and gave in to the longing to go find the woman.

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

The cottage was dark when Hannah approached and her frown deepened. She knocked but the only reply she received was silence. She walked around the small house, assuring herself that Donovan was nowhere around. Hannah was torn between anger and concern.

Finally, frustrated at herself, at Donovan, at whatever had happened, she turned and made her way back down the beach to Jack’s place.

When she got back to the beach house, she removed the now cooked potatoes from the grill and placed the steaks on to cook. Hannah wasn’t really hungry, but she didn’t see the point in letting the stuff go to waste. She stepped inside and set the potatoes on the counter, seeing that the power had come back on in the interim.

“Good. I’m glad something is finally working right this evening.”

Hannah finished cooking up the steaks and scattered the embers to allow them to cool faster while she put the steaks in the house. She walked back out onto the patio, allowing the breeze to riffle through her hair and breathing deeply of the fresh, salty air.

She blew out the lantern and retrieved the wine and a single goblet. She poured a half a glass and sat back listening to the waves rush to the shore. She watched the moon extend its path into the sea as she sipped at the wine. She never felt her eyes slide shut, and she never saw the figure that stood in front of her like a specter hours later.

It was unnerving when she woke up in her own bed at daybreak the following morning.
Chapter VIII
Hannah awoke just as the sun completed its rise over the horizon feeling oddly refreshed, though she looked around her room in confusion with sleepily blinking green eyes. I don’t remember coming to bed last night. She sat up and glanced down at herself as the sheet slid down her naked torso. And I certainly don’t remember getting undressed. Hannah slid from the bed and stood up stretching, noting that the house was still eerily quiet. Well, either Jack is down at the beach or he didn’t get home last night. Surely he didn’t….

Hannah shook her head, knowing that Jack would never presume to put her to bed like that. He would simply have awakened her and coaxed her to do it herself. She frowned… it bothered her that she didn’t remember what happened. I didn’t dream either. Hmm….

She turned toward the mirror and regarded her reflection solemnly. She viewed herself critically, wondering not for the first time how Blue Eyes… how Donovan saw her. Did she find her attractive, beautiful? Or was Hannah too muscular, too short, too…. The blonde head fell back in frustration and the eyes closed. This is ridiculous, and is getting me nowhere fast. There is a perfectly good reason she didn’t make it last night. Why not give the woman a chance to explain before you start making assumptions and accusations?

With a nod to herself, Hannah snatched up her robe and up her robe and tied it off. “Let me go start the coffee and then we’ll see if I can think a little more clearly.”

Flipping the switch on the already prepped pot, Hannah glanced out the patio doors toward the beach, but didn’t see any movement. She shrugged and headed in to the bathroom, content that the coffee would be ready when she got out of the shower.

Fifteen minutes later, she stepped out of the bedroom dressed in shorts and a tank top feeling much better. She walked the few steps to the kitchen, stopping short when she saw a cup of coffee sitting ready on the counter. Before she could think about it though, she heard the toilet flush and moments later saw Jack’s head pop out of the hallway. They greeted one another with smiles.

“You nearly gave me a heart attack, ya know,” Hannah commented to him as she pulled back from their hug. “When did you get in?”

Jack handed her the mug of coffee he’d left fixed on the counter for her and looked at the clock. “Oh about fifteen minutes ago, I guess. You started the shower just as I passed the bathroom door.”

“How’d your trip go?”

He shook his head and frowned. “Not well. I’m gonna be spending a lot of time going back and forth in the next few weeks. Pisses me off too, I’ll tell ya, because we’re supposed to be getting some quality time in together. The timing on this just stinks.”

She grabbed the fruit bowl from the fridge and set out two bowls and spoons. Then she seated herself at the bar and motioned for him to do the same. “Can you share?” She helped herself to some fruit and passed him the container. “Or would you prefer not to?”

He scooped a portion of the fruit into the bowl in front of him and spooned some into his mouth, nodding his agreement. “I can share,” he said after he swallowed, “but it really won’t make much sense.”

Jack took another bite and chewed thoughtfully. “Something peculiar is happening to the weather currents suddenly. Something that has no logic behind it, and it seems to be affecting other things as well.”

“Like what?” Hannah asked as she continued to eat.

“Like fishing… or any water sport. And attitudes. People are acting more bizarre than they usually do, even for tourists,” he added with a smile.

“Bizarre how?”

“Um, well… there was the group of nuns that went gambling in the casino. And the seniors’ group that went sunbathing naked. We’ve had the same group of people doing that particular tour for fourteen years, and they have NEVER been nude sunbathing… especially on a public beach. Then of course there were the college kids that decided to have a prayer meeting in the middle of the road. That particular fraternity has had more overnights in the drunk tank than any other single group of people that have visited the islands.”

By now, Hannah’s eyebrows were in her hairline. “Okay, Uncle Jack. I think I am getting the picture.” She poured them each a second cup of coffee. “What exactly can you do about it though?”

“I’m not sure, but the Triangle and its effects are my areas of expertise. I think if we can figure out the ‘why’, fixing the problem should be fairly easy.” He studied his empty bowl before he looked up to catch her gaze. “Unfortunately, even with my state-of-the-art office, a lot of the equipment is at a research lab on the big island. So it means a lot of back and forthing for me.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier for you just to stay there? I mean….”

Jack looked into Hannah’s face squarely. “Yeah, it would, but that’s not right. It’s not fair to you that….” He stopped speaking when she covered his lips.

“You go and you do what you need to. It will probably go faster if you just stay there and get it done.” She arched a brow at him. “Won’t it?” At his nod, she continued. “I’ve been thinking about your offer… about moving here on a more permanent basis. That idea is becoming more and more appealing the longer I stay here.” She smiled when she felt his lips twitch in a grin under her fingertips. She moved them.

“You mean that?”

“Yeah, I do. It would be nice to be near family again.”

“And you’re sure about being alone for the next couple weeks? Cause I don’t know how long this will take.”

“Will you be here for the Pirates’ Ball?”

“Oh yes!” came the adamant reply. “There are some things that one just does not miss on this island. That would be at the top of the list.”

“Go then, with my blessing. Just call me once in a while, will ya? Let me know how things are going?”

“You got it, sweetheart. With any luck this will take less time than I imagined.”

“That would be nice.”

“All right,” he said standing up and taking their dishes to the sink. “Let me go and get done so I can get back.” He leaned over and kissed her cheek. “You’re a good niece Hannah, and a good friend. I’m glad you’re here.”

She smiled back at him. “Me too, Uncle Jack. Me too.”

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

Within an hour, Jack was showered, shaved and repacked. “I still feel bad about leaving you here alone, Hannah.”

“I’m not alone, Uncle Jack, and so many of your friends are becoming mine as well. So it’s not a bad thing. Now I’ll see you on the twenty-fifth if not before, right?”

“Yep, though I will try to make it home for the weekend… if I don’t get caught up in things.” He scratched the back of his neck absently.

“Happens a lot, hmm?” Hannah teased gently.

“Yeah… it’s gotten me into trouble more than once.”

“Just don’t forget to call me once in a while, and you’ll be fine.”

A horn sounded and he moved to the door. “Thanks for calling Harry to pick me up. I’ll call you tonight when I get settled in.”

“Have fun, Jack. I haven’t seen you this excited about a project in years.”

It was quiet once he left, and Hannah turned her attention to the day outside. She was debating with herself on whether or not she wanted to go see if she could find Donovan. She still hadn’t decided if she was more concerned, angry or upset when Donovan appeared at the end of the path, waiting hesitantly to see what sort of reception she was going to receive.

Hannah stood looking at her for a long moment, and Donovan cocked her head slightly in supplication. The blonde stepped off the patio and moved down the path towards the Captain. Donovan stood stock still, not sure of her welcome.

Hannah stood looking into contrite blue eyes for a minute before reaching out and taking Donovan’s hand in her own. “We need to talk, I think.” The dark head simply nodded in agreement and Donovan allowed Hannah to lead her to the porch.

“Have a seat,” Hannah offered. “I’ll get us something to drink.”

Donovan glance around at the house she had only til now seen in the darkness. It was nothing spectacular, though she found the use of the natural rock very clever. The patio and several of the seats thereon seemed to be carved from it. She noted the amount of glass windows, and figured that Jack must be a very wealthy man to have used it so lavishly. It had taken her almost a year’s wages to buy all the glass she had used in her own cottage, and they were nowhere near the size of the sheet that served as the door that Hannah re-emerged from.

Hannah was relieved of the tray as she stepped across the threshold, and she had to smile at the gallantness of her intrepid companion. Donovan set the glasses down on the rough hewn wooden table very cautiously, and Hannah felt more than heard the sigh of relief she emitted when the chore was complete.

Hannah smiled and spoke softly. “I take my tea unsweetened, but perhaps you like sugar… or… something in yours?”

Donovan shook her head. “Unsweetened is fine. I like to taste the tea.”

Hannah nodded and poured a glass. She handed it to Donovan, who accepted it with widened eyes. “What?” she questioned, looking around for a problem.

“You use ice so liberally?”

“Um, yes. It’s the best way to drink iced tea that I know of.” Hannah realized that it was probably not that common on the rest of the island. “It’s just how we always had it growing up.”

Donovan took a tentative sip. “That is very cold,” was her comment before taking a larger swallow. “I like this.” And she gave Hannah a big grin. A grin which faded when it was not returned. “Hannah?” she queried.

“What happened to you last night, Donovan? No word, no note, nothing. And I know you weren’t home because I went down to check.”

Donovan scowled. “Waitaminute. What do you mean… no note or anything? I sent my cabin boy Harold over with specific instructions to give you flowers and a note personally. To put them directly into your hands. You mean to tell me he did not do that??” The Captain stood up full of ire, and started to stomp away. Hannah placed a calming hand on Donovan’s forearm, and she halted in her tracks.

“I am sorry, Hannah. I do not blame you for being upset with me. I need to go take care of Harold. My crew knows the penalty for disobedience. I need to find out what happened before I set his punishment.”

“Hold on a minute, Donovan.” Hannah tugged on Donovan’s arm and pulled the tall woman back down into the seat beside her.
“I found some flowers at the end of the path after moonrise last night… but there was no note. They may have been there earlier and I just didn’t notice them. I don’t know… it’s hard to say at this point what happened. Maybe he left the note and it blew away.”

“Maybe. But his directions were to give them TO you… not leave them in the path or on the porch. He disobeyed a direct order, and will have to be disciplined accordingly.”

“In the meantime, that does not tell me where you were last night.” Hannah paused, realizing just how possessive she sounded. She continued in a quieter voice, “I was worried.”

Contrite blue eyes glanced down before rising to meet green. “I am sorry to have worried you,” Donovan said quietly. “We had an emergency last night, and it had to be dealt with immediately.”

Hannah waited, but when no more information was forthcoming, she asked, “Can you share with me? I’d like to understand.”

Donovan sighed soundlessly. She trusted Hannah not to betray her, but she was still unsure what the woman’s reaction would be to the reality of what they did. “We had to take care of some merchants who were stealing from the tribes here again. They think they can because they have money, but it is not right. So we do not let them.”

Truth, as far as it went, just none of the gorier details. That was something Donovan hoped she never had to share.

Hannah thought about that for a while. “That makes sense,” she said at last. “They shouldn’t be allowed to take advantage of these people and their culture just because they think they can.”

Donovan nodded with agreement and sighed with relief. She was glad that Hannah agreed in principle, even if she didn’t understand the practice behind it. “I am sorry to have missed dinner with you last night. Do you think we could try again?”

Hannah looked at Donovan, gauging the sincerity in her eyes. “I think we could. I think I can make steak salad and twice baked potatoes from what was supposed to be dinner last night.”

“Twice baked potatoes?”

“Go with me on this. It’s wonderful… trust me.”

“I do.” And with those words, Hannah felt her hurt feelings melt away into the warmth of belonging. She gave Donovan a dazzling smile. “What would you like to do today?”

“What I would like to do, and what I am going to do are two entirely different things.” The leer she cast in Hannah’s direction caused a distinct warming of her whole body with the implications. “I must go speak with Harold first. I cannot let such impudence go unpunished. It is bad for morale, and it is bad for discipline.”

Hannah thought about this then nodded her slow agreement. “May I go with you? I won’t interfere, but I don’t want to give up the day with you.” She hesitated then tilted her head and added, “Please?”

Donovan smiled. There was no way she could resist that much adorable thrown directly at her. Truth be told, she didn’t really want to. “I think we could do that. It is quite a walk, though. And um, you probably do not want to go dressed like that.”

Hannah looked down at her shorts and tank top, then at Donovan’s linen trousers and shirt, and her brow furrowed. Donovan caught the look and hastened to explain. “*I* like it, not as much as your native garb,” she said with wiggling eyebrows. That got her a smack on her abs. “Oof!” she mock coughed. “Pay a woman a compliment and she beats you black and blue.” Hannah snorted.

“Anyway,” Donovan continued, “Like I was saying, *I* like it. But I do not want men leering at you. That is my privilege,” she said casting another leer in Hannah’s direction for emphasis. “My men would probably be the best behaved, but I see no reason to throw temptation deliberately at them. The others I cannot control and I am not sure the world is ready for the consequences.”

Hannah caught the burning faraway look in Donovan’s eyes, and she shivered at the intensity the Captain was emitting in roiling waves. She took a breath to speak and Donovan turned, her gaze softening as soon as their eyes met. Hannah smiled, relived when Donovan returned the look and reached for her. Hannah pulled the strong hand to her waist and lifted her own hand up to stroke Donovan’s smooth face.

“I can see your point, but I don’t have much else. Especially since the alternative of going native is probably not a good option. Unless….” She tapered off and Donovan raised a dark brow in question.

“Unless…?” she prompted.

“Uh… wait here a minute. I’ll be right back.”

Hannah disappeared into the house and Donovan resumed her seat, closing her eyes and frowning slightly as images from the previous evening assaulted her senses. She focused her thoughts and her breathing toward nothingness, and she almost didn’t hear Hannah return.

For her part, Hannah stood at the closed door for a long moment just admiring the beauty of the woman who sat on the patio. When she pushed the door aside, Hannah felt and saw those piercing blue eyes turn her way, and she flushed under the frank admiration there. Donovan smiled in true appreciation.

“You are beautiful.”

She reached out her hands to Hannah, who accepted them without thought. Donovan looked the smaller woman up and down and nodded her head in approval. She reached a tentative hand out to touch the dark green material, and sighed when she made contact with silk. More and more she was starting to realize the gulf that existed between herself and Hannah. While her family was by no means destitute, and was in fact titled and well-respected, the luxuries she had seen Hannah take for granted were well beyond her means. The thought caused her to withdraw just slightly.

Hannah caught Donovan’s hand before it could slide was from her completely. “I don’t like that look,” she stated frankly. “What are you thinking? Is the outfit not going to work?”

Donovan turned away so her face was to the sea. “It is nothing,” she muttered. Hannah wasn’t having any of that and moved into her line of sight to confront her.

“No,” Hannah said so firmly that Donovan’s eyes tracked to her automatically. “No, something is bothering you and I want to know what it is.” She paused. “If we are going to be together, love, we’re going to have to be honest with one another.”

Donovan looked into earnest eyes. “All right, but let us walk… it takes awhile to get to the port from here, and I need to take care of this now.”

“Then this outfit is okay?”

”The outfit is perfect, though it does not do you justice.” She smiled at Hannah’s blush. “Come. Walk with me, Angel.” She extended a hand that Hannah accepted immediately. With a smile, the two women headed down the path to the beach.

Somewhat to Hannah’s surprise, they turned east towards Donovan’s cottage. She started to speak, but held her tongue when Donovan’s fingers touched her lips. Instead, she licked the appendages and smirked at the growl the action drew from the depths of Donovan’s chest.

When they reached the path to the cottage, Donovan turned and pulled Hannah with her. They walked until they reached the steps, and Donovan moved the smaller woman to stand in front of them as they both faced the small home.

“Take a good look,” she whispered into the nearby ear. Hannah had to focus on the sight in front of her rather than the feeling of being locked in Donovan’s strong embrace. Donovan realized when Hannah’s attention shifted from her to the house and she waited a few minutes.

“Now, I want you to think about something… hush and let me finish.” Donovan waited for the blonde head to nod compliance before she continued. “I have seen how you live, Hannah. You use glass for your doors and wear yards of silk and use ice so liberally. I cannot provide that for you, much as I would like to.” She sighed and took a seat on the stone step she herself had built. “The glass you see in these windows took me almost a year’s salary to buy. The two silk shirts I have I only wear on special occasions to keep them from wearing out. I live comfortably, but have nowhere near the means to support you as you have become accustomed to.” She looked down at the ground now. “I thought you should know.”

Hannah knelt down in front of Donovan, raising her head until their eyes met. “Donovan, do you think so little of me that you believe I would put material possessions before what we share… what we have shared for twenty years?”

“No,” came the instant response. “No… I, um… no, not… not really, but, um… I, uh… I wanted you to know the truth upfront. I do not want you to think I am taking advantage of your wealth.”

Hannah laughed out loud at this statement, and moved to sit in Donovan’s lap. The Captain was surprised but pleased at the action and welcomed Hannah with open arms. “Honey, I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m really not wealthy. Comfortable, like you. Besides, we’re partners, right?” She waited for Donovan to process her words and watched the dark head nod agreement. “Right, and that means we share. What’s mine is yours, all right?”

“All right,” Donovan said emphatically.

Hannah started to get up then sat back down rather abruptly. “Oh, and one more thing….” She caught Donovan’s chin in her hand and made sure she had her attention. “I want you to understand this if you don’t understand anything else, okay?”

“Okay,” Donovan answered.

“If all we had was a blanket for shelter, I would be happy as long as we were sheltered together.” She stared deep into trusting eyes and willed Donovan to believe. “Now, are we clear on this?”

Donovan kept the gaze up for another long moment before she pulled Hannah’s lips to meet her own. “Yes ma’am,” she whispered against Hannah’s mouth. “We are clear.”

Hannah had no opportunity to reply as Donovan took possession of her lips and claimed the very air that she breathed. When they separated, Donovan rose and brought Hannah up with her. “Come,” she said on a breathless note. “If we stay here much longer I will not be responsible for what happens to your virtue, and I really need to get to the ship.”

Hannah flushed at the brazenness of Donovan’s comment, then made one of her own. “You keep kissing me like that and my virtue won’t be a problem. I’ll make sure there isn’t any left.”

Donovan’s ears turned bright red as she led the way down the path back towards the beach.

“You know, when I was a child there were a lot of nights I did not see your eyes in my dream,” Donovan stated quietly moving the conversation into different waters.

Hannah waited silently, knowing there was more.

“On those nights, I was in a meadow very similar to the one here. As a matter of fact, that meadow is the main reason I decided to build here.” She sighed. “It was a wonderful place… full of wildflowers and shady trees….”

A gasp. “And a cave that was perfect for exploring on rainy days.”

Donovan’s head swung abruptly towards Hannah, and her eyes widened. “How did you…?”

“Because I was there. It was generally just the two of us, though there were a few times that I was there alone. We ran and laughed and played together. It was my favorite dream, next to seeing your eyes.”

“Waitaminute… that was YOU?? That was us… together?? How come… why didn’t we recognize each other?”

“I dunno,” Hannah answered slowly. “I don’t remember ever seeing your eyes there. I don’t think the time was right. We were children together, becoming friends, and making memories without realizing their importance to us until right now.”

“So in our dreams we got to grow up together. We got to be friends.” Donovan’s smile was blinding and Hannah returned it wholeheartedly. She wrapped her arms around the tall woman and squeezed tightly.

“Yeah, we did. And I think that is wonderful. All my most cherished dreams…. You have always been a part of them… a part of my life.”

Donovan returned the embraced, leaning down to steal a kiss. “I am just glad that our dreams have finally become reality. The dreams were wonderful, but reality is so much nicer.”

Hannah turned in Donovan’s arms and laced her hands behind the dark head. “It certainly is, and it’s only gonna get better.” She urged Donovan’s head lower, until they were a mere hairsbreadth apart.

“You sure about that, beloved?” the Captain asked. The tickle of warm breath across Hannah’s lips started a tingling sensation a lot lower, and she pulled Donovan’s mouth into her own.

“Uh huh,” she mumbled, and it was the last coherent thought for quite a few minutes. When they separated, Hannah looked down at Donovan’s hands that had crept completely up under her top and were now resting considerably higher then her waist. She looked into Donovan’s eyes and grinned at the blush that crossed her face.

“Oh, um….” The Captain began to slide her hands away from Hannah’s body, when strong arms locked them in place. She looked at Hannah in shocked confusion.

“Don’t move them on my account,” came the sultry whisper from Hannah’s lips.

Donovan cleared her throat. “I am moving them on mine, because I do not want our first time to be in the sand on the beach.”

Hannah thought about that and nodded, tying the fastener she’d loosened on Donovan’s blouse. “I agree with you on that. Sand is just not my idea of romantic.”

Donovan chuckled. “No, not really. It *sounds* romantic I know. But if you spend anytime at all on the beach naked, you learn the fallacy of that idea pretty quickly.” She reached for Hannah’s hand to start their journey back to the ship, and was surprised when Hannah froze, standing still with her hands on her hips, green eyes glaring slits.

“Um, Hannah?”

“Do I want to know how you know about being on the beach naked?” Her tone was sharp and biting, but she couldn’t seem to help it. The sudden surge of jealously she felt was overwhelming.

“It is how I go swimming when I am out here, and the first couple times I just dropped into the sand without thinking about it,” was Donovan’s quiet response.

“Oh, uh….” Hannah dropped her gaze. “Sorry, I’m not real sure where that came from.”

Donovan lifted Hannah’s chin until their eyes met. “It is okay. It is actually a little flattering for me. I have never had someone get jealous about me before.”

Now Hannah’s look turned to one of disbelief. She clasped Donovan’s face in her hands and stared hard at her.

“You’re kidding me right? God, Donovan, you’re gorgeous.” Donovan blushed at the compliment, but maintained eye contact with Hannah.

“Thank you, Angel. But you are the first person to get close enough to say so. I have always been a bit of a loner. The friends I have would not think to comment on something like that. It would not occur to them.”

“Well then,” Hannah answered, “I’ll make sure to tell you every single day for the rest of our lives.”

Donovan had no response to make, so she extended her hand to Hannah once again. When Hannah accepted, she was pulled firmly into Donovan’s body. “I love you,” Donovan whispered, running her fingers lightly along Hannah’s smooth cheekbone. That got her a blinding smile in return.

“I love you too.” Their lips met in an exchange that was as much an affirmation of their love as it was of their passion. They broke apart and their foreheads met for a long moment.

“C’mon,” Hannah said. “We’re not making much progress here.”

“No, we certainly are not,” Donovan agreed laughingly. She pulled on their linked hands and began jogging down the beach. Hannah squealed and ran to keep up.

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

It took them about half an hour of jogging and walking before they came around the bend in the island that led to the port. Hannah slowed and Donovan took three steps before she realized that Hannah had come to a full stop. She turned and saw the astonished expression and moved swiftly back to Hannah’s side. “Angel?”

Hannah’s mouth moved soundlessly for a minute before her arm rose and she pointed. “Donovan, that’s a British Man o’ War.”

Donovan turned and glanced proudly at her ship. “Yes ma’am. It certainly is. She is the finest ship in the fleet.” Her focus reverted back to Hannah when she felt the small hand clutch at her arm. “Hannah?”

“Donovan,” the blonde woman whispered. She swallowed twice, trying valiantly to speak normally. It didn’t help. “Donovan,” she tried again. What year is it?”

Confusion crossed the tanned features, but she answered the question anyway. “It is the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and fifty-five.”

She caught Hannah as she crumpled before her body touched the sand.
Chapter IX
“Captain!!” the blonde man called when he saw the tall woman staggering through the sand towards them. He wondered briefly about the green bundle in her arms, but not enough to question it at the moment. Instead he shouted at the crew.

“Mr. MacKensie, Mr. Trilby, see if you can assist the captain.” The two men moved down towards the gangplank. Trilby stopped and did an about face, snatching up a litter to make carrying the bundle easier.

MacKensie reached Donovan and gave her a salute that she acknowledged with a nod of her head. Trilby was close behind him, and nudged him with the pallet. Mac turned with a growl, then took the end of the travois. Between them they spread the litter to accept the Captain’s burden. Their eyes widened with their first glance at the beautiful woman Donovan carried, then they moved away out of respect.

Donovan smiled. She knew she could count on her men, at least most of them, being gentlemen around Hannah. The few she was worried about… well, those she would take care of if and when the need arose, though she hoped it never did.

She laid Hannah tenderly on the pallet and took the small hand in her own as she accompanied the litter to the ship. The men did not speak, but there was no need. As soon as they reached the deck, Donovan resumed her hold on Hannah and took her below decks to her own quarters. The priest was waiting there for them.

He examined Hannah carefully, under Donovan’s watchful gaze. Satisfied, he moved to his Captain’s side and spoke in hushed tones.

“I canna find a problem, Cap’n. There’s no physical reason for her condition.”

“Thank you, Father.” She hesitated and he waited. “Could shock or surprise do this, do you think?”

“Aye, sir. I b’lieve it could, if the shock was profound enough.”

Donovan sat down in the chair and ran her hands through her dark hair. Then she brought her clasped hands to her lips and let them rest there as she reviewed the last two days detail by detail, searching for the missing clue that would explain Hannah’s reaction to the date. She never even noticed when the priest slipped out the door.

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

There was a cool breeze blowing around her, scented with the smells of wet oak and sea water. The platform she felt under her was rolling gently. The screech of gulls could be heard nearby and Hannah spent several moments just processing the sounds and smells before green eyes opened mere slits.

There was a porthole above her head that was open, letting in both the breeze and enough light to allow her to observe her surroundings. She eased up on her elbows and took a good look around the small cabin.

It was a neat room, though sparsely furnished. The small cot she lay upon was long and obviously made for a single individual. There was a desk with a very old world map tacked to the wall above it, and several ancient navigation tools upon it. Across from the bed was a long cabinet, and two smaller ones. Underneath the cabinets sat Donovan in the room’s only chair, sharp blue eyes focused intently on Hannah.

Hannah gasped and sat bolt upright, clutching her head in her hands. Donovan knelt by her side instantly, glad beyond measure that Hannah did not flinch or try to pull away from her touch.

Hannah leaned into the strong body trying to get her bearings. The hands that caressed her back were soothing and familiar, as was the scent she breathed deeply into her lungs. Donovan continued the light touches, feeling Hannah gradually relax beneath them. Eventually, Hannah felt steady enough to push away slightly so she could look into Donovan’s eyes.

Donovan cupped her face gently. “Are you all right, love? You scared me.”

Hannah shook her head slightly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. I think I had a blonde moment.” She ran a shaky hand through her blonde mane and chuckled nervously.

“How so, Angel?” Donovan was more than a little concerned. It was very apparent that whatever had happened, it had shaken Hannah badly.

“I must have misunderstood you earlier, Donovan. I don’t know why, but I imagined you said it was eighteen fifty-five.”

Donovan’s brow creased. “You did not imagine anything, Hannah. That is what I said. It is June sixteenth, eighteen hundred and fifty-five.”

Hannah’s hand came up to cover her mouth, and she spent several minutes trying to breathe without hyperventilating. “Donovan, love. That’s not possible.”

“Um, Hannah… not only is it possible, it is also the truth. Did you hit your head? I thought I caught you before you hit anything but….” She reached her hands towards Hannah’s head, only to find them captured in Hannah’s.

“My head is fine sweetheart. Except for the fact that I seem to have crossed into the twilight zone, I mean.”

“Twilight zone?” from Donovan, her brows frowning at the unknown reference.

Hannah looked up into clear blue eyes and saw nothing but honest confusion and frustration at the situation that she was having difficulty understanding. She gasped.

“This isn’t a joke is it? You’re not just toying with me about the date are you?”

“No, Hannah, I am not. Why would I?”

Hannah brought their joined hands to her lips. “Let me see if I can make this make sense for you, ’cause my mind is still spinning.” Donovan nodded and squeezed Hannah’s fingers.

“Okay. Right here, right now it is the middle of the nineteenth century. It is eighteen fifty-five.” Donovan nodded again, wondering where this was leading. “Donovan, I am from the twenty-first century. I will not even be born for more than one hundred years.”

Donovan looked deep into her eyes, seeing a truth there that belied the ludicrousness of the statement. “You’re serious.” A flat statement. The blonde head nodded.

“Oh boy. Though now Harold’s statement makes a lot more sense.”

Hannah’s eyebrow rose in question. “How so? What did he say?”

For answer, Donovan went to the door and signaled a crew member. With a few muttered words to the man, he scurried off and she closed the door. Donovan resumed her seat after moving the chair next to the bed. Within two minutes, a light knock was heard, and in her best Captain’s voice, she bade the person to enter.

The door opened and a small lad of about eleven crossed the threshold and stood at attention. “Stand at ease, Harold,” Donovan said quietly, and the boy visibly relaxed, though not without several darting glances at the woman in the bed. He waited silently for his Captain to speak.

“Harold, I want you to tell your story to Miss Reilly here. I want you to tell her exactly what you told me earlier.”

The youth nodded and swallowed nervously. “Aye, sir.” He swallowed again. “Um, after I left you yesterday, I went west, like ya said. I went forever, seemed like, til I saw the town comin’ into view, and I knew I musta missed the path. So I headed back t’other way, til I got to your house again.” He stopped and cleared his throat. “It was nigh unto dark by now, and I knew I was gonna be in terrible trouble if I didn’t find the house, so I started back west, and this time I counted off my steps. When I got to where a mile was, I started looking for the pathway that shoulda been there. T’wasn’t nothing there that I could see in the dark, but then the moon lit up a path that led me to the tiniest nitch in the woods. I pushed through the brambles til I come to a clearing that held that rock formation ya spoke of. I never did see no house ma’am, so I laid the flowers on the note and left them at the end of the path.”

He looked at Hannah directly for the first time. “I’m sorry ma’am. I dinna know what else to do. I couldn’t find ya, cause there was nothing there like the Cap’n said. And I had to get back here.” He turned and faced Donovan. “I’m sorry sir. I was gonna tell ya this mornin’, but you was gone when I got up.”

Donovan nodded. “That will be all for now, Harold. We will discuss your punishment later.”

He came to attention. “Aye, sir.” He turned and nodded at Hannah. “Ma’am” was all he said, respectfully. Then he slipped out the door before Donovan changed her mind.

Hannah sat quietly absorbing the information he had given them, then finally nodded. “It makes perfect sense, if anything in this whole scenario can.”

“What do you mean?” Donovan asked. Her head was beginning to ache trying to wrap her mind around what Hannah was telling her, and what she was slowly trying to accept as the truth of their situation.

“We, you and I can cross time. We have done so for years in our dreams and now that we are physically in the same place, we can also physically cross to share the same time. But no one else would necessarily be able to do that. We’ve never had others in our dreams. There is no reason why anyone else would need to cross time like that.”

Donovan nodded, impressed with her logic, and waiting to see if she would continue. She didn’t have long to wait.

“I need to check the journals. It is entirely possible that our answer lies there.”

“Why?”

“Donovan, my father and Jack spent their entire lives studying the Triangle. Now that I think about it… now that we have actually met, it occurs to me that what little bit I’ve read of the journal ties in to us.” She shrugged. “It’s worth a shot.”

Donovan studied Hannah a moment more, then nodded briskly. “Very well.” She ran a large hand through Hannah’s hair. “How do you feel?”

“Honestly? Physically, I am fine. The rest of me is kinda overwhelmed at the moment.”

Donovan gave her a shaky, crooked grin. “We are in agreement there, Angel.” She blew out a breath with force enough to lift her bangs. “Would you like to rest a while longer or would you like a tour?”

“I think I would like a tour, Cap’n,” Hannah replied with a grin. Donovan rose and smoothed her linen trousers before extending a hand to help Hannah to her feet. “Can I ask you a question first?” Donovan’s brow rose and she nodded. “Is there a reason that Harold referred to you as sir? Surely he knows….” Hannah let her thoughts trail into silence.

Donovan put her arms around Hannah’s waist and pulled the smaller woman into her so Hannah’s back was to her chest. “All the men under my command know I am a woman, Hannah, and they afford me whatever privacy they can because of it. When we are not acting in an official capacity, we are more like family than a captain and crew. However, I *am* still the Captain, and as such I am given the respect due my position, and it is easier for everyone to keep things straight for me to be referred to as sir. It causes less confusion than trying to switch back and forth.”

Hannah looked at her confusedly. “Huh?”

Donovan motioned around the tiny cabin, and opened the tall closet. Inside hung a Naval dress uniform complete with sword and plumed hat, and several less ornate uniforms as well. “This is the Captain’s cabin on a British Naval vessel… commanded by a man as law and tradition dictates.”

Donovan turned Hannah in her arms then and watched as the confusion cleared from green eyes and Hannah’s brow rose. “Oh, okay. I gotcha. That way they don’t get their sirs and ma’ams mixed up, especially in public.”

“Precisely. It is a practice that has served us well.”

“I will try to remember that, Captain, sir,” Hannah said seriously.

“Hannah, I will be happy to hear you call me Donovan for the rest of my days.”

“Oh, I think I can work with that scenario,” Hannah said, before reaching up and placing a tender kiss on Donovan’s lips. “Now show me your boat.”

“Ship, Angel. She is a ship, and the proudest of the fleet.” They left the cabin with Hannah’s light laughter trailing behind them.

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

Donovan took her time showing Hannah around until she noticed the rocking and rolling of the vessel below decks was causing the blonde woman to turn the shade of her eyes. With a muffled curse, she hastened to get Hannah back above deck and into the fresh air and sunshine.

“Are you all right, Hannah?” Donovan asked solicitously as she rubbed the woman’s heaving back. They had barely made it to the railing before everything became too much and Hannah proceeded to lose her breakfast.

The blonde head nodded. “Yes, love. I think everything just finally caught up with me and the motion of the bo… ship made it all come to a head.” She chuckled despite herself. “So to speak.”

“Well, I think maybe I should take you home, or maybe into town to get something to eat?”

“Maybe just off the ship for a while?” Hannah said piteously. “I think I would just like to feel stable again for a few minutes.”

“I think we can arrange that. Mr. Merryweather!” Donovan called, and Hannah stood amazed at the instant change in her companion’s voice and demeanor.

“Aye, sir.”

“I am very pleased with the progress. You and the rest of the crew make sure you get some shore time while we are here. I will be back later in the week. I would like my books dropped off at the cottage.”

“Aye, sir. What of Harold?”

“I am still considering his punishment. I will let you know when I have decided.”

“Aye, sir, I’ll have your books delivered to the cottage this afternoon. And if I may be so bold, Captain, congratulations. I am glad to see you’ve found your dream at last.”

Ice blue eyes pinned him in place for a long moment and for the first time since their very first fight, John Merryweather was afraid he had stepped where angels feared to tread. That fear melted into a nothing when the blue eyes warmed and Donovan smiled at him.

“Thank you, John,” the Captain answered quietly, shocking him with her use of his first name. “I have, though we will have to discuss how you knew of my dreams later.”

He nodded and lowered his eyes. “Aye, sir. At your convenience.”

“Very well then, Mr. Merryweather. Carry on. I will see you before the end of the week.”

The man saluted sharply and Donovan returned the salute before she and Hannah headed down the gangplank to the dock. When they reached the end of the short pier, Donovan tucked Hannah’s hand into the crook of her elbow and covered it with her hand. Then she smiled down into sparkling eyes.

“Better, Angel?”

Hannah nodded briskly, still adjusting to the lightning changes in Donovan’s deportment. She was amazed at the sheer presence Donovan exuded in her ship’s captain persona. So very different from the private person Hannah felt she knew so much better.

Slowly they strolled in the direction of town, and Hannah’s first thought was one of amazement at how very similar it was to the one of her own time. There was a trading post that Hannah could see resembled the general store, and the beach area had several canoes and small boats. There was what appeared to be a communal meeting house, and a large pit close to it.

“Where do the sailors stay?” Hannah asked, motioning back to the ship. “I don’t see a hot… an inn.”

“We are the only ship that stays here longer than overnight anymore, and my men stay on the ship or sleep on the beach. Mostly they stay on the beach, glad just to be on dry land.”

“Did there used to be an inn for them? When the other ships came?”

Donovan scratched the back of her neck. “Um, no. We stepped in before that became a possibility. We stumbled on this little island about six years ago.”

Hannah was quiet for a bit. They continued walking around the small village, noting the numerous small homes set back in the trees. Donovan took Hannah into the trading post, and she was pleasantly surprised by both its size and the variety of goods available there. Hannah spied what she was looking for along the back wall and clasped Donovan’s hand in her own and moved to where the material was stacked on the shelves.

“Captain Scott!” Donovan turned at the hail, and her face broke out in a smile. She opened her arms and the small woman embraced her in a crushing hug. The growl she heard at her back made her smile broaden perceptibly. Donovan loosened her hold on the young native, and the other woman gave her three swift, hard kisses.

Donovan moved completely out of the embrace, and stepped back to wrap herself possessively around Hannah. She felt the blonde woman’s struggle with her jealousy, and whispered, “I love you, Hannah.” Donovan felt Hannah relax back against her and kissed her ear when Hannah’s hands came up to tangle in her own.

The other woman watched the proceedings with interest. She’d never seen the Captain so alive, and she squashed down the jealousy she felt for the blonde woman to rejoice in Donovan’s happiness. She extended a hand toward Hannah who naturally reached back.

“How do you do? I am Satosh Nairoah.”

“Hannah Reilly. It’s nice to meet you.” Amazing how easy it was to be gracious to this woman when she was enveloped in Donovan’s arms.

“It is a pleasure to meet the woman who brings such joy to Captain Scott’s face. I have never seen her so happy.” She and Hannah shared a laugh over the deep flush that covered Donovan’s skin. “What can I do for you today?”

Hannah hesitated, not sure what Satosh’s position was. Donovan sensed the problem and answered the unspoken question.

“Satosh’s family operates the trading post. Her father Debendra is the tribe’s shaman.”

“It is true. So how can I help you, Hannah?”

Hannah looked down at the silk pajamas she was wearing. “I was looking at the material. I need a few more clothes than I originally thought I would. I just… um… I’m not sure…. I can’t sew.”

“That is not a problem,” Donovan said quickly. “Satosh does work that can rival the finest seamstresses on the continent. She does most of my sewing and that of my men.”

Hannah felt the jealousy flare again and wondered why she felt that way. Donovan hadn’t given her a reason to think there was a need for it. Then she recognized the expression on Satosh’s face. Before she could compose herself to comment, the young native woman spoke up.

“I would be most pleased to help you if you wish, Hannah.” She motioned to Donovan. “My father wishes to speak to you. Hannah and I can handle this alone.”

Donovan gazed into Hannah’s eyes for a very long moment before she nodded. “I will be right outside. Call me if you need me.”

“I always need you,” Hannah confirmed instantly. “But you go on. Satosh and I will be fine.”

Donovan brushed a light kiss across Hannah’s lips and squeezed her tenderly before letting her go and walking back to the front of the store and out the door. Hannah and Satosh regarded one another for a silent moment, before the blonde decided to lay all the cards on the table.

“You love her,” Hannah stated. Satosh held her eyes briefly before she nodded and dropped them to the floor.

“From the moment she rescued me from slavers three years ago.” She stepped behind the counter and began lifting down bolts of cloth.

“But you never told her… why?” Hannah started sorting through the bolts, laying those she liked to one side.

Satosh turned from the shelves then and faced Hannah eye to eye. “I knew she was not meant for me, nor I for her. She told Da that her destiny and mine followed different paths. You already owned her heart.”

“As she owned mine.”

Satosh nodded. “I can see what is between you. It is hard to accept such blunt truth, but I have known it in my heart always. Confronting it face to face is a little different.”

Hannah reached out then and covered Satosh’s hand with her own. “You will find someone, Satosh.”

The younger woman smiled crookedly with tears in her eyes. “You sound like my mother.”

“Hannah chuckled. “Listen to her. I’ve been told they know *everything*.”

Satosh laughed now and added, “Or they like to think they do anyway. It is scary how they seem to know the minute you decide to misbehave.” She caught the melancholy in Hannah’s eyes. “Hannah? Have I said something to upset you?”

Hannah shook her head. “No, no… I just… I never knew my mother. She died giving birth to me.”

Satosh reached over and squeezed her hands gently. “Then I shall introduce you to mine. She will adopt you much like she did Captain Scott, I expect.”

“I’d like that.”

Silence fell for several moments as they continued to sort through the material. Satosh restored the ones Hannah did not want to the shelves and then turned back to the stack that was left. “Do you have any ideas on how you would like these made up?”

Hannah thought about it seriously for a bit, knowing she was going to have to fit into clothing and styles of which she had no concept. “I dunno, really. Something along the lines of what Donovan has, I guess. Maybe a dress or two?” She shrugged slim shoulders. “What do you suggest?”

Satosh took a long moment to look Hannah up and down thoroughly. “Undress for me please.”

Hannah’s brows shot to her hairline. “Excuse me?”

“I need to measure you. I know what to do for you. So remove your clothing please so I can get your measurements and get started.”

Hannah looked around at the wide open store. Even though the two of them were alone at the moment, she was not about to chance taking off her clothing where just anyone could walk in and see her. “Um, Satosh… I can’t do that here. What if someone walks in?”

The native woman had already turned her attention to the material on the counter, separating it into piles for trousers, shirts and dresses. “What? Oh, I beg your pardon. Come with me.” She drew Hannah into a small alcove off the dry goods area. “Let me know when you are ready for me. It will not take us but a few moments.”

Hannah ran her hands through her hair, wondering when her life had turned so completely upside down. Then she visualized Donovan’s face and relaxed. This will work. It has to.

Satosh was all business when she came back into the changing room. She mumbled to herself, and made notes on a small piece of paper with a stubby little pencil. When she was done, she left without a word and Hannah proceeded to redress herself before stepping back into the store.

“Do you know when Captain Scott is leaving?”

“Not exactly. After the Ball, but….”

“That gives me about ten days. I will ask Mama and Tri to help me.”

“Oh, I don’t want to put you out or anything.”

“It will be our pleasure. Obviously you are in great need. And despite myself and the place you hold in Donovan’s heart, I find that I like you, Hannah Reilly.”

“I’m glad, Satosh. It would be nice to have another friend.” She paused then forged ahead, her curiosity getting the better of her. “Um, can I ask you something?”

“Certainly,” Satosh replied. “I can always refuse to answer.”

Hannah chuckled. “Good point. I was just wondering about your English. It is perfect… much better than mine. Where did you learn to speak it so well?”

“Captain Scott. Four years ago, the village nursed her and her men back to health after they came into port with a terrible sickness. I do not think my father knows to this day what it was or where it came from. In return, she offered to teach us to read and write English to better enable us to deal with the merchants who came here. It gave us a great advantage in dealing with them, as we could understand them, and they did not know it.”

Satosh paused in thought then continued. “It made me angry at first to be learning this odd language. Why did we need it, I thought. I didn’t want to be bothered with most of the men that came here, nor did I want their trade. Of course, I was still a child then, and most arrogant.”

“Did you feel the same way about Donovan and her crew?”

“No. I was angry at them for introducing the language and forcing its use upon my people. But to their credit, they all learned to speak mine fluently as well. It was the slavers who made me see differently. Because if I had understood their language, I would have known what they were up to.”

“So after that….”

“After that, I made sure we ALL learned to speak this odd English language. Come… let us go find my mother, so I can introduce you. It is almost time for lunch, so we will find Da and Donovan wherever she is.”

“You sound sure.”

“You have not tasted my mother’s cooking. Trust me… they will be there.”

The two walked out the front door and Satosh closed it firmly behind them. Hannah looked at her. “You don’t lock it?”

“There is no need. The door is closed. They know that we are not opened for business.” Without another word, Satosh led the way to a cot not far from the trading post. Hannah shook her head in amazement, dreading the day that that sort of trust would disappear from this world and followed without another word.
Chapter X

“You wanted to see me, Debendra?” Donovan extended a hand as she approached the shaman outside of the trading post. He came around the side of the building to receive her greeting then gestured to her towards his home.

“Come. Mama is expecting us, and Satosh will know where to find us when she and Hannah are done.”

“No, Debendra. I told Hannah I would wait for her right outside.”

“You do not trust Satosh to do her best for Hannah?”

“Hannah was uncomfortable. This is all very new to her.” No-nonsense blue eyes pinned the shaman in place.

“Very well. Let us at least wait in the shade though. It is too warm to be standing around in the sun if one is not working.”

Donovan nodded, and they moved to one side of the store to sit at the base of a large tree. Donovan could hear the murmur of conversation floating out the open window, and though she could no longer see the front door, she felt comfortable about being able to keep an ear out for Hannah.

Debendra sat quietly for a time, simply observing his young friend, noticing instantly the difference in her demeanor. “You have found her at last, I see. Love becomes you, my friend.” Donovan’s head snapped around so quickly it was surprising to the older man that it didn’t go flying off. Questions burned from the eyes that seared into his and he held up a hand and smiled.

“Calm yourself, Donovan.” Her eyes widened further. Only very rarely did anyone outside of her family call her by her given name. “I have known about the dreams for years… since you came to us with the sickness. You called for her. You called for Green Eyes.”

“You didn’t see her eyes. You couldn’t have.”

“No, but I can see the difference she has made in you. You have a glow about you now… a peace that was not there before.”

Donovan dragged her eyes away from his then, contemplating the truth of his words. She did not realize how self evident the change she felt deep in her soul was to those around her. She wondered if she had made the same difference in Hannah’s life.

“Yes, you have,” Debendra rumbled. Donovan turned to look at him again, her brows furrowed. “You were wondering if you had made such a change for Green Eyes. The answer is yes.”

“How did… do·?”

Debendra chuckled. “It was easy to see what you were thinking just following your body language. I simply furthered your train of thought. As for her… well, you will just have to trust that as a shaman, I know these things. I do have to have some secrets, you know.”

Donovan smiled. “I can respect that. And her name is Hannah.”

“A lovely name… what is its meaning?”

Donovan smiled. This she knew. She had done some searching in the early morning hours after she had returned from her fight with the pirates, hoping it would give her some insight into the woman she had fallen in love with and yet was just learning to know.

“It means favor, grace.”

“Then if she is as aptly named as yourself, you are most fortunate, my friend.”

Donovan nodded. “I think I would be, even if she wasn’t.”

“She has snared you very well.”

Donovan shook her head and looked Debendra directly in the eyes. “No, my friend. She didn’t trap me. I walked willingly to stand at her side. That is my place. It always has been.”

“That is good. Now perhaps Satosh will give up her foolish dreams and turn her attention to her own future.”

“What?”

“Come now, Donovan. Surely you know she has affection for you. She has never hidden how she feels about you.”

“She’s always been like a sister to me Debendra. You know that.”

“Yes, and now she will realize it as well.”

Donovan shifted uncomfortably on the ground before moving to stand. “Maybe I should go back inside. I don’t want Hannah….” A large hand on her arm kept her in place and she turned her attention back to the shaman’s serious eyes.

“Satosh will not bring dishonor to herself or me by overstepping her bounds. It is a truth she has long known. She is just facing the reality of it now.”

“But….”

“Trust, Donovan. If not me or Satosh, trust in Hannah’s ability to take care of herself. I think you will be surprised at the outcome.”

“You know something?”

“Only the strength of will that I sensed in her. She will call you if she needs you.”

Donovan nodded, and they sat silently for a time. Then she turned her attention back to him. “What did you need to see me about?”

“I was simply curious about what happened last night. Were they the same merchants as before?”

The Pirate Captain turned to look at the shaman, and his soul was pierced by the burning fierceness of her stare. He felt amazement at the change so evident in her behavior and wondered again how she could bear the weight of responsibility she carried. He was glad for her decision to accept it though, as it had saved his people and many others from unspeakable atrocities.

“It was Blackthorne again, yes. We are going to have to step up our efforts to stop him.”

“Do you think that is wise?” he asked.

“No, but I do think it is necessary.”

Debendra nodded. “Do as you think best, my friend, but remember you have the welfare of another to consider now.”

Conversation died after that, and they sat wrapped in their own thoughts as the fitful breeze blew around them. It seemed like forever but was in fact only minutes before they heard the door shut, and saw two slight figures come around the corner and stop short. Debendra chuckled, and he and Donovan stood.

“You expected us to be with your mother, young one?” Satosh nodded and he chuckled again. “You know me well. And we would have been, but that Donovan gave her word to Hannah that she would wait right outside. So that is what we did.” Debendra turned to Donovan. “Will you introduce me?”

Donovan stepped to Hannah’s side, and took her hands. She gazed deep into Hannah’s eyes, pleased by what she saw there. Donovan wrapped herself around Hannah and looked at the shaman. “Debendra, permit me to introduce you to Green Eyes… also known as Hannah Reilly. Hannah, this is my friend Debendra Nairoah… Satosh’s father and shaman of the island tribe.

“How do you do, Hannah? It is a pleasure to finally meet you.”

“Likewise, Mr. Nairoah.”

“Who? Oh, Debendra, please. Otherwise I will never remember to answer you. Now come. Mama is waiting, and it is never a good idea to keep Mama waiting when lunch is ready.”

Donovan and Satosh both laughed. “That is very true.”

Hannah took Donovan’s hand in her own as they followed their hosts on the short trip to their cot. She was looking forward to meeting the formidable Mama.

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

Had it not been rude to stare, Hannah felt quite sure that is exactly what she would have done. Mama was the tiniest, spunkiest whirlwind she had ever seen, and she could see precisely why Mama ruled the roost so effortlessly.

As soon as they crossed the threshold, she scattered the rest of the family, insuring that she and Hannah were alone. Hannah felt the stare that drilled into her as Mama studied her, but she bore it as stoically as she could manage. Satosh had been sent to find her sister and Donovan and Debendra had been banished to another part of the small home to wait until called for the meal. Donovan hesitated, but a look from Mama and a nod from Hannah sent her scurrying behind Debendra into the other room.

“I am glad to meet you at last, Hannah,” Mama said in her soft, powerful voice. “Donovan has searched for you for a long time.” Hannah did not know what to make of that statement and she stayed quiet. “Tell me a little about yourself.”

Mama took up a knife and a loaf of bread, and motioned Hannah to the stack of plates and cutlery on the table. Hannah moved obediently to follow the silent request, and started setting the table even as she considered the best way to answer the older woman’s question.

“Um, well. There’s not a lot to tell really. I, uh… I’m a writer, and I came here with Donovan.”

“Your parents approved of this?”

“My parents are not living to disapprove. I only have an uncle left of my immediate family.

“He approves then?”

“I am an adult, so I haven’t asked for his permission or approval. I don’t need it, but he would be happy that Donovan and I found each other, as would my father were he still living.”

“And if he wasn’t?”

“It would be his loss. I won’t give her up… not for him. Not for anything.”

Mama gave her a smile then and a nod of approval. “You are the one in her dreams. You are Green Eyes.”

“Yes ma’am. I am, as she is the one in mine.”

Mama nodded again, as though she had expected this revelation. She moved to the fire and removed the pot that was sending such enticing odors throughout the small home. Hannah blushed when her stomach rumbled as the scent wafted up to her. Mama chuckled.

“That is a very high compliment. Let me call the family in and we will see if you find the taste as good as the smell.”

It didn’t take but a minute for the family to gather around the small table, and Debendra seated everyone, putting Hannah near Mama and Donovan between Hannah and himself. With his daughters seated side by side across from Hannah and Donovan, they were ready to eat, and he began to dish up lunch for everyone.

It was quiet for a few minutes as each person applied themselves wholeheartedly to the task of eating. After several mouthfuls, Hannah wiped her lips and turned to Mama. “This is spectacular.”

“Mama knows this is my favorite,” Donovan said.

“Would you share your recipe with me?” Hannah asked the woman at the head of the table.

Shocked silence blanketed the table, and Hannah looked round in alarm. “What? What did I say wrong?”

Mama chuckled again, and Hannah realized that all the lines in her face were really that… laugh lines, as though she found joy in everything. She smiled expectantly. “I am sorry, Hannah. I do not laugh at you, but at the similar reactions around the table. You see, no one has ever dared to ask for a recipe from me. You are the first brave enough to do so.”

Hannah blushed furiously and reached out a hand to Donovan who immediately engulfed the smaller hand in her own. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any offense.”

“Hannah,” Mama said, covering the hand that still rested on the table. “I am not offended. I am very pleased… for many reasons, and I would be happy to share this recipe as well as a few of her other favorites with you, if you would like.”

“Yes, I would. Very much.”

“Good.”

Silence again as the family continued to at, then the younger sister finally spoke up, her curiosity getting the better of her. “Hannah?” spoken so quietly that Donovan had to squeeze the blonde’s hand to get her attention. She cocked an eyebrow in question, and Donovan nodded over towards Tri.

“I’m sorry, Tri. I didn’t hear you. Did you ask me something?”

“Well, I was going to.” She cleared her throat self-consciously and spoke a little louder. “I was just curious as to where you were from. You do not speak as Donovan or the rest of us do.”

Hannah closed her eyes. She’d forgotten about the understated drawl she spoke with, and didn’t even hear the lilting brogue Donovan spoke with except for the music it made in her ears. She opened her mouth to say… something… when she heard Donovan answer the question.

“Hannah is from the United States. Her uncle is an American businessman with interests in Bermuda.”

Truth, as far as it went. Just not the entire truth. It was enough for Tri and Satosh though. Their brown eyes gleamed with excitement.

“America? That sounds like a wonderful place to live.”

“I have to admit that even with all its screw-ups and difficulties, I love it.” Hannah felt Donovan tense. “But I would give it up in a heartbeat to stay with Donovan.”

The two younger women swooned at the declaration, and Mama chuckled. Hannah felt Donovan uncoil and relax under her touch. Donovan shifted slightly to look at her and the rest of the world faded from their consciousness.

“Would you really?” with aching need in her eyes.

“Where you go, I go, love. You are my home now.”

Donovan reached a trembling hand out to Hannah’s cheek, caressing it tenderly. Only Debendra’s throat clearing brought them back to the present and reminded them of the fact that they were not alone. But they spoke a moment more with their eyes, reassuring one another, and making promises for later.

“So, Hannah… Mama says you are a writer.” Hannah’s eyebrows went up, wondering when Mama could possibly have shared that bit of information with Debendra. But she acknowledged the truth of the statement.

“I find that most intriguing. What do you write?”

“Um, well… I write a column for the news service and I write books. Uh, books for children and young girls.”

“A news column? Is America so progressive then? I was given to understand that the women of your country were expected to be good wives and mothers.” This observation from Debendra was simply that, and tainted with nothing except honest curiosity.

“Well, I have always had a forward thinking family, and both my father and my uncle were always very supportive of my choices in life.”

“And what of the rest of your society? Would they accept you and Donovan as we do?”

“Can I ask a question here first?” Hannah inquired quietly. At Debendra’s nod, she continued, “Why do you accept Donovan and me so easily?”

A large grin broke across the shaman’s face and was echoed on those of his household. “We are a very small community here on the island, and there are very few secrets among us. Though we do not always agree or get along, we have learned to be nonjudgmental of those around us unless the situation warrants it. Love between two people does not warrant judgment… it warrants acceptance of a beautiful gift.”

The tears streamed silently down Hannah’s face, and Debendra grew concerned on the sight of them. “Oh, young one. I did not mean to upset you.” He would have spoken further but for the hand she held up to stop his speech.

She shook her head and bit her lip, trying to get her emotions under control. Donovan sat silently with one arm wrapped around Hannah’ shoulders and the other holding her hand, stroking it gently. Finally she took a deep breath. “No, Debendra. These are happy tears. Even in America Donovan and I would not find acceptance like we have here. Thank you.”

“I wish there was a way we could spread your philosophy,” Donovan muttered, “especially where my mother is concerned.”

“She will come around, Donovan,” Mama assured quietly. “I have faith.”

“Rest assured then, my friend,” Debendra said, clapping Donovan on the shoulder. “If Mama has faith, it will be so.”

“Enough of the sentimentality. I want Hannah to tell about the books she has written.”

“Tri!” Mama exclaimed before turning to Hannah with a smile. “The young are always so impatient.”

Debendra laughed. “The same can be said for the not-so-young as well.”

“Yes, Mama. We all want to hear about it,” Satosh said enthusiastically. “We know of so few women writers.”

Hannah laughed, as much a tension relief as honest enthusiasm. “Well, I have two young girls that I am writing a series about. It is mostly stories of things that happened to my best friend and me when we were growing up. We uh… we got into a lot of mischief, and that translates well to young readers.”

“Oh that sounds so interesting. Do you have any of your books here?”

Hannah shook her head. “No. I uh, I didn’t think to bring any with me when I left.”

“Perhaps you could tell us one.”

“I don’t think….”

“Please?”

“Really, I can’t tell a story like I write one. My thoughts flow much better when I write them out than when I try to speak them. I’ll try to write one out for you to read before we leave.”

“Oh, that would be wonderful!”

“Thank you so much. We would be so grateful!” both young women exclaimed together. Hannah smiled broadly at their contagious enthusiasm.

The meal continued for a little while longer, conversation flowing between everyone while Mama served up a luscious dessert. Mama saw the question in Hannah’s eyes and nodded imperceptibly. Donovan watched their interaction and smiled. Hannah had made a new friend, and without knowing it, added to her family as well. Once Mama took you in, you were family for life.

“Can we help you clean up, Mrs. … I mean Mama? Doesn’t seem fair for you to do it all.”

“Not this time, Hannah, though I appreciate the offer. I think Donovan is ready to leave and I do not want to hold you up.”

“We can wait fifteen minutes to help, especially since you cooked *and* ya’ll are sewing my clothes.”

Mama saw the determination in Hannah’s face and relented gracefully. She understood well the need to be accepted as a contributing member of what she now thought of as Donovan’s family. Within moments, Hannah and Donovan were standing alone in the kitchen with Hannah washing and rinsing and Donovan drying and putting things away.

Mama and Debendra stood in the doorway silently, watching the tableau unfold before them. Hannah and Donovan operated like a well-oiled machine. The looks and touches were simply an added confirmation of what they so obviously shared together.

“You know, Mama,” Debendra whispered into his wife’s ear as he nudged her out the door and back towards the trading post. “I never thought we would see Donovan so completely captured.”

Mama elbowed him in the stomach. “You just never thought to see Donovan in the kitchen cleaning up, old man.”

His merriment rang out across the small village like bells, and the trill of her laughter made a wonderful counterpoint for the sound.

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

The couple pulled the cottage door behind them as they left, and waved to Debendra and Mama as they passed the trading post. There was no need for words, and they remained quiet as they made their way back towards Hannah’s with hands clasped together. The breeze was welcome in the afternoon heat and as they neared the beach house, they felt a distinct chill pass over them. It was momentary, but it was distinct enough that they looked to one another to be sure it wasn’t imagination.

“You felt that, didn’t you?” Hannah asked.

“Yes, and as odd as it was, it was quite refreshing in this heat. I wonder what caused it.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I should do some more research on it when we get home. It could be a phenomenon that Jack and Daddy studied.”

“That might not be a bad idea. I wouldn’t mind a little more information if there is some kind of peculiar weather pattern in the area. That could be useful.”

Hannah nodded. “All right. I’ll see what I can find out. I have their journals with me. I was reading them, comparing them to my diary.” She couldn’t help the slight blush that colored her face.

Donovan wrapped Hannah in her arms and whispered in her ear. “You are very beautiful when you blush. May I know the reason for it?” She felt Hannah laugh beneath her hands.

“I was just thinking how so many things tie together now. Things that make a lot more sense since I met you… since I understood that we have been meeting across time in our dreams.”

“I know what you mean. The fact that we met in our dreams and then found one another in real life is extraordinary. The fact that we did so across time is fantastically unbelievable.”

“Ya know what, though?”

“What, Angel?”

“I like having my dream come to life. And I like being a dream come true.”

Donovan tightened her hold. “So do I.”

They stood wrapped around one another gazing into the horizon for long moments. “Hey,” Donovan continued to whisper and Hannah shook her head at the ticklish sensation that skittered across her neck. Donovan chuckled. “You up for a swim?”

“I don’t have anything to wear.”

“Neither do I, but we’re alone. No one will see… except you and me.”

Hannah turned in Donovan’s arms and clasped her hands behind Donovan’s neck. “Can I trust you to protect my virtue?” she asked coyly.

Donovan watched the embers in Hannah’s gaze turn to fire before she leaned down and captured the velvety lips and claimed them for her own. Only when their breathing grew ragged did she pull back slightly.

“Hmm,” Hannah said on an odd breath as she stepped back slightly out of Donovan’s reach. She slowly began to unfasten her top. Donovan froze, her eyes locked on the movements of Hannah’s hands. “Was that a yes?” She slid her top off her shoulders and dropped it to the sand. “Or a no?” The pants slipped off with ease, and Hannah wiggled just the slightest bit before she stepped out of them.

She turned her back to Donovan and heard the whimper escape from her throat. Hannah smiled as she reached to unfasten her bra and slid it down slowly, feeling the growl before she felt two large hands at her waist. She released the garment even as she leaned into the touch that was drawing her into the firm body behind her.

“You are a tease, wench!” Donovan complained, then bit lightly into the juncture between Hannah’s shoulder and neck. Hannah moaned at the sensation. “And paybacks are bloody hell,” Donovan said as she moved away from the warm body in front of her. “Last one in is a rotten egg!” Donovan shouted, and proceeded to strip and make it into the water before Hannah opened her eyes.

She made the mistake of turning around to smirk at Hannah, and got caught by the vision of the woman who stood nearly naked before her. “God, it is a good thing this water is cool,” Donovan muttered as she began swimming away from the shore.

By the time Hannah recovered her wits, Donovan was scurrying away her, and Hannah rushed to finish her undressing to join her. The water was refreshingly cool, and after a bit they came together to talk and play a bit. Finally, quite worn out, they walked jointly from the shore to their clothing. Donovan took Hannah’s hand before she could grab her clothes and turned the smaller woman to face her.

“You are a very beautiful woman, Hannah Reilly, and I am blessed that you love me.”

Hannah couldn’t help the blush, but returned the compliment in kind. “You are no more blessed than I am, Donovan Scott, and I am enjoying to getting to know you… in mind, in soul and in body… again.” The last was said with a bit of impish tease and a smile.

“As am I, Angel. Now get dressed,” she added with a growl, “before I forget the manners my mother tried so hard to instill in me. And the gallantry my father did.”

Getting dressed was slow going, as they both were sneaking looks at each other. Finally, though, they managed to be decent, and Hannah took Donovan’s hand and led her down the beach to towards the beach house.

When they reached Jack’s house, Donovan dropped into a chair on the patio. “It is very nice here. I could stay right here to watch the sun set. Jack chose well when he built here.”

Hannah fell into the chair next to her. “Yeah, he did. I’m thirsty. Would you like something?”

Donovan made to stand up and Hannah waved her back to her seat. “I’ll get it. Would you like some lemonade?”

“Are you sure?” Donovan didn’t feel right about letting Hannah wait on her. But Hannah for reasons she couldn’t out her finger on, had little warning tingles running up and down her spine. There was something wrong with this scenario, but she didn’t know what it was.

“Yes, love. I’m sure. I’d like the chance to spoil you a little.”

Donovan captured Hannah’s hand and lifted it to her lips. “Lemonade would be lovely,” she acquiesced.

Hannah nodded and pulled away and walked into the house.

She noticed the light was blinking on the answering machine and she pushed the button as she made her way over to the refrigerator. She grabbed the pitcher from the shelf as she listened to Jack’s voice, followed by the sound of Katie. She chuckled listening to her best friend gush and ramble, and made a mental note to call her later.

Jack’s voiced reminded her to pick up the journal and her diary, and she flipped through the journal, trying to find the entry that was nagging at her. Something about the barrier crossing. Something tied to her father’s death that coincided with Donovan’s illness four years ago. She rubbed her suddenly throbbing temples.

With her concentration focused elsewhere, Hannah wasn’t paying strict attention to what she was doing, and as she reached for the tumblers, one of them slipped from her grasp and crashed to the floor in a shattering of glass.

“Yikes!”

Donovan heard her exclamation and the splintering of glasses, and rushed inside to see if she could help. Just as she crossed the threshold, Hannah looked up, and realization dawned.

“Donovan, NO!”

But it was too late. Donovan was gone.
Chapter XI
Hannah rushed to the spot where Donovan had been standing, frantically searching the empty space, knowing in her soul that Donovan was gone, but needing to confirm it anyway. She pushed the glass door aside, nearly breaking the glass with the force of her shove.

Hannah stumbled out the door and fell down the steps, scraping her knees and the palms of her hands. She never noticed the blood that seeped out or the tears that slid soundlessly down her face. She ran around the house then out toward the beach. She noted that there was only a single set of footprints leading up the path, and fell to her knees in agony.

“NOOOOOOOO!!!!” came the agonized scream and Hannah dropped her head to her knees as sobs wracked her frame. The keening of her soul was sharp and swift, and she sat in the sand for an indefinite amount of time just breathing, focusing her energy on regaining rational thought.

“Okay, I need to get to the cottage. She has to be at the cottage,” she muttered to herself, sitting up and scrubbing her eyes with her hands. “Ow!”

Hannah turned her hands over to look at her palms. “Well,” she mumbled. “At least I did a good job while I was at it.” She moved to stand and hissed at the pain that lanced through her knees. “Jumping Jesus Christ, that hurts!” She winced again as she ran her hands through her hair. “Okay Hannah… think. First let’s get cleaned up, and then we’ll take a walk to the cottage. She’ll be at the cottage.”

Satisfied with her train of thought, Hannah eased back into the house and went straight to the bathroom. She groaned when she saw the amount of damage that had been done to the silk trousers she wore, as well as the shredded skin beneath them.

She shucked her clothes and stepped into the shower, taking care to insure that her hands and knees were well cleaned before she shut off the water. She made sure they were no longer bleeding, then slipped into a bathing suit and sarong. Hannah grimaced at the pull in her knees, but walked down the steps and to the beach. She hesitated, worrying about the single set of prints in the sand, then turned her feet and her attention to the east and Donovan’s cottage.

She couldn’t run, but she walked as swiftly as she could manage… until there was a burn in her legs and a lack of air in her lungs. She made it to the path and stood for a moment, trying to catch her breath. Something wasn’t right.

“C’mon Reilly… suck it up and go find her.”

Talking to herself out loud seemed to bolster her courage enough to move her down the path towards the cottage. What confronted her when she got there made her heart shatter.

The cottage had reverted to its original state… that is to say it had become the uninhabited, in-need-of-repair shell that Hannah had stumbled across her first day on the island. A hand flew to Hannah’s mouth to contain the sob that wanted to rip from her throat.

Hannah continued her trek up the slick steps and into the deserted house. The furniture was cloaked once more and dust was thick in the air. She instinctively looked to the wall, but the picture that had been there both times before was… destroyed. The two women had been literally cut out of the scene and the sky had been painted an ominous, stormy black.

“DONOVAN!!!!” Knowing it was pointless, but needing to try anyway. Silence greeted her, and she moved to sit on the cold, mossy steps. She ran her hands through messy blonde hair and thought. I need to find a way to reverse this.

She closed the door firmly behind her and walked slowly down the path. She paid careful attention to her steps on the way home, and as she reached her own porch, another piece of the puzzle fell into place. There was no cold spot. It must be the doorway, and it’s not open anymore.

Hannah would have cried, the pain was so biting, but she put it aside for later. She was a woman on a mission, and she had work to do.

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

Donovan kept her eyes closed, content to let the world stop spinning at such a frantic pace. When she finally did manage to open them slightly, she was surprised to find herself laid out flat on the ground. The last thing she remembered was… “HANNAH!”

She tried to stand and promptly fell back onto her butt. Donovan sat there for a long moment with her eyes closed trying to regain her equilibrium. All right, let me try this again. She opened her eyes and glanced around slowly. The glen she was in was familiar, and at the same time, not.

Donovan stood up very gradually, not wanting a repeat of her first performance. She took a deep breath, satisfied that the world wasn’t going to tilt and throw her off again. Then she took a determined look at her surroundings.

It was the rock formation that made her freeze in her inspection. Wait just a goddamn minute. What the bloody hell?? Where the hell is Hannah’s house?

Donovan walked down to the beach noting the single set of footprints leading to the pathway that she stood on. Then she turned and made her way back to the glen, hoping that she’d just imagined the missing house.

She sighed in frustration when the house remained gone, and then reached for her head as a slicing pain ripped through it. Oh God, not again was her last thought before the darkness claimed her.

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

Hannah hesitated at the threshold of Jack’s house, squaring her shoulders before she stepped back in. The journal and her diary still sat on the counter, a stark reminder of the reality of her unexplainably bizarre situation. She took two steps into the kitchen then hissed in pain.

“GODDAMNIT!” she screamed to the world at large, furious at herself and the circumstances she now found herself in. She reached down and wiped gently at the gash on her foot, removing the splinter of glass. Hannah grabbed a paper towel and wiped at the trickle of blood, then hobbled to the bathroom. She washed the cut and bandaged it, then stopped in her room to retrieve her sandals before slowly returning to the kitchen to clean up the mess with grim determination.

When she was finished, she snatched the diary and journal from the counter and dropped onto the couch gracelessly. She sat still for several minutes, tears welling in her eyes and her hand covering her mouth while she concentrated on breathing. Finally she opened the journal and began a methodical search for the information she needed.

It was the ringing of the phone that brought her out of her meticulous study, and that was the first time Hannah noticed the lateness of the hour. It was nearly sunset and she rubbed her eyes, which were stinging from the forced strain they suffered under as she focused hard on each and every word, hoping what she needed would jump in front of her. Only when she heard Jack’s voice over the answering machine did she make a move to grab the phone.

“Hi, Hannah! It’s just me chec….”

“Jack?” Hannah’s strained whisper alerted him to her state of mind more than anything else could have.

“Hannah? Hannah, honey… what’s wrong?”

He could hear her breathing as she tried to regain control of her voice. He wanted to reach out and comfort her, and cursed the fact that they were an hour’s flight apart. Jack spoke slowly and calmly into the receiver, helping Hannah to focus on his voice.

“Hannah, breathe now. Slowly. In and out… that’s it… in and out. Good girl. Relax and listen to my voice and just breathe.” He noted the gradual change in her respiration and decided to continue to talk, hoping it would relax her enough to share whatever had upset her so greatly.

“Hey, guess what? I may be home sooner than I thought. Something happened about an hour ago and the weather patterns seem to be returning to their normal routine. I need to monitor it for a few more days, but if things stay like they are, I may be able to come home in for….”

“Jack?” Hannah said still whispering. “Jack, I need you to come home now. Please?”

Jack heard the plea in her voice and his heart broke. There had only been twice in her life that she had ever expressed a need that great, and he could not deny it now any more than he had either of the other times she’d asked anything of him.

“I’ll make arrangements, Hannah. I’ll be there sometime shortly after dark.”

“Thank you, Jack. I’ll be waiting at the field for you.”

He would have protested, even knowing the futility of his words, but she hung up before he could speak again. He muttered incoherently to himself instead, flinging his bag on the bed and beginning to repack his clothes.

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

As soon as she hung up the phone, Hannah grabbed the journal and diary and set them near the door. She would study them in the village while she waited for Jack to arrive. Then she walked to her room to get dressed.

It didn’t take long, and Hannah was ready to go. Just as she came into the living room, the phone rang again. She thought briefly of ignoring it and leaving, then decided she could wait the thirty seconds to see if it was Jack.

“Hi, Hannah! It’s Katie again, if you’re there?”

The happiness in her voice made Hannah both joyful and agonized all at the same time, and she was suddenly overwhelmed with a desire to speak to the best friend she’d ever had. With a shaking hand, Hannah brought the receiver to her ear.

“Hi, Katie! How’s married life treating you?” She smiled when she said it, picturing her friend’s face as she got married, but she could feel the tears pooling in her eyes. And she knew by the intake of breath she heard on the other end of the phone that Katie could hear them in her voice.

“Better than single life is you it sounds like. Hannah, what’s wrong?”

“Oh Katie… I lost her. She’s gone and I may not get her back.”

“Whoa, whoa, hon. Slow down and take it easy. Can we start this at the beginning so I know what page we’re on? Now who’s gone and where did she go?”

“Donovan. I found my Blue Eyes, Katie, and her name is Donovan.”

“Blue Eyes?”

“I found where I belong, Katie, and the one I am meant to be with. Donovan is the woman of my dreams.”

“That’s wonderful, Hannah. I am so happy for you. When do I get to meet her?”

Now the tears flowed in earnest. “Oh Katie!” It was all she could manage. There was just no way for her to explain this, and it made her frustrated and aggravated. More than anything, it hurt beyond words.

“Hannah? I want you to listen to me, okay?” Katie waited until she heard Hannah’s breathing become hiccups and knew that she had Hannah’s undivided attention. “If Donovan is the one you have been waiting for… if she is the one who makes you fit, then you will find her again. I promise you.”

Without her conscious permission, Hannah felt a smile cross her face. She and Katie never made promises they did not intend to keep. “Oh you do, huh?”

“Yep, I sure do,” with absolute certainty.

“And how do you know?”

Katie hesitated, not sure she should share, then shrugged her shoulders. It was the truth, and she and Hannah had always tried to be honest with one another. “Because it’s meant to be, hon.”

“You sound so sure.”

“I am. Trust me on this Hannah. One day, hopefully very soon, you will be introducing me to this dream woman of yours, and I’ll get to have a little heart-to-heart talk with her.”

Now Hannah chuckled shakily. “Uh oh… why don’t I like the sound of that?”

“Maybe because Jack and I have quite a screening process for any perspective suitors.”

“Perspective suitors?!? Screening process?!?”

“Uh huh. You remember the inquisition you and Daddy and the boys put Frank through?”

“Oh boy.”

“Yeah, it is fixing to come back and bite you in the ass.”

“Oh boy.”

“Uh huh,” Katie said again, giggling. “And you get all of us plus Jack and Frank. Donovan is doomed!”

Inexplicably, Katie’s firm belief that she would get the chance to grill Donovan lightened Hannah’s heart and restored her faith in possibilities. Katie heard the change in her reply.

“I don’t think so. She can handle you all with ease… oh, Katie, she has the cutest lilt when she speaks. Not quite a brogue, but not British. I can’t wait for you to meet her. I just….” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “I just have to find her again.”

“You will, Hannah. I promised, didn’t I?” Without giving Hannah an opportunity to speak, Katie continued, “Besides, I want to see her see you in this dress.”

“How? When? But….”

Now Katie laughed out loud. “Mama left me a message after you called her.”

“Waitaminute… she called you on your honeymoon??”

“Oh yeah… this was news that couldn’t wait. Frank actually thought it was funny, especially when he found out WHY she was calling.”

“Oh my God… what did she tell you exactly??”

“She said that you had finally asked for the dress you had made for the masked ball several years ago.”

“Ooookay. And that meant what exactly?”

“It means that we will soon be making Donovan run the gauntlet. Now listen,” Katie rushed on. “Frank and I will be coming to the Pirates’ Ball. So I will see you in a few days, hon. Gotta run.”

“But… but… how… but·?” But Hannah was sputtering to a dial tone and she finally gave up and hung up the phone with an exasperated laugh. “I’ll have to have a word or ten with her when they get here. I’m pretty sure I never said….” Hannah’s thoughts trailed off, but her spirits were considerably lighter as she picked up the books and headed out the door.

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

She managed to make it to town without incident, and happily parked near the tiny restaurant. Merry saw her approach and came out to greet her.

“Hello, Hannah! I thought we might see you this evening. Papa just got a call from Jack asking him to light the field for a night landing. We don’t do those very often.”

There was nothing in her tone to indicate her curiosity, but Hannah could feel the interest in the eyes that met hers.

“Yes, whatever he was working on cleared up, so he said he would come back.”

Merry looked closely at Hannah in the waning daylight. Her eyes were shadowed, and Merry wondered what had happened to bring such sorrow to eyes which only a few days ago had been bright with anticipation. She reached out and took Hannah’s hand.

“Will you join us for supper? We will make sure you are on hand to greet Jack upon his return.” She saw Hannah’s hesitation. “Please. I would like you to meet my children.”

Hannah noted the older woman’s earnest expression and relented. It wasn’t like she could do a lot before Jack got here, and she nodded her acceptance. “I’d like that very much.”

“Good, come with me. It should be just about ready.”

Dinner was quite pleasant, and Hannah was charmed by Merry’s family. She had twins who were just a year shy of Hannah’s own age, and the daughter was married and expecting her first child. The son was on a vacation from his work on Bermuda. He was bashful in his flirting with Hannah, but she was quick to make him see that she was unavailable. He grumbled a little about his luck, which caused a bit of good-natured teasing and laughing. But when Jacob stood and headed to the door, things settled quickly and they all moved to go to the landing strip.

Hannah was a little overwhelmed. She’d hoped to greet Jack privately, but didn’t know how to politely refuse their company. When they saw the choppers lights across the broad ocean, Merry motioned to her children and they bade Hannah goodbye and moved back towards town. Hannah looked after them questioningly. As the sound of rotors grew louder, Merry stepped up beside Hannah.

“I got the distinct impression you needed to greet your uncle privately. We just didn’t want you to have to wait alone.”

Hannah was touched by the gesture and the thoughtfulness. “Thank you, Merry. I appreciate it… all of it.”

“You are welcome. We will see you in a day or two hopefully.”

Jacob waited beside her until the helicopter touched down, then with a pat on her arm and a wave to Jack he followed his family back to town.

Jack stepped from the copter and ducked away from the blades until he reached Hannah’s side. With a glance at her face, he took her in his arms and hugged her with all his considerable strength. He pulled back far enough to plant a kiss on her cheek and then leaned forward to whisper in her ear.

“Let’s go home, honey. We’ll talk there.”

Hannah nodded, taking a great deal of comfort from his mere presence. She knew if anyone could help her find a solution to her current dilemma, Jack could. That coupled with Katie’s promise made her heart just a little lighter.

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

They took ten minutes once they got back to Jack’s house to change into comfortable clothes and start some coffee before they sat down together on the couch. Hannah set the journal and her diary on the table and focused her attention on her hands. Jack’s brows rose when he noticed what the two books actually were, and after waiting a moment for Hannah’s attention, he reached over and covered her hands with his own.

“Are you ready to tell me all about it, Hannah?”

Hannah sat in silent contemplation, carefully considering how to start this conversation. Finally she took a deep breath and stood to pace. “Uncle Jack, do you know why I decided to be a writer?”

Jack looked stunned… not understanding where this was coming from. He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, hoping she would give him a clue or get to the point. He hated the feeling of complete confusion he was currently saddled with.

Hannah smiled sadly and began her story. “When I was a child, just five years old, you gave me a diary. Do you remember?” she asked, gesturing to the thick book on the table. He nodded slowly.

“Yeah. You were always writing, always making picture with your words, even then. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“Oh, uncle. It was the best gift you could have given me. It was part of a major turning point for me.”

“You had a turning point in your life when you were five??”

“The very first dream I clearly remember I had at the age of five. It was when I found Blue Eyes, and it was where I met my imaginary playmate.”

“I’m afraid I don’t quite follow you.”

Hannah sighed loudly and ran her fingers through her hair. “No I guess you couldn’t. I’m not being really clear.” She sat down facing him and looked Jack in the eyes. “When I was five, I began to have two dreams on a regular basis. One dream showed me blue eyes, and for the longest time, the entire focus of the dream was those eyes. For years they watched over me, made me feel loved, protected and special.”

“The other dream was different. I found a playmate. She was… she was so much fun. We ran and played, climbed trees… just did kid stuff. You know what I mean.” Jack nodded again. “It was so much fun I wanted to write everything down. They were the basis for some of my first stories.”

“But I thought your stories were about you and Katie?” Jack was getting more confused.

Hannah nodded and smiled sympathetically. “The published ones are. No one has seen the others. They were just too private.”

“Okay,” Jack sighed. “I can understand that. So why are we talking about it?” It wasn’t asked maliciously, but things weren’t getting any clearer.

“Because I found her. I found my Blue Eyes, and she and my childhood dream playmate are one in the same.”

“She’s real? But that’s great, isn’t it??”

“It would be, if we weren’t separated by time,” Hannah said despondently.

“Excuse me?”

Hannah scrubbed her face again and looked at him with tears in her eyes. “Jack, you gotta level with me. I need to know what you were looking for out here. I have to know everything.” She held up a hand. “Please, Jack. I don’t think I have very much time. I know that you and Daddy were following a phenomenon that involved someone named Donovan, and I know some of the things she was involved in. But I need to know everything. It’s imperative.”

Now Jack ran his hands through his own very short hair and blew out a breath. “That important, huh? All right… you’re gonna fill me in on just what exactly has happened. Then I will tell you about the journal stories.”

Hannah bit her lip and nodded. “All right. Let’s get the coffee. This is gonna take a while.”

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

“Donovan and I grew up together in our dreams. From the time I was five until Daddy died, she was a playmate. I didn’t know she was the same Blue Eyes that kept me company in my other dreams. I never saw her that closely, and we never spoke.” Hannah chuckled. “We did laugh a lot, though.”

“Meanwhile, Blue Eyes was a prominent part of my other dreams. Her eyes were all I saw of her, and they were kind and thoughtful and warm. It was a very long time before I knew she was a woman.” Hannah blushed. “I fell in love with her, even though I knew she was just a dream. I couldn’t help it. We fit.”

“She is the reason you never showed interest in anyone?”

“Yeah. No one could compare to what we had… even in our dreams.”

“Okay, so what happened to change things?” Finally Jack felt like he was getting a focused picture of what was going on.

Hannah took a sip of coffee and scrubbed her hands through her hair. “The first time it changed in college.” She blushed furiously. “Donovan and I… um, well that is when I realized she was a woman.” The statement was almost whispered. Jack flushed at the implication and swallowed hard.

“Ahem, well… then what?”

“Our encounters progressed and they started happening more and more often, and I was always faithful to record them in my diary. When I found the journal, things started to click for me a little. I mean… the bits I’ve gotten to read, well, every sighting that has been noted corresponds to a date in my diary. And the few pieces of the old journal seem to tie in too.”

“Can you give me an example?”

Hannah leaned over and grabbed the books searching carefully for the records she needed. “Here… you see this entry?”

Jack moved over to sit beside her, and paled slightly when he realized the event she has chosen. “This was Mike’s final trip… the last account he made of his journey here.”

“Yes, it is. Now look at this,” she said calmly, but her nervousness was betrayed by her shaking hands. “This is from the journal also, but it is dated September 1851. And it is written in the same hand that other entries were signed ‘Donovan Scott’.”

“Okay,” Jack said with a nod.

“Finally we have my diary, and if you will look at these entries. I saw the eyes in June, when Daddy left to come here, I saw them in August when he let you know the Warrior Maiden was in the area, and I saw them again in September. And the look she gave me then made me believe she KNEW that the Michael she rescued belonged to me somehow.”

“Okay,” Jack said again slowly. “Sooooo….”

“I know that she is from the past Jack, but she is part of my future, and I need to find a way to get back to her.”

“Hannah, I’m not really sure what you’re asking me, or what you want me to do.”

“First I want you to understand that I believe that Donovan and I and whatever the weird weather patterns are that you are studying are all linked together. Then I am going to tell you what happened to me while you were gone.”

He nodded and got up to refill their cups. Hannah took a deep breath and started her story.

“There is a house down the beach to the east about a mile from it. Do you know the one I am talking about?”

“Yeah. Nice solid construction, needs a little work. The locals keep a respectful distance since it belonged to their pirate savior, Don…”

“Donovan Scott. I know. My first day here, I went exploring, and I stumbled across it. I found it intriguing and I took a closer look. The door was unlocked, so I didn’t think it was really trespassing, especially since it was obviously abandoned.” She swallowed. “It was amazing, particularly considering the apparent age of the cottage.”

“Like?”

“Well, like the odd bathing room, and what I think was a crude water closet. Um, a primer pump in the kitchen, and a sink unlike anything I have ever seen. There were dust covers over antique furniture, and the whole place smelled of age and neglect.”

“Gotcha. I’ve never ventured over there, and I forgot to tell you about the local custom. Sorry.”

Hannah smiled brightly. “I’m not, because I needed find it. You see, the next day you were called to Bermuda and things started happening. I had a visitor that night, but it was dark, and I couldn’t see clearly who it was. So the next day, I decided to take a walk and see if I could find my mysterious visitor.”

“Oh, honey… even here, that could have been dangerous.” Jack was appalled by his niece’s lack of discretion.

“No, Uncle Jack. Despite the incredible nature of the truth that I was facing, I knew I was in no danger. I had found Donovan in my dreams the night before, and I was going forward to find my future.”

“What happened?”

“I found her, Uncle Jack. I found her in the cottage which had been completely restored, and it was the year 1855, though I didn’t know that then. I was just overwhelmed that my dream had finally become a reality. Reality was so much better than my dreams had ever been.”

“What happened when you realized that you were in the past and not the present?”

Hannah chuckled. “Initially I passed out. My mind just shut down until I put the pieces together and they started to fit. Then Donovan took me around and I was so comfortable there, Jack. It felt like coming home.”

“So what went wrong?”

“Yesterday morning, Donovan came here.” Hannah drew a shaky breath. “Everything was all right. I mean we sat out on the porch for a while, and then I came in to get us some lemonade.” Jack’s eyes lit in comprehension, but since she wasn’t looking at him, he let her continue. “I was careless and Donovan came in to check on me….”

“And when she crossed the threshold she disappeared?”

“Yes, but it is worse.”

“How so?”

“She didn’t seem to have any difficulty crossing to this time, though no one else was able to do so. Her cabin boy Harold tried unwittingly and failed. And I had no problems crossing to hers until now.”

“You can’t get back?”

“No.” She clenched and unclenched her hands reflexively. “I went back to the cottage this morning, and it has changed again. Not only is it neglected and in need of repair again, the picture over the mantle has changed. And it is scary. I don’t like the message I am getting from it.”

Jack watched as the goosebumps rose over Hannah’s arms. “Did you get to the part in the journal about Michael’s illness? Where it tells what we think happened?”

She shook her blonde head, wrapping her arms around herself. “I don’t think so. I’m not sure. I… I know I read something about the barrier and closing the door, but I can’t find it now,” she growled in utter frustration.

“Okay, one more thing. When she crossed over the previous two times did you notice anything? Did she cross the threshold then?”

“Um,” Hannah thought aloud while raking her hands through her disheveled hair. “Yeah, every time someone tried to cross, I lost power.” She crinkled her brow. “Even when Harold only *tried* to cross, the electricity went bonkers.” For the first time in a while, she looked directly at Jack. “Is that important?”

“It could be. It could definitely be something we could use. What about Donovan? Did she ever cross the threshold before that moment?”

“No. The first time she stayed on the beach, and the second she sat on the patio looking at the furniture. I think she found it fascinating.”

Jack laughed. “I wouldn’t be surprised… most people do.”

Hannah grinned then sobered quickly. “Do you think we can find her Jack? Or at least open the door for me to get back to her? I can’t be without her… not like this. Not knowing what happened or where she is or… God, Jack. Tell me we can fix this.”

“I think you have discovered enough on your own. Let me tell you what I know, and then you can tell me if we can fix this.”
Chapter XII
“Several generations ago now… back I-don’t-know-how-many-greats removed, we had a grandfather who was a young merchant captain out in these waters. It was his letters that my grandfather found about fifty years ago that spurred our research.” Jack paused and ran his hands over his short hair. “We’ve got a few inconsistencies, but for the most part everything we’ve researched seems to be playing out.

“I’m not sure I follow you, Uncle Jack,” Hannah said quietly.

“Well, first and foremost there is Donovan’s disappearance. What triggered it? We know she was able to cross to some extent, so did an overload of technological exposure close the door? And the flowers Harold left? They should have been dust.” Jack blew out a breath. “Let me tell you the background and then we can worry about this. I’m getting way ahead of myself.”

“It seems that our ancestor, Maxwell Reilly, was something of a rogue when he was young. He figured to make a pile of money as a merchant. On his very first run to the Caribbean he learned that honesty would work best.”

Hannah almost smiled. “What happened?” having a very rough idea what the answer was going to be.

“He ran into a female pirate captain named Donovan Scott.” This got a genuine smile from Hannah. “Max was quick to realize she would make a much better friend than enemy, and they formed a friendship of sorts. They talked occasionally, and he made friends with some of her crew. Eventually he had enough of her story to be intrigued, and he wrote it down.”

“Then about fifty years ago, my grandfather, who was recently retired from the Navy, decided to go through all the things that were stored in his attic.”

“Waitaminute, Uncle Jack. You mean to tell me someone had already sorted through all that stuff it took us days to go through??” Hannah’s voice was incredulous with disbelief. Jack had to laugh out loud at the expression on her face. He snagged his coffee cup, then grimaced as a lukewarm swallow slid down his throat.

“Ew. I need a refill. You?”

“No, thanks. Water would be good though.”

Jack stood and walked over to the bar, reaching into the fridge for Hannah’s water before pouring himself a fresh cup of coffee. He began fixing his coffee to taste and looked back to Hannah. “To answer your question, no. The very first trunk he opened had Maxwell’s letters about Donovan. Granddad decided right then this was a mystery he wanted to solve.”

“What mystery?”

“The mystery of Green Eyes.”

Hannah’s mouth dropped open and the very green eyes spoken of widened perceptibly. “Excuse me?” The question came out as a garbled whisper.

“Exactly,” Jack agreed as he resumed his seat. “Your eyes are a family trait, and Maxwell had brilliant green eyes just like yours. Max caught her studying him one day and he asked her about it. In a rare moment of private disclosure, Donovan told him a bit about the green eyes that were such a part of her dreams. She didn’t reveal much, but it was enough to intrigue him, and he kept a record of her for years after that. Donovan never invited inquiry about it again, almost as though she regretted revealing herself to him. But he found other methods for obtaining information.”

“Why would he? What made him obsess over her like that?”

“It wasn’t her, as much as it was her story. Just like for Granddad… Donovan the person was secondary to Donovan the story.”

Hannah rubbed her forehead and closed her eyes. “I’m getting a headache,” she mumbled.

Jack patted her back. “It really is a lot easier than it sounds. Donovan was out here following her dreams, looking for the eyes that held the other half of her soul. That is what they… what we *all* found so intriguing. The story was so beautiful, and it seemed to call to us. So we followed where it led, which was to this island.”

“There’s more to this, isn’t there?” Hannah asked plaintively. Her heart hurt, and it was becoming harder to maintain the focus she’d determined to have. Right now she just wanted to fall into her dreams and find Donovan. Maybe they could figure out how to fix what happened.

“Oh there’s lots more. We just have to sort through what we have so we can fix this.” He paused a moment and rose, extending his hand to her in invitation. “C’mon. I think reading Maxwell’s letters may clear this up for you somewhat. I know it all makes a lot more sense to me now having heard your story, though Donovan’s appearance here and subsequent disappearance is a somewhat unexpected development.”

“As long as we end up together.”

Jack clasped Hannah’s hand tightly. “You will, Hannah. We’ll find a way to make it happen.”

He led Hannah into his office and seated her in his big desk chair before turning to the wall. He pressed a panel that slid aside to reveal a small safe. A twist, turn and spin later, the steel door swung open and Jack reached in to draw out a small bundle. He turned and handed the letters to Hannah.

“These are the letters that Maxwell’s wife Abigail kept that had to do with Donovan. According to Granddad, they were separate from the other letters he wrote to her.” He looked at her slumped shoulders and tired eyes. “Why don’t you take these to your room, honey? You look exhausted. We can continue this in the morning.”

She looked ready to refuse, then a tear wended its way down her face. “I am, Uncle Jack. This day has been such a roller coaster ride for me. I cannot begin to tell you.”

“I can only imagine. My mind is still trying to wrap itself around the facts, and I’m not nearly as personally involved as you are. I think though, that we can figure a way out of it, because you’re right about one thing… you are meant to be together.”

Hannah stood with the letters in one hand and let Jack’s strong embrace envelop her. “Thanks, Uncle Jack. That means everything to me. She means everything to me.” She squeezed his neck. “Though you are pretty special too.”

Jack chuckled, trying to keep the tears out of his voice. “Oh you sweet talker, you. You could turn a man’s head with that kind of flattery.” He gently herded her out the door and into her room. “Get some rest. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

Hannah nodded and shut the door. She placed the bundle on the nightstand and pulled the covers down, then went into the bathroom. It didn’t take long, and she stepped back into her room and dropped her clothes before crawling into the bed and picking up the letters. She looked at them hesitantly, then took a deep breath and untied the ribbon, opening the missive on top.

My Dearest Abigail, (it read)

Hannah skimmed the letter until she reached the name she was searching for. She read the short paragraph twice.
Captain Scott is a much better ally than enemy. I have ne’er seen a pirate the likes of which she is. I will have to learn more about her.
Hannah looked through the remainder of the note, but that was the only reference to Donovan. So she put it aside and moved on to the next letter.
Angel Abigail, (it read)

I have asked ’round about the sigil. I have never seen one quite like it. The crossed swords are not unusual, though the blue field is uncommon among pirates and privateers. What sets this flag apart are the green eyes that seem to stare from above the swords… eyes that I see when I look in the shaving glass.

I canna find an explanation for the similarity to mine own… yet, but I will. Meanwhile, I have learned that honest men respect this flag, and rogues justly fear it. The ship Ice Maiden makes her own justice.

Hannah continued reading, but found nothing else relating to Donovan and she picked up the next letter in the stack. This one went on a bit before she found Donovan’s name. She noted to herself that she should take a little more interest in her heritage, and decided to be less dispassionate about it when Donovan was by her side again. Until then, history could be damned. Her breath caught when she found Donovan’s name.

I have finally been invited aboard the Ice Maiden by the infamous Captain Scott, and she is nothing like I expected her to be. She is a clean ship with a sharp crew and an outstanding Captain.

I am more than a bit confused. I am almost sure there is a British Navy ship by a similar name. But she has a male captain and a regulation crew. Stranger, I canna seem to find out anything about that ship, while this one is legendary. Too much coincidence to my thinking.

“How long did it take you, Maxwell? How long before you realized they were one and the same?” Hannah muttered, blushing when she realized she’d only made the connection when Donovan explained it to her. She put the letter down and reached for the next envelope in the stack. This one was surprisingly longer and it made her sit up and take notice when she found Donovan’s name.

Darling Abigail, (it read)

The most unusual thing happened today, and I feel the need to write it down before I forget any of the details.

We were in the islands again, and happened on a melee that ended with a merchant ship being taught some manners by pirates. It was of course the Ice Maiden and her infamous crew. We managed to help, believe it or not, and when ’twas over the natives invited us and the Maiden’s crew to the island for a celebration.

Bear with me, dearest… this is going to be quite long, but I feel it needs be told in its entirety.

The boys and I were happy to accept. It has been a rough sailing as you know from my previous notes to you. We were looking forward to a bit of time on dry land, and I figure the same could be said of the Maiden’s crew. I dunno who crossed Poseidon this voyage, but I have na seen him this angry in a while.

The natives were very kind, and offered us great hospitality, though I noted well that we were treated as honored guests while the Maiden’s crew was welcomed as well-loved family.

It was still daylight when we arrived, and were told that the revelry would begin at sundown. As the Captain, I was invited to join Captain Scott and the village headman, Debendra, for dinner and conversation.

Debendra and his wife, who everyone refers to as Mama, fussed over Donovan, and having seen the haggardness in her appearance, I can certainly understand why. Mama clucked over her like a hen with a chick, and the Captain surrendered to her ministrations willingly.

For a bit, they seemed to have forgotten my presence, and I was content to watch and listen. There were a few vague references to green eyes and I noted more than one glance in my direction. Mama especially seemed insistent, but Donovan was adamant in her refusal.

Debendra engaged me in conversation, but it was clear that his attention was split, and his heart was with Donovan and Mama. When the pirate finally closed her eyes and Mama made her way to us, his attention focused on me and our talk turned toward more general topics.

When there was a break in our conversation, Mama took my chin in her hand and stared at my eyes. AT them, Abby, not into them. Almost as thought they were an answer to a question only she knew.

“MAMA!” Debendra exclaimed as he came back from the kitchen and she moved away from me. But I did wonder what she was looking for.

They offered me a room to clean up and rest, and I was glad to do so. And before I knew it, it was time for us to join the celebration. This is where it got… odd.

We went down to the meeting house where both crews and the village were gathered. Debendra said a few words and the crowd cheered, then Donovan and I were seated on either side of the headman so the feasting could begin.

Mr. Merryweather (I never did find out the man’s Christian name) is Captain Scott’s first mate, and he was seated to my left. We swapped several sea stories, as sailors are wont to do, but I noted that he kept looking at my eyes strangely. We were cups into our rum, and it finally bothered me enough to ask.

He wouldn’t answer himself, but told me if I wanted to know I’d have to ask the Cap’n. Well, I was drunk enough to ask, and surprisingly, she was drunk enough to answer.

“Your eyes, Captain, have haunted my dreams for years. But they were not your eyes.”

Abby love, I don’t know what that means, but one day… one day I will find the truth. She didn’t say more, and her eyes made it clear she wouldn’t. Meanwhile, I have learned not to drink so much rum.

Much love to you, dearest.

Max
Hannah set the letter aside and moved the rest of the letters to her nightstand. She placed the already read letters beside them, and turned off the light. With a sigh, she snuggled down into the cover, closing her eyes to keep the tears at bay.

“Oh Donovan,” she whispered, “Please let me find you. I need you to be in my dreams tonight. I love you.” Then she fell asleep, escaping to their sanctuary.

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

Donovan felt her equilibrium settle around her after what seemed like forever. She opened her eyes and looked around, realizing she was not where she’d been when she’d lost consciousness. A sound caught her attention, and she sat up, hissing at the pain that ripped through her skull. She clutched at her head and closed her eyes again, slumping back onto the bed she was laying in. Donovan winced when Mama placed a hand on her head.

“Donovan?” Mama spoke melodiously, almost as though she knew that anything else would hurt. “Donovan, do you remember how you got here? Do you know what happened, or where Hannah went?”

At the mention of Hannah’s name, Donovan flinched, her head throbbing in time with the beat of her heart.

Mama felt the twitch beneath her fingers, and she moved away to retrieve the cup she’d prepared when Debendra had walked in the door with Donovan cradled in his arms. The last time that had happened, Donovan had been out for days, and Mama had feared for the Captain’s life.

Now she walked back to the bedside, and spoke quietly again. “Donovan, I need to get this medicine inside you. Can you sit up on your own, or do you need some help?”

For a long moment, she wondered whether or not she was going to get a response, then the blue eyes blinked open, and Donovan reached a shaky hand out for the mixture. She lifted the cup to her lips, and drank steadily until the concoction was gone. “Thank you, Mama,” she said before closing her eyes and giving herself over to the healing properties of the herbs and sleep.

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

It was three long days and nights of vigils for Mama and Debendra before Donovan finally shook loose of the illness that held her in its grasp. A sigh of relief was heard through the entire household when her sleep was broken.

“How long?” Donovan croaked, squinting into the murky darkness. The windows had been covered by heavy blankets, and the air in the room was oppressive.

Mama reached a hand over and felt for fever, relieved when she found none. She smoothed the dark hair back from the high forehead, and reached a cup up to Donovan’s parched lips. Donovan took several small sips before easing the cup away and dropping back down drained.

“Three days,” Mama replied. “How do you feel?”

“Exhausted, like I still need to sleep.”

“You probably do. Your body has spent the last three days at war with itself.”

Without warning, Donovan shot up then fell back down. “Oh my God!! Hannah!!”

“She has not been round, Donovan,” Mama said, trying to hide the anger she felt directed at the small blonde woman. Having witnessed their interaction herself, she could not believe Hannah would be so unfeeling, but she was not going to lie to Donovan either. Surprisingly, Donovan did not show any shock at the revelation.

“She can’t, Mama. She was taken from me.” Not knowing how else to explain the reality of what had happened, Donovan closed her eyes. Mama misunderstood the gesture and patted her shoulder.

“Rest now, my friend. We will speak more later.” But Donovan was already asleep, and searching her dreams.

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

Hannah was frantic. For three nights she had sought Donovan out, and for three nights Donovan could not be found. Jack was growing more and more worried by her pale, drawn features and shadowed eyes.

They had spent their days researching every bit of information they had, and had become convinced that the secret to the dilemma lay in Donovan’s belief of Hannah’s story. Although Hannah knew that Donovan’s *heart* accepted her across time and space, she was sure the logical woman’s mind was having far more difficulty with the concept, even if she didn’t voice her fears aloud.

Hannah wanted to be angry, but couldn’t find it in her heart to be mad at Donovan for not understanding just what differences lay between them because of the time distinction. Even she’d been somewhat overwhelmed by the reality of finding herself in the past, and she’d had an opportunity to study it and knew it had been reality at one point. The future was an unknown, and Donovan had no idea what life was like there.

So Hannah was desperate to find Donovan to explain what was going on.

Jack, meanwhile, had been keeping a close eye on the weather. He was sure now the odd disturbances were directly related to Donovan’s appearances. In the three days since her abrupt departure from the present timeline, the weather had reverted to its normal patterns. But by mid-morning of the fourth day….

“Hannah,” Jack said, trying to keep the hopeful excitement out of his voice. “Why don’t you go lay down? You look exhausted,” he added, putting a tender hand on her shoulder and guiding her in the direction of her room.

Hannah scrubbed a hand across her eyes and ran it through her hair, mussing it up nicely. Jack wanted to smile at the sight she made, reminding him very much in that moment of the five-year-old niece she’d once been. But it was an agitated twenty-five year old woman who stood before him now, and he could feel she was nearing the end of her rope.

“C’mon,” he urged her again. “Who knows? You may find Donovan this time, but if not, you still need the rest. I’m getting worried about you, honey.”

She wanted to argue and she wanted to cry. Instead, she dropped her head to his shoulder, and let him comfort her for a long moment. Then she sighed and nodded.

“I am tired, and it couldn’t hurt. Will you wake me in a couple hours?”

Jack was fairly certain she’d kill him when he woke her in a couple hours if what he suspected was true really was the truth, so he hedged his bets. “I will check on you in a couple hours. If you are awake or restless, I will get you up. How’s that?”

She looked up at him then, wondering what was going on in his mind, but his eyes didn’t reveal anything except for honest concern. Her shoulders slumped. “That’s fine. I don’t actually expect to sleep anyway.”

Hannah let Jack walk her the short distance to her bedroom, then turned and kissed his cheek. “Thanks, Uncle Jack.”

“What for, Little Hannah?”

“Caring.”

He didn’t answer, but gave her a hug, then gently pushed her through the open door of her bedroom. Without another word, he closed it behind her, and moved back to the kitchen to finish making his iced tea.

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

Hannah regarded the closed door with a raised eyebrow then shook her head. Jack had always been a good friend, and he had been like a rock for her sanity the last few days. She would have to think of something incredibly sweet to do for him in return. She yawned. But not right now. Right now, she just wanted to curl into that warm, comfortable bed and sleep… something she hadn’t been able to manage much of since Donovan had vanished.

She wondered if that might be part of the reason she couldn’t find her, but put the questions aside. They weren’t going to help much at this point, and she was so tired right now her body ached.

Hannah slipped out of her clothes, and slid between the cool sheets with an exclamation akin to relief. Within moments, she was out like a light.

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

Donovan looked around, recognizing the familiar glade, and noticing she was quite alone. Her head dropped, and she moved over to the outcropping that overlooked the water to wait.

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

When Hannah opened her eyes, she saw that she was in their private hideaway, and she breathed in the fresh air with happiness. She looked around, seeing the broad shoulders of her lover slumped in despondency as she sat on the rocks watching the water trickle lightly beneath her perch.

Hannah couldn’t help the tiny cry of joy that escaped her lips at seeing Donovan, and the dark head whipped around at the unexpected, though very welcome sound.

Donovan jumped to the ground and began running, even as Hannah began to run towards her. Observing that Hannah was coming to meet her, she stopped and braced herself for the impact of their reunion. With arms wide open, they met and hugged tightly, their momentum taking them to the ground.

No words were necessary as their bodies melded into one another, then Hannah drew back just enough to look into the blue eyes she loved. Still silent, she leaned down, and captured the lips of the woman beneath her, and long minutes passed as their mouths became reacquainted.

Finally, breathless and gasping for air, they separated enough to lie forehead to forehead breathing one another’s air. Donovan rolled them over so that she lay to one side, but still on top of Hannah with their legs tangled together.

“Oh Angel!” she whispered, before claiming Hannah’s lips for her own again. Hannah wrapped her hands in the thick dark hair that was shielding her and reveled in the explosion of feeling she felt emanating from both herself and Donovan.

When they pulled back again, Donovan rolled over onto her back, and pulled Hannah onto her body, elating in the weight of Hannah’s body pressed into her own. Hannah rested her head just above Donovan’s heart, and sighed in contentment as the regular rhythm beat a timely march in her ear.

“God, I missed you, Donovan! I was frantic to find you, but you weren’t here,” said with just the faintest hint of hurt and reproach.

Donovan traced Hannah’s features lightly with a strong hand and the green eyes closed under the tender ministrations. “I know. I’m sorry. I was three days fighting off an illness. This is the first natural sleep I’ve had since you were taken from me.”

Hannah grasped the hand and brought it to her lips, kissing each fingertip, and lightly licking Donovan’s thumb. She smiled at the swiftly indrawn breath.

“Actually, I may have some answers to all that. But it’s kinda complicated.”

Donovan gave her a crooked grin. “Of course it is… we are involved in it.” She tightened her hold around Hannah’s body. “But it will wait for a little while longer. Right now, I just want to hold you.”

Hannah’s only answer was to tighten her hold.

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

They lay together at for the longest time, still entwined together tightly and enjoying the peace and contentment of simply being together again. Hannah squeezed Donovan’s middle, smiling at the warm hug that enfolded her for long minutes.

“I could get used to this, ya know,” Donovan’s husky voice filled her hearing. “Lying here with you in my arms. I like the way this feels.”

Hannah sighed. “So do I. But we have a lot to talk about if we want to make it a reality.”

Donovan half rose so she could look into Hannah’s eyes. “Have you changed your mind? Do you not want this anymore?” She didn’t really believe it, not with the greeting they’d shared and the peace that surrounded them, but she was a little bewildered by Hannah’s words and tone. Her confusion showed plainly in her eyes.

“You know better, Donovan,” Hannah replied reaching up and bringing Donovan’s lips down to meet her own. She spent some moments reassuring the Captain of just exactly how she felt, and pulled back only when she felt Donovan’s hands begin to wander. “If you never believe anything else, never, ever doubt the way I feel for you. That’s not gonna change. Ya got it?”

Donovan’s heart leapt at the fierce love she saw reflecting from the green eyes she cherished. She nipped at Hannah’s nose. “I understand, Angel.”

Hannah chuckled. “I will continue to remind you of that.” She slipped off Donovan’s body and knelt beside her. The she riffled her fingers through the long dark locks. “I love you, Donovan Scott, and I plan on spending our lifetimes showing you that on a minute by minute basis.”

Donovan’s eyes widened and she sat up, cupping Hannah’s face in her hand. “I love you, Hannah Reilly. Marry me.”

Hannah reached her own hands to tangle in Donavan’s hair, urging her lips closer. “Yes,” she whispered. “Oh, Donovan, yes!” Then their lips met, and the world faded from their reality for a very long space of time.

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

“Ya know, “Donovan stated as she trailed her hands up and down Hannah’s back. “We are not getting much talking done.” She watched as goose bumps followed the path that her hand took.

“No, we’re not,” Hannah sighed, “and we need to if we are ever going to get to have a life together outside our dreams.”

“What do you mean, beloved?”

Hannah rolled up and stood, reaching down a hand to help Donovan stand. “C’mon. Let’s go sit on the outcropping and talk.”

Donovan allowed herself to be pulled up, then she held tightly to Hannah’s hand, wondering what obstacles lay ahead of them.
Chapter XIII
“Donovan, do you remember the other day when we went to the Maiden?” Hannah asked when they were seated side by side. They were facing each other and holding hands, and green eyes looked directly into blue as Hannah spoke.

Donovan nodded slowly. “When you mentioned the twi… twi….”

“The twilight zone, yes… exactly. Do you remember what I told you about myself?”

“Yes, you said you were from the future. That you had not been born yet.”

“Did you believe me, Donovan?”

Donovan nodded, but averted her eyes. Hannah gently grasped her chin and brought their eyes level again. “Donovan,” Hannah asked again. “Did you believe me?”

“My heart knows you are not lying to me Hannah, but my mind cannot seem to wrap itself around that truth. I cannot understand how you can be here with me if you have not been born.”

“Well, that is the root of our problem.”

“What do you mean?”

Hannah sighed. This was the hard part. “Jack and I have spent the last three days researching … geez, everything. The door worked for us because we were ignorant of the time difference between our two lives. We didn’t realize we were from diverse lifetimes.”

“Until you crossed the threshold and saw the ship.” Donovan’s brow crinkled. “But that did not close the door, because we crossed back through to your time.”

“Right, but it was easier for me to accept being in your time because it has already existed for me. I have read and studied history, and I know about the things that exist in your world.”

“I see,” Donovan drawled thoughtfully. “So once my mind was presented with actual evidence of the truth….”

“It shut down, effectively closing the door between us.”

Donovan was silent for a time after that contemplating the bitter truth of Hannah’s words. “I am sorry, Angel. I never meant….”

“Shh, love. Hush. I know you didn’t. It’s really not an easy thing to comprehend, and getting hit in the face with it, so to speak…. You say you’ve been ill.” Hannah waited for Donovan nod affirmatively. “Does this illness resemble in anyway the illness you had when you found Michael, my father?”

Donovan’s gaze turned introspective, and she cast her mind back. Finally she looked squarely at Hannah. “It is almost precisely the same thing. My head hurt so badly, and according to Mama, I was in and out of consciousness for nearly a week. I do not remember much.” She shook her head. “How are we gonna get around this?”

Hannah pressed her hands together and lifted them to her lips. “I still need to do some more research, but maybe educating you about the future slowly is something we could try. I don’t think it is me making you sick… maybe it is being hit so hard by the radical changes of the future.”

“That makes sense. It cannot hurt to try, because I am not going to let anything come between us, especially not my own doubts of what the future really is.”

“You don’t seem to have a problem being *in* the future… just a problem with the future itself. Am I making any sense at all here?”

Donovan chuckled. “Yes, beloved. You are making perfect sense to me. Shall we get started on my education?”

“Sure. Let’s start with something easy, like plumbing. You already have a rudimentary understanding of that.”

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

Sometime later, Hannah leaned back and watched the smile draw across Donovan’s expressive features. “That is astounding. So
I really am on the right track then. I just need to… mmph?” A dark brow rose into an equally dark hairline.

“You just need to shut up and kiss me. We can worry more about the future later. I want a little now time, now please.”

Blue eyes twinkled rakishly, and Hannah felt a wet tongue glide across her palm. She jerked her hand away reflexively and Donovan wiggled her eyebrows. “I am happy to oblige, Beloved.” And without warning, Hannah found herself covered in six feet of sexy sea captain. “Is this a better now?” Donovan purred. Hannah just pulled the taller woman into herself and began to kiss her senseless.

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

She awoke with a smile on her face, then punched the pillow. “Dammit! We were just getting to the good stuff!” Hannah turned her head and looked at the clock. Surprisingly, two hours of real time had passed for her, and she wondered what had wakened her. Then a knock sounded on her door, and realized what had brought her back from the lands of dreams.

With a growl, Hannah flung the cover back, and crawled from the bed, snatching up her robe and throwing it on. She opened the door and scowled at Jack.

“Yeeeeesssss?” she said with exaggerated sweetness. The fire in her eyes made him take a step back.

“I just thought you should know that the odd weather pattern seems to be back, and a storm seems to be brewing. I was just wondering, um… that is… I thought maybe… uh well….” He scratched his head thoughtfully. “I don’t suppose you, um… found Donovan, did you?”

She actually growled at him this time, and it was followed by a crash of thunder that seemed more than a little coincidental. Jack studied her a bit more closely, and noticed beyond her sleep tousled look, she had a twinkle in her eyes and lightly swollen lips. He grinned nervously and backed away another step.

“Ya know,” he said, backing further away. “I think this will wait til later.” He made shooing motions with his hands. “Why don’t you just go back to bed and I’ll… whoa!!”

He got his arms up to catch her just as she jumped at him, and he held her in a firm hug for a very long minute.

“I am so happy for you, little girl,” he whispered into her hair as he felt the wet warmth of tears against his neck.

“Thank you, Uncle Jack,” she said in return. “I can’t tell you what all your help means to me… what it could mean to *us*.”

“I’ve got a real good idea, honey.” He slowly released her and gently shoved her towards her door. “Why don’t you just get back in there and see if you can get some more sleep? It looks like the storm and the weather pattern may be here to stay for a while. I’ll just go… do… something.”

Hannah gave Jack an all-out dazzling grin and kissed his cheek. “I love you, Uncle Jack.”

“I love you too, Little Hannah,” he replied as he closed the door behind her and went back into his study to resume his work. He had a feeling his research might be necessary now more than ever.

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

Hannah actually took a couple minutes to use the bathroom, splashing water on her face, running a comb through her hair and brushing her teeth. She knew it didn’t make a difference in the dreamscape, but it made her feel better taking the time to do it. Then she climbed back into the bed, curling herself around a pillow and closing her eyes. She wondered if she could will herself to sleep faster, not even realizing when she dozed off.

When she awakened this time, Hannah found herself wrapped snuggly next to a warm, breathing body, and she kissed the shoulder beneath her lips contentedly. Then she closed her eyes again firmly, luxuriating in the total satisfaction she found in simply being with Donovan.

The third time she opened her eyes, she found her head pillowed in Donovan’s lap, and the pirate captain was gently stroking her hair. Hannah stretched and purred like a relaxed, happy kitten, and she felt the belly at her cheek bounce slightly at Donovan’s soundless laughter.

“I like waking up here, in your arms. Was I asleep long?”

“Minutes, as far as I can tell. I do like waking up to find you in my arms or me in yours, as the case may be,” Donovan smiled down at her, remembering Hannah’s body wrapped around hers.

“That’s good,” Hannah said, “because it’s going to be a rest-of-our-lives kinda thing.”

“You think we can get past the time difference, then?”

Hannah looked at Donovan with a serious, quizzical gaze. “Do you want to?”

“With my whole heart and soul,” Donovan answered with equal sincerity.

“Then we will. When I awaken in my time, I’ll try the portal and see if it works. If not, we will meet here and work on it until we get the breakthrough we need.”

The dark head nodded, and they sat in silence for a bit, each lost in their private thoughts. Donovan continued her light stroking, and Hannah was lost in a comfortable half doze when the Captain spoke.

“You know, I have studied a bit of science. It is exciting to know that so much of what I have read about is not only possible, but very successful. It is almost like living another dream.”

“It’s no dream, love. It’s real, and we are going to make it possible for you to understand and believe.”

Donovan grinned.

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

When Hannah awoke again, she was alone in her bed and groaned. Their knowledge of the truth made things a little more difficult to manage. Knowing that Donovan was waiting out there for here, alive and real, just in another time… Hannah rubbed her throbbing temples. It gave her a headache if she thought about it too long. She smiled. She didn’t need to think about it. She simply had to make their being together a reality. Piece of cake, right?

Hannah swung her legs over the side of the bed and sat up, scratching her hands through her hair, then rubbing her face. She looked at her clock, doing a double take when she saw it was late afternoon. Hannah rose and walked to the window, realizing that the storm outside made it seem later than it actually was.

She paused to watch it for a long minute, noting the beauty and majesty the fury created. She wondered if her separation from Donovan had anything to do with the ferocity she was witnessing, and made a mental note to talk to Jack about it. Then she walked into the bathroom, and shut the door.

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

Jack was sitting at his desk, much as he had been since early afternoon. The storm’s intensity seemed to be linked to Donovan’s reconnection to Hannah. He decided it needed more study, and wondered how Hannah would feel about sharing the dates of her dream rendezvous with Donovan from her diary. He decided it would do no harm to ask, and put a note on his monitor to ask her when she woke up.

He heard the shower running, and moved into the kitchen to begin preparing supper. He had a feeling Hannah would need to talk about a few things at least. He knew he sure had some questions.

Jack smiled when Hannah crossed the threshold into the living area. There was a sparkle in her eye and a bounce in her step that had been missing.

“You’ve got the answer,” he said calming, continuing to chop the vegetables in front of him. She took up a knife and bumped him slightly, until he was sharing cutting board space.

“I think we were right. If we can educate her to the future, she should be able to cross the portal again without incident.”

“Do you have enough time? The ball is only a few days off, and historically, the Warrior Maiden leaves for Britain right after the party is over.”

Hannah lifted a bite of celery to her lips, adding a little cream cheese to it and chewing thoughtfully. “I have to believe we do, Uncle Jack. I think I only need to convince her of enough to open the portal. Once that happens, we’ll have plenty of time.”

Jack looked at her seriously, considering her words. “You’re going with her,” he said flatly. “If you get the portal opened, you’re going to go back in time with her.”

Hannah returned his gaze evenly. “Yes, I am. And when she has learned enough, accepted enough, we will come back here.”

Jack smiled with sad understanding reflected in his eyes. He knew the likelihood of that happening was nil, and he would be losing his niece to a fate decreed long before her birth. Still, he knew from her expression that Donovan was what she needed, so he nodded his agreement. “I believe you, little Hannah. If anyone can make it happen, you can.”

She grinned at him enthusiastically. “*We* can, Uncle Jack. I never would have gotten this far without your help.”

He dropped the chopped vegetables into the skillet, turning the heat down and stirring as her faced her direction again. “Would you be willing to return the favor… help me with my research a little?”

Hannah wiped her hands on a towel and crossed to the fridge to fix them each a drink. “Sure, Uncle Jack. What can I do for you?”

“Could you list the dates of your dream meetings with Donovan? I think they coincide with some of the more spectacular storms we’ve had here. I know her presence in this timeline makes the weather go wonky. I just think ya’ll’s, um… reunions and separations affect it in another way all together.”

Hannah blushed slightly and nodded. “Sure. Let me go get my diary.”

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

They sat down to dinner with Jack’s notes and Hannah’s diary between them making comparisons. There wasn’t much conversation except to point out similarities and slight differences between dates and occurrences.

“It’s almost like there is a lag,” Jack commented absently.

“Time for the portal to open and close, perhaps?”

“Very possible.” Jack looked directly at Hannah now. “Are you going to try to see her tonight? In her real time, I mean.”

Hannah nodded. “I’ve been waiting for the storm to clear,” she said, regarding the clearing skies that reflected back to her in the setting sun. “I think our encounter earlier may have been enough to open the door.”

“And if it wasn’t?”

She shrugged. “If it wasn’t, we’ll try again. I’m not giving her up, Uncle Jack.”

He smiled at the fire in her eyes and voice. “I am proud of you, Hannah,” he said unexpectedly. “Never forget that, okay?”

She looked at him quizzically, then stood and wrapped her arms around his neck. She planted a kiss on his relatively unlined face. “I won’t, Uncle Jack. I’m pretty proud of you too.”

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

“Donovan, are you sure about this?” Mama asked again. The Captain had wakened from her rest with the color in her face restored and her spirits high. Mama secretly wondered if perhaps the illness had gotten to Donovan and given her a touch of madness. It was the only explanation she could find for Donovan’s odd behavior.

“Yes, Mama,” Donovan answered patiently with just a touch of humor in her voice. “I am sure. I need to get home so I will be there when Hannah comes back.”

“I do not understand, but I can see this makes you happy.”

“It does, Mama. It does very much. And I promise, if we can, we will come back and explain it all to you later.”

Mama nodded, accepting that. “You are still coming to the ball, yes? The celebration is in two days.”

Donovan smiled rakishly. “Yes ma’am. It is tradition, you know, and I think Hannah is looking forward to it. She has sent for a special costume for the masquerade.”

Mama smiled at Donovan’s enthusiasm. She hoped Donovan was correct in her reasoning for Hannah’s absence. She had really liked the young writer, and knew without doubt that Donovan’s future was tied to Hannah. She just wished she understood why Hannah had disappeared when Donovan had needed her the most.

“Have you seen it?” Mama picked up the thread with no outward indication of the thoughts that were running through her mind.

“No. It had not arrived when we got separated.”

“No peeking, then,” Mama said, shaking a finger in her direction with a smile. “You know the rules, Captain.”

Donovan shook her head. She knew the rules, and so far, she had chosen no one by the unmasking. She’d been hoping to escort Hannah, but maybe this way would be better. It would settle the rumors and the speculation once and for all.

“I know, but I will be with her at the unmasking.”

“You are so sure then?”

“Yes.”

“Good,” was all Mama said as Donovan stepped out the door.

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

Debendra made sure Donavan got back to her cottage safely, then Donovan shooed him out of the house. She was anxious to take a look at her bathing room to see if she could incorporate some the knowledge Hannah had imparted earlier. Strangely, since meeting with Hannah in their dreams, Donovan felt no residual sickness.

She smiled, reliving the time they had spent simply holding one another. That intimacy was something she found she craved more than she’d ever thought possible, and she hadn’t realized it until it was nearly taken away from her forever. Donovan shivered suddenly at the agony the mere thought left in her heart.

She sat down, staring at the painting of herself and Hannah and trying to catch her breath. She wished Hannah had not asked Donovan to wait for her to try the portal first. She had an impulsive, overwhelming need have Hannah here and in her arms.

Donovan stretched out on the couch, closing her eyes and wishing for Hannah’s presence.

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

Hannah stood for a moment at the end of the path watching as the sun slipped beneath the horizon. Then she took a deep breath and turned her steps towards Donovan’s cottage.

She didn’t feel the coolness she had come to associate with the portal, and her heart sank. Still, she continued on her way to the bungalow.

Hannah turned into the pathway, and felt her spirits pick up when she saw the building was once again in good repair. She made her way up the steps and rapped lightly on the door before pushing it open and stepping across the threshold.

She looked around and noted with satisfaction that the room had been restored, and the painting was back to its original design.

“Donovan? Donovan?” Hannah called out as she entered the kitchen. Her heart dropped again as she made a quick tour of the house and realized that she had not crossed into Donovan’s time, but she was encouraged by the state of her surroundings. Things were looking up, and that was a good sign.

She traversed the small space back to the couch and lay down, hoping to find Donovan waiting for her in their dreams.

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

Donovan opened her eyes at the light stroking of her face. She smiled when she saw Hannah, and pulled her down for a welcoming kiss. They were slightly breathless when they separated, and Hannah withdrew just enough to rub noses with Donovan.

“It did not work, did it?” Donovan asked, seeing tears pool in Hannah’s eyes. Hannah bit her lip and shook her head negatively.

“Not completely,” she answered quietly, “but we have made progress. The cottage has been restored in my time to resemble what it is like in yours. Maybe you should try it. Since the door closed on your side, you might have to be the one that has to step through first to reopen it.”

Donovan nodded thoughtfully. “In a peculiar way, that makes perfect sense. Shall I try it now or…?”

“That is up to you, love. I am here in the cottage in my time.”

“Very well. Let me wake up and see if I can cross the barrier.” Hannah leaned down and brushed Donovan’s lips with her own before the dreamscape began to fade.

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

Donovan woke with a smile of her face, relishing the lingering scent of Hannah she could still smell from the dreamscape. She stretched a bit and rose from the couch, running her fingers through her hair to order it somewhat. Then she stepped out the door, and headed down the beach.

This was the tricky part, Donovan mused as she walked steadily and with purpose. She had to cross the barrier and then return to the cottage where she would hopefully find Hannah waiting. The question was would they be in Hannah’s time or Donovan’s.

The Captain shook her head. Circular thinking like that could give her a serious migraine. She decided to just go with what she knew, and hope for the best otherwise.

About halfway between the cottage and Jack’s place, she felt the familiar, welcome chill. With a brief grin and a triumphant look, she turned and headed back to her bungalow at a run.

Donovan slowed as she reached the path, uncertainty clenching her guts almost painfully. She wanted so badly for this to have worked that she could almost taste it on the back of her tongue. Hesitatingly, she took the stone steps and gradually eased the door open.

She squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath then stepped across the threshold.

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

Hannah twitched at the tickling sensation on her nose and swatted at it half heartedly in hopes it would go away. She rolled over towards the back of the couch mumbling incoherently. The tickly feeling followed, only it transferred its attentions to her now exposed ear. The warm air caused her to shiver, but the nip caused her eyes to pop open.

Hannah swung around swiftly, nearly clocking Donovan in the face with her head. Donovan snapped upright, keeping her hands lightly on Hannah’s shoulders. Hannah looked hard at her, then gently raised her own hands to tenderly trace the planes of the now flesh and blood face before her.

“It…” she squeaked, then stopped to clear her throat. “It worked?” she whispered, not needing an answer as she continued to touch Donovan, but getting one just the same.

“It worked,” Donovan grinned, leaning down to kiss Hannah again. She could very easily get used to this, and knew without a doubt that she coveted the feeling for eternity.

Hannah responded enthusiastically, wrapping her hands in Donovan’s dark hair and pulling her closer still. After a long moment, she released Donovan’s lips but not her head and she touched their foreheads together. “Let’s not lose this anymore,” she instructed. “The dreamscape is nice, but it so pales in comparison to the real thing.”

“I concur, Angel. What is our next step?”

Hannah loosened her hold with one hand and leaned back slightly to scratch her jaw. “I think we should try a practical test.”

“Such as?”

“Tomorrow, I’d like to take you inside Jack’s house. Wait…” she added holding up a hand to forestall the argument she could see coming. “A controlled test… one where I control what you see.” She chuckled at Donovan’s raised eyebrow. “Trust me.”

“I do,” Donovan answered immediately. “Implicitly.”

Hannah kissed Donovan on the end of her nose. “Good, because I do you too.”

Donovan got up and lit the few candles in the room and they sat for some time cuddling and just basking in one another’s company. Finally, Hannah looked up at Donovan’s profile from where her head rested on the Captain’s shoulder and sighed. “I don’t want to, but I need to get back. There are some preparations I need to make before tomorrow.”

Donovan brushed a kiss on Hannah’s forehead and sighed, releasing her and standing beside her. “I will walk you home.”

“Only partway,” Hannah cautioned. “I haven’t explained everything yet, and I don’t want to take any chances on losing you through that doorway again.”

Donovan nodded her acceptance. “Very well.” She took Hannah’s hand, and the two made their way up the beach back to Jack’s place.

Just before they reached the pathway, Hannah turned and Donovan took her in her arms. “I love you, Hannah. I will see you tomorrow.”

Hannah wound her arms around Donovan’s neck and lowered her lips down to meet Hannah’s own. “I love you, Donovan, and you will see me in our dreams.”

Donovan captured Hannah’s lips, and they took long minutes to leisurely explore one another. When they separated, breathing sporadically, Donovan smiled, and gently pushed away from Hannah. “Good night, Beloved.”

Hannah walked backwards slowly away from Donovan. “Happy dreams, my love,” she said before turning and making her way up the darkened pathway. Donovan watched until she passed from view, then spun on her heel and raced for home. She had a lot to look forward to.
Chapter XIV
Hannah awoke refreshed with a smile on her face. She and Donovan had spent the night cuddled together sleeping for the most part. It was a rather peculiar phenomenon. Since they had finally met one another face to face, it seemed easier to actually sleep together. Not that they couldn’t do other things as well, as they still did. But it was comforting to finally have the peace of sleeping in one another’s arms, knowing that reality couldn’t take them away from each other. Hannah was confident that today would bring about Donovan’s bodily return to her.

She got up and went to the kitchen, surprised to see Jack inside instead of out for his morning swim. He chuckled when he saw her… for two reasons. The first is she reminded him very much of the wild-haired, wide-eyed little niece he recalled fondly. The second was the look of sheer confusion as she tried to figure out why he was there. It was apparent she wasn’t quite awake yet.

“Uncle Jack?”

“Haven’t looked out the window this morning, hmm, Hannah?”

Hannah took a minute to process his words before glance around and noting for the first time just how dark it was outside. She continued to gaze outside for a moment longer before her eyes widened in realization.

“Wow! That’s quite a storm! Where’d it come from? And isn’t it pretty sudden?”

“There’s a story there. You want some coffee before I tell it?”

Hannah extended her arm, vein up, indication her need for a direct injection. Jack laughed again, and handed her a double sized mug.

“Here,” he said putting an arm around her shoulders and leading her to the couch. “I think you need to be sitting for this, even with that double espresso in your cup.

He let Hannah take several sips as they both stared out the glass doors into the fury of the storm. Finally, she ran her hands through her hair and set her cup on the table and turned towards him. “Okay, Uncle Jack. I think I am almost coherent now. What’s the scoop?”

“You want the facts first or just the theory?” he asked, scrubbing his own short hair.

“Facts first, then theory. I wanna see if you’re thinking what I am.”

“All right,” Jack said, and rose from his place on the couch to pace. “The fact is that a lot of the weird weather patterns around here are directly related to Donovan’s comings and goings. By everything I have been able to piece together, the storms come when she crosses into our time.”

“So you think she has crossed again?” Hannah asked hopefully.

Jack shook his head, hating to see the slumped shoulders and dulled eyes his response garnered. “No, not this time. This storm is different, both in origin and intensity. Were I to hazard a guess, I would say that she is trying to open the door.”

“This storm is stronger, fiercer than most she has caused, isn’t it?” Jack nodded an affirmative. “Do you have a theory on why?” He nodded again, but still didn’t speak. “Would you care to share?” a little curtly. Jack started as though coming out of deep thought.

“Sorry. Got to thinking there. I think the difference is that she actually has to open the door this time. She has to accept on faith that crossing the boundary means crossing out of her world and into the relative unknown of yours. It’s a huge step.”

“I’m not sure I follow you, Uncle Jack.”

He rubbed his hands over his face and through his hair before sighing. “Let me see if I can explain it a little more clearly. When you and Donovan crossed over before, it was no problem, because you were neither one aware that there was a big time difference between you. Even when you realized that she was from the past, it was easier for you to accept because you have read and studied the past and can believe what your senses are telling you about the reality of that time and place.”

“I know all of that Uncle Jack. What does that have to do with the storm, the portal, and Donovan getting back to me??” Hannah’s frustration came through her tone of voice plainly.

“Donovan is fully cognizant of the portal and the time barrier between the two of you now. I think the storm is her struggle to allow the truth of her knowledge to become her reality. She has faith in you. She just needs to believe in herself and cross over.”

Hannah’s eye widened in understanding. “I need to go,” and she was out the door without shoes, a shower or an umbrella.

She made it down the path and partway down the beach before she slowed. “What am I doing?” she asked herself out loud. “She has to come to me. It is the only way this will work. I have to go prepare things for her arrival, ’cause I know she will make it back to me.” She looked around at the storm and raised her voice. “You hear me, Donovan?? I believe in you!!”

Then she turned and ran back to Jack’s without a backwards glance.

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

Donovan woke with a start, the ferocity of the storm outside her windows a perfect reflection of the turmoil that stirred in her mind. She understood what Hannah had said, and even accepted the fact that it was true, but getting her mind wrapped around it was something all together different. It gave her a terrible headache every time she tried to imagine existing more than a hundred years into her own future.

She shook her head violently to try and clear all conscious thought from her mind, and rose to start the water heating. She wanted a warm bath and a cup of hot tea before she walked down the beach to find Hannah.

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

Hannah pushed her sodden hair out of her eyes as she carefully mounted the step. Jack handed her a towel without a word and waited for her to drop the cloth around her shoulders before putting a mug of something steaming into her hands.

She sipped the sweet coffee gratefully, soaked to the bone by her recent excursion through the rain, and thoroughly chilled by the air that was on in the house.

“Quick trip,” Jack commented.

“Yeah, it occurred to me that I can’t do anything except believe in her. She has to get here on her own.”

“Uh huh.”

“So, in the meantime, after my shower, I’m going to prepare things here for her introduction to my world.”

“You’re so certain she will overcome her own disbelief then?” Jack asked, knowing that speaking it aloud would help Hannah confirm it in her own mind.

“Y… y…yes!” she answered vehemently, then clamped her jaws together to keep her teeth from chattering. She shivered and sneezed.

“All right. That’s just about enough of that. This is no time for you to get sick, young lady,” Jack said sternly. Let’s go get you into a hot shower.”

Hannah nodded. “S… s…sounds like a p…plan. Even if…f…f it t…t…takes he…her a d…day or t…two, I wa…wanna b…be r…read… ready f…for her.”

By this time they were in the bathroom, and Jack turned on the water to warm it up. “You get undressed and get in that shower, honey. Then we’ll see what we can do to make things ready for Donovan. I’ll be in the office if you need anything.” Then he closed the door behind him without another word.

Hannah stepped into the warmth of the shower and sighed in relief.

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

The next two days there were furious storms and Hannah was grateful to Jack for both his help and support. They worked feverishly to hide as much of the modernity of the house as they could manage. Jack built cabinet doors to hide the television and the refrigerator. Hannah put away all the lamps and small appliances.

She knew there was nothing she could do about the glass or the plumbing, though she was glad that Jack’s window treatments were a cotton material, and his furniture tended towards wood and leather, much like Donovan’s did.

They decided to keep the study locked so Donovan couldn’t stumble into technology her mind was not ready to understand. Hannah planned to introduce her to life in the twenty-first century very slowly, because being without her was just not acceptable. She had no intention of allowing another separation like this one again if it were in her power to prevent it.

The third evening of storms found Jack and Hannah sitting together in the living room staring silently at the fire. They’d finished up their preparations earlier that morning, and there was still no sign of Donovan. In fact, the storm had grown exponentially with each passing hour to the point that Hannah feared they were sitting in the middle of a stationary hurricane. She mentioned the possibility to Jack.

“I dunno, Hannah. I wonder if my presence here is making it harder for her and her frustration is making itself known in the storm. I’m gonna try something. Tomorrow morning, I’m gonna go into town. Maybe that will clear the way for her to make it through the door.”

“You think it will help, Uncle Jack?”

“I think it can’t hurt at this point. We only have three days until the Pirate’s Ball. I am almost certain she crosses then, but I think for her to be able to function in our time, she has got to be able to control her destiny as it were. She has to consciously be able to cross back and forth like you did.”

“And you think your being here hinders that somehow?”

“I think the fewer obstacles in her way the better, at least until she gets a handle on things.”

“What if she can’t, Uncle Jack? What if she can’t cross the barrier? I haven’t seen her in my dreams the last two nights.”

Jack sat thoughtfully for a time after that. “It could very well be she is afraid of failure, Hannah, and doesn’t want to see you until she can overcome what she perceives as her own breakdown in belief. It could be that she is just so exhausted mentally trying to overcome this barrier that she is sleeping too deeply to hear you. Whatever the reason, you have to decide whether or not you are willing to give everything up to be with her if she cannot come to you.”

“I am, Uncle Jack. I told her I was. But she has to open the door.”

Jack opened his mouth to say something, then stopped and patted her thigh. “Well, we’ll try this tomorrow, and see if it makes a difference. At the very least, I will get ice cream out of it.” His eyes twinkled and he was glad to see the responding twinkle in hers. It had been a few days.

She chuckled. “Uh huh. I shoulda known there was a motive behind that.”

“You betcha,” he replied lightly. “And if you are good, I may even bring home some for you and Donovan to share.”

“Introducing Donovan to the delights of ice cream, hmm? I think I could learn to enjoy that rather quickly,” Hannah said saucily, though she couldn’t stop the blush that ran up her face.

Jack laughed, though he couldn’t hide his blush either. “And on that note… I am going to bed.” He stood then leaned down and kissed Hannah on the cheek. “Goodnight, little Hannah. Happy dreams.”

“Goodnight, Uncle Jack.”

She banked the fire, and went to her own room, hoping beyond hope to find Donovan in her dreams.

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

“Donovan?”

“Hannah?” Donovan looked around in the darkness. “Hannah, Beloved, where are you?”

“I’m right here with you Donovan. Listen to the sound of my voice. Can you see me?”

“No. It is so dark here. I cannot see anything. I feel like I have lost you… like I am all alone.”

The absolute despair in Donovan’s voice made Hannah want to cry, but she steeled her resolve and focused her entire being on believing in Donovan… believing in *them*.

“You’re not all alone, love. I’m right here with you, just like I have always been. You just need to believe, Donovan. I won’t let anything happen to you. You have to have faith in me… in us.”

Donovan’s dream self closed her eyes, and she focused solely on the sound of Hannah’s voice. Hannah continued speaking in smooth even tones until Donovan felt herself relaxing into Hannah’s warm embrace. When welcoming solid arms closed around her, Donovan opened her eyes to see Hannah’s smiling face looking back at her.

Without speaking, she tilted her head up and captured the ardent lips just above hers. For a long moment, she simply reveled in the sensation of them being together once more. Then she pulled away and lifted a hand to tenderly trace Hannah’s features. Hannah’s eyes fluttered closed involuntarily and she just let herself feel.

Finally, Donovan wove her fingers into blonde locks and she pulled Hannah’s lips down to a mere hairsbreadth of her own.
“I missed you. I am sorry I….”

“Shh,” Hannah whispered, covering Donovan’s supple lips with her fingertips. “It’s all right, Donovan. I know it’s hard.” She removed her fingers and planted a kiss on Donovan’s mouth, then pulled back before Donovan could deepen it.

“I want you to try something tomorrow.” She waited until the dark head nodded a tentative agreement. “I want you not to worry about crossing the barrier or opening the portal or stepping into the future, okay? I want you to focus solely on coming home to me. I want you to picture us together in the same time and place. Can you do that?”

Donovan thought seriously about Hannah’s request, and about how much sense it really made. “I can do that, if you will do something for me.”

“Anything, love. You know that.”

“Focus all your thoughts on me. Give me a path to follow that will lead my heart to yours.”

“It’s already there, Donovan. You just have to follow it home.”

Donovan smiled. “I love you, you know.”

“I know. I love you, too. Now rest and I will see you in the morning.”

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

Hannah woke to the sounds of birds and the glint of sunshine in her eyes. She smiled when she realized the storm had finally passed and she jumped out of bed. It boded well for the day.

She took a quick shower and dressed in a native sarong and halter top. She felt confident that she would bring Donovan into her world today.

Hannah opened the house wide and let the summer breeze blow through, enjoying the tang of the sea she could smell. She grabbed two apples and two bananas, and she made her way down the steps and on the path towards the beach with a bounce in her walk. She could hardly contain the happiness she felt. Her optimism was bubbling over this morning. She could believe enough for them both.

When she got to the end of the path, her breath caught. There just to the east of the opening stood Donovan, digging her toe in the sand for all the world like a five-year-old caught with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Hannah for her part, simply squealed with delight, and launched herself into Donovan’s unsuspecting but very willing arms.

Hannah leaned down and kissed Donovan thoroughly who proceeded to spin them around when they broke for air. Hannah laughed out loud at Donovan’s exuberance. “I know you could do it, love. I knew you’d make it today!”

Donovan gently deposited Hannah back on the sand and cupped her face tenderly in her hands. “That faith is why I made it, Angel. Never stop believing in me… in us.”

“Oh, I think you can count on that, sweetheart. I’m in this for the long haul.” She bent down to retrieve the fruit she’d dropped upon seeing Donovan standing there waiting for her, and missed the look of utter adoration that passed over Donovan’s face. “Here,” Hannah added. “Breakfast.”

Donovan accepted the fruit and dropped into the sand, content to sit with Hannah forever. Hannah sat down a little more carefully, not wanting sand in the wrong places, especially this early in the morning. She and Donovan had a lot of lost time to make up for, and there was just so much she needed to bring Donovan up to speed on concerning the modern world. She shook her head to clear it. She could get depressed just thinking about it if she let herself think too hard. She would do what she could with the time she had and work from there. She couldn’t believe a little bitty thing like time would keep them apart as hard as they’d struggled to find one another across it.

Donovan had been gazing out at the horizon much as Hannah had been until she heard the blonde woman muttering to herself. With an amused quirk of lips, she turned her head and asked, “Something you would like to share, or should I guess why you are mumbling under your breath and shaking your head at me?”

Hannah blushed prettily and Donovan laughed out loud. Hannah lightly slapped a linen covered leg.

“Be nice to me, Cap’n.”

“Or what?” came the teasing reply. “What is a comely little wench like you going to do to the likes of me? Hmm?”

Hannah reached out and grabbed Donovan by a very sensitive part of her anatomy, causing the Captain to gasp in surprised pleasure. Using said anatomical leverage, Hannah pulled Donovan closer to her til their lips were just touching and she could easily see the darkening of desire in the blue orbs so close to hers. She grinned evilly.

“I won’t do a damned thing, Cap’n. Just keep that in mind.” She released the nipple she’d been pinching, and gently pushed Donovan away from her. She stood and brushed the sand off her butt. “You coming?”

Donovan had fallen onto her back trying to catch her breath from the fire Hannah had started with a mere touch. She looked up and saw the very devil peeking back at her from Hannah’s green eyes and leapt to her feet. She caught Hannah round the waist and started an assault on her neck that ended with a bright purple mark on Hannah’s pulse point. She allowed Hannah to guide her head up until their lips met for a long moment.

“Damn, woman! What I let you do to me. What you do to me whether I let you or not,” Donovan growled in frustration. “You are so lucky I love you.”

“Oh, Donovan. That I’ve always known. No one is as lucky as I am.”

Donovan had no answer to make except to kiss Hannah again, gently pouring forth the love she felt until Hannah felt herself surrounded by that love.

“I love you too, Donovan,” she said as they parted. “Now, let me introduce you to my world.” She took a silk blindfold from the halter top where she’d tucked it next to her breast. Donovan’s eyebrow went up, but she didn’t comment on the blush that covered Hannah’s features so vividly.

She reached up, then changed her mind. “Kneel for me, sweetheart.”

Donovan complied, and Hannah secured the blindfold around Donovan’s face, ensuring she couldn’t see anything. Hannah walked around to stand in front of Donovan, and took the large hand in her smaller one.

“C’mon, love. Trust me to get you home safely.”

“I do, Hannah.”

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

It was slow going as Hannah was extra vigilant to ensure that Donovan didn’t misstep or trip on anything. Once they were inside the house, Hannah led Donovan into the bathroom. Donovan already had rudimentary knowledge of plumbing, so she figured she would be safe enough starting there. She seated Donovan on the edge of the Jacuzzi tub since that put them almost on an even level, then she removed the blindfold and held her breath.

Donovan kept her eyes closed when the blindfold slipped off, allowing her other senses to adjust to her new surroundings. Her nose twitched as it was assaulted by numerous scents she was unable to readily identify. Her ears heard silence, then something beyond it. There was an odd echo she didn’t recognize, and she sat still with her eyes closed a moment longer. The touch of Hannah’s hand on her arm made her smile, and the concern she radiated made her grin even wider.

“Donovan?”

Donovan knew no harm would befall here with Hannah there, and she slowly blinked her eyes open. She allowed herself to focus on Hannah until her breathing slowed and she felt calm return. She hadn’t realized how scared she was of disappearing again until she felt her heart rate physically slow.

Hannah slowly ran her hands up and down Donovan’s arms until she felt the pulse underneath her fingertips slow and steady.

“You all right there, love?”

Donovan nodded. “Yes. I was just afraid….” She stopped, unable to articulate further, but knowing Hannah would understand.

“I know, baby. So was I. I’m glad you’re still here with me.”

“Myself as well.”

Slowly, Donovan took her eyes off of Hannah’s and permitted herself to look around the room more thoroughly. The first thing she noticed was a huge mirror whose clarity she’d never seen equaled before in all of her travels. She turned Hannah gently around to face it and pulled the smaller woman’s body into hers, wrapping her arms around Hannah’s middle and resting her chin on Hannah’s shoulder.

They gazed at each other in the glass for what seemed like ever before Donovan whispered, “Wow!”

Hannah lightly squeezed the arms embracing her. “We make a beautiful couple, don’t we?”

For answer, Donovan stood and brought Hannah with her, then shuffled them to the vanity so she could reach out and touch the smooth surface. Donovan brought her hand back to Hannah’s face, and watched Hannah’s reactions in the mirror. She smiled when Hannah closed her eyes to enjoy the sensations. Donovan leaned down and blew lightly in Hannah’s ear, smiling at the trail of goosebumps that popped up.

“Yes,” she finally answered. “We make a very beautiful couple.”

Slowly Hannah opened her eyes and smiled. “Glad you think so.”

“I do. I have never seen myself so clearly. How do they do that?” Donovan released Hannah to creep around to the side of the mirror and try to see the back. Hannah laughed and pulled her away from the glass.

“I don’t know, love. We just buy it that way.”

Donovan looked back at her amazed. “Astounding. What wonderful craftsmanship.”

Hannah didn’t know how to respond to this enthusiasm for a mirror so she simply nodded her agreement and took Donovan’s hand. She reseated her on the ledge of the Jacuzzi and stepped back to the center of the room. Donovan waited patiently for Hannah to speak.

“I thought we’d begin your initiation into the twenty-first century here, since you already have more than a basic understanding of modern plumbing. It has a toilet,” pointing as she went around the room. “A bathtub,” not bothering to explain what a Jacuzzi was just yet. “A shower and the vanity area with two sinks. There is hot and cold running water and electricity, which you’ve read about.” Donovan’s head nodded, her eyes wide with wonder and excitement.

“We’re not going to get into the electricity and stuff today, so please don’t touch these,” Hannah asked, indicating the switches on the walls, but if you want to look around in here and see how things work, please feel free. I’ll answer any questions I can, though I will tell you that my plumbing knowledge is nil.”

Donovan was up like a shot wandering around the room several times just looking. She glanced back at Hannah, who nodded. “It’s okay to touch, Donovan. I know you want to understand how it works.”

Donovan’s smile was big enough to light up the room, and reminded Hannah of a child who’d been granted their greatest Christmas wish.

For hours they stayed in the bathroom while Donovan investigated every nook and cranny to see how things worked. Finally she leaned back with a satisfied smile.

“I think I can do this. I think I can make some of this work at the cottage.”

Hannah smiled, especially when Donovan cupped her face. “Thank you, Hannah,” Donovan whispered. “Thank you for taking a chance with me and for showing me all this.”

“It was my pleasure, love, though I have to say I have never seen anyone get so excited about plumbing before.”

Donovan chuckled. “Well, it validates some ideas I have had. And it gives me hope, because I have been in your world for a while and nothing has happened to send me home.”

Just at that moment there was a knock on the bathroom door. Hannah had heard Jack come back from town, and wondered how long it would be before his curiosity overcame his good manners. He’d lasted a lot longer than she’d expected, and she had to smile now at the timid knock.

Hannah looked at Donovan, whose head had snapped up at the first sound. Donovan turned her eyes to Hannah, the question in them clear.

“It is my Uncle Jack. He has been pivotal in helping me, and he wants to meet you.”

Big blue eyes went round, and Donovan swallowed hard, but nodded gamely. It was only fair after all. Hannah was going home to meet her folks, even though Donovan wasn’t sure she was ready for her Mother.

Hannah patted Donovan’s leg. “It’s okay, honey. He will like you for my sake, and then he will like you for yours.” She smiled mischievously. “Besides, he brought us ice cream.”

Donovan smiled at that pronouncement. She’d had ice cream once a very long time ago, and remembered it fondly. She wondered if it would live up to her memories, and then promptly forgot to wonder as Jack crossed the threshold and into the bathroom.

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

The ice cream was really good and Donovan savored every single bite. Jack was kind and didn’t interrupt her enjoyment with questions. Instead, the three sat back as comfortably as they could manage in the bathroom and ate their ice cream in peace.

When they were done, Hannah excused herself to take the utensils back to the kitchen. She knew Jack wanted a word with Donovan, and the look she and Donovan had shared conveyed that the Captain was eager to get it over with.

So she took her time and rinsed things off before making her way back into the bathroom. The two of them were in a deep discussion, having bonded over, of all things, plumbing. Jack was giving Donovan some pointers on adjustments she could make to be able to use some of the conveniences he had in his home with things that were available in her time.

Hannah just stood in the doorway with her hands on her hips shaking her head. She chuckled and Donovan rose and pulled her into the room. Then talk turned more personal.

“I promised Hannah she could be here when I grilled you, Donovan.” Donovan nodded her head as though she’d expected this. Jack smiled at them both, easily seeing the love between them, then he focused his attention back on Donavan.

“I would like to know your intentions towards my niece, Donovan, and your feelings for her. She is all the family I have left and
I want to know if you can be trusted to protect something so precious.”

“Uncle Jack!” Hannah didn’t know if she was more embarrassed or upset. Donovan twined their fingers together and patted her arm gently.

“It is all right, Angel. He has every right. And the truth is, I would be just as harsh were I in his shoes.” She turned her attention back to Jack.

“It is my intention to love, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, til death do us part.” Hannah’s eyes grew wide as she recognized the marriage vows that Donovan was repeating, and she almost missed the rest of what Donovan had to say.

“As for what I feel for her… I cannot tell you Jack. There are not words in my vocabulary to cover what it is that I feel. I love her, certainly with all that I am and all that I have, but even that does not begin to cover what she is to me or what I feel for her.”

Jack nodded his understanding and opened his arms to Donovan. “Welcome to the family, my dear.”

She smiled and accepted his hug, then turned and pulled Hannah into the embrace as well. The talk turned to other things.

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

As darkness came, Donovan rose and readied herself to go back to the cottage. Jack gave her another brief hug. “I look forward to the day you can stay without fear of being sent away from us.”

Donovan looked at Hannah and nodded. “Myself as well, Jack. I will hope for it to be one day very soon.” Hannah blushed and Donovan grinned. “My blindfold, madam. I must make my way home until tomorrow.”

Jack’s eyes grew round as he saw Hannah reach into her halter top for it, and he quickly scooted out of the room. Donovan simply snatched it and greedily sucked in the scent, watching Hannah’s blush deepen further with a smile. She handed it back and seated herself on the tub ledge, waiting patiently for Hannah to tie it around her eyes. A loud, low rumble startled her, and she pulled back.

Hannah chuckled. “We forgot to eat. I’m kinda hungry.”

As if on cue, Donovan’s stomach growled. “It seems I am as well.”

Hannah nodded. “I’ll see if I can find us something to snack on during the walk back.” She retied the blindfold and led Donovan through the house. She seated her on the porch with the command, “Wait here.” Then Hannah went back into the house and grabbed some fruit from the counter. Then she went back out through the glass door and took Donovan’s hand, not releasing it until they were off the path and on the beach headed toward the cottage. Then she untied the blindfold and pulled Donovan down to sit beside her in almost the exact spot they’d shared breakfast in.

“Today was a good day, huh?”

Donovan nodded, taking a huge bite of her pear. “Yes it was, but my days are always good when we are together. Tomorrow will be better, because it brings us one step closer to being together without fear of time separating us,”

They sat together quietly then, sharing their fruit and watching the sun sink below the horizon. Finally it grew fully dark and Donovan stood, reaching a hand out to help Hannah stand.

“I need to go, but I will see you in our dreams?”

Hannah nodded. “Absolutely, love.” She pulled Donovan’s head to her for an extended kiss. “I love you, Donovan.”

“And I love you, Hannah. Always.”

They kissed again before reluctantly parting, and Donovan began walking backwards towards her cottage. Hannah watched until she was out of sight, then turned and went back into Jack’s house. It had been a good day, but she was exhausted. She was looking forward to sharing her dreams with Donovan in their safe haven.
Chapter XV
“Hannah?” Donovan looked around the bathroom, wondering why her dreams had brought her into Hannah’s world. She recognized everything easily now, and smiled as she thought of the improvements she could make on her own bathing room at the cottage. She wished she could figure out a way to have hot running water, but….

The bathroom door opened and Hannah stepped through, a puzzled look on her face. She smiled when she saw Donovan standing there, then walked straight into her arms and gave her a hug.

“Donovan? What are we doing here?”

The Captain shrugged broad shoulders, absorbing the hug greedily. Though they now had personal contact, she had long ago learned to treasure these moments with Hannah and she did so now with relish.

“I do not know, Hannah. I was hoping you could tell me.”

Hannah took Donovan’s hand and led her back to the edge of the Jacuzzi, seating her before standing between Donovan’s slightly parted legs. She rested her forearms on Donovan’s shoulders and loosely clasped her hands together behind the strong neck. Then Hannah leaned down and touched her forehead to Donovan’s.

“I can give you my theory.” The dark head nodded and Hannah continued speaking. “I think our minds are probably on overload. There is so much for me to show you… so much you need to learn before you can truly come into my world. Our dreams are just a reflection of that.”

Donovan laid her head down on Hannah’s chest, hungrily soaking in the scent and warmth that surrounded her. “Will you be offended if I do not want the necessity of reality to intrude on our dreams?”

Hannah withdrew slightly… just enough so she could gaze into Donovan’s eyes. “I’m not sure I understand what you are asking, Donovan.”

The Captain released a sigh. “I know I have a lot to understand about your world, and I do not begrudge spending any time spent learning it together. But I have spent years cherishing the rare time we have together here, and even though we are obviously able to connect here more often since we… well, since we have actually physically met…. I just do not want to give it up.”

“I understand, Donovan. This is our special private place.”

Donovan nodded her head vehemently. “Yes, I want it to stay that way.”

Hannah smiled. It was one of the few times Donovan had reminded her of a petulant five-year-old child. She had to acknowledge the truth of the words though. She herself resented greatly that reality was choosing to intrude on the one place she had always found an escape.

“Close your eyes, Donovan. Close your eyes and picture us in the meadow. Picture us in the meadow by that tree… you know the one….” Hannah closed her eyes as well and imagined.

“Listen to the stream trickle. Do you hear it? And the breeze… can you smell the salt tang?”

Donovan actually felt the breeze blow across her skin and sighed in contentment. She was glad to be in love with a writer, especially a writer who could paint such vivid pictures with her words. Donovan kept her eyes closed, listening with satisfaction to the portrait Hannah was bringing to life in her mind.

Finally Hannah leaned down and whispered in Donovan’s ear. “Open your eyes, love.”

Donovan did so slowly, blinking rapidly as sunlight greeted her gaze. She found herself at the base of the old oak with Hannah wrapped comfortably in her arms. She looked down into smiling green eyes.

“Thank you,” she said, her voice tender and sincere.

“It was my pleasure, love. We have plenty of time, and this is our sanctuary. We can work on your education while we travel to your home. I promised to meet your folks, right?” Donovan nodded. “And it is quite a long voyage home and back again, correct?” Donovan nodded again. “So we will save our work for some of our waking hours and our dreams for us. Agreed?”

Donovan didn’t nod this time, but leaned down and captured a pair of willing lips in a passionate kiss for her answer.

Hannah broke away breathless and patted the chest beneath her for good measure. “I’ll take that as a yes,” she added smiling. Then she rested her head back over Donovan’s heartbeat and let the sound carry her into a deep peaceful oblivion. Donovan listened to the steady rise and fall of Hannah’s breathing, feeling her own slow to match it before she too, surrendered to sleep.

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

Donovan woke refreshed, though slightly disoriented. She was in her own bed wrapped tightly around a pillow that until she has awakened had felt like Hannah to her. She frowned slightly, looking forward to the day when she could wake up with the real thing in her arms regularly.

Donavan stood and moved to the bathroom, noting with a critical eye all the things she wanted to do with the space now that she had the knowledge to do so. She wondered though if she’d be able to find anything equivalent in her own time to do what she wanted to do.

She took care of her morning business, and set the tepid water to filling the bathtub, then she crossed into the kitchen to stoke the fire to heat the water for her tea. She and Hannah had agreed that Hannah would try to cross through the portal this morning. so she had time to prepare at her leisure.

A knock on her door startled her and she frowned. It was just past sunrise, and only an extreme emergency would bring a member of her crew to the cottage, especially at this time of day. Donovan ran her fingers through her unruly hair and walked to the door, opening it without preamble.

Then she wished sincerely she’d looked first.

Hannah stood in front of her, her face freshly scrubbed clean and her hair still wet from its washing. She wore a red sarong and halter that had a delicate floral pattern woven into it. Donovan smiled in appreciation, then frowned at her own rumpled appearance.

“I did not expect you quite so early,” she muttered not moving away from the door. She was embarrassed at being caught unawares and the feeling made her a little off balance and testy.

The smile slid from Hannah’s face as Donovan made no move to welcome her inside. “I’m sorry, Donovan. I woke up early and was just so anxious to get to you that I didn’t stop to consider that you might not be ready for me to be here.” She backed up a pace. “I’ll, um… I’ll just go and….”

She didn’t get to finish as Donovan caught her by the arm and pulled Hannah into her. “No. I am sorry, Hannah. I….” She ran her free hand through her wild hair. “I always want you here with me. I just hoped to look a little more presentable before you got here is all.”

Hannah tipped her head back, and wrapped her hands around Donovan’s neck. “Donovan, sweetheart. I don’t expect you to be perfectly groomed all the time. Hell, when I first saw you, you were all hot and sweaty from working on the roof as I recall.” The timbre of her voice deepened and her eyes took on a darker color. “I found it quite sexy, actually.”

A dark brow rose. “You did?”

“Uh huh.” She gently urged Donovan’s head forward. “And I think you’re pretty cute all sleep rumpled.”

Donovan rested both hands on Hannah’s hips, and drew them together with a smile. “You do?”

Hannah nodded again. “Uh huh. Donovan, love is not just about moonlight and roses, candlelight, picnics and walks on the beach. Love is morning breath and messy hair and dirty dishes and laundry. Love is sharing your everyday lives, good and bad, and wanting to be together anyway.”

“I know, and I know you love me… I just wanted….”

Hannah kissed Donovan firmly. “I know. You go get cleaned up and primp, and I’ll fix us some tea. How does that sound?”

“That sounds… HEY! British sea captains do not primp!”

“No, but I’ll bet Donovan Scott the woman does now, doesn’t she?” Donovan dropped her head and blushed, mumbling something unintelligible under her breath. “I though so. G’wan now. You’ll feel better, and I really need a cup of tea this morning.”

Donovan clasped Hannah’s hand in her larger one and led her into the cottage. She walked Hannah to the kitchen and seated her.

“Water should be boiling in a few minutes. The tea leaves are here,” removing them from the cabinet, “and the mugs are….” She stopped speaking when Hannah took her hand and walked her toward the bathroom door.

“Take your bath, Donovan. I can find what I need to fix us tea.”

Donovan chuckled. “You just want free reign in the kitchen. Don’t think I can….”

Suddenly it occurred to Donovan that her bath water had been running for quite some time. “Damnation!!” she exclaimed before rushing into the bathroom to shut the water off. She skidded to a halt, turning off the water just before it crested over the lip of the tub. “Dissinfrattinmudderblippin….” she muttered, knowing she’d have to empty the tub somewhat before being able to actually use it.

Hannah’s eyebrows rose at the first epithet, and she slowly followed Donovan into the room, watching with a smile as the other woman stopped the running water just in time. She absolutely did not expect Donovan to peel her shirt of before reaching a hand carefully down to loosen the plug. She stood staring, trying to remember to breathe as the muscles in Donovan’s back rippled with every movement of her body.

Hannah choked back a cry, causing Donovan to half-turn towards her to see where the sound came from. She felt a rakish grin form as she saw the look of unveiled desire settle in Hannah’s eyes. She turned so her back was once again towards the blonde woman.

“Do you like what you see Hannah?” The Captain was well aware of the deepening of her voice and the fire in the green eyes on her back was burning a hole through her. She didn’t hear Hannah’s footsteps as she crossed the room, but she felt her presence even before warm hands landed on her shoulders. Donovan unconsciously leaned back into the firm touch.

“I love what I see, Donovan,” burring directly into the brunette’s ear and making a pleasant tingle run the length of her spine. “I thought I already made that clear this morning.” She absently rubbed her hands along the bare skin of Donovan’s back and arms, relishing the silky texture under her fingertips.

“You did,” Donovan managed to growl through clenched teeth. It was taking all she could do not to simply turn around and….

Hannah leaned down and kissed the juncture of her neck and shoulders. “Get your bath, love,” she whispered. “I’ll be in the kitchen when you get done.”

Donovan didn’t see the agonized look on Hannah’s face as the smaller woman pulled away from her. She merely sat with unfocused eyes staring at the slowly draining water trying to regain her equilibrium. “My God, that woman is going to kill me one day, but what a way to die.”

She grinned fiercely then, feeling cherished and surrounded by Hannah’s love. No one had ever made her feel as cared for as Hannah did with her words or her touch, and the look in her eyes…. Donovan sincerely believed Hannah had the most expressive eyes she had ever encountered, not knowing that her own did the very same thing to Hannah.

She stripped quickly and stuck the plug back into the tub now that the water level had dropped sufficiently to allow her to sit down without sloshing water onto the floor. She picked up the soap and a wash cloth and began scrubbing vigorously. It occurred to her to wonder if Hannah would come in and wash her back, then decided not to tempt fate. Donovan was on sensory overload, and figured that much tactile contact from Hannah would send her self control spinning right off its axis.

She bathed hastily, grateful for the lovely cinnamon scent her mother had put into her soap. For all the differences she and her mother had, this was one of the few ways she still felt her mother’s love for her.

Before she could slide into any maudlin thoughts, Donovan rose from the water and wrapped herself in a large towel and padded across the floor to her bedroom.

Hannah listened to the splashing coming from the other room as she investigated all the nooks and crannies of the kitchen. In addition to the tea leaves, Hannah had also found Donovan’s small stash of eggs and some bread which she suspected Mama had made.

She set about hunting for a skillet which she found rather easily. The cutting board was a little more difficult, and she finally gave it up as a lost cause, choosing to cut on a plate instead. She found a knife, and winced when she cut herself testing it for sharpness.

“Shoulda known it’d be sharp,” she muttered to herself, sticking her thumb in her mouth as she moved to the pump. She primed it and started pumping, jumping back a bit when the water gushed instead of flowed. She rinsed it in the water, surprised at its chill, then wrapped her thumb in the towel before dropping the tea leaves into the now boiling water.

It was much harder to function in a non-electric kitchen than she’d imagined it would be, she was discovering, and having her hand swathed in a towel only made it doubly so. She set the skillet on the stove and grabbed the eggs from the counter. Hannah broke them into a bowl and added salt, pepper and the smallest amount of water she could, then set about adding butter to the skillet.

It got hotter faster than she was ready for it to, and she jerked her hand from the handle that had gotten very hot. The butter browned to the point of burned and without warning caught fire. By this point, Hannah’s frustration was such that she didn’t know whether to freak, scream, cry, and without warning, the choice was taken away from her.

Donovan calmly crossed the threshold into the kitchen and took one look at the stove and another at Hannah’s shell-shocked demeanor. She took a lid from where it hung, and covered the fire. Then she took a towel from the drawer beside the stove and moved the skillet to a cool spot on top of the iron surface. Then Donovan moved the tea to a spot beside the skillet before the tea boiled itself over.

Without a word, she took Hannah in her arms and gently eased her back into one of the two kitchen chairs, easing the towel away from Hannah’s thumb. Donovan winced reflexively at the gash that was still sluggishly bleeding, then looked up into green eyes.

“Oh, Beloved. That has to hurt. Let me get some supplies to take care of that.”

Donovan started to move, and found herself held in place by Hannah’s strong grip. Donovan cupped Hannah’s face and was shocked when Hannah latched on like she’d never let go, but she returned the hug in equal measure.

“All I wanted to do was fix a nice breakfast for the two of us,” she whispered. “I didn’t realize I was courting disaster by trying to cook eggs and toast.”

Donovan kissed the blonde head and leaned back to look in Hannah’s eyes. The forlorn expression on Hannah’s face made Donovan smile sadly and she leaned forward and nipped Hannah’s nose. Hannah giggled in reflex and Donovan’s smile became happier, an expression that Hannah easily mimicked.

“I love you,” Hannah said.

“And I love you,” Donovan answered. “I appreciate your wanting to prepare breakfast, but I should have told you about the stove. It is somewhat particular.”

“Well, that and I really don’t have a clue what I am doing. It is so different from what I am used to.”

“Is it really?”

“Yeah, the heat and the iron and… oh, just everything.”

Donovan took Hannah’s good hand in her own and led her back to the pump. “I will tell you what,” she said as she began to run cold water over the sliced thumb, watching the bleeding slow. She guided Hannah into her bedroom and seated her on the bed before going into the linen closet and taking out her medical supplies. “Let me get you medicated and bandaged properly, then you can tell me more about the differences while we prepare breakfast together.”

Hannah sneezed twice when Donovan dusted her cut with medicinal herbs, then sucked in a deep breath when they started to burn and sting. She bit her lip, waiting for Donovan to finish wrapping the cloth around her thumb.

“I should have warned you about the sharpness of the herbs, but that is what will help it heal quickly and properly. I am sorry for the pain they are causing you.”

“Actually, it’s not too bad once the initial sting goes away. It was just something of a shock.”

Donovan smiled. “I know. I accidentally spilled too much into a cut once. It made me dance around the kitchen.”

Hannah wiggled her eyebrows. “I’d pay good money to see that.”

Donovan leaned forward and picked Hannah on the lips, before allowing her own lips to curl into a rakish grin. “Would you now?”

“Yep.”

“Well, there will be dancing at the Pirate’s Masquerade Ball tomorrow night. Will you dance with me then?”

“Every single dance if you’d like.”

“I would like. And do not worry… I would be able to choose you out of a crowd of people in the dark anywhere.”

“Could you really?”

“Yes, it is part of the legend.”

“Legend?” Hannah was beginning to feel like an echo of sorts, but the conversation was making her curious. To say nothing of the tickling feeling it sent down her spine.

“Yes, and if you are very good, I will explain it all to you on our journey home. We are leaving directly after the unmasking.”

“So quickly? I… I’m not….”

“Is it a problem, Hannah? We always leave after the ball. The tide is with us then, and it is the natives’ way of giving us a farewell sendoff.”

They walked into the kitchen and Donovan picked up the mostly cooled skillet and dumped the burned butter just outside the back door. Hannah picked up the offending knife again, and began to slice the bread onto the plate. It was awkward, and the bread ended up in several different shapes and thicknesses, but Donovan let her work without comment. She could see what helping out meant to Hannah, and she simply let her do what she felt she could.

Donovan cleaned up the skillet and placed it on a different spot on the stove, allowing it to heat more gradually. She added the butter and let it melt before toast the bread as evenly as she could manage. She added more butter, then rapidly stirred in the eggs. Soon, they were sitting down to a hot breakfast with tea that had been diluted with hot water.

“This is cozy,” Hannah commented with a smile. “And you’re a good cook.”

“I do all right. Not enough to make my mother happy, but enough that I do not poison myself either.”

“Tell me about your mother.”

“You tell me the differences in cooking between your time and mine, and I will tell you about my mother,” Donovan countered. She knew she needed to share a few truths about her mother with Hannah, but she didn’t really want to bring that particular unpleasantness into her sanctuary.

Hannah read the hesitation in Donovan’s eyes, and could see the latent pain that lurked behind that. She wondered what it was all about, but respected Donovan’s need to reveal things in her own time. Besides, she knew Donovan was curious about the differences in their two worlds, and it was something she was going to need to understand. So Hannah nodded her acceptance of the deal, and began speaking.

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

“You mean to tell me you can control the fire… the temp-er-a-ture so perfectly that the fire never needs tending? Things do not burn?”

Hannah had been patiently trying to explain how an electric oven worked. She realized she’d started in the middle instead of at the beginning as far as Donovan’s understanding of the concept went. So she decided a small science lesson was in order. She took Donovan’s hand and led her to the study.

“Oh no… things still burn. Humans being what we are, we tend to be forgetful or careless. But they tend to burn less because of electricity.”

Donovan walked to a shelf and pulled out a couple books. “I read about some experiments that were being done with that. Do you mean to tell me…?”

“I mean that we have a lot of catch-up learning to do for the century or so between us.”

“Then let us get started. I want to understand everything.”

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

It was almost dark before Hannah and Donovan stopped discussing electricity and its many varied uses. Donovan was absolutely fascinated to know and understand that many of the things she had read about and imagined being possible really were part of everyday life in Hannah’s world.

“That is simply amazing, Hannah. Thank you for sharing all these things with me.”

“You’re welcome, Donovan. Even if I didn’t think it was necessary, I think it would be fun to share this with you. You have a very keen intellect. We could probably have some great philosophical debates.”

Donovan’s eyes twinkled. “Oh, I think we can find time for one or two of those on our voyage home.”

Hannah clasped Donovan’s hand as they made their way back to the kitchen. “Then will you tell me about your mother?”

Donovan nodded solemnly. “Yes. It is not something I take a great deal of joy in discussing, but you deserve to know what you will be coming up against.”

“That bad, huh?”

“Yes,” came the stark reply. “My mother loves me, but she is not very happy with me or the way I have chosen to live my life. And I doubt she will contain her feelings because you are present.” She didn’t add that Hannah’s presence was likely to make it worse, but it was the first thought that ran through Hannah’s mind.

“Would it be better for you if I don’t go home with you?” Hannah offered, though the though of being separated again was physically painful, and it took all Hannah could do to keep from doubling over at the suggestion.

Horrified blue eyes rose to meet green, and Hannah felt Donovan’s pain as keenly as her own. “Please do not leave me alone again, Hannah. I could not bear the separation.”

“Neither could I, love. I just thought….”

Long fingers covered Hannah’s lips and she stopped speaking. “Do not think. Just stay with me. We can get through anything together.”

Before Hannah could answer a rumbling growl echoed in the stillness. They looked at each other wide-eyed before looking down at their offending stomachs. When their eyes met again, they broke into chuckles.

“Guess we’d better feed the beasts, huh?” Hannah said.

“It certainly sounds like it, and then I will walk you home. Tomorrow is going to be a very busy day.”

“Yeah, it is. Will I see you at all before the ball?”

Donovan shook her dark head. “We are actually not supposed to see one another until then.” She began pulling out foodstuff to fix them a simple dinner.

Hannah’s brows scrunched up in thought. “You aren’t escorting me then?” She paused. “Wait… this has something to do with the legend, doesn’t it?”

Donovan nodded, but said nothing.

“You’ll share all this with me on our trip home, won’t you?” Hannah asked.

“Yes. Everything I know, I will tell you about.”

“All right then. It’s probably just as well.” She moved to set the table while Donovan pushed the water forward to heat for tea. “I have a lot to do if we are sailing tomorrow night.”

“Your clothes should be completed. I will pick them up from Satosh and have them stored on the ship until you arrived to take care of them. Is the anything special you would like to have brought aboard?” scrambling to think of things she could afford to add to their small space that would make Hannah more comfortable for the extended voyage home.

“Will I be sharing your quarters?”

“Yes. I think it is the wisest course of action. And I honestly want to keep you near me as much as possible.”

“It won’t cause you problems with your crew?”

“Not with most of them, and the few that might take issue with it, I can handle.” Donovan blew out a breath as she moved dinner to the table. “Most of my crew are well aware that I was searching for something out here. The intuitive ones will understand I have found it.”

Happiness welled up in Hannah’s chest and blossomed across her face as they sat down to a quiet meal. The silence was warm and comfortable and Hannah realized she could enjoy a lifetime of silence if shared in Donovan’s company.

After dinner, they cleaned the few dishes, and then headed out into the warm June night. The stars were out and the moon, what there was of it was bright enough to light their way back toward Jack’s house.

“Donovan?” Hannah said so as not to disturb the peace of their surroundings.

“Hmm?” the Captain answered with a squeeze of the co-joined fingers. “What are you thinking, Angel?” taking in the perplexed look on Hannah’s face.

“Tomorrow night, the lines here will be blurred won’t they? Between past and present, I mean. I mean, people can cross from past to present and back, correct?”

“Not exactly. My crew and I have noticed that we seem to wander between two distinct sets of people. But no one else seems do that.” She scrubbed her face with her free hand. “The parties are very similar. Held in the same place, with many of the same foods and amenities. Even the music is similarly done. But there are two distinct sets of people who never mingle, except with us.”

“But you can actually interact with people from my time without danger of us shutting the portal door, correct?”

“Yes.” Donovan paused and thought. “Why?”

Hannah smiled and pulled them to a stop just at the beginning of the pathway up to Jack’s place. She put Donovan’s hands on her waist and wrapped her own around Donovan’s dark hair. “Because I know Katie is gonna want to grill you.”

“Katie?”

“My very best friend growing up. She and I are the ones I wrote the Trudy and Evan stories about. She was supposed to get here earlier this week, but the storm kept she and her new husband Frank away. Jack was going to pick them up this afternoon and bring them over.”

“Why does Katie want to grill me?” Hannah could hear the hesitation in Donovan’s voice, as though she didn’t quite understand what she was asking.

“It means she wants to interrogate you, love. She wants to ask you all sorts of questions to insure that you are right for me.”

“Is that not Jack’s place?” Not angrily, but honestly confused.

“Yes, but Katie feels it is her place as well. She is as close to a sister as I ever had, and we’ve looked out for each other since we were born, practically.”

“Did you tell her about us?”

“Yes, but not for a very long time. Not until after we became dream lovers. She knew I was waiting for someone special though. She knew I was waiting for Blue Eyes.”

Donovan smiled. “Very well. I will be sure to meet this Katie so she can… grill me. Now kiss me, and I will go and tend to work so that we will be prepared to cast off tomorrow night.”

Hannah did so willingly, and the kiss went on for several long moments before they broke off and Donovan pulled Hannah in for a firm hug.

“I cannot tell you how excited I am about our coming voyage. For the first time, I look forward to going home, knowing that this time, you are going home with me. I do not leave you or the chance of finding you behind. Thank you for coming to me, Hannah Reilly. I love you with all my heart.”

“Thank you for continuing to search for me, Donovan Scott. I love you beyond forever.”

They kissed again, then Donovan reluctantly released Hannah and motioned her towards the path. “Go Beloved, before I simply sweep you up and carry you home with me.”

Hannah hesitated. “Don’t tempt me like that Donovan. I know I need to go inside and spend a bit of time with Katie, but you aren’t making it easier.”

“Go, Hannah… after tomorrow, we will have a lifetime together.”

“And beyond, love.” But the words were the impetus she needed to spur her on her way, and she turned and walked briskly up the path to Jack’s place.

Donovan watched until she was out of sight, then turned and headed back down the beach at a jog. Her mind was already turning over the things she needed to do on the morrow, and she picked up her pace as happiness for the future bubbled over. This was one Pirate’s Masquerade she was looking forward to attending.
Chapter XVI
Hannah crossed the threshold and was immediately engulfed in a squealing hug, and surrounded by rolling male laughter. She held on to Katie for dear life, until the squealing became a gentle rocking motion and Katie was muttering soothing phrases in her ears. Finally Hannah and Katie pulled away from one another.

“Love becomes you, my dear, but why the tears?’

Hannah shook her head, unable to articulate the surge of emotion that had flowed through her at her best friend’s embrace. Katie held Hannah’s chin in her hand, and tenderly wiped away the traces of tears. “We’ll talk alone later, okay?”

Hannah nodded and turned to Katie’s husband Frank, whom she considered to be another dear friend. He picked her up and squeezed, spinning her in a circle until she was beating him on the shoulder to get him to stop.

“FRANK!!! I’m gonna throw up all over you if you don’t stop making the room spin!!”

Frank laughed but stopped spinning. He hugged Hannah hard but briefly, then smiled down at her. “How are ya, Little Hannah?”

She punched him in the arm and glared. “Ya know… you are about the only person our age I know who calls me that any more.”

He rubbed his shoulder and pouted. “I am the only one willing to risk getting punched. Ow.” He turned to Katie and held out his arm. “Honey… Hannah punched me.” He opened big wide puppy dog eyes at her and Katie snorted.

“Don’t look at me for sympathy, bub. I learned not to call her that a LONG time ago.”

Frank turned amazed eyes to Jack, who held up his hands as if to stay out of the whole conversation. “I don’t believe this… married less than two weeks and the honeymoon’s over!” Frank pouted and plopped down on the couch.

Katie sat next to him, and he scooted away a bare inch… all the room he had to move. “No, no,” he said with mock indignation. “I can tell that I’m not loved here.”

Hannah dropped to the arm of the couch, conveniently pinning Frank between her and Katie. He couldn’t help the smile that appeared. It harked back to the many of the times they’d shared just like this growing up.

“Heh,” Hannah commented. “You know better.”

Frank patted her thigh and he pulled Katie into him, curling his arm around her. “You bet I do, Little H. It’s always nice to be reminded though.”

Jack cleared his throat. “Been a long time since you youngsters were ragging on each other like that. Nice to see adulthood doesn’t change everything.”

Hannah slid off the couch and moved to give Jack a hug. “And how was your day, Hannah?” Jack asked in a private manner even though Katie and Frank seemed to be in their own world at the moment. He wasn’t sure what Hannah wanted shared with them. Her answer was equally quiet, but there was no mistaking the truth of her feelings in her tone.

“It was fun, Uncle Jack… Donovan has such a sharp mind. I enjoy just being with her, even if we’re discussing mundane things like dinner or the weather. And for something that she is earnestly interested in, as she is in electricity….” Hannah chuckled. “I sound like a lovesick schoolgirl with a crush.”

“No, Hannah… you sound like a woman who is deeply in love, and your eyes say you have found your soul’s half.”

“I am Uncle Jack, and I have.”

The sound of giggling and slapping brought their attention back to Frank and Katie. Hannah grinned devilishly before running and jumping over the couch to land on top of both of them, squarely between them.

“Hiya, guys! Miss me?”

Frank and Katie exchanged a look before attacking simultaneously. Soon Hannah was screaming in laughter as she was tickled from both sides. Finally, they all sat back in an exhausted heap.

“God, that was fun. I haven’t laughed like that in a while.”

“I doubt any of us have,” Jack chimed in. He moved away from the wall where he’d been leaning watching the three of them play like kids. “I know my stomach hasn’t been this sore from laughing in quite a while.”

Hannah got up and moved to the kitchen, pulling out cold beers for everyone. Then they popped the tops, and scattered around the living room to settle in for some good conversation between them.

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

Several hours, a few beers and a platter of food later, the group was getting ready to say goodnight. Hannah was arguing unsuccessfully for Katie and Frank to take her bed, knowing it was the only place for them to sleep together. They were adamant that she keep her space.

“Hannah, I’ll be fine here,” Frank said, motioning to the couch.

“But… but, what about Katie? I know ya’ll are newlyweds and all, Frank, but neither of you is going to be that comfortable for very long out here.”

Katie laughed and took Hannah by the arm. “I’m not sleeping out here. You and I are having a sleep over.”

Hannah looked at Katie, confused. “But Katie, you’re married.”

“Yes, and I intend to be for the rest of my life. On the other hand, I don’t plan to be here very long, so we need to catch up while we can. Frank’s a big boy. He’ll be all right by himself for a couple nights.”

“Frank?”

“Little H, Katie and I talked about it before you came home. It’s fine. I’m glad ya’ll have a chance to do your girl talk.” He put his arm around Katie and kissed her head gently. “You were always on my side when I was trying to court Katie, and I know my best girl has missed having her best girlfriend around to talk to and gossip with.”

Hannah nodded. “Okay, then. I’d like that….” She hesitated then took the plunge and continued speaking. “Because I am going with Donovan tomorrow night, and I won’t be back for a while.”

Jack’s eyes grew wide. He alone in the group realized exactly the implications of what Hannah had just said. Katie just squealed with excitement, and slapped Hannah in the arm.

“Ooh! And how long where you gonna wait to tell us about that, huh? And when do I get to meet this Blue Eyes?? And….”

She would have continued, but Frank took her by the arm. “Honey, I love you, and so does Hannah, but take it easy on her, will ya? She looks a little shell-shocked.”

“C’mon, NahNah,” referring to the very first nickname Hannah had been christened with. “Let me get Frank settled, and we’ll have an honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned sleepover. You grab the drinks and I’ll fix us another snack.”

Hannah turned to Frank and gave him as big a hug as she could muster. “Thank you, Frank.”

“Anytime, Hannah. You’re family, y’know.”

Hannah moved towards the hallway, leaving Frank and Katie to say their good nights in private. Jack stopped her just as she reached the study, placing a hand on her arm.

“Do you have a minute, Hannah?”

She nodded, fairly certain she knew what he wanted to talk about, and knowing he deserved an explanation. She followed him into the study and took a seat, not surprised when he took the chair next to her instead of using his desk chair.

“You’re sure about this… going back with her then, I mean?” It was not so much a question as it was a statement of understanding. Hannah nodded and waited for the concerns she knew were coming. Jack smiled.

“I’m glad. You two have been through so much to be together, I think it is wise of you to take the opportunity to do so. I just hope the time period adjustment is not too difficult for you. Reading about something, even if your mind understands it, is entirely different from actually experiencing and living through it.”

“I know, Uncle Jack. Boy, do I ever,” she muttered almost under her breath. “But this is something I have to do. For her… for us… I have to do this. I have to try.”

“I know you do, Hannah, and I wish you the best of success in the trying.” Jack stood and offered his hands to Hannah, who took them and rose to stand in front of him. He took her in his arms and hugged her tightly, depositing a lone kiss to the top of her head. “I am going to miss you, though.”

“I’ll miss you, too, Uncle Jack. And I imagine I’ll be missing indoor plumbing and electricity before it’s all said and done. But it is worth it to me to be together in more than just our dreams.”

Jack smiled and eased back. “I was hoping we could discuss that in greater length and detail. Perhaps when you get back? I have several theories I’d like to talk over with you and compare notes on how things correlate.”

“I’d like that, Uncle Jack.. I’m curious to know if we reached any of the same conclusions.”

“All right, then… it’s a date. We’re set for a nice long talk as soon as you come back with Donovan.” He paused and thought. “You’re not gonna be gone five or ten years, are you?”

Hannah’s brows rose into her hairline. “Not to my knowledge. This is supposed to be a short trip home to meet her folks. Should be a few months given that we have to travel by slow boat, but not much longer than that. I think it will be about six months honestly. I know Donovan wants to spend a little time at home before crossing the Atlantic again.”

“Understandable. She’s not always a friendly ocean, especially the Northern part. Will you be home for the holidays, or…?”

“I don’t know. I’ll ask. We may have to wait until it is warmer to make the crossing bearable, in which case, we may be gone nine months. I’ll talk to her at the ball tomorrow, so I can let you know before we leave.”

“Fair enough. Now you better get in there and catch up with Katie. She doesn’t understand what your leaving with Donovan means like I do. And I know ya’ll have a lot to talk about.”

Hannah reached out and hugged Jack again. “Thanks, Uncle Jack. You’ve always been one of the best things in my life and I love you.”

He couldn’t help the welling up of emotion the words caused any more than he could stop the tears from falling down his face. “I love you back, Little Hannah. Now go on. Katie is waiting and we’ll say our goodbyes before you leave tomorrow night.”

She nodded and took her leave of him, crossing the hallway to her room. She opened the door, surprised to find Katie already there waiting for her.

“I thought you’d be… I mean, I was trying to give you guys, um….”

“Hannah, we were together before we got married. A night apart is not going to kill either one of us. Now,” mock sternly with her hands on her hips. “Where are the drinks?”

Hannah scratched her head, honestly befuddled. “Did I grab them? I think I came straight back here.” She thought a moment, backtracking her steps in her mind. “I did,” she said at last. “Damn! Let me go….” She started to open the door when a hand on her arm stopped her.

“No worries, hon. I noticed you walked out of there without picking anything up. I grabbed the drinks when I got the snacks. Frank helped me carry them in. Now change into your jammies, and let’s get this party started.”

Hannah laughed and moved to change. She was looking forward to this.

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

An hour later the two women sat together on the bed, drinks besides them and snacks between them. Hannah had given Katie almost the whole story of her encounters with Donovan, leaving out the time difference and the more private and intimate details. That of course is exactly what Katie jumped on first.

“Is she a good kisser?”

Hannah blinked, staring at Katie like she was some sort of alien. Somehow, that wasn’t the first question she’d expected to come out of Katie’s mouth.

“Excuse me?” she finally croaked out when she could speak again. She couldn’t stop the blush that crossed her face or the warmth that spread through her body at the memory of Donovan’s kisses, though, and Katie noticed immediately.

“C’mon, Hannah. Is Donovan a good kisser?”

“Um, why do you wanna know?” rubbing her face to get rid of the heat that was still very present.

Katie opened her mouth, then paused. “We always shared secrets and stuff, Hannah,” she reminded her friend quietly. “I’m just interested because she is so obviously a big part of your life.”

Hannah patted Katie’s arm, suddenly aware she had hurt her friend’s feelings unwittingly. “She is, and you’re right. We have always shared secrets and stuff. That is just about the last question I expected you to ask me.” She blushed again. “But yeah,” said with a tiny smirk, “She’s a GREAT kisser.”

“Have ya’ll…?”

“KATIE!!!”

“What? I told you when Frank and I first did. In fact I told you about everyone I slept with… all three of them. So c’mon, Hannah… dish with the details already!!” But she smiled to let Hannah know that though she was interested, she was also teasing a bit.

Hannah blew out a breath, watching as her bangs flew up. “Only in our dreams,” she mumbled, not sure she wanted Katie to have that many particulars.

“Oh!” Katie gushed. “That is so romantic.”

Hannah’s brow scrunched. “Which part? Only doing it in our dreams?”

“Well, sorta. Being able to love one another in your dreams is romantic, but waiting to get to know each other as real people is pretty cool too.”

“She’s worth it, Katie. I’ve never known anyone quite like her. She has a brilliant mind, and a fierce code of honor. It’s a combination that makes her a good leader, and her men respect her for both.”

“She must be… most women don’t make it into positions of authority like that even nowadays without a lot of resentment.”

“Well, I’m sure there’s some resentment, but by and large, her crew seems to roll with it.”

“She sounds intriguing. When do I get to meet her?”

“Tomorrow night at the Pirate’s Masquerade Ball. I have already warned her to be prepared for your interrogation.”

Katie put her hands on her hips. “You warned her, huh? And why so late? That is right before ya’ll are leaving together, isn’t it? Why not tomorrow morning?” She glanced at the clock. “This morning, I mean. A lot later this morning, but still today.”

“You bet I warned her,” Hannah smirked. “You warned me, remember? Said she was gonna get the grilling of her life from you. I thought it only fair for her to be prepared.” She ignored Katie’s indignant “Hmph!” and continued. “And it has to be tomorrow night. I’m not gonna get to see her until then either. She is up to her eyeballs in getting everything tied up and finished so we can leave with the tide after the ball.”

“You are good and well caught, aren’t you, my friend?” Katie asked, noting the expression on Hannah’s face.

“Yeah, I am, Katie,” she answered. “Donovan was my dream… she fulfilled my dreams in every way I could have possibly imagined. It is such a wonderful sensation, knowing that she loves me like I do her.”

“I am so very happy for you, Hannah. I was worried about you for a long time, especially knowing how important those dreams were to you. I’m glad they’ve come true for you.” Katie put her arm around Hannah’s shoulders and hugged her tightly.

“Me too. I never knew love would feel like this when it finally came to me.”

“Pretty great feeling, isn’t it?” Katie asked with a smile.

“Yeah” Hannah answered. “One I could get used to having around for say… the rest of my life.” Hannah turned to Katie and smiled, patting her leg comfortingly. “You’ll like Donovan, Katie, I promise.”

“I know… but I still reserve a best friend’s grilling rights.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

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

Neither woman was too happy to see the sunshine streaming in the window the following morning. They had spent the better part of the night talking, and morning came much sooner than they were ready for.

Hannah stumbled out of bed first and headed to the kitchen, heedless of her bed head and rumpled pajamas. She didn’t even slow down at the chuckles and snickers emanating from Frank and Jack as she walked straight to the coffee pot.

“Late night, hon?” Jack asked almost sympathetically. His chuckling made it hard for her to believe the sincerity behind the query.

“Um,” she managed to respond, debating the wisdom of sticking a straw directly into the pot. She decided against it and grabbed a cup from the nearby cabinet, poring enough milk and sugar in to disguise the coffee taste.

Then Hannah moved to the bar and took a seat next to Frank, sticking her nose in her coffee and trying desperately not to notice his chuckling too much. It took a few minutes, but she was finally awake enough to have both eyes open. She promptly glared at both men.

“What’s so funny?” she demanded petulantly.

For answer, Jack took her head in his hands and turned her towards the mirror on the wall. Her eyes widened at the reflection looking back at her, then simply dropped her head onto her arms on the bar.

“Shoot me now,” she moaned.

The two men chuckled again. “The good news is you have all day to fix it,” Frank commented as he rose and put the counter between them. “The bad news is you’re gonna need every minute of it.”

Hannah cast him a dirty look before reaching over the counter and grabbing him by the chest hair. He howled in agony when she twisted. “You just wait til I tell Katie on you,” she smirked evilly.

“Tell me what?” Katie asked through a yawn as she stepped from the hallway.

“Frank said we’d need all day to fix the mess we are now.”

Katie’s eyes popped open wide and she turned the outraged orbs towards her husband. Frank in the meantime was scrambling to get away, protesting his innocence. Jack wisely retired from the field and headed outside for another swim.

“Oh, did he now?”

“No, I didn’t,” Frank shrieked. “I was talking about Hannah.”

Hannah and Katie both were doing their best not to burst out in hysterical laughter, as they slowly began to close in on him from either side. Frank, however, saw a flaw in their tactic, and went screaming out the door and down toward the beach. Katie and Hannah looked at one another then, and just howled.

“You know,” Hannah said as she gasped for breath. “He really did just say it about me.”

“Yeah, but he was always fun to tease, and I’m sure he had it coming… cause I saw the look in his eyes when I stepped into the living room. The thought did cross his mind.”

“Well,” Hannah replied turning and bringing Katie around with her so the faced the mirror together. “He probably could have had a point.” They laughed again looking at the disheveled picture they made. Then Hannah turned back to the kitchen. “You want the shower first or coffee?” fairly certain what the answer was going to be.

“Coffee,” Katie groaned. “Need caffeine.”

Hannah chuckled. “Thought as much, but it’s polite to ask. I won’t be long.”

************

After both women were more presentable, Hannah went into her room and started going through her things. Katie stood at the door and watched her mumble and frown with loving eyes.

“Nope, nuh uh, nope, NO… hmm, I’d like to but…. No, no, no, no…. uh uh, nope, no…. Guess packing to leave won’t take me very long at all. There really isn’t much I can take with me.”

“What’s up, NahNah? Can’t decide what goes and what stays?”

“No, just realizing I really don’t need to take anything.”

Katie’s eyebrows rose into her hairline. “She keeping you as a naked love slave or something?”

Hannah choked on the water she was swallowing, and her head whipped around to meet Katie’s eyes. “WHAT??? God almighty, what kind of books have you been reading?”

Katie laughed though she blushed a deep, dark red. “Sorry. You were just having the oddest conversation with yourself, and when you said you wouldn’t need to take any of your clothes or anything with you, I said the first thing that popped into my head.”

“Uh huh,” Hannah replied, still laughing a bit. “Maybe you should have been the writer. You obviously have the imagination for it.”

“Be nice to me,” Katie growled as she turned a shade darker.

“But I’m having so much more fun giving you a hard time.”

“I noticed. But I still have to talk to Donovan tonight, and if you don’t want me telling her about Racer’s….” Katie trailed off, knowing full well Hannah would get the implication.

“You wouldn’t!!”

“Try me.”

Hannah slapped the bed in frustration. “That’s not fair!”

Katie grinned evilly at her. “No, but it worked.”

“I hate you, you know.”

“Yes, dear… I know.” Katie put her arm around Hannah’s shoulder and steered her through the bedroom door and out of the house towards the beach. “Now c’mon. I want some sun while we’re here. We only have a few hours before we have to get ready for the ball.”

Hannah looped her arm through Katie’s as they ran down to the water. Frank was already comfortably ensconced in a chair with a book and a bottle of water. He just laughed and shook his head as the two women ran shrieking into the surf.

************

It was mid afternoon, and both Hannah and Katie lay out in the sun enjoying its warmth and the surrounding peace. Finally Katie turned to Hannah with a question.

“Hannah?”

“Mmm?”

“I’m curious about your dress.” Katie rolled onto her side facing Hannah. “Mama showed it to me and reminded me that you’d had it made several years ago to exact specifications.”

“Uh huh.”

“Why? I mean… how did you know? How did you know you would need it, and need it to be just the way it was? Was it one of your dreams?”

Hannah turned to face Katie now, pulling down her sunglasses just slightly so Katie would see she was talking directly to her. Katie did the same and they nodded acknowledgement that their attention was focused on the topic at hand.

“Actually it was several of my dreams. And it was as clear to me as this blanket or our swimsuits or anything else here that you can see and touch and know. After I had the dream for three years running, I decided to have the dress made… hoping… knowing that I would need it one day. That it was part of my future… my destiny.”

“But why so specific? Mama said it was made four times before you were satisfied.”

Hannah scrubbed her hands through her hair and sat up. It had frustrated both her and Sarah O’Shea trying to come to an understanding about the importance of this dress to Hannah. Finally, though, Hannah had found a way to explain it that Sarah could accept.

“Katie, do you remember when we went shopping for your wedding dress? How we hunted and searched until we found just exactly what you had in mind? And how we had to have the saleswoman go back three times because there was something just a little bit wrong with each dress she brought out?”

Katie nodded remembering the ordeal far too clearly. For a while she had despaired of finding what she wanted.
That is what this dress was like for me. It had to be just so. Certain material, certain cut, certain stitching.”

Katie nodded again in understanding. “I can see that, I guess, but I sure don’t envy you having to wear all those petticoats.” She chuckled. “I wish you could have seen the customs agent when he started riffling through those layers and layers of cloth.”

Hannah’s eyes got big at the implication. “He didn’t…?” She let her thoughts trail off, thinking of the damage that could have been wrought.

“You bet he didn’t,” Katie answered fiercely. “I told him that very, very bad things would happen to him if he disturbed a single thread.”

“You didn’t!”

“I most certainly did. I wasn’t gonna be the one to explain to MY mama why almost a year’s worth of work was destroyed by carelessness. I am on my honeymoon. I would like to live long enough to have a second one.”

“Ooh… I see your point. She woulda made EVERYBODY miserable.”

“Yep, and I made sure that agent knew it in no uncertain terms… I called mama and put her on the phone with him.”

Hannah giggled and covered her mouth. “Did you really?”

“Uh huh, and you shoulda seen how careful he was when he handed me the phone back.”

“That is too funny.”

“Yep, it really was.” Katie rolled back onto her stomach and rooted around in the bag Frank had brought her. She found her watch and jumped to her feet. Hannah looked at her perplexedly. “It’s almost four o’clock.”

“Okay… and…?”

“Don’t we need to go get ready?”

“Well, the party doesn’t start til eight,” Hannah replied, standing easily. “But it’s probably not a bad idea. It’s gonna take me some time to get into that dress.”

Right at that moment, Jack came to the door and called them inside.

“I guess great minds think alike.”

“I guess its time to eat,” Hannah smirked. The smirk turned into a full-fledged grin when the suggestion made both stomachs rumble in hunger. “C’mon,” Hannah said as she snatched her towel from the sand. “I’ll race ya!”

Katie squawked. “Hey, no fair! I wasn’t ready! Hannah! HANNAH!!”

Hannah’s laughter floated back to her as she trudged through the sand to the house.
Chapter XVII
Donovan got up before daybreak, having missed Hannah’s comforting presence in her dreams. She knew it was because Katie was in town with Hannah that she wasn’t here, and she was trying very hard not to begrudge Katie the time with her best friend. After all, Donovan thought, trying hard to control the brilliant smile that crossed her face quite without her permission, she’s leaving with me tonight, and I will have her all to myself.

Unable to stop the giddy feeling that washed through her at the thought, Donovan whistled cheerfully as she approached her ship in the near dawn. The sailors looked up in surprised as the Captain boarded the boat. It had been a very long time since she’d been this cheerful, and never before when leaving this island to head for home.

She returned the salute of her Bo’sun’s mate, and immediately headed below to check the stores. She found Mr. Merryweather with a quill and parchment, carefully going over their supplies and trade goods one more time. He looked up, and his eyes widened at the intense happiness so apparent in Donovan’s very demeanor.

“Ahoy, Captain. What brings you out so early? You usually leave the final checks to me and the crew.”

“Actually, I came this far below to tell you good morning, Mr. Merryweather. But I am here early to ensure that everything is set for Hannah’s comfort before we sail tonight.”

“I think you’ll find everything in order, sir. Harold has been diligently working at all the tasks you gave him. I’m glad you chose that as his punishment, sir. It maintained morale in a way nothing else could have. And I know Harold is anxious to redeem himself by making everything perfect for Miss Hannah.”

Donovan smiled. She had been fairly certain the entire crew appreciated her punishment for Harold. It was perfect for the misdeed and actually was not so harsh that it would be considered mistreatment. She knew there were many, even within the Royal Navy who tended to use their cabin boys as whipping posts or worse for whatever minor offenses they committed. She herself didn’t see the point. A ship and crew handled much better when treated with respect.

She smiled at Mr. Merryweather, moving aside when a grunting crewman came down the stairs with a heavy box. He nodded at her and waited for the first mate to indicate where he wanted the container placed. Donovan watched as the man put the box down carefully and then nodded respectfully at her again before excusing himself to go back to his duties.

“Mr. Merryweather, it seems you have things well in hand. If you will excuse me, I will go check out the improvements in my cabin, and then I have several things to take care of on shore. I trust that the men will be getting some rest this afternoon?”

The first mate eased his watch from his waistcoat pocket, popping the lid and nodding approval at the time before snapping it closed. “Yes sir. If we stay on schedule, we should be done here within the next two hours and the men have strict orders to rest and relax as much as possible.”

“Is the watch set for tonight?”

“Aye sir. As it has been every year. We have a split shift that allows all the men some time at the ball before we set sail.”

“Good.” Donovan turned to make her way up to her cabin, but stopped when Merryweather called her by name.

“Donovan?”

Her eyes widened. In all their years together, the Captain could count on one hand the number of times John Merryweather had addressed her as anything aside from ‘sir’ or ‘Captain’.

“Yes, John?” answering him in kind and letting him know that she appreciated the fact that whatever was coming was personal and was allowing him the opportunity to speak on that level.

“I just wanted to say that I am glad you found Hannah. And to ask if you are going to fulfill the legend tonight.”

Donovan smiled, and her first mate smiled back in pure response. “So am I, John. I never knew that it would be like this, but God, I am so glad it is. And yes, I am. It is time to make that legend a reality.”

Donovan walked up the short steps to her cabin, hesitating at the threshold at the grunting sounds coming from within. Her men had always respected the tiny space she was able to consider her own, but it sounded vaguely like…. Without warning, she pushed open the door stopping when she saw Roberts hovering over Harold in a rather awkward position.

Neither one noticed she was standing there as the man had his back to the door and the boy couldn’t see around him. She started towards them when she heard Roberts give a guttural moan.

“Come on then lad. Right there. I canna stand the strain much longer.”

Harold didn’t have a chance to answer as Donovan’s bark rattled across the small space, nearly causing Roberts to sever the cabin boy’s head.

“ROBERTS!!”

“Aye, Cap’n?” The strain was apparent in his voice, and Donovan came around to face him when it became clear he wasn’t going to turn around to face her. What she found was not what she’d expected to see.

Harold finished tapping the last wooden peg into place, and Roberts eased his knees away from the corners and gently set the down-filled mattress into the frame.

“By God, boy. I thought you were goin’ ta kill me there for a minute. Good work though. The Cap’n should be pleased.” He slapped the lad’s shoulder before he remembered that the captain was still standing there but with a now puzzled look on her face. “Cap’n?” he asked hesitantly, not knowing if he should stay or consider himself dismissed or….

“Thank you Mr. Roberts. I will speak to you about this shortly.”

Roberts hadn’t survived in the navy as long as he had without understanding a dismissal when he heard one. He nodded and made his way to the door immediately. “Aye, sir,” he responded. “I’ll be on deck.” Then without another word he exited the room and closed the door behind him.

Donovan took the opportunity to look around the small cabin and note the changes with a keen eye. Harold had done very well, doing everything she’d asked for and a few more things besides.

The room was spotless, floors and walls scrubbed clean until they almost glowed. The glass on the small window she’d added two years prior glistened and was open to allow the fresh air in. There was a second tiny closet added, and Donovan was pleased to see that it had several drawers.

How very clever. I wonder…. “Harold, who did the woodworking? Smythe or Alexander?”

“Um, actually, sir… um, well… I did.”

A skeptical brow shot into Donovan’s dark hairline. “Excuse me?”

Harold scratched his neck, unable to stand the strain of being at attention any longer. “Well, sir, it was my idea. I drew out what I wanted and then Mr. Smythe and Mr. Alexander helped me build it. I did most of the measurin’ and all the cuttin’. They made sure it was all right before I moved to the next piece. But I did as much of it myself as I could. And I put a chest area at the bottom in case Miss Hannah needs….”

He would have continued babbling except that Donovan held up her hand for silence right then, and he stumbled to a halt. He watched as she continued her perusal, finally noticing what he and Mr. Roberts had been working on when she’d walked in.

Her tiny pallet was gone. In its place was a bed almost large enough for two people her size. Should be just right for Hannah and myself. She couldn’t stop the involuntary smile that crossed her face, and didn’t realize how adorably charming it made her look. Harold bit his lip to keep from laughing.

She schooled her features into a more stoic expression, and Harold was grateful for the time to get his own face under control. He was the picture of calm serenity by the time she brought her eyes back to his.

“Excellent job, Mr. Worthington. I see great promise in your future.”

This time Donovan saw Harold bite his lip, though it wasn’t to stop the laughter, but to contain the tears at her reference to his position as a member of her crew. Suddenly, he was less a cabin boy and more a uniformed crewman with the Royal Navy. Unconsciously, he stood straighter, and she smiled.

“If you are willing, I will recommend you for a posting to this ship as a seaman on our next voyage.” She held up her hand. “Do not answer me now. Take some time to think and consider things, Harold. This is a hard life, and the sea can be an unforgiving mistress, and you have a talent with wood if you want one.”

Harold nodded, then asked, ”Permission to speak freely, sir?”

“Aye lad,” she nodded. “Go ahead.”

“Sir, I have worked hard and faithfully hoping that I would be considered a worthy addition to your crew. I would be honored to become part of it in a more responsible position.”

Donovan noticed that he spoke very slowly and carefully, as though he had rehearsed the speech a hundred times over in his mind. She regarded him with deep blue eyes for a very long moment before she nodded.

“Very well, Mr. Worthington. You will have to continue your duties as cabin boy until we arrive back in our home port, but when we ship out on our next voyage, you will assume the position of a seaman.” She paused then continued. “Do you know of anyone you might recommend to take your place as our cabin boy?”

Harold swallowed and prayed to the Virgin to spare him if his mama heard that this bit of information had fallen from his lips. “I’ve a brother, Patrick. He would be almost eight by the time we set sail again.”

“And how would your mama feel about losing another son to the sea?”

“Well, sir, I think it will depend on her point of view that day. I know she hates it, especially considering she lost papa to it. But practically, she knows we are all better off by it.”

“Then we will hope to meet the practical side when we go speak to her.” Donovan nodded. “You are dismissed, Mr. Worthington.”

The boy nodded and moved to the door. Donovan’s voice stopped him on the threshold. “Thank you, Harold. You did a beautiful job, and I truly believe Hannah will be comfortable and happy here.”

He didn’t say a word, but the smile on his face spoke volumes and warmed her to her toes.

Donavan sat down at her desk, still marveling at the transformation of her cabin. What had once seemed a cold and sterile space now had the warmth of a home.

She slapped her hands on her thighs and rose, knowing she had things to finish before the evening. Donovan spotted Mr. Roberts by the mainsail, securing the ropes into place. He stood at attention at the Captain’s approach.

“At ease, Mr. Roberts.”

He nodded and stood at ease, resuming his work. He didn’t say a word, but waited for her to speak, not sure if he was in trouble or not.

“Thank you for helping Harold, Mr. Roberts. You both did superior work in my cabin, and you have my sincere gratitude. I am sure Hannah will be not only comfortable, but well-pleased.”

Donovan felt the blush on her face during her little speech and was surprised to see a matching one covering Roberts’ face as well. He nodded his head in acceptance of her words.

“Thank you, Cap’n.” He hesitated before asking, “Permission to speak freely?”

Donovan rolled her mental eyes. What is with my crew toady? But she nodded her head in acquiescence.

“We were all glad to do it, sir. Miss Hannah has changed something for you, and that means she has changed something for us. And it looks like the change is for the better.”

Donovan never lost her stoic expression, but she felt the shock at the second mate’s words down to her toes. “And you can tell this from the very limited time I have been here, and your brief meeting with Hannah?”

“Aye, sir,” the man said respectfully. “The change is that obvious to everyone.”

“Well then, Mr. Roberts, I commend you for your fortitude in being the spokesman.”

“Only speaking for myself, Cap’n, but I think the crew would agree with me.”

“Very well, Mr. Roberts. Carry on.”

Donovan walked to the gangplank and spoke to the watchman on duty. “I have some business in town, Mr. Trilby. I will be back to prepare for the ball.”

“Aye, sir,” was all he said before Donovan disembarked and headed into town.

************

Debendra was waiting in almost the same spot Donovan had found him in the last time she’d come to town, as though he knew to expected her just then and had been waiting patiently for her arrival. She mentally smacked herself. He is a shaman. It is very likely he could know when I was coming. Not that my needing to retrieve Hannah’s new clothing before this evening would give him any clue.

She straightened as she approached, wondering at the meaning behind his not-so-well-hidden-smile. Then she accepted the hand he held out to her and allowed Debendra to pull her into a hug.

“You look much better than the last time I saw you, my friend. Things have worked out well for you and Hannah, yes?”

“She is opening up whole new worlds to me, Debendra. Things I never… well, I am glad you and Mama approve of her. It means a lot to both of us, especially knowing how my mother is going to react.”

The shaman cleared his throat almost delicately and it caused Donovan to turn a wary eye in his direction.

“Debendra?” The word was said in a low, growling voice, and it caused a shiver to skitter up the man’s spine. He flinched when her fiery gaze focused on him intently. “Is there a problem?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps not. Can you explain to Mama why Hannah disappeared and did not nurse you when you were ill?” He saw the ire grow, and hastened to explain. “She is concerned… for you both. She says no ties like those that bind the two of you together should be severed. And yet for all intents and purposes that is exactly what it seems like has happened. Mama will naturally lay the blame for it on Hannah’s shoulders, for as much as we like her, you are a daughter of our heart.”

Donovan couldn’t maintain her anger in the face of such direct, honest caring. Instead, she put a hand on Debendra’s arm. “Take me to Mama, Debendra, and I will do my best to explain.”

************

Forty-five minutes later, Donovan was finishing up her tale as well as she possibly could. It was impossible to explain the time difference between her and Hannah. It was difficult enough for her to understand it, and she was living it. There was no way she could make Mama or Debendra understand a concept she couldn’t describe.

“So Hannah was taken away from you?”

“Yes.”

“But you could communicate in your dreams?”

“Once the sickness was gone, yes. Just like we have all these years. I never knew how much I depended on the dreams until they were gone.” The last was said in a bare whisper and Mama almost didn’t hear it. She simply nodded her understanding.

“And you have found her again?” Mama asked. She didn’t need an answer from the obvious reaction on Donovan’s face. Blue eyes sparkled with joy and a fierce grin spread across her mouth. Mama had to smile in return just from the sheer happiness she felt radiating from Donovan.

“Oh yes, Mama. The reason she is not here with me today is that she has to prepare herself for the masquerade tonight. But she will be sailing with us after the ball. I am taking her home with me.”

Donovan waited anxiously for Mama to speak. She desperately wanted her blessing on her union with Hannah. It was almost as important as her father’s. She held her breath, not noticing that her leg was nervously jumping up and down.

Mama placed a well-worn hand on the jittery joint and immediately, Donovan stopped all movement. With her other hand, Mama lifted Donovan’s chin until they were looking eye to eye. “You have my blessing, Donovan…. Make sure you bring here to see me before you cast off tonight.”

Donovan reached up and gave Mama a big hug. “Thank you, Mama. I will. I promise.”

Mama patted the taller woman’s back, then gently eased out of the embrace. “Good girl,” ignoring the raised eyebrow. “Now go get Hannah’s clothes from Satosh and get them aboard your ship. You need to rest a bit before the festivities tonight.” She held up her hand when Donovan drew breath to speak. “Mind Mama now, Donovan. I know best.”

The Captain couldn’t argue with that sort of logic, so she nodded her head and mumbled, “Yes, Mama.”

Satosh handed Donovan a sizeable package wrapped carefully in brown paper and tied with twine then she unceremoniously pushed Donovan to the door. “Go on, Donovan,” she muttered with a hand planted firmly in the strong back. “If Mama thinks I held you up in here after she told you to go get some rest for tonight, she will make me stay home tonight.”

Donovan chuckled, though she truly believed what Satosh said. Mama was swift to punish disobedience, and always made the punishment fit the crime. “And how do you know what Mama said to me? Oof!” she grunted out when Satosh punched her in the arm… rather hard. She glared down into brown eyes. “What did you hit me for?”

“Donovan Scott!! How long have you known my mother?? Hmm?? I have known her all my life, thank you very much, and I know exactly what she said! There are just some things that never change!”

“Point taken. Let me go before we both get into trouble.”

“Good idea,” Satosh muttered, literally pushing Donovan out the door.

“Thank you, Satosh. I am sure Hannah will be pleased.”

Satosh grinned mischievously in the doorway. “I think you will be even more.” Then she closed the door before Donovan could process her words.

Donovan muttered and mumbled all the way back to her ship, disregarding the odd looks and stares that followed her. She nodded to Mr. Andrews who had the watch as she boarded the boat. Other than his presence, the ship was almost ghostly silent.

“Everyone resting, Mr. Andrews?”

“Aye Cap’n. Those were your orders.”

“Very good, then. Carry on.”

Without stopping, Donovan went into her cabin and kicked the door shut behind her. She set the package on the bed, wincing a little at the stiffness the heavy bundle had caused in her arms and elbows. She looked at it for a long moment torn between curiosity and good manners. Good manners won, though not by much, and she opened Hannah’s new armoire and placed the clothing inside without opening the paper. Then she slipped off her boots and crawled into the bed, moaning at its softness. She never even felt herself drift off into a deep, peaceful sleep.

************

It was almost sunset when a light rapping at her door brought Donovan slowly up from the nest of sleep she’d been burrowed in. She stretched languidly, knowing from the light, unhurried tapping that there wasn’t an urgent or impending disaster waiting of the other side of the door. When she noted the lowness of the sun in the sky, she figured that it was her first mate insuring that she had ample time to prepare herself for the masquerade.

Donovan padded over to the door and opened it, just as John Merryweather raised his hand to knock again. He hesitated when he saw her, trying to collect himself.

“Oh, good, Captain. You’re awake.” He gestured to the men who stood behind him. “We thought you might want a hot bath before you prepared for the evening.”

A dark brow rose. “Are you saying I smell, Mr. Merryweather?” She didn’t smile, but he could see the twinkling very clearly in her blue eyes.

“No, sir. I am saying you always appreciate a chance to take a warm bath,” he answered evenly, though Donovan noted the teasing gleam in his eyes.

“Very well then, sir. Please bring it in.”

John Merryweather brought the tub in and set it in the center of the room, then the sailors had a short bucket brigade as the passed in the ten or twelve buckets of warm water to fill it. Satisfied, the first mate took a look around and nodded.

“If you have everything you need sir…?” He let his voice trail off in question, and Donovan nodded. “I will be back shortly to see to the tub’s removal sir. If you will excuse me?”

“Have all the men bathed, Mr. Merryweather?”

“Aye, sir.”

“Thank you. I will see you shortly.”

Donovan lit a lamp, and quickly stripped out of her clothing. It wasn’t as comfortable as her tub at the cottage, but it would do for getting her clean. She stepped into the warm water with alacrity and lathered up the cloth she had with her mother’s cinnamon soap.

Within thirty minutes, she was clean, dry and semi-dressed… leather trousers, thick socks, and a coarse undershirt. She sat brushing her hair dry, glad for its shoulder length. She was nearly done when the expected knock came.

“Come in, Mr. Merryweather.”

The first mate entered, resplendent in his pirate clothing. He had braided his hair, but left it unpowdered. The brass buttons on his shirt shone brilliantly even in the dim lamplight, and he held his sword delicately out of the way of the door. John felt his Captain’s eyes on him, reviewing his appearance and he stood a little straighter under her scrutiny. Even when she nodded her approval, he did not relax, but stepped further into the room.

“It is nearly time for us to leave, Captain. I came to help you with your cloak, sir.”

“Thank you, Mr. Merryweather.” She stood and put on the shirt and sash that were an intricate part of her pirate attire. Then she waited for him to retrieve her cloak and stood immobile as he swirled it into place around her shoulders. In an oddly intimate gesture, John pulled her hair from her collar before she tied the material at the neck.

The first mate lifted Donovan’s blade reverently and handed it to her, and waited patiently for her to strap it on. When she was finished, she turned to him, waiting for his inspection.

“You are leaving your hair down, sir?”

“For tonight, yes. Hannah likes it this way particularly, and I do not see the harm.”

“Agreed, sir.” He hesitated as she turned towards the door. “Sir?” He waited for her to stop and look at him, knowing he would get a raised eyebrow for his trouble. He wasn’t disappointed.

“Yes, Mr. Merryweather?”

“Well, sir, I wondered if you planned to wear shoes tonight?” He gestured to her sock covered feet. She sighed.
“Damn! I knew there was a reason I was not completely uncomfortable. It could be worse, I suppose. I could be stuck in uniform.” She sighed again, and delicately reseated herself on the bed. The sword made it difficult at best, and she eased it out of the way gently.

“Very well, Mr. Merryweather. Would you be so kind as to hand me my boots?”

The first mate went to the door where Harold stood waiting. “Fine job, lad,” Merryweather exclaimed as he got a good look at the shine on the Captain’s boots. “Go wait up on deck. We will be there momentarily.”

John Merryweather knelt carefully at Donovan’s feet, easing her feet into her boots. She opened her mouth to protest, but her forestalled her by holding up a hand. “It is my duty and privilege, Captain. I promised your father I would keep an eye on you, and I do not want to be the one to explain to Ernst Scott how his daughter was disemboweled with the wrong end of her own sword while putting her boots on.”

Donovan scratched her chin thoughtfully. “When you put it that way….” She looked at him a long moment. “Did you really promise my father you would look after me?”

“Yes, sir, I did. Your father is my friend, and I owed him a debt. It was the very least I could do.”

“And yet you have never once tried to usurp my authority.”

“No, sir. You are still my Captain. I would watch your back in any case. I am just happy that doing my duty to you enabled me to fulfill my word to your father.”

Donovan nodded and waited for Merryweather to finish pulling up her boots. “Then if I may ask a favor of you, John?”

His widening eyes were the only obvious sign of his shock at her request. He nodded solemnly. “You have but to ask, sir.”

“John, you are the closest thing I have to a friend. Will you… will you stand for me… at my marriage to Hannah?”

John Merryweather was speechless. Nothing she could have said could have taken him more by surprise than the request she had just made of him. He concentrated on closing his jaw and swallowing, willing his eyes to stay in his head. Finally under control, he nodded vigorously.

“It would be my honor to do so, sir.”

Donovan let out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. Her first hurdle was crossed and she smiled and offered her hand to her first mate. He accepted with alacrity then bravely spoke.

“You know, Captain, if Miss Hannah is willing, I think a majority of the crew would stand with you.”

He almost missed the tear, but she blinked and it was gone, and she smiled tremulously. “Thank you, Mr. Merryweather. I cannot tell you what that means to me.”

“You do not have to, sir. A good first mate knows these things,” here he puffed out his chest. “And I am the best.”

Donovan chuckled, appreciating the man’s attempt to ease the tensely emotional atmosphere in the room. She clapped him on the shoulder. “That you are Mr. Merryweather. That you are.” She pulled the door open and motioned him to walk in front of her. “Now let us gather our crew and go to the meetinghouse. My lady awaits.” She snatched up her mask before stepping into the passageway and closing the door behind them.

They stepped onto the deck and John moved to one side as Donovan reached topside. He crew stood in a double row, waiting for her inspection, and she felt her heart swell at the sight. These were good men, and they had put themselves in her care. She vowed again to do right by them, as they had by her, and she promised herself that she would ask Hannah about having them all stand with them both on their wedding day.

Slowly Donovan walked the ranks, nodding and occasionally reaching out to straighten or inspect. When she reached the gangplank she turned to face them and spoke.

“Gentlemen, you know the rules. Tonight you are representatives of myself and this ship. All I ask is that you remember that before you do anything that might bring shame upon us. With that in mind… have a good time, and keep in mind that we sail with the tide.”

The men cheered, both anxious to have a good time and ready to leave for home. It had been a long, rough few months.

“Come along then, men,” Donovan called when the noise had subsided. “It is time for the pirates to join the masquerade!”

Another loud yell rose from the men and with a rousing chorus and high spirits, the pirates made their way to the masquerade ball.
Chapter XVIII

Hannah stepped from the hallway to utter and complete stunned silence. She turned back to look at Katie, who smiled and motioned her forward. She walked further into the living room and noted the odd expressions on Jack’s and Frank’s faces. Her forehead scrunched up in confusion and she looked back and forth between them.

“Uncle Jack?”

Hannah’s voice seemed to break the spell that held them, and Jack blinked as he finally rose to meet her. His grin was huge as he reached out to take her hands.

“Hannah, you look fabulous. Absolutely stunning. And the dress….” Jack’s voice trailed off and he gestured at the gown that had taken both Hannah and Katie almost an hour to get Hannah into and settled. There were real, honest-to-God petticoats, layer after layer of them done in very fine, white linen. Hannah had insisted on the linen… the thought of muslin against her skin made her itch. The underskirt was a deep emerald green silk.

The overlay and bodice were both a mint green silk, and the bows tied around the skirt were emerald velvet. The neckline scooped low enough to hint at the cleavage hidden beneath the material, and the short sleeves that were pulled off Hannah’s shoulders showed off her musculature to its best advantage. Hannah had pulled her hair up, leaving her back bare and adding to her distinguished, grown-up air.

Jack circled her, then reached into the pocket of his over tunic. “The time has come,” he said as he draped an emerald necklace around Hannah’s neck and began to fasten it. She reached up hesitant hands towards it.

“Uncle Jack?”

“Trust me, Hannah. You will understand soon enough.” He came round to stand in front of her again, and leaned in to kiss her cheek. “I love you, little Hannah.”

For some reason, the sentiment made her eyes water, and she blinked back tears before she responded, “I love you too, Uncle Jack.” She took a moment to take in his attire, and she smiled. “You look quite dashing.”

“Hey! What about me? What am I??? Chopped liver??”

Hannah bit her lip to keep from chuckling at Frank’s plaintive plea. But she dutifully turned her head and studied him. Both men were dressed in the tunics and trousers of the mid-eighteen hundreds. Long, dark pants topped short boots. White shirts were nearly hidden from view by dark cravats, waistcoats, and long overcoats. Jack wore a black suit, and Frank brown to compliment Katie’s yellow dress.

“I think you both look very handsome,” Hannah finally commented. She turned to her friend. “What do you think, Katie?”

“I think I’m glad I don’t have to get dressed like this every day,” Katie grunted as she eased her hoop skirt through the doorway. She had opted NOT to wear the authentic petticoats, having no desire to cart around an extra thirty-five pounds on her person. The hoop was more awkward though, since there was very little give in the wire.

Hannah chuckled and gestured towards Katie. “Uncle Jack? How are we gonna get to the meetinghouse? There is no way we’ll all fit in the car.”

“Oh, no cars tonight, Hannah. Tonight we travel into town in style.”

Just then, a jingling was heard outside the front door, and after a moment, a knock was heard. Jack offered his arm to Hannah, and saw Frank extend the same courtesy to Katie. “Come, my dear. Your carriage awaits.”

Hannah stepped outside and swallowed a gasp at the Cinderella style coach that sat at the door. She turned to Jack with a question in her eyes.

“It sits in pieces in a small shed behind Jacob’s house most of the year. Then a day or two before the ball, he and his family get it out, put it together and spiff it up just for this evening. This is how everyone travels to the ball, if they don’t walk. I scheduled our time with Merry,” he said before she could ask. “That is why I was adamant about your needing to be ready on time.”

He handed her up into buggy, then offered his hand to Katie. She took it and stepped inside, and the two gentlemen followed. Then they were off to town.

************

Hannah was thankful to touch her feet to earth again. She hadn’t realized the ride into town was so long; nor had she understood how rough and rocky it was without shock absorbers. She was thankful for the layers and layers of linen she had on right then, though. Katie hadn’t fared so well, and stepped from the carriage rubbing her behind.

“Ow, damnation! That hurts. I think I’m bruised now.”

“Ill bet. I feel like a milkshake.”

Katie chuckled and looked around while waiting for her husband and Jack to exit the coach. The meetinghouse looked a lot different that it had the day before. There were pine torches lighting the entire building and the windows were opened wide. All the tables had been removed and the cane back chairs had been scattered around the room. The electrical and sound equipment was gone or covered to such a degree as to be unrecognizable.

The few wood tables set up in the corners were covered in linen, crystal and china. Food covered with wire mesh lids sat on one table, and punch sat on another. Three musicians sat on a raised platform at the far end of the room.

Merry met them at the door. “Welcome! Welcome to the Pirates’ Masquerade Ball!” She motioned to the feathered mask Hannah wore. “What a lovely mask!” Merry exclaimed as she drew them into the room. “Now the masquerade’s rules are in effect. Until the Pirate Captain appears and unmasks her heart’s desire or midnight arrives, everyone needs to stay masked. Until then, there is food and drink and the musicians will be playing for dancing soon. Almost everyone is here, so please, enjoy yourselves.”

“Has she ever unmasked anyone?” Katie asked. She flinched at the strength of the grip Hannah had on her hand. They were both fairly certain of the answer, but her giving voice to it still made Hannah nervous.

Merryweather chuckled. “Only once… in eighteen fifty-five.” Her eyes grew thoughtful. “That was the beginning of the legend.” She shook herself out of her reverie as another group of party-goers made their way in the door. “If you’ll excuse me….”

A thrill chased itself over Hannah’s spine at Merry’s words. Now she understood at least part of the legend. They moved further into the room, ever mindful of the full skirts they wore. Jack carefully seated Hannah, and moved to get them both some punch. Frank led Katie out onto the dance floor as the musicians began playing.

The first hour or so, Hannah spent alternately dancing and resting. The dress was heavy, and much hotter than she’d imagined it to be. And without the air conditioning she was accustomed to, it was necessary to sit out every other dance to rest and cool off a bit. She soon learned to be grateful for every bit of breeze she felt.

A flattering number of men had requested a dance, and Hannah was being approached by the next in line when a hush fell over the room. She couldn’t help the involuntary gasp that fell from her lips.

There in the doorway stood Donovan, resplendent in all her pirate glory, and surrounded by her crew. They made a striking picture, and all eyes in the room focused on them intently.

Jack stared unabashedly at them. This was the first time in his many years of attending this party that he ever remembered the pirates bringing such attention to themselves. In fact, this was the first year in memory that he recalled seeing more than a wisp of anyone besides Donovan herself. He held his breath, waiting to see if the prophecy would come to life.

Hannah had the time to wonder why this was a masquerade ball when it was so apparent exactly who the pirates were. Then they were moving directly towards her and she stopped wondering about anything in light of how spectacular Donovan looked. Hannah felt her jaw drop open and had to consciously take herself in hand. As Donovan drew near, Hannah felt the blood rush through her body at the consuming expression in the fierce blue that regarded her and dropped her eyes to the floor. She felt the gloved fingertips caress her chin before gently lifting her face until their eyes met.

Donovan smiled, and Hannah grinned nervously in return. Donovan was immersing her in the sheer sensuality she was emitting, and it was making her feel warm and giddy and absolutely wonderful.

Without a word, Donovan slid an arm around Hannah’s waist, and led her out onto the dance floor. The musicians didn’t hesitate, but immediately began playing a hauntingly sweet melody for the two of them to dance to. The floor cleared until only the two of them were left.

Hannah opened her lips to speak and was silenced by Donovan’s fingers. So instead Hannah took advantage of the fact that Donovan was no longer holding her slightly apart from the Captain’s own figure with her lead hand, and wrapped both arms around Donovan’s neck.

Donovan accepted the new hand placement gracefully, locking her arms around Hannah’s waist and slowing their steps to mere movement back and forth in virtually the same spot. She felt Hannah’s sigh of contentment through her shirt as the blonde head came to rest on her chest. Donovan smiled again and leaned her cheek on Hannah’s hair.

They weren’t alone, but to them, it was as if the world had passed them by for a timeless moment.

In the meetinghouse, people from two separate timelines watched as the joining between them happened, and marveled at the miracle it was.

Jack smiled, realizing that the legend and prophecy he had been studying for the better part of his life was being fulfilled in front of his eyes. He thought back to the discussion he and his brother had had when they understood that the fulfillment of the prophecy lay not with them, but with Michael’s daughter Hannah.

“Are you sure, Jack?”

Jack nodded heavily, his green eyes looking squarely into the equally green of his brother’s. “Yeah, Mike, I am. The legend is vague, but the diary is crystal clear.”

“The legend says that she will unmask the Beloved Green Eyes she has been searching for at the masquerade ball. That this will be the one she has been seeking, and when the two become one that they will not be seen nor heard from again in our lifetime.” Jack nodded his agreement with Michael’s assessment. “So what new part of her diary did you suddenly come across that you think this is going to be Hannah and not you or me for God’s sake? Jesus, Jack! She’s a fifteen-year-old child!”

“Michael, please! Calm down and breathe, will ya? You’re making me nervous, and this is hard enough for me as it is!”

Mike blew out a breath, and stopped pacing, taking a seat in front of his brother. “I’m sorry, Jackie. I know….”

“No, no you don’t, Mike! All my life, I dreamed… I hoped… and now….”

Michael sat quietly for a moment. “You’re right, Jack. I don’t know how you feel. But I do care, ya know. You’re the only brother I’ve got, and you’re my best friend.”

“I know, Mikey. Thanks. I just….”

“Why do you think Hannah is tied to this?” Mike asked when the silence began to grow uncomfortable. “Aside from the fact that we know there is a family connection between us and Donovan Scott, why do you think Hannah is gonna be the one to fulfill the legend? What did the diary say?”

“It describes her, Michael. It talks about the green eyes that we all have, but it describes Donovan’s lover as a woman. We may both have the same eyes as Hannah, but it is for damned sure no one is gonna mistake either of us for women!”

“But why Hannah, Jack?? Why her and not her children, or her children’s children?”

“That more than anything is a hunch, but I’m going with my gut here. Things have been happening closer together… more often. I think it is a fair summation to say that it will happen in our lifetimes. The only one of our line it could possibly be is Hannah.”

Mike ran a hand through his hair. “God, Jack. I don’t know if I am ready for that. It means I am gonna lose my baby to a woman of myth and legend.” He straightened in his seat and his eyes took on a steely resolve. “Before I allow Donovan Scott to abscond ANYWHERE with my daughter, I think she and I need to have a serious father/suitor talk. When should she and the Maiden be in the Triangle again?”

Jack consulted his charts and the diaries again. “According to the schedule she’s been keeping, she should be back in less than two weeks.”

“All righty, then. Let me get packed up and ready to go. I’m gonna go out and find Donovan Scott and see just what her intentions for my only child are. Then we’ll see about giving them my blessing.”

“Are you sure about this, Mikey? It’s my turn….”

“Yeah, Jack. This is something I have to do. You can go to Bolivia for that survey work. We’ll get it all taken care of and meet back here to compare notes.”

That had been their last conversation about Donovan or the difference she would make in Hannah’s life. As he watched the two of them melt into one another, he remembered Mike’s final words as he admonished Jack to take care of his little girl.

“I think you would have been proud of me, brother. I know you’d be proud of her.”

Merryweather heard Jack’s whisper, though she didn’t understand the words he said. She moved closer to him even as she kept her eyes glued to the tableau that was unfolding on the dance floor in front of her.

“They make a beautiful couple, don’t they?” she asked as Hannah buried herself further into Donovan’s neck. They had all but stopped moving, content to simply sway in one place in time to the music. She wondered at the brief glimpse of sadness that flitted through Jack’s eyes. It was gone before he looked down at her and smiled.

“Yes, they do,” he answered. “I was just thinking how proud of Hannah Michael would be if he could see the woman she’s grown into.”

“How would he feel about seeing the fulfillment of the prophecy; of laying the legend to rest?”

Jack gave this question due consideration, keeping his eyes on Donovan as she slowly leaned down to capture Hannah’s lips. He watched for a moment longer; they all did, until the embrace grew so intensely, passionately intimate that propriety demanded everyone look away and give the couple as much privacy as they could considering the circumstances. He focused his attention strictly on Merryweather and answered her.

“Sad, happy, a little disconcerted, a little overwhelmed. A lot like I do at this moment, I expect.”

Merry nodded her understanding. “I can see that. It is almost, I don’t know… bizarre to see something like this come to pass. It’s something you hope for, but never actually think you’ll have a chance to be a part of.”

Jack agreed silently, though he certainly had other thoughts on the matter. He didn’t share them though. Doing so would have required a far greater and much more detailed explanation that he was able or willing to give.

The room felt Donovan and Hannah separate more than they heard anything, and almost as one body, all eyes returned to the couple alone at the center of the dance floor.

Donovan stepped back from Hannah and dropped to one knee in front of her. One hand flew to Hannah’s mouth when she realized Donovan’s intent. The other was captured in Donovan’s hand, and Donovan gently caressed the appendage for a long moment while she swallowed hard and composed herself. It seemed she had been aiming towards this for a long time, and now that it was upon her, all her words had deserted her.

Hannah understood Donovan’s nervousness; it was similar to what she herself had felt when she realized that the legend was coming to life before her eyes. Tenderly Hannah removed her hand from her mouth and reached down to cup Donovan’s chin.

Donovan lifted her eyes to be met with love and compassion, and suddenly her nerves settled, and she remembered everything she wanted to say. She lifted Hannah’s hands to her lips and kissed them both, before clearing her throat and starting to speak.

“Hannah, Beloved… legend has it that the Pirate Captain is destined to meet her future, fall in love and propose on the night of the Pirates Masquerade Ball. That I would be able to walk right up to my heart’s desire and sweep her off her feet.”

The room was so silent that even breathing sounded harsh, and everyone heard Donovan swallow before she continued.

“But the legend never counted on us, did it? It could not fathom the truth that is the two of us.” She smiled, and grinned when Hannah smiled in return. “It was entirely correct about us in some ways, though. You are my future; I did fall in love… deeply, passionately, irrevocably.”

She swallowed again and took a deep breath. “So tonight, in front of all these witnesses… in front of your family and friends… in front of my crew… I am asking you for my heart’s desire. I am asking you to marry me, and stay with me for the remainder of our days.”

Hannah swallowed hard, knowing the words were coming, but unable to stop the thrill that ran through her when Donovan said them aloud. She gently tugged on their joined hands and Donovan rose to her feet. In words she knew only Donovan and Jack would completely understand, Hannah replied.

“Whether we share one lifetime or many, past, present or future we are soulmates. I never believed in the concept until my dreams became my reality, and now I will do anything to keep the reality I have with you, Donovan. Whatever life we share is perfect for me, because we share it together.”

Donovan smiled rakishly at her. “Does this mean yes?”

She reached up and untied Donovan’s mask, wanting to see her whole face when she answered the question. “Oh yes, my love. This means yes. This means yes forever.”

Hannah pulled Donovan’s mouth to her own, and the ship’s Captain went with it to the cheering of everyone in the room. She awkwardly managed to loosen the ties on Hannah’s own mask, and as soon as she could manage, threw the offending bit of costume into the crowd without opening her eyes of breaking the kiss.

Jack reached out and caught the mask, and the party geared up to full speed.

************

It was an oddly eclectic bunch, and for this one night it was physically impossible to tell who belonged in the past and who belonged in the future. At this time, in this place, everyone belonged to the here and now, and only the present existed. The torchlight made everyone look a little bit extraordinary, and except for the fact that some were dressed as pirates and others were dressed as islanders or colonists, there was no way to tell that the people coexisting in the room together were living in time periods one hundred and fifty or more years apart.

Jack smiled as he watched the interaction around him. Except for himself, Hannah, and Donovan, no one knew the significance of what was happening. Most saw it as fulfillment of a legend. Only the three of them understood the immensity of the occasion, and of the three of them, only he understood the true ramifications of what had and was happening.

For a very long time, to those watching, at least, Hannah and Donovan stayed wrapped around each other on the small dance floor; not moving in time to the music around them, but swaying to a rhythm only the two of them could hear.

“They make such a striking couple,” Katie commented to Jack as they danced around the room together. “You think I’ll be able to pry Donovan away to have a word with her? I think I have earned the right to ask a few questions.”

Jack had to laugh at the almost plaintive whine that came from Katie. He’d been fairly certain this would happen as soon as Donovan and Hannah were together here. They had completely put everything but each other out of their reality and were wrapped together in their own little world. And the need to interrogate Donovan was about to overwhelm Katie.

“Calm down, Katie. Hannah knows you wanna talk to Donovan. I’m certain she’ll make sure you get a chance to talk to her.” Katie looked at him skeptically, and Jack chuckled again. “Then again, maybe not. Given what she and the boys did to Frank….”

“Exactly,” Katie replied sardonically, before watching the couple leave the dance floor and walk out onto the cooler veranda.

************

“Are you all right, Angel? We have to leave shortly, you know,” Donovan commented as they made their way to the outdoor porch. The meetinghouse had become unbearably stuffy and Hannah had finally asked Donovan if they could get some fresh air. One look at Hannah’s flushed face had convinced Donovan of the need to get outside post haste.

“Yes, love. I’m fine. It was just getting warm in there and this dress is much harder to manage than I ever expected it to be. I didn’t realize the yards and yards of material it took just to be considered properly attired in your day and age. I could easily give up the finery of a lady for the comfort of a man’s clothes.”

Donovan nodded her understanding. “Yes, I was not unhappy to give up the layers upon layer of clothing required to be a lady, and I gave them up long before I ever had to actually wear them. I never understood the point of making women so direly uncomfortable for the sake of looking proper. Where is the practicality in that?”

Hannah leaned forward and captured Donovan’s lips in her own. “I love you, and I like the way you think.”

Donovan returned the gesture wholeheartedly before pulling back for air. “Shall I get you something to drink, Beloved? You look quite flushed again.”

“I’ll bet… I feel pretty flushed right about now.”

“Let me get you something cool to drink then. It will give you a chance to cool off before we have to go in again to say our goodbyes.”

“You take such good care of me, Donovan.”

“It is my honor and my privilege, Hannah, and one I intend to have for the rest of my life. I have something to give you when I return.” Then without another word, the Captain turned and made her way back inside the meetinghouse.

Katie saw her opportunity to talk to Donovan alone when she stepped back across the threshold. She followed Donovan to the drink table and waited until she picked up two glasses of punch before she approached her.

“Donovan? Excuse me… Captain Scott? May I have a word with you privately?”

Donovan turned her attention to the woman addressing her, her brow furrowing as she tried to place her in her memory. Finally, she asked, “I’m sorry… do I know you, madam?”

“No, Captain. We’ve not been formally introduced.” She offered her hand. “I am Katie, Hannah’s friend. I thought we could talk a minute.”

Donovan acknowledged her greeting with a nod, then held up the cups to show why she didn’t accept the proffered hand. “If you would like to come along with me to take this to Hannah, you would be welcome. Otherwise, I am sorry, but I will not leave her alone to converse with you, no.”

Katie couldn’t help but be impressed with Donovan’s devotion to Hannah, and nodded her acceptance of Donovan’s terms. She followed Donovan back out the door, lagging a step or two behind to observe their interaction again.

Donovan offered Hannah a cup of punch that was received with a grateful smile. Then Donovan said something and motioned behind her, indicating Katie’s presence in the door way. Hannah looked directly at Katie, then nodded to Donovan reluctantly. Donovan took her hand and sat down, and Katie made her way forward to them.

For a long moment there was silence as Katie reflected on the obvious devotion that ran between them. Though newly married herself, she recognized what they had between them as something rare and special… something so many couples, even those deeply in love were not fortunate enough to encounter, much less experience in their lifetime.

“It’s the real thing, isn’t it?” she finally murmured, looking between them. “What you have together, what you share is not put on or made up, is it?”

“Did you think it would be, Katie?” Hannah asked with disappointment clear in her tone. “Did you think that because we are both women it would be any less real than it is for you and Frank?”

The hurt in Hannah’s voice cut through both Katie and Donovan deeply, though for different reasons. Donovan could feel the ire rising in her blood, and it was only Hannah’s hand in her own that kept her grounded. For Katie, the mistrust was painful, and she was impelled to answer the charges.

“No, Hannah. No! You know me better than that. I didn’t mean it to come out the way it sounded.” She lifted her fingers to her lips and took a deep breath. “What you have is beyond love, Hannah. It is all that and more, and I’m so happy for you. You held out for your heart’s desire and you found one another because of it.”

Hannah lifted Donovan’s hand to her lips and caressed it gently with her lips. “You’re right, Katie.“ She spoke to Katie but she never took her eyes off Donovan. “What we have is beyond imagination, beyond price, and I’m glad I waited for it. It’s incomparable.”

Katie turned to see Donovan’s reaction. Donovan lifted her free hand to cup Hannah’s cheek, and she in turn kissed their joined hands. “Yes, it is,” she whispered, her gaze never leaving Hannah’s face.

“Um, Captain Scott? Donovan?” Katie waited until the blue eyes tracked to her and she was certain she had Donovan’s attention. “Can I ask you something… best friend to perspective suitor?”

“You may ask. I do not have to answer.”

Katie nodded in acknowledgement. “Very true, but I think you will.” She giggled at the raised eyebrow, not the response that action usually elicited. “I want to know your intentions, Captain. Hannah has been my best friend all our lives, and I want some assurances she will be taken care of.”

Donovan rose to her full height, towering over Katie and glaring down at her. Katie didn’t flinch or step back, earning her a surprising smile from Donovan before the Captain pulled Hannah up to stand beside her. She wrapped an arm snugly around the trim waist and stood as closely as the dress would allow.

“There are no guarantees in life, Katie, but I promise you I will love, honor and protect her forever and beyond. She gives my life meaning and joy, and I intend to bring the same to her in return. Is that satisfactory?”

Katie stood still without speaking for another long moment, then lifted up on her tiptoes and kissed first Donovan and then Hannah on the cheek. “That is more than satisfactory. It is a beautiful sentiment, and I hope it is something you are both able to make a reality for one another. You have my blessing and my wishes for a long and happy life together.”

She stepped away and found her hand caught in Hannah’s free one. “Thank you, Katie. That means so much to me.”

“You’re my best friend, Hannah. It’s wonderful to see you finally settled and at peace. You’d better keep in touch, though. I don’t want to lose my connection with you either, just because you are across the ocean.”

“I will, Katie. We should only be gone a few months. I promise you will get to hear about everything as soon as we get home.”

They embraced again, and Katie was gaze was snared by Donovan’s. “Thank you for caring about her, Katie,” Donovan said. “I am glad to know Hannah has a friend like you who looks after her best interests.”

“Keep her happy, Donovan,” she advised again, taking another step towards the door.

“I will, Katie. I will do my very best for her.”

“That is all I can ask then. Safe journey to you both,” she said before crossing the threshold and rejoining the party that was still in progress.

Hannah and Donovan turned to face each other then, embracing again before Donovan pulled away and extended both hands towards Hannah. Hannah accepted them without thought and followed easily as Donovan led the way to the door.

“I think it is time for us to go, Angel. It is time to begin our journey and our lives together.”

“Together,” Hannah commented as she allowed herself to be pulled along into the meetinghouse. “I do so like the sound of that.”
Chapter XIX

Just as they reached the threshold, Donovan pulled Hannah to a halt. Hannah looked up at her askance, having difficulty enough finding her balance without being yanked off-stride.

“Sorry, my love,” Donovan muttered. “I nearly forgot.” She reached into the sash tied at her waist, sliding her long fingers into a hidden pocket and retrieving an object from it. She smiled, then turned her attention to Hannah.

“My family have long been people of the sea, and the story goes that one night many years ago during a fierce, raging storm, my great-grandfather Ephraim fought his way to an island for sanctuary. After the storm passed, he and his crew took a couple days to look around, collecting fresh water and whatever fruit they could find.”

“In the midst of their search, so the story goes, Ephraim found a small chunk of rock whose shape reminded him of home. He figured that to be lucky, and put the rock in his pocket, and the men continued searching for necessary supplies.”

“At the end of two days, they had scavenged all they could from the small island, and they loaded their ship and headed back out to sea for home.”

“For many years, the rock traveled the seas with Ephraim, and it was passed from father to son to son again. It was when it came into my father’s possession that it became of interest to me.”

“You see, I have had the opportunity to study many things in my travels, and one subject of interest to me is geology. When Papa gave me the stone, I understood its importance immediately, and I asked for permission to open it.” Donovan smiled in memory. “Papa looked at me rather oddly, but he granted my request.”

“You see, Hannah, I had been dreaming of you, and I knew I would find you and I wanted to be ready. So when I realized that the stone held an emerald, I opened it knowing that someday I would be able to offer it to you.”

Donovan unclenched the fist that she’d held closed, and extended her open palm to Hannah. Hannah couldn’t stop the gasp that shivered through her, and she lifted a hesitant hand towards it before dropping that hand to her side, and raising the other to the stone on her neck.

Donovan caught the hesitation in Hannah’s expression, and took Hannah’s left hand in her own. “It was made for you,” Donovan whispered, before sliding the ring onto Hannah’s finger. “A token of my love and a symbol of my devotion to you.” She pressed a light kiss on the ring.

Hannah stared at the ring. It was a square cut emerald, a green so deep that she could actually see hints of blue fire flashing in the heart of the stone. She turned her attention to Donovan, who was biting her lips in anticipation. Hannah wrapped her hands around Donovan’s neck, and the Captain automatically rested her hands on Hannah’s waist.

“It is a perfect combination of the two of us, and it’s beautiful… just like you. Thank you, love. I wish I had something to give you in return.”

“I have my whole world in my hands, Hannah. I don’t need anything else.” She cut off Hannah’s protest with a searing kiss, and when they separated, Hannah took a deep breath before speaking.

“I’m still gonna get something for you. I don’t know what or when or how, but I will find something that will show the world that you are mine.”

“People only have to see me look at you to know I am well and truly caught, but I will be very glad to wear whatever token you see fit to bestow.”

“Good answer, Captain,” Hannah answered with a twinkle and a smile. Donovan gave her a courtly bow.

“Thank you, my dear. I thought so. Now come. It is time for us to say goodbye. Already the men have left for the ship.”

Hannah took Donovan’s arm, and allowed herself to be escorted through the meetinghouse. For the most part, folks let them pass through without stopping them, but when they reached Jack, they stopped by mutual, unspoken consent.

Donovan took Hannah’s hand and put it in Jack’s then stepped back to allow them a moment to say goodbye privately.

Jack smiled with tears in his eyes. His heart was breaking, and yet at the same time he had never been as happy for Hannah as he was at this moment. She was radiant and the happiness she felt was so obvious that he couldn’t help but share her joy. Jack took her in his arms and hugged her like it was the last time he would be able to embrace her.

After a few moments, he stepped back, and looked directly into Donovan’s eyes. She stepped forward and rested her hands on Hannah’s shoulders. Hannah leaned into the touch, but didn’t release Jack’s hands. He returned his attention to Hannah.

“I’m so glad you figured out the pieces of the puzzle, Hannah. And I’m really glad I got to see the culmination of all that research and the fulfillment of the legend.”

“Thanks, Uncle Jack.” She stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. “Thank you for so many things. I’ll keep a detailed diary for you, and share it with you when I get back.”

He nodded, but didn’t answer. After another minute, he focused on Donovan. “You take care of her, Donovan. She is very precious to me.”

“To me as well, Jack. I will cherish her always. I give you my word.”

“Then go with my blessing, both of you.”

Jack and Hannah shared a final hug, and he and Donovan exchanged a last look. Then Hannah and Donovan stepped out the doorway into an unexpected slight chill in the air, and boarded the carriage to head out towards the port.

A carpetbag sat at Donovan’s feet, and Hannah raised her brow in mute question. “Yours?”

Donovan shook her head. “No.” She reached down and opened it up. “I believe it belongs to you.”

The second brow joined the first, and Hannah asked, “Are you sure? I’ve never seen it.”

Donovan nodded. “Yes, but the envelope on the top has your name on it. I am almost certain it is yours.”

“Okay,” said as she took the bag from Donovan’s hands. Then the buggy was stopping and the driver hopped down to let them out.

“Captain.”

“Thank you, driver,” Donovan said, handing him a coin. She then turned to help Hannah step from the carriage. Hannah was grateful for both sets of hands as she maneuvered through the small doorway. The driver released her as soon as she set foot on the ground and grabbed the bag, handing it to Donovan when she reached for it.

“Thank you, sir,” Hannah said quietly as the man tipped his hat to her. Then she took Donovan’s hand and walked with her down the dock, not noticing when the carriage simply vanished from sight.

Mama was waiting at the end of the dock. “My blessings on you both, children. Safe journey.”

“Thank you, Mama,” they replied in unison.

“Take care of one another and we will see you next trip.” They hugged her in turn and whispered their goodbyes then moved to the ship.

They stepped on board and Donovan accepted the salute with a nod. “Are we ready, Mr. Merryweather?”

“Aye, sir. The tide has turned and the crew is waiting your orders, sir.”

“The order is given, Mr. Merryweather. Raise the anchor, Mr. Trilby, and set the sails. It is time for the Warrior Maiden to sail for home.”

A cheer went up from the men at her words, including those who moved to man the oars down below. Mr. Merryweather accepted the responsibility of pulling them out of the dock from her with a nod, knowing she needed to get Hannah settled into what was going to be her new home for the next few weeks at the very least.

Hannah wedged herself into the tiny passageway behind Donovan, swearing to herself the entire way. She vowed to stick to trousers and shirts if it could be managed on this trip. There was no way she was going to cope with fashionable skirts and petticoats on this ship for the next few weeks and keep any semblance of ladylike behavior. She was already ready to scream and the passageway was only two steps from the bottom of the stairs to Donovan’s door.

Hannah couldn’t contain the gasp the slipped from her lips when Donovan whisked her into her arms before crossing the threshold. It wasn’t particularly graceful, since Donovan had to turn sideways and wriggle them through, but at last she achieved her goal and held Hannah in her arms as she kicked the door to the room shut behind them.

They remained that way for a moment while Hannah looked around the room. Her eyes blinked rapidly several times as she tried to come to terms with the difference a few days had made in the room’s appearance. She looked up at Donovan for an explanation.

“Harold’s punishment,” she said succinctly. “It was his job to convert my quarters into our quarters and insure that you would be comfortable during your stay with us. It is highly uncommon for a Royal Navy non-prison vessel to carry passengers of any kind, and almost never females. Sailors are a superstitious lot, you know.” Donovan grinned at the irony of her statement, and Hannah chuckled.

“I am glad you are here, Hannah. I have waited a lifetime to have you with me.”

“I have waited a lifetime to be here with you Donovan, but, um… won’t you get in trouble for having me here? I mean… this is a vessel of the Royal Navy, and you are her MALE Captain? Won’t it start talk to be seen with a female on your ship and more to the point, in your quarters?”

Donovan stepped over to the bed and lightly placed Hannah on its covers, but not before brushing a kiss across the blonde locks first. “I love you,” she said quietly, “and I appreciate your concern for me and my career. The truth is it really does not matter to me. What goes on aboard this ship stays with this ship and her crew. My men and I have been together for many years, and we’ve learned to trust our lives and our secrets to one another. No one outside this crew will ever know where you slept on board. The men like you and would never sully your reputation like that.”

Donovan smiled at Hannah’s bashful blush. “You blush beautifully, you know,” she said, chuckling when the red color deepened even further.

“Do they really, Donovan?” Hannah glanced up into Donovan’s eyes now despite the blush. “Do the men really like me?”

“Yes, Angel, they unquestionably do. For many reasons.”

“Well, they certainly have made me feel welcome here.” There was a sudden shift in the boat, and Hannah reached her hands out to clasp Donovan’s. She looked up in anticipation of the forthcoming explanation.

“We are pushing back from the dock. Would you like to go topside and watch?”

“Actually,” Hannah replied as she held onto Donovan for balance and stood on wobbly legs. She turned and presented her back to Donovan whose eyes widened when she saw the row of tiny little buttons. “Could you undo me, please? If I don’t get out of all these layers and into some sensible clothes soon, I may have to scream.”

Donovan swallowed and did as she was bidden, then scampered for the door. “I’ll just wait outside,” she said before closing the door firmly behind her. Hannah stared at the door for a long moment, wondering where Donovan’s shyness had suddenly come from. Then she shrugged and wiggled out of the dress and began to unlayer her petticoats.

It took a good five minutes to get completely undressed and folded and put away. The dress she’d hung in the small closet space, but even without the undergarments it took up her whole side. She sighed. There was nothing to be done for it now. Instead, she decided to hunt for her new clothes.

Hannah was fairly certain they were in the drawers in the chest, but her curiosity about the carpetbag was overwhelming and she found herself sitting naked on the small bed opening up the bag.

The note on the top was in Jack’s firm handwriting. She recognized it easily from the many notes and letters he’d written to her while she was growing up. The paper was thick, almost parchment-like, and the ink… well, it was different than any she had ever seen. She opened the envelope, and slid the paper from it, opening it with a crinkly sound. Her eyes skimmed the page, then returned to the top to read fully.

My Beloved Niece Hannah, (it read)

So much has happened so quickly, and I know that when you leave tonight, the odds in my seeing you again are very slim. My work is finished, and getting you off safely with Donovan was the last thing I had to do. Everything from here on out is up to Fate. Not that it isn’t normally, but this is different. I no longer have a goal to fulfill… except that trip to Alaska. Never quite made it there.

In any case, I want you to know how proud I am of you… how proud your Mother and Dad would have been as well could they have seen what a beautiful, loving young woman you turned out to be. I thank God everyday for the fact that I got to be a part of your life. And that I got to see the fulfillment of the legend.

The ring enclosed is actually the ring your dad gave to your mom when they were married. I thought you might want to have it to give to Donovan. It seems very fitting.

As for the rest of what is in here, take a deep whiff. I did some research on the internet after you told me about Donovan, and found this chocolatier has been around for almost two hundred years. I thought you might appreciate having a taste of home available to you while you were gone, and FedEx delivers here for the right price. J

Go and be happy, Hannah. You have found your future in the past, and it makes my heart glad to know that soulmates can come together across time and space. I love you.

Always your favorite uncle,

Jack
Hannah just sat still for a moment, soaking in the happiness the note and gesture provided and the heartache the words also caused. She took a deep whiff and allowed the fragrance of chocolate to waft across her senses. She was so engrossed in the experience that she didn’t hear the door open until she heard Donovan’s indrawn breath.

Donovan whipped around to face the door. “I beg your pardon, Hannah. I thought you would be dressed by now. I, um….”

Hannah felt somewhat emboldened by Donovan’s uncharacteristic shyness, and she took the two steps necessary to reach the Captain while still completely nude. She wrapped her arms around Donovan’s waist and felt the faint tremor that ran through her body as well as the sub-vocal whimper that emerged from her clenched jaw.

“Donovan? Why do you turn away from me?” She laid her head on the strong back. “You’ve seen this body, you’ve loved this body.” She lifted her head and urged Donovan to face her. “Has something suddenly happened to change how you feel about that?”

Donovan felt the heartbreak in Hannah’s voice and couldn’t refuse her siren’s call. She turned and looked at Hannah, careful to let Hannah see all the love and longing she felt as she perused the beautiful body that stood proudly before her. Hannah felt herself flushing under the weight of desire in Donovan’s eyes.

“Oh, Angel,” Donovan whispered as she cupped Hannah’s face in her hands. “It is not a lack of desire for you. Waiting to consummate our love in this reality has been…” Donovan bit her lip and dropped her eyes. “It is something I desire above anything else. But I promised you… I promised both of us time and courting and….”

Donovan stopped speaking when fingertips covered her lips. “Donovan, I understand that this may not be the time and the place for us to be together intimately. It is a small ship and there are no secrets here. My presence alone could cause resentments with the crew, and I don’t want to make things worse. But please don’t push me away. You are the one stability I have here.”

Donovan kissed the fingers that were caressing her lips, then she cleared her throat of its hoarseness. “Then you must not tempt me, Beloved. It is hard enough to control the desire I feel for you when I look at you without having the enticement that is you for me so blatantly offered to me. Show me some mercy, Hannah.”

“I can do that.” Hannah turned Donovan around to face the door. “No peeking, love.”

Hannah dressed swiftly in the first outfit she found provided for her, marveling at the intricacy of the tiny stitching, and the comfortable simplicity in the clothing that Satosh had created for her. This outfit was a light blue linen with short sleeves that reached down to Hannah’s knees. There were trousers that went with it of the same material, and it was covered with a delicate embroidery. She pulled the pins from her hair and picked up her brush before she felt it pulled from her hands.

“Let me.”

Hannah nodded and presented Donovan with her back once more. When the blonde hair was smooth and untangled, Donovan handed the brush forward to Hannah and placed a light kiss on her cheek. “Come, Angel. There should still be a bit of light left on the island.”

They walked topside hand in hand to begin the voyage that would take them home together.

***********

The first two days Hannah didn’t see much of Donovan except at mealtimes and at night. Donovan never failed to accompany her to bed, though all they did was spend time holding one another and kissing. It occurred to Hannah that Donovan was an exceptional kisser, not realizing that Donovan thought the same about her.

Their days were spent topside, though Donovan was infinitely busier than Hannah. Hannah still managed to find tasks that she could perform without interfering with anyone else’s duties or the running of the ship. It didn’t hurt that she could watch Donovan doing what she was born to do and did so naturally. Hannah took great delight in seeing Donovan command her ship and to watch the crew follow her leadership.

The weather had been beautiful and Hannah had been thankful that she wasn’t plagued by seasickness. She hadn’t expected to be, but one never knew, and she recalled that several of the women in her family line seemed to suffer from it. It was late morning of the third day when things took a turn for the worse.

The call to batten down the hatches was her first clue, and Hannah’s eyes warily tracked to the line of clouds the sailors’ eyes seemed to be drawn to. It was when the first mate asked to escort her to the Captain’s quarters that she became concerned.

“Mr. Merryweather?” She tried very hard to conform to the proprieties of the ship.

“Please, Miss Hannah. The Captain is concerned for your safety, and I assured him I would see you below decks. The approaching storm is fierce and the Captain would feel better if you waited in his cabin.”

Even though Hannah knew of the need for the crew to refer to Donovan as a man, she still found it terribly disconcerting, and had to make an effort not to correct the pronoun. “And what of the Captain, John?”

“The Captain must stay topside to guide us through the storm, Miss Hannah.” The first swell hit the ship and made it lurch heavily to one side. John Merryweather was a man long used to the sea and her treacherous ways and had braced himself for the onslaught. But Hannah was still learning, and would have fallen if not for his strong hands that caught her own as she stumbled towards him.

“Please, Miss Hannah. Let me get you settled in the Captain’s quarters. He will do nothing but worry about you until he knows you are taken care of, and we need him to focus on pulling the ship through the storm.”

Hannah nodded her reluctant agreement, even as the first wave of nausea roiled in her gut. She clutched the first mate’s arm convulsively, and clamped her jaw together. John Merryweather looked at her green tinged skin and groaned silently. This had the makings of an ugly experience for the lot of them.

“Miss Hannah,” he asked solicitously. “Are you all right?”

“John, help me get to the bed to lie down,” Hannah muttered through clenched teeth.

The first mate did as he was asked, and in short order Hannah was laying on the bunk she and Donovan shared. He pinched the nerve between her thumb and forefinger with his fingers, and she felt the nausea ease though it did not disappear completely. She looked at him in amazement.

“All good sailors learn the necessary pressure points early in their careers. This type of weather makes us ALL queasy.” He proceeded to show her several more pressure points on both her hands and her feet she could use before excusing himself and returning to the deck with her promise that she would remain put.

It was several hours later and nearly dark when Hannah heard Donovan squish into the cabin. The pressure points were helping, but she was still somewhat disoriented and a little nauseous. So she kept her eyes closed and continued to focus on her breathing… an exercise that seemed to help her concentrate away from the roiling feelings she was still experiencing.

She listened as Donovan changed clothes, wishing she felt well enough to peek but afraid to chance it. Hannah heard the comb being pulled through wet hair, and silently counted the strokes it took for Donovan to pull free of the tangles. Finally, she sighed in relief when the long, surprisingly warm body curled around her own, and she gratefully permitted herself the luxury of sinking into it with contentment at the respite she felt from the storm in Donovan’s presence.

Donovan ran light circles on Hannah’s stomach, easing the upset that had been there for hours. Hannah sighed aloud.

“How do you feel, Angel?”

Hannah entwined her hand with Donovan’s and smiled. “Much better now that you’re here. Is the storm over?”

“I am sorry I could not get here any sooner.”

Hannah squeezed the hand caught in her grasp. “I do understand, Donovan. Your first duty is to the ship and crew, and as part of that crew on board this ship, I greatly appreciate that fact. Is the storm over?”

Donovan bit her lip and nodded. “Mostly. Mr. Merryweather is guiding us through the outer edges.” The broad shoulders shrugged. “I needed to be down here with you, and he knew it. He practically pushed me off the bridge.”

Hannah chuckled silently and caressed the hand she still held in her own. She realized right then that not only had she not yet given Donovan her mother’s ring, she still hadn’t seen it herself. Her curiosity was almost overwhelming, but she decided she was much too comfortable to move from her present spot. She made a mental note to check it out at her first opportunity though, and turned her attention back to Donovan.

Donovan felt the laughter run through Hannah’s slight frame, and didn’t realize that her attention had wandered to the matter of rings. Donovan leaned up on an elbow and looked down into Hannah’s still smiling face with a pout. “You are laughing at me, madam.”

“Not at you, my Captain.” She turned in Donovan’s arms until she was completely on her back and Donovan was cradling her gently. “I am simply chuckling at the whine you affected in your voice.”

Now the beseeching took on a growly tone, though the pout remained. “I do not whine.”

“Okay,” Hannah agreed amiably, glad for the distraction their banter provided. The combination of Donovan’s presence and the lessening of the storm coupled with their conversation was making her feel more human by the minute. “You don’t whine.” Donovan smiled at Hannah’s easy acquiescence. Then Hannah spoke again. “But you do have the most adorable pout.”

The pout turned into a scowl and Hannah’s chuckle became all out laughter. She reached up a hand to smooth the lines from Donovan’s forehead and slid down to trace the high cheekbones and the full lips. It didn’t take much encouragement on Hannah’s part at all for Donovan to bend her head and capture the lips beneath her own.

Hannah tangled her hands in Donovan’s dark hair, holding her willingly in place until they had to separate for air. She smiled up into blue eyes that smiled back at her.

“Have I mentioned how really good you are at that?”

The smile on Donovan’s face widened into a grin. “No, but the feeling is mutual.”

“I know something else,” Hannah said.

“What would that be, Beloved?”

“This is a much nicer cure for seasickness than pressure points,” Hannah stated with conviction.

Now it was Donovan’s turn to chuckle. “Then by all means, perhaps we should continue… for strictly medicinal purposes of course.”

“Oh no. I want to continue for purely personal, selfish reasons.”

A dark brow rose. “Oh?”

“Yep,” Hannah answered casually as she snuggled closer into Donovan’s arms. “Medicinal purposes aside, I just like kissing you. And I want to keep kissing you just because I like it so much.”

Donovan appeared thoughtful for a long moment, then she shrugged. “Very well. I believe I can live with that arrangement.”

“Oh you can, can you, Captain?” Hannah tugged on Donovan’s head until their lips were a mere hairsbreadth apart. “C’mere, beautiful.” It was the last of their discussion for quite some time to follow.

************

The next day passed unremarkably for Donovan, except for the odd prickling in her fingertips and the tingling of her spine. Something was afoot, but whether it lay in the frustration she felt building during her kissing sessions with Hannah or whether it was because Hannah herself had been missing from the deck for the better part of an hour or if was simply a premonition of some sort, Donovan could not have plainly said. What she did know was that she was getting antsy, and Hannah’s arrival from Donovan’s dreams to her reality had changed the Captain’s perception of a lot of things.

Donovan smiled. Most of the changes had been positive. It was just on days like today when something was off-kilter and Donovan couldn’t seem to put her finger on precisely what that something was that she found herself agitated and out-of-sorts.

She turned her attention to the crew, wondering if any of them sensed anything amiss, but from the looks of the activity on deck she was the only one who felt anything unusual in the air. She turned her head as her first mate came up beside her.

“Good afternoon, Captain. Lovely weather after the storm, is it not?”

“Aye, Mr. Merryweather. It certainly is. And I thank you for showing Hannah the pressure points yesterday. They made a great deal of difference in her coping with her first rough seas.”

“It was little enough to do for her, sir. Her being here has made a big difference in morale.”

Donovan cut her eyes at Merryweather. “A good difference or a bad one?”

The first mate’s eyes popped from his head. “Surely you are not serious sir! A good difference, of course! Aside from the difference she has obviously contributed to your happiness, she has taken time with the men. Helping with work around the ship, telling stories; I understand she has even charmed Cookie into letting her help out with tonight’s meal.”

The Captain’s brows rose into her forehead, and Donovan’s eyes opened wide in shock. “You jest!”

“No sir!” Merryweather answered solemnly. “My word as an officer.”

Donovan shook her head in disbelief. “I should not be so surprised, but I am certainly impressed,” knowing what a hard sell Cookie was. The galley was considered sacred, and even she did not venture into his domain without an invitation. She turned her attention back to the first mate. “No problems, then? No grumbling about her presence here?”

Merryweather swallowed. “There have been one or two murmurs, sir, but I am keeping an eye on the malcontents. Do not let it concern you, sir. This crew would sacrifice much for Miss Hannah.”

Donovan clapped him on the shoulder. “Thank you, John. It is good to know she is so highly though of.” She looked around again. “Now if you would kindly take the helm, I will see where Hannah has disappeared to.”

John chuckled even as he assumed the wheel. “Try the galley, sir. I heard her mumbling something about baking a chocolate cake when she passed me on the way downstairs more than an hour ago.” He shrugged. “It did not make sense to me either, sir, but I have long given up trying to understand women… present company excluded of course sir.”

Donovan chuckled and headed downstairs.

************

Hannah was indeed in the galley, though she had stopped at their cabin first. She really did want to surprise the crew with a chocolate cake. All the men had made her feel welcome, and except for one or two who sent her ick meter off the scale, they had all been kind without seeming to infringe on her personal space. But more than that, she wanted to see the ring Jack had given her. Now that she’d been reminded of it, her curiosity was killing her.

Donovan was busy with various ship’s matters and Hannah saw her opportunity to escape undetected. She wasn’t trying to hide anything from Donovan, but she did want a chance to see the ring before she offered it to her.

She slipped into the cabin and took the carpetbag from its place near the dresser. The scent of chocolate wafted up when she opened it, and Hannah felt her mouth water involuntarily from the smell. She lifted out the small bag that lay on top of several metal tins of what she assumed were the chocolate.

The weight of the sack surprised her, and Hannah noted her fingers were trembling as she pulled the drawstrings open. She held her hand beneath the opening and let the ring fall into her outstretched palm. Then she gasped at what she saw.

The ring was a plain gold band, wide enough to reach from knuckle to knuckle. Across the top sat a square cut carat weight diamond, with a smaller round cut stone on either side. The stones, remarkably enough, were blue diamonds the shade of Donovan’s eyes.

The crackling of paper brought Hannah back to reality, and she reached inside to pull out a faded, yellowed note addressed to her. She noted the date, and saw it was her birth date, and realized the note was from her father written on the night of her birth… the night of her mother’s death.
My dearest Daughter Hannah, (it read)

My heart is filled with joy, and yet is breaking as I write this note to you. Tonight your mother and I were blessed with your birth, and then in a cruel twist of fate, your mother was ripped from my arms. I try to take comfort that she will watch over us from heaven, but it does little to help the agony my soul feels having lost her presence here with us.

I wish you could have known your mother, little one, and I will do my very best to make sure you do in every single way I can. She was a wonderful woman, and we were both so happy when we knew we were going to be blessed with you in our lives.

I hope when you read this you will have found the man of your dreams, and will be ready to happily settle down with him. That is what your mother and I both wanted most of all for you, Hannah… your happiness. I hope I can be parent enough to teach you to be the kind of person who brings happiness to others, for that is how you will find happiness for yourself.

When you do find that special someone, Hannah, I want you to have your mother’s ring. She didn’t want the typical wedding set, and what she ended up with was a compromise between us. It may not be your size; it is hard to tell since you are only a few hours old, and your mother and I were similar in size. But I hope either you or the one you love will be able to wear this ring with all the love and happiness your mother and I shared during our time together.

Even if you choose never to use the ring, I hope you will keep it as a reminder of your mother and the love we both had for you. I will put it away for now. Somehow, I will know when the time is right to share it with you. For now, though, I want you to know that we love you, and I thank God for leaving you with me. You are my one true joy now, daughter.

Always your loving father,

Michael Reilly

And in remembrance of your loving mother,

Elizabeth Reilly
Hannah could see the tearstains her father had left on the paper all those years before and she wiped her own eyes as she lifted the paper to her lips and kissed it before replacing it in the bag. She’d find the perfect time to give the ring to Donovan soon. Then she slipped the ring around the necklace she still wore and grabbed a tin of chocolate from the carpetbag. With a deep breath, she put the bag away and headed out the door towards the galley, intent on making chocolate cake for her Captain and the crew.
Chapter XX

Donovan followed the scent of something sweet and familiar down the passageway into the galley. There she spied Cookie calmly standing at the cutting table peeling potatoes while Hannah finished doing *something* to the cake on the table. Donovan stepped into the room and cleared her throat lest Cookie take it upon himself to throw her out because he thought she was trespassing.

Not that Cookie would… it was her ship, and she was his Captain. But he had made it very clear that he would appreciate no interference in his little domain, and since he turned out respectable grub for her and the crew daily, she’d accepted his little quirk. Now, however, Cookie had something that belonged to her, and she was anxious to reclaim it for herself.

Hannah looked up when she heard Donovan, and immediately leapt into her strong arms. Donovan just stood still and absorbed the sensations til she felt Hannah ease back from her. Then she gently set the blonde woman on her feet and nodded her chin towards the table.

“What did you make in here that smells so good?”

“Chocolate cake,” waiting to see if Donovan would remember her first experience with the confection.

The blue eyes lit up. “Chocolate cake? You mean that lovely dessert we had on our picnic? *That* chocolate cake?”

“Well, not exactly,” Hannah answered honestly. “There were a couple things I was missing. But it is as close as I can possibly make it.”

“Do I have to share or is it all for me… I mean us?” Donovan grinned unrepentantly.

“It’s for everyone, Donovan,” Hannah replied, smacking the Captain lightly on the arm. “But you can have the biggest piece.” Hannah grabbed Donovan by the arm of her shirt and tugged her towards the stove. “Now taste this… it needs something, and Cookie and I are stumped to figure out what. Then I’ll let you lick the bowl.”

Donovan did as she was asked and dutifully took a clean spoon from Hannah’s fingers. She tasted the broth, staring into space for a moment before pulling several different spices off the nearby shelve, and adding a generous amount of each to the mixture. She tasted again and gave a satisfied nod before turning to face Hannah.

“The bowl, please,” accepting it with good grace and proceeding to lick it clean.

Hannah meanwhile turned back to the stew and tasted the broth, her brows rising in pleased surprise. She gave Cookie a nod. “That’ll about do it all right. Should be ready in about an hour.”

Cookie stirred in the potatoes, then took his own taste. “By God, that was what it needed.” He turned to Donovan, doing his best not to laugh at the bit of chocolate icing on the end of her nose. “Good work, Captain,” paying Donovan his highest compliment.

Hannah didn’t contain her laugh, but leaned over and licked the chocolate off Donovan’s nose. Donovan froze at the sheer eroticism of the act, and willed herself to breathe. Especially when Hannah’s tongue traced her lips as well. She felt the world tremble beneath her feet.

“CAPTAIN!!” The shout startled them apart, and Donovan jumped from her place and shoved the bowl in Hannah’s direction. The urgency in the shout did not bode well for the news that was to follow.

“Captain!” Harold bellowed again. “Mr. Merryweather sent me to fetch you sir! It’s Blackthorne sir! He’s crippled in the water from another fight, and we have a chance to finish him.”

Blue eyes shone brightly at the pronouncement, and Donovan turned to take Hannah’s hand. “Harold, fetch my guns and my swords from my cabin.” The boy scampered off unnoticed. “Hannah, I need you to go to the cabin and wait for me til this is all over.”

“But I want….”

“PLEASE, Hannah. I need you to do this for me. I do not want… I cannot stand the thought of you being exposed to what is coming.”

“Donovan….” She pulled her hand from Donovan’s grasp.

“Do as the Captain asks, miss. It is important or he would not ask it of you.” Cookie’s voice broke the tableau and Hannah gazed at him with sorrowful eyes before nodding her acquiescence. Cookie looked back at the Captain, wincing internally at the anguish so clearly written across smooth features. But when Donovan’s eyes met his own, the cook saw the mask slide into place, and Donovan nodded her thanks before she hurried up the stairs.

Cookie took Hannah’s hand and led her from the galley. It would be a while before the crew got down here to eat now.

************

“Report!” Donovan said as she stepped onto the deck. Black smoke poured from the side of Blackthorne’s vessel, and Donovan had time to wonder who had done the damage when a volley of cannon fire skirted her ship near the waterline. They appeared to be just out of range of Blackthorne’s guns.

“We came upon her as you see her now, sir. We fired a warning shot as per protocol, and that was his response. Orders, sir?”

“Load the guns, Mr. Merryweather, and let us get a boarding party together. It is time to finish this between us.”

The words weren’t out of her mouth before Harold had handed her her weapons. Then a call went up from the crow’s nest. “Sir, we’re going to be bo….” The word was cut off by a shot and a scream, and Donovan watched helplessly as the first member of her crew fell bonelessly to the deck, dead before he hit.

She drew her pistols, and shot the first two men who climbed over the side of her ship. Donovan handed them to Harold with the command to reload, and drew her sword from its sheath. Then Captain Scott waded into the bloody battle with no thought except for victory.

************

Cookie left Hannah alone in her cabin against his better judgment. She pointed out that he needed to keep an eye on dinner lest the ship burn down, which was true, but he couldn’t help but feel there was a more underlying motive to her wanting him out of the room.

“Miss, will you promise to stay here and out of the fight? Your being anywhere but right here could put everyone, but especially the Captain in very grave danger.”

“Cookie, I promise you I will not go up on deck. I have no desire to cause anyone problems, but I’d rather the ship didn’t burn down to the waterline either. Besides, you know and I know that Captain Scott and the crew will likely be ravenous when this is all over and best if we’re not having to explain why dinner isn’t ready.”

“You have a good point, miss. Do me a favor though, and lock the door. On the off chance that Blackthorne tries to board us and gets past the crew, he’ll come searching through here to see what kind of booty he can take. And you, Miss Hannah would be considered a mighty fine prize.”

Hannah didn’t know who was more embarrassed by Cookie’s words, but she dipped her head in acknowledgement. Cookie accepted her nod and left for the galley at a near run. Hannah had made some good points, and he didn’t want the crew to defeat Blackthorne, only to have the ship burn down because of his oversight.

Hannah waited until his footsteps faded in the distance, and she counted to one hundred… by tens. She could hear the battle raging above her, and her heart cried out to know what was going on. She slipped out of the cabin and up the three stairs to the deck. Then she cracked the door and watched the butchery take place around her with horror-filled eyes.

There were bodies strewn about the deck, though thankfully most of them were grungy pirates that Hannah didn’t readily recognize. Her heart searched for its mate in the carnage of battle, and what she found made her want to both scream in fury and retch in agony.

Donovan stood with her back to her first mate, and together they cut down everything that swept into their path. She was covered in bits of gore and blood, but what hurt Hannah the most was the absolute deadness of the eyes she could see even at this distance.

Then they sparked with an unusual fire in them that Hannah had never seen before and did not understand, but before she had time to process the change, time seemed to come to a grinding halt.

A huge hulk of a man walked through the smoke, kicking bodies out of his way as he approached Donovan’s position. Men on both sides of the fight stepped back from one another and waited with bated breath to see what would be the outcome of the final battle in a saga that had been running for almost four years.

Blackthorne was gigantic… almost head and shoulders taller than Donovan, and he looked to outweigh her by half again. When he smiled, half his teeth were rotting or missing from his head completely, and the smell of him was making Donovan’s eyes water even from a distance.

“Donovan Scott!” he bellowed, and Donovan had all she could do not to wince away from his stench reflexively. “At last we meet, Captain.” He drew closer, unable to believe what his eyes were telling him. “So, the rumors are true and you really are a woman then, eh? Well, then… maybe I won’t kill ya where ya stand. Maybe I’ll simply make ya me servin’ wench, and maybe I’ll take the boy too,” pointing to Harold. “Then I’ll see fer meself what other sorta treasures ya’ve got on this here boat. ‘Cause when I’m done, the ship’ll be mine, as will her crew.”

Donovan had taken on a bored pose, and now politely covered her mouth with her hand. “Harold, my ceremonial blade please.” She extended her hand and waited for the boy to place the sword in her grasp. Then she turned back to Blackthorne. “Are you done, blowhard? You are standing between me and chocolate cake.”

“Ya wanna play then, lass? Fine by me!” And he raised his sabre above his head, poised for the killing blow.

Of course, he hadn’t counted on the fact that Donovan was an expert, nor on the fact that she was deadly serious. His eyes widened and he looked at her in confusion for a moment before his attention turned to the sword that was now buried to its hilt in his chest.

“I protect what is mine,” she growled at him, before yanking her sword from his body and pushing him to the ground.

She looked at the men who stood around watching the tableau and raised her bloody sword into the air. A cheer from her own men rose, and she grinned fiercely at the sound. Then she looked at the defeated remnants of Blackthorne’s crew. “Surrender, gentlemen or die.”

Several weapons hit the deck in a clattering of sound, but one man remained defiant. “Ya wouldn’t kill us. The battle’s over. It’d be murder.” He clutched his sword even tighter.

Donovan stepped up to him. “Either you surrender or you die. I will not offer the choice a third time.”

“Ya won’t kill me. I’ve heard about ya and this crew. Ya have a high regard for life.”

Donovan turned and walked away from him, before whipping around and severing his head from his shoulders, glad she’d had Harold retrieve both blades as it gave her the opportunity to take the head cleanly with one swipe. “I have no regard for those who prey on the less fortunate… who take advantage of women and children.” She rested her bloody sword on her shoulder and looked around a final time. “Would anyone else like to question my regard for your worthless lives?”

The rest of the men dropped their weapons without a word, and Donovan looked around for her first mate. “Mr. Merryweather, have Mr. Trilby and Mr. Roberts escort the prisoners to the brig. We will put them off at the nearest uninhabited island.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Then get the men to cleaning up the deck as quickly as possible. We will have services for our dead as soon as I return and can clean up a bit.”

“Aye, sir. Are you going aboard Blackthorne’s ship, sir?”

“I am, Mr. Merryweather.”

“Very good, sir. Be careful.”

Donovan opened her mouth to answer when a flash of green at the stairwell caught her attention. It was gone almost instantly, and Donovan felt her heart sink. Then she squared her shoulders. There was nothing to be done for it now. She still had things to take care of. After that… well, after that, she and Hannah would talk… hopefully.

There was only one lone pirate left on Blackthorne’s ship, and he was quick to surrender when he saw Donovan cross the gangplank between them looking like the specter of death itself. She and Hawks split and searched the ship quickly, not surprised to find several holds full of stolen goods.

“Mr. Hawks?”

“Sir?”

“Get with Mr. Merryweather and let us see about getting these things onto the Maiden. I think we can return a majority of it to its rightful place. Have him send me three men besides yourself who can help move these crates. And bring a manifest so we can record them.”

“Aye, sir.”

“And Hawks?” She waited until the man turned, and pointed to the lone prisoner that Harold had been keeping an eye on. “Take the garbage with you.”

“Aye sir.”

Harold took his cue from her and began sorting through the crates. They were nearly done with the first room when Hawks returned with two more sailors. Donovan raised a brow in silent question on the length of his departure.

“Apologies, Captain. Mr. Merryweather had us help rinse the blood off the deck so we could transport the goods without fear of sliding overboard.” Donovan nodded.

“Give the quill and parchment to Mr. Worthington,” motioning to Harold, “and let us get this cargo moved quickly. It will be dark soon.”

As it was, it was completely dark before they were done transferring things to the Maiden, even though a majority of the crew had been dispatched to help with recovering the crates. The blood and gore was dried and crusted on Donovan, and she winced from being rubbed raw in several place.

Donovan now stood with a torch in hand as Hawks and Trilby finished pouring pitch on the deck. She motioned them across the gangplank, then followed them halfway before tossing the torch back onto the pirate ship. She stood there a moment longer, ignoring the rocking motion and watched as the pitch caught fire. The fire began racing along soaked paths, and Donovan stepped onto the Maiden as the gangplank was pulled in.

“Report, Mr. Merryweather.”

“We are riding very low, sir, due to the extra cargo and the prisoners. However, everything has been documented and the men are putting the last of it away as we speak. The deck has been cleaned and scrubbed, and Matthews and Richards have been cleaned and dressed for burial, sir.”

Donovan nodded and looked to one side of the deck that Merryweather motioned to where two shrouded bodies lay motionless. She took a deep breath and then another, willing herself not to cry. This was the hardest part of being the Captain, and the deaths of two of her own cut deeply. She cleared her throat.

“Very well, Mr. Merryweather. Please have a hot bath sent to my quarters immediately.”

“Aye, sir.” He paused. “Captain?”

“Yes, Mr. Merryweather?”

“Could we have the burial in the morning, sir? The men… well sir, we’re all exhausted, and I think Matthews and Richards would appreciate a morning burial.”

Donovan closed her eyes to hide her relief, but nodded her head in surrender. “I believe we would all appreciate a morning burial at this point, Mr. Merryweather. Assign a man to keep watch as an honor guard tonight,” nodding towards the bodies.

“Aye, sir. And I will have your bath drawn immediately.”

“Thank you, John.” Donovan hesitated. “Have you seen Hannah?”

“Not since she went below before all this started. I understand that her efforts in the kitchen have been greatly enjoyed by the whole crew, including Cookie himself.”

Donovan turned a questioning eye his way. “You understand? Have you not eaten, my friend?”

“No sir. Not yet. I was waiting for Mr. Roberts to finish and relieve me,” he gestured to the man just coming up from below. “I will see to your bath Captain, and then….”

“Go eat, Mr. Merryweather. Mr. Roberts will see to the hot water.”

The grizzled second mate nodded, even as Merryweather replies, “Thank you, Captain.”

Donovan went below to check the prisoners, pleasantly surprised to find them all quiet and well-behaved. She made a mental note to have them wash in the morning after the funeral rites were given, because not even the wonderful smell of whatever they had been given for supper could mask the putrid stench of body odor that hung in the air.

She moved back to her cabin, at once both oddly relieved and eerily dismayed that Hannah was not waiting for her. She crossed to the window and opened it, reveling in the fresh air that breezed through the cabin at her action. Almost immediately a knock sounded.

“Enter!”

Harold came in carrying the tub, and behind him came four men with two pails of hot water apiece. Each quickly dumped their water into the wooden cask and with a respectful nod, made their way out of her cabin.

She shut the door behind them with a sigh, then groaned aloud as she sat in the wooden chair to try to begin removing her clothing. She struggled with her boots, dropping them on floor hard when she finally worked them off her feet. Donovan reached for the ties on her shirt, then dropped her arms and her head in sheer exhaustion.

She was surprised by the door opening, and she met Hannah’s eyes for a brief moment before dropping hers back to the floor. Without a word Hannah knelt and raised her hands to the ties on Donovan’s shirt. Donovan raised her own hands to stop Hannah until she realized the blood and gore that still covered them.

“Please do not,” she said in a whisper so timid Hannah could hardly make out the words. “I did not want you to see this… to be exposed to this.”

Hannah deliberately reached forward and took Donovan’s hands in her own. She lifted them lightly to her lips and placed a kiss on each one, drawing a gasping sob from Donovan’s lips. She dropped one hand to cup the anguished face while holding tightly to the other.

“Donovan,” said in a commanding tone. “Look at me.” Hannah urged the chin up, and slowly, Donovan lifted her head until pain-filled blue met compassionate green. “I know we haven’t stood before a minister and exchanged vows yet, but right here, right now, I want you to understand and accept something if you never do anything else in your life, okay?”

Hannah waited patiently for Donovan to search her eyes and nod her agreement.

“I’m here for the long haul, Donovan. The good, the bad and the ugly. Nothing you could say or do could change what I feel for you, and the only way that I’ll leave is if you send me away. The things I don’t understand, like this, we will talk about eventually. But not tonight. Tonight I am going to take the very best care of you I can. This is a burden you’ve carried alone far too long, my love. Let me share it with you.”

Donovan was too overwhelmed to speak, and she wanted very badly to simply immerse herself in Hannah. Hannah read the conflict in Donovan’s eyes all too easily, and leaned forward to take the decision out of her hands.

Tenderly, without regard to the blood that still liberally speckled the skin of Donovan’s face, Hannah captured the Captain’s lips in a short, intense kiss meant more to reassure than stir great passion. Hannah felt Donovan trembling under the touch, and pulled away slowly, never completely losing tactile contact with her. Donovan reached out her free hand to cup Hannah’s face and brought their lips together again in a blaze of passion.

“Thank you, Hannah,” she whispered as they pulled apart again. “Thank you for loving me.”

She sat still this time when Hannah reached for the ties on her shirt. The exhaustion she felt was crushing, and she was content to let Hannah help her get clean.

Hannah struggled with the ties that were caked with dried blood and difficult to maneuver to her satisfaction. Eventually though, after a good deal of frustration on her part, she managed to loosen them enough to pull the shirt over Donovan’s head. Hannah had the same struggle with Donovan’s trousers, though those were even more difficult since Donovan had to remain standing, and her fatigue made her sway slightly.

Finally Hannah was able slide the pants down Donovan’s long legs, and helped her ease her feet from them. Then she led the Captain to the tub and steadied her as she stepped in and slid into the water.

“Lean back and relax a few minutes, love. I’ll be right back.”

Hannah grabbed Donovan’s boots and moved to the door. She opened it and stepped out into the passageway where she was met by Harold and the crewman she only knew as Hawks.

“Miss Hannah?”

“Gentlemen, could I ask a favor?”

They looked at one another and shrugged. Anything she asked would be granted, but they found it odd that she presented it as a favor instead of a politely worded order.

“Yes ma’am,” Harold said politely, wondering what she needed, but knowing a request from her was just like it was coming from the Captain himself.

“I need two things. If one of you gentlemen could take the Captain’s boots and clean them…? And if the other of you would fetch some dinner from the galley… just tell Cookie I asked for it and tell him it’s for the Captain, please?”

Both young men nodded. Harold reached for the boots even as Hawks turned and headed down the passageway. Hannah leaned against the door and closed her eyes when she was alone in the corridor. She felt drained, almost as though she had taken Donovan’s pain and anguish into her own body. She took a deep breath and straightened, and re-entered the cabin.

Donovan sat unmoving in the tub, eyes closed and head tilted back. Hannah walked to the small table where she had left the soap and towels. She took the soap and wash cloth, and dipped them in the water, working up a good lather before beginning to wash the traces of battle from Donovan’s skin.

Donovan didn’t crack her eyes when she felt the disturbance in the water. She could feel Hannah, smell her light scent even over the stench of death she still carried in her own nostrils. Donovan flinched involuntarily but perceptibly when Hannah touched her. Hannah waited, knowing that Donovan was strung tighter than a bowstring, and gradually felt the muscles beneath her touch relax.

She gently washed away the tension of the day, doing as much massage therapy as she did actual bathing. She kept her touch light, bordering on impersonal in an effort not to stimulate either of them. It took a bit of doing on her part though, because even sedentary Donovan exuded a raw magnetism the Hannah was drawn to. And having Donovan naked under her touch was… tempting. Hannah focused her breathing and concentrated on getting Donovan clean.

When she was finished with Donovan’s body, there was a knock on the door. Hannah rose to her feet and opened it, not surprised to see Hawks there with a laden tray. She took it with another whispered instruction, and he scampered off to do her bidding. Hannah placed the tray on the desk, and spoke to Donovan for the first time since the bath had started.

“Dunk your head for me, love.”

Donovan never opened her eyes, but slipped beneath the surface of the water for a long moment. When she came up, she kept her eyes closed, and waited patiently for Hannah’s hands to return to her body. They seemed to be grounding her, and she was more grateful for that than she could say.

She tilted her head back at Hannah’s urging and moaned as gentle fingers massaged her scalp as they washed the sweat and grime from her hair. A second knock made Donovan slit her eyes and growl when Hannah stepped away from her.

She answered the door and whispered a few more terse instructions, then closed it with a solid thunk, taking a deep breath before she crossed to the tub again.

“Duck your head again, Captain. I need to wash it one more time.”

Donovan did as she was bidden, and came up to feel Hannah’s hands on her head almost immediately. Hannah worked up a good lather, pleased when it stayed white instead of tinting pink. Then she bit her lip. She hadn’t thought this out very well, and was now stuck trying to rinse Donovan’s hair in a mostly full tub. There were times when she missed the technology of the twenty-first century, and this was definitely one of them.

“Donovan, can you kneel for me and tilt your head back? I need to rinse the soap, and that is the best way I can figure how to do it.”

Donovan rose to her knees in the middle of the tub, revealing toned abs and firm full breasts to Hannah’s hungry gaze. She felt rather than saw the intensity, and took Hannah’s hands in her own.

“Touch me, Hannah,” she whispered, placing Hannah’s hands on her stomach and urging them to move.

Hannah traced up Donovan’s breastbone, listening to the hitch in her breathing. She allowed her hands to gently caress Donovan’s breasts, teasing lightly as she bent her head to kiss the juncture of Donovan’s neck and shoulder. Hannah was mindful of the conflicting emotions of desire and control Donovan was struggling with as well as the soap that was beginning to run down the sides of Donovan’s face.

“I love you, Donovan, and I do want you… oh boy, do I want you. I just think….” She balled her hands into fists, not realizing the effect the sensation of her nails scraping along Donovan’s skin was having on Donovan til she felt the low growling moan rumble in the skin beneath her hands. Hannah jerked her hands away. “Sorry,” she muttered, then put her hands back on Donovan’s head.

“Tilt back, love, and let me rinse, so you can get out of the water before it gets cold.”

Donovan complied, and Hannah poured the pitcher of warm water slowly over the dark hair until she felt sure it was rinsed clean. Then she put the pitcher on the table and reached for the towel, holding it open for Donovan to step into. Hannah tried to avert her as when Donovan stood, but the temptation to watch the water sheet off the lithe body in front of her was too much, and she peeked out from beneath golden lashes.

“Do you like what you see, Angel?”

“Oh yes,” Hannah answered before she thought, then blushed scarlet when she realized she’d been caught staring.

Donovan chuckled, wrapping herself in the linen and taking the seat Hannah indicated. Hannah snatched the second towel and began drying the long, dark locks, gently combing it to detangle it as she dried. Donovan simply sat and relished the attention. In all her years at sea, this was the first time after a battle that she hadn’t felt like she was losing herself. Instead, through Hannah’s presence and touch, she felt like she was doing the right thing for the right reasons, even if there was no real right way to get it done.

Hannah braided Donovan’s hair, then rested a hand on her shoulder. “You should eat, love. You need some nourishment.”

Donovan took the hand on her shoulder and led Hannah around until she could draw her down into her lap. Hannah cuddled up contentedly, and Donovan savored the feeling of being surrounded by love. “I have everything I need right here,” she whispered into the blonde hair.

Hannah squeezed Donovan tightly but remained silent, hoping the Captain would open up and talk. It took a bit, but her patience was rewarded.

“I wish I could make you understand what a difference having you here with me has made for me… especially after a day like today was.” Donovan spoke very low, and Hannah listened closely so as not to miss any words or inflections. “Even though I know that destroying pirates is the only thing that will stop them, even though doing so makes the world a better, safer place… I feel like I die a little bit every single time I am forced into the role of judge, jury and executioner.”

“It is the same thing when we are forced to keep merchants who prey on those weaker than themselves. They think respectability makes them better than pirates, but it only serves to make them worse.” Donovan rested her cheek on Hannah’s head and closed her eyes.

“I am so tired, Hannah, so very tired. There are some days I just want to give it all up and go settle down on the island and never worry about things like this again.” She sighed in wry knowledge. “Then I come to my senses and realize that we do make the best kind of difference.”

She kissed Hannah’s head and eased them to their feet, and Hannah immediately grabbed a shift for Donovan to slip into. Then she guided her back to the chair and pushed her rapidly cooling dinner towards Donovan.

“Eat, love,” was all she said.

“Join me?” a plaintive plea.

There was only the one chair, and Hannah looked for a way to make it work. “Tell ya what,” she said, placing her hands on Donovan’s shoulders and kissing her hair. “You eat your stew and then we can sit on the bed together and share dessert.”

Donovan pouted. “This is just an excuse to let you have part of my chocolate cake, isn’t it?”

Hannah laughed. “Of course it is. Now eat, while I dump the bath water so we can get the tub out of here. It is crowded enough without it sitting in the middle of the room.”

Things were quiet for a while then, but it was a comfortable silence. Donovan was amazed at the difference she felt in the aftermath of the day with Hannah’s nearby presence. Hannah for her part was glad that Donovan had opened up to her. Given the myriad of ways things could have gone, she was not displeased with the results of their interaction so far… especially considering the acknowledged burning desire between them. No matter what else, she didn’t think now would be the best time for them to consummate it, particularly where Donovan was concerned. There was something about her Donovan that was so fragile, and Hannah saw no reason to disrupt the balance they had found just to temporarily sate their lust. The love and the lust would always be there, and she felt Donovan still had some things to work through, hopefully aloud.

Hannah hadn’t realized how heavy eight bucketsful of water could be until she started lifting them on by one to dump them out the window. She was quite tired out by the time she finished, and she was glad to plop down on the bed.

“You could have just called the boys in to do it you know.”

“Yes, but I didn’t want out solitude together disturbed by them traipsing in and out. This way, only you get to laugh at me.”

Donovan did have to chuckle at her then, and gladly moved the tub onto its side next to the door. Then she picked up the rather large piece of cake she’d been given and made her way to the bed. Hannah scooted over voluntarily, and patted the place beside her. Donovan sat and became uneasily silent.

“Donovan?” Hannah eased the plate from her grip, and took the suddenly cold hands in her own, chafing them lightly.

“I used to come to you in my dreams after days like today,” Donovan stated hoarsely. “We didn’t do anything except lay together. You would hold me and I would sleep without dreams of anything but us.” Donovan turned haunted eyes to meet Hannah’s. “Will you hold me tonight?”

Hannah scooted of the bed and placed the cake on the table. Then she crawled over Donovan’s body and opened her arms wide. Donovan fell into the embrace and both women gave a sigh of relief.

“I love you, Angel… forever.”

“Always, my love. Sleep well.”

Almost immediately Donovan dropped into a deep sleep, contentedly curled in Hannah’s arms. Hannah watched the flame of the lone candle in the room until it burned very low as she tenderly stroked Donovan’s skin. It was sometime after that before she fell asleep.
Chapter XXI

“I thought you weren’t coming,” Donovan said as Hannah appeared in the dreamscape.

“I’m sorry, love. I got to thinking and just now fell asleep, I guess.”

A cold chill formed around Donovan’s heart at Hannah’s words. They’d just promised one another forever and always, but in the back of her mind, Donovan wondered if Hannah could accept all that meant. Maybe she was having second thoughts and had used the time to figure out a way to let Donovan down easily. Maybe she….

A hand on her face caused Donovan’s mind to come to a screeching halt, and she looked down into concerned green eyes. “Donovan? Are you all right?”

Donovan stuffed her hands in the pockets of her favorite pair of trousers to keep from reaching out and pulling Hannah into her arms. She looked down at the ground before meeting Hannah’s eyes again, then she blurted out her question.

“Hannah, are you having second thoughts about me… about us?” Her voice dropped to a whisper at the last.

Hannah’s eyes dropped and Donovan fought not to pull away from her touch, only to feel the chill when Hannah pulled it away herself. She poised herself to run, to get away from the pain that was slicing through her very being. Then she felt her hands being removed from her pockets and clasped protectively in Hannah’s.

Hannah pulled Donovan over to the rock where they usually sat and eased her down onto the surface. Hannah seated herself facing Donovan, knowing she needed to see Donovan’s face when this was said.

“Donovan, do you remember what I said to you a few hours ago? About being with you for the long haul? About us being together forever?”

Donovan nodded slowly.

“Why do you doubt me? Why do you doubt the sincerity of my love for you?” Hannah blew out a frustrated breath. She reached a hand up and lifted Donovan’s chin til their eyes met. “We have to get this settled Donovan… here and now. If you don’t trust me, can’t trust fully the love I have for you, this is not gonna work between us. So you need to make a decision one way or another. I know where I stand.”

Hannah rose and would have walked off, except that she forgot that her letting go of Donovan’s hands did not necessarily mean the reverse was true. Donovan had a firm hold on her hand and though obviously holding on delicately, she made it equally clear she was not letting go.

Hannah made as if to resume her seat across from Donovan, but Donovan shook her head. Instead she pulled Hannah into her customary position on the rock with Hannah’s back against the Captain’s chest, and Donovan’s arms clasped around Hannah’s waist and their hands linked together. Hannah couldn’t help but relax; she fit perfectly here, and both she and Donovan knew it.

“I am sorry, Angel. My doubts are not of you, but of myself.” She tightened her grip when Hannah flinched. “Not of my feelings, beloved, nor of us. Only of myself, and the darkness I seem to fall into when this… days like today… happen. You deserve….”

Hannah spun in her arms so quickly Donovan couldn’t rightly say how she did it without either of them getting hurt. But she found her face caught in two hands and her gaze held by two fierce green eyes.

“Now you listen to me, Donovan Scott! We all have doubts about the choices we make. We all have faults and shortcomings and stinky feet and bad breath. It’s what makes us human, and that’s not a bad thing. I understand self-doubt; God knows I’ve experienced enough of it myself. But sweetheart, no matter what you think sometimes, I got exactly what I deserved when I got you. And you, bless your heart, got more than you bargained for when you got me. You have doubt or concerns, talk to me. Don’t assume the worst. Life and love isn’t all sunshine and roses. But it is us together forever, okay?”

“I love you,” was all Donovan said before she leaned in and captured the lips so close to her own.

When they separated, Donovan asked, “Hannah what were you thinking about earlier?”

“Hmm? Oh, I was thinking about Blackthorne and why he’d been such a problem for you for so long. You seemed to have defeated him and his crew easily enough.”

“It was easy, once we met face to face. But Blackthorne has spent years doing hit and run maneuvers that kept him a step ahead of us. We have had any number of skirmishes, but today was the first real opportunity we have had to engage them so closely.”

“Did he not realize what he was really up against?”

“No. He had been mocking us for years… not just the Maiden, but the entire fleet. We have just been the ones he normally encountered. I think it was more of a game with him.”

“But you knew better.” Hannah made a statement.

“I knew better. My whole crew did. We have seen the damage and destruction Blackthorne and his type wreak. We put a stop to it by whatever means necessary. It has never been a game for us. It is a deadly serious business, and one that has the lives and well-being of human beings at stake.”

Surprisingly, Hannah smiled. “Do me a favor, love?”

“Name it,” came Donovan’s instant reply.

“The next time you doubt yourself, remember that, will ya? And remember that you function in the guise of a pirate because the Navy restricts your ability to help those folks who need you to.”

Donovan’s jaw dropped and she was hard pressed to keep her eyes from bulging out of their sockets. “Uh… bu… um….” She forcefully closed her mouth and scratched the back of her neck. “That was very clever, Angel,” she finally managed to mutter.

“Nah. You said it. I just pointed the obvious right back to ya.” But Hannah couldn’t help the grin that crossed her face. And the two of them fell into a deeper slumber wrapped in one another’s embrace.

************

Things changed subtly for them after that, and life onboard ship quickly fell into a routine once more. Donovan and her crew were aware of several small, uninhabited, uncharted islands, and they chose one of these to drop the remainder of Blackthorne’s pirate crew on. They left them with enough supplies to survive until they could establish themselves a bit, but Hannah’s heart still went out to the five men standing forlornly on the shore as the ship pulled away.

“Do not fret, Miss Hannah,” Merryweather said as he sidled up next to her. “It is more mercy than they deserved, and at least they have a fighting chance.”

“I know you’re right, Mr. Merryweather. But it makes me think. Makes me wonder what makes a man turn to that sort of life. And it makes me wonder if that could be me had I made different choices in life.”

“I think, Miss Hannah, I think that it could very well be any one of us. Taken as a whole, humanity is very much alike, and it is only the decisions that we make and the reasons behind those decisions that make us different. It is what separates us from the rest of the animal world in my opinion.”

“I agree with you, Mr. Merryweather. Thank you for reminding me of that.”

“Glad to be of service, ma’am.” He tipped his hat in salute and walked back to the bridge. He turned to Donovan who stood gracefully at the wheel, hair blowing back in the wind and smile.

“That is quite a lady you have yourself there, Captain.”

“I am rather inclined to agree with you, Mr. Merryweather, but what precisely brought on that particular observation?”

“I like her mind, sir. She is a thinking person, and yet she feels things deeply too. Did you know she made sure each man including our prisoners was fed and had their wounds seen to after our skirmish the other day? And she had your hot water on; that is why it was ready as quickly as it was. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that she is beautiful to look upon either. I think your father will heartily approve of your heart’s choice.”

“And my mother?” Donovan asked wryly, knowing she could count on John Merryweather for an honest assessment.

“Captain, my own mother raised me to keep a civil tongue in my head concerning the ladies.”

“And?”

“It is best if I be quiet now sir.”

Donovan laughed aloud and clapped Merryweather on the shoulder. She nodded the steersman over. “You know where we are headed, Fitz?”

“Aye, sir.”

“Good man. Steady as she goes then.”

“Steady as she goes then, aye, sir.”

Donovan squeezed her first mate’s shoulder before releasing her hold and stepping down to the main deck. “You have the watch, Mr. Merryweather.”

“Aye sir.” Donovan took two steps from the bridge before she turned back to the first mate with a twinkle in her eye.

“And John?” He lifted his eyes and cocked an eyebrow in rejoinder. “Your response to my mother’s reaction is much more polite than my own would have been.” She chuckled again at his dropped jaw expression, and went off in search of Hannah.

************

Hannah watched in amazement as the crew of pirates converted themselves into sailors of the Royal Navy once more. There wasn’t much change in their demeanor, really, except that they became even more formal with one another. And of course there was the whole uniform thing….

Hannah couldn’t get over the difference it made in their presentation. They went from being a somewhat relaxed band of organized outlaws to a well-oiled military presence, and it changed how everyone around they responded to them, and how they reacted to one another as well.

The first time she saw Donovan in her Captain’s uniform, she nearly swooned, and probably would have if she hadn’t see the wicked twinkle in Donovan’s bright blue eyes.

“You love this, don’t you?” Hannah asked as they were preparing to make their last stop before shooting for home. They had gone almost two days out of their way to reach this tiny group of islands to drop off the stolen goods they’d recovered from Blackthorne’s ship. Donovan and her crew were official representatives of the Royal Navy, and Hannah couldn’t help but be impressed by the bearing that Donovan wore like a cloak. Her presence was even more outstanding than before, and Hannah had been very inspired by the original, thank you very much.

“Do not let the trappings fool you, Angel. I am still Donovan Scott beneath the finery.”

“I know, love, and I adore what is hidden beneath the uniform. But you project a different aura as a Naval officer than you do as a pirate.”

“Better or worse?”

“Neither, really. Just different… more aloof maybe.”

Donovan thought about that. “I think I am actually. There is a certain amount of decorum I am expected to project as a Naval officer. To do that requires that I become more formal, less friendly with officers and crew alike.”

“And me?”

Donovan reached out and drew Hannah to her, mindful of the sword that hung at her side. “There is an exception to every rule, Angel, and you are the exception to mine… at least in private.” She sighed. “I have to maintain the facade in public for everyone’s sake.”

“I understand, Donovan. But one day… one day I hope I will be able to be your exception in public.” Then Hannah took Donovan’s arm, and let the Captain lead them from the cabin to the deck. The crew were waiting to take the goods to shore.

************

Donovan stood back and watched Hannah effortlessly charm the fascinated islanders. They had never seen spun gold hair or emerald green eyes. Most of Donovan’s crew had dark hair and dark eyes and those that didn’t didn’t stand still long enough for anyone to note or comment on it anyway. But Hannah bore their curiosity graciously, and in doing so won herself a place in their hearts forever.

“They found you mesmerizing, you know,” Donovan commented to Hannah later that evening. They were comfortably ensconced in their cabin, and Donovan was once more the relaxed looking adventurer. Hannah continued to wear her comfortable native garb. She wouldn’t don the complicated period dress until they arrived in port, and then only so as not to embarrass Donovan in front of her mother.

“They found me different, Captain. Blonde hair and green eyes don’t seem to be very common in these parts, even among your crew. John’s hair is the closest, and it is still very different from mine.”

“No, angel, they found you compelling. Not just because you *looked* different, but because you *acted* differently towards them then most of our race and breeding do. You accepted their looks and touches and questions without malice or rancor. You showed infinite patience with them. Even though my men are polite enough, they do not encourage questions or conversation in a first meeting. It takes a lot of time and effort on our parts to accomplish what you did in one afternoon.”

Hannah lifted her head from Donovan’s shoulder where she’d been happily resting. As much as she loved the look of Donovan in her uniform as the formidable British Navy Captain, she much preferred Donovan as she was now… as simply Donovan. Now she caught Donovan’s eye. “Did I do wrong, love? By being so open with them, I mean?”

Donovan eased Hannah’s head back down to her shoulder and gently kissed the blonde head tucked under her chin. “No, beloved. Absolutely not. If you were our ambassador, we could take over the world with that natural charm.” She felt rather than saw the blush that crept up Hannah’s face and chuckled soundlessly in response. “Oof!”

She sat up slightly so she could look down into green eyes she knew would turn her way. “Now, was that nice? I ask you! Pay a beautiful woman a compliment and get slapped for your trouble!” She smiled when Hannah gently began caressing the injured body part in question.

“Be nice to me,” Hannah grumbled.

“Me?? I *was* being nice. I did not hit you. I simply said you were very charming.”

Hannah narrowed her eyes at Donovan, and the Captain had to bite her lip to keep from laughing at the expression on the writer’s face.

“It wasn’t WHAT you said; it was HOW you SAID it,” poking at Donovan’s chest to emphasize her points.

Donovan laughed aloud. She’d never known anyone like Hannah, and she wondered if it was all due to the fact that Hannah was raised in a different time and place, or if it was just something about Hannah herself. Donovan squeezed the younger woman closer to her, eliciting a squawk from Hannah before she settled herself more firmly into Donovan’s embrace.

“Hannah, I hope you never have cause to change your outlook or your attitude. I love you just the way you are.”

“I love you too, Donovan, British officer or pirate. Happy dreams, my love.”

“You too, beloved. Goodnight.”

************

The next few weeks passed in something of a monotonous routine. Donovan took the first watch, and as such was up before dawn. Hannah got a very good idea of exactly what it took to be the Captain of a Royal Naval vessel. Everything was brought to Donovan’s attention for approval, though most everything went through John Merryweather first.

Since the first mate took the mid watch, he and the Captain shared lunch and went over any business that needed to be seen to. Hannah couldn’t believe the details involved in running a ship. Mr. Roberts usually had the third watch, and he shared breakfast with Donovan for the same purpose. Though Hannah enjoyed these informative times, she admittedly looked forward to the evening meal, when she and Donovan usually took the opportunity to eat alone. And when they did have to share mealtimes with the crew, they at least took a turn or two alone on deck under a canopy of stars, unbothered by the crewmen on duty.

Hannah decided she like the men who served under Donovan’s command. They were individualistic when it came to their command styles and personalities and such. But they were all unerringly to a fault loyal to Donovan and supportive of her leadership as their Captain. Hannah had been approached by more than one member of the crew who was anxious to share with her how highly their Captain was regarded, both by themselves and others in the fleet.

For her part, Hannah pitched in and helped where ever she could lend a hand. She learned several new skills, including navigation, chart plotting and knot tying. Cookie was quick to express his joy on the occasions she helped out in the galley, even though she had him trying things he’d never conceived of trying before. Beyond that, she was just plain good company, and he looked forward to the quiet times they simply sat and talked while preparing the next meal.

Hannah also anticipated their exchanges. Cookie had well-thought out ideas, and given enough encouragement, he was willing to express them in a very intelligent manner. He and Hannah had some lively conversations, and their diametrically opposed backgrounds just made them all the more interesting.

So the weeks passed and they slowly neared the Warrior Maiden’s home port. Hours upon days were spent scrubbing and polishing the already spotless ship, making her ready for her appearance at the Admiralty when they reached Portsmouth.

“Donovan?”

“Yes, Hannah?” Her voice was muffled as it came from the inside of the small wardrobe. She was busy preparing her dress uniform, as they expected to reach land in the next day or so. Already her buttons were polished and her sword sharpened, and now she was searching for her boot polish. It had to be in the wardrobe… there was no where else for it to be. But she had apparently not put it in its customary spot. So now she was trying not to become frustrated as she searched for it.

Hannah sidetracked her question in light of the obvious aggravation Donovan was emitting. “Love, what are you searching for?”

“My boot polish! I cannot find it and the boots will not polish correctly without it!” She ran a hand through her dark hair in an effort to calm herself.

“Donovan, Harold has it. He came by this morning when you were on deck and asked for your dress boots and the polish. I assumed you had sent him down here for them, and I gave them to him.” She sighed and looked at the floor. “I’m sorry. I’ll go get them fr….”

Donovan reached out a hand to Hannah to stop her before she could turn around. “No, Angel. That is perfectly fine. I am sorry I overreacted. It is just….”

“Just what, Donovan? Why is everyone acting so nuts around here? I thought ya’ll’d be glad to get home, but instead, everybody’s working like dogs, and no one seems thrilled that we are reaching land in another day or two. Am I missing something here?”

Donovan lowered her body until she was sitting on the bed; then she drew Hannah down onto her lap. “Everyone is ‘acting so nuts’ as you so eloquently put it because homecoming is very demanding on us. When we reach the port, the Fleet Admiral will immediately come aboard for an inspection and review. If that goes well, then we will put into the dock and the Maiden will be turned over to the yard inspector so she can be fitted out to return to sea again.”

“And if you don’t pass inspection?”

“If we fail to pass inspection, then we must start over, and that means we stay here and clean and scrub until the Admiral is satisfied.” She paused then sighed. “Of all the ships in the fleet, only a very, very small handful have perfect inspection records, and the Maiden is one of them. We tend to be judged more harshly because of it.”

“That hardly seems fair.”

“No, but it is not surprising. Life is rarely fair.”

Hannah sat quietly for a moment. “I’m gonna complicate things for you, aren’t I?”

“Yes,” Donovan answered honestly, “but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. At this point in my life, the Navy needs me much more than I need it. I would be very happy to settle in the cottage on the island and never leave again.”

Hannah pulled back slightly to stare into Donovan’s eyes and gauge her sincerity. What she found there surprised her, given her knowledge of Donovan’s love of the sea and her duty as an officer of the crown. “You’re serious.”

“Yes, I am. If you were with me, I could be very content spending the rest of my life settled down there with you.”

“Wow,” Hannah said, her eyes taking on a shine.

“Could you bear something like that, Hannah? Knowing the differences between your world and mine? Could you give up all your advances to live a simple life with me there, here in this time?”

“I like to think I could, love. I know I would be content to live in any time and place that we were together. I like to think I am strong enough to adapt to the differences in our cultures and become a contributing member of this society.” Hannah paused, correlating her thoughts. “But we are assuming that the portal has or will close at some point, and that we will no longer be able to cross from time to time. We don’t know that.”

“That is very true, and your world has so many fascinating things in it.”

Hannah gently traced the strong brow line and cheekbones. “Do you think you would be able to choose to live in my time, if it was offered to you as an opportunity?”

“I like to think I would have your strength and courage to try, Hannah.”

Hannah sighed, releasing a tension she didn’t even realize she was carrying until that moment. “Good, but I’m glad it’s not something we have to worry about for a few months. I have a feeling I’m gonna have my hands full trying to manage winning your mother over to my side.”

“I would be willing to wager you are correct in that summation, madam.”

Hannah slid from Donovan’s lap and they both stood and began moving around the small room once more. “Why is that, Captain?”

“Why is that what, Angel?”

“Why am I going to have my hands full with your mother? I only based the comment on the impression I have gotten from the few comments you’ve made about her. Why is she gonna have a problem with me? She doesn’t even know me!”

“Precisely, and that will only be the first problem she has with you.” Donovan grew dizzy with their pacing and sat once more, pulling Hannah back into her lap.

“Excuse me?”

“She doesn’t know you or know of you. Therefore you are not titled and as such beneath her consideration as a good marital match. The fact that you are a woman does not help. Although I cannot marry a man as long as I am regarded as a man, my mother will not like the fact that you are woman. And finally there is the fact that you are a colonist. That will probably be seen as treason in her eyes.”

Green fire was burning hotly in Hannah’s eyes before Donovan finished speaking. “Oh, I can see she and I are gonna need to clear up her few issues right at the beginning of things.”

“Do not be hasty, my love. She is quite a formidable woman. And she does love me in her own fashion.”

“Oh, I won’t do anything to disgrace you, Donovan, unless she pushes all my buttons about you. Then she is gonna find out what happens when a formidable woman who loves you body and soul gets pushed too far. I won’t roll over and play dead for her.”

Donovan flushed from head to toe. There was something very sexy in Hannah’s possessiveness, and she couldn’t stop the thrill that ran up her spine with the words or the tone of voice. “I have the distinct impression that my mother may have finally met her match.” She paused then smiled brightly. “My father will love you.”

“Well, at least I’ll have two-thirds of the family on my side.”

“Oh, I believe there will be more support for you than you can possibly imagine, Angel.”

Hannah waited for Donovan to continue, but instead the Captain lifted Hannah from her lap and rose. She walked to the door and opened it without speaking. Hannah finally realized the conversation was over for the moment and asked, “Whither are you bound, good sir?”

The twinkle in Donovan’s eye belied the seriousness of her tone. “I must still fetch my boots, madam. It will not do for the Captain of this vessel to stand before the Admiral in stocking feet.”

“And we will continue this conversation later?”

“No, beloved. I think you understand precisely how to manage my mother. The rest will be a pleasant surprise.”

“Promise?”

“Absolutely. I will be right beside you to insure that it is.”

“Then go get your boots, Captain. I need to hang out my dress to let the wrinkles fall out of it.” She chewed on her thumbnail. “I am gonna have to buy a few more dresses here, love. Much as I prefer the clothes Satosh made for me, I don’t think your mother or anyone else here will approve of them very much.”

Donovan looked thoughtful. “You are correct, Angel. But let us get past the trial of meeting my mother first. It may be that she will approve of you, and will help supply a dressmaker. And if she does not, there is no need for us to remain long, and you may as well be comfortable in that case.”

Hannah walked the few steps to the door and wound her arms around Donovan’s neck. “I like the way you think, Captain.”

Donovan leaned down and stole a kiss, which lasted a bit longer than she expected it to. She drew back with a deep breath. “Well, do not share this around, madam, but, um… I like your thinking too.”

“Oh really? Do ya now?” Hannah asked coyly.

“Yes ma’am, I do.” Donovan reached out and unexpectedly swatted Hannah on the butt. “But I find you most distracting. Now, excuse me while I go find my boots!”

Hannah chuckled out loud as Donovan scampered out the door as though the Devil himself was on her heels. It was nice to know that she had the same effect on Donovan that Donovan had on her. I really like this giddy, being-in-love thing Hannah though with a smile, before turning her attention back to her dress.

************

Hannah was quite impressed with the ship’s company and crew as they stood along the railing of the ship as it slowly made its way up the channel to Portsmouth. The ships and sailors on their route saluted as they went by, but nary a man turned his eye from his station.

Donovan stood on the bridge, dazzling in her array of bright brass button and the few glittering ribbons she wore on her chest. Hannah would never have recognized her had she passed her on the street. The stern demeanor, the powdered hair, the trim uniform were all so different from the Donovan she was so well acquainted with. It was only on the rare occasion that Donovan caught her attention and let her eyes twinkle briefly that Hannah felt it was all some great show put on for someone’s benefit. She still hadn’t quite decided whose.

As the boat pulled in to the dock, men scrambled to tie her off and returned to the positions on the rail as quickly as possible. This was unusual for the Maiden. Generally, she was anchored some distance from the dock and the crew was ferried to shore in long boats. Their tying to the dock itself signaled a longer shore rotation, and each man aboard knew the reason behind it. And with the exception of one or two, all were glad for it. Sailing with Captain Donovan Scott had always been a good thing. Hannah had simply made it better.

Almost immediately, the Admiral was piped on board. He studies his surroundings with a smile, noting the proud stance of the sailors and the polished look of the ship. Then his eyes fell on Hannah and he turned to Captain Scott with a lifted eyebrow.

“It appears, Captain that we need to talk.”

Donovan nodded and saluted and motioned for the Admiral to lead the way. Then she extended an arm to Hannah who accepted it with alacrity.

“Mr. Merryweather, set the watch, and dismiss the men for leave time. Make sure it is understood when each is due back here for duty. We will begin unloading the stores in the morning. Then I expect the Admiral will have a schedule for us for repairs and such.”

“Aye sir. Good luck,” he muttered under his breath.

Donovan gave a bare nod of acknowledgement of his words. She clasped her free hand over the one Hannah was gripping her arm with. “Come, beloved. Time to face the music.”
Chapter XXII

“And you really believe your mother will go along with this, Captain?” The Admiral turned his face to Hannah, his expression apologetic. “Forgive me, Miss Hannah, but I have met Margaret Scott, and she is quite the forbidding woman. It is not enough that you are a colonist, albeit a lovely one,” with a bow and a flourish in her direction. “The fact that you consented to come here with her son *unwed*, which she will consider you as she has not approved the match between you, makes you loose and whorish.”

Donovan was on her feet before the Admiral could finish. “Just a moment, sir! I will not permit you to speak either to or about my bride in such a manner!”

“SIT DOWN CAPTAIN!!”

“NO, SIR! I do not need the Navy slandering Hannah, and I WILL NOT TOLERATE IT!!

“CAPTAIN!”

“Donovan.”

Hannah’s soft-spoken word cut easily through the shouting match that was quickly headed towards a brawl. Donovan glared at the Admiral a moment longer before she turned to face her beloved. She reached out her hands and grasped Hannah by the waist, forcing Hannah’s hands to her chest to keep them from being pinned between them. Hannah allowed her hands to trail up Donovan’s chest to her broad shoulders, and she noticed the barely repressed shiver that ran through the tall frame.

“Angel?”

“Love, it doesn’t matter what the Navy thinks, though all the Admiral was trying to do was warn me of your mother’s possible reaction. Don’t throw your career out the window when he was trying to help.”

“Listen to your bride, Captain. She is a very wise woman.”

Donovan’s eyes never left Hannah’s face, even when she answered the admiral. “Yes, sir, she is, but I still will not have you or anyone else disrespect her. I love her, sir, and I have every intention of making sure the entire world is aware of that fact. As far as anyone knows we have been married since the middle of June. The question is, sir, is whether the Navy supports me or not.”

“It is not in the Navy’s authority to decree on way or another on the marriage of its officers, Captain. But I personally would like to extend to you both my heartiest congratulations. It is good to see you found someone whom you are so willing to defend so fiercely.”

“Then you understand my request for a bit of extended shore time, sir?”

“I do indeed Captain, and considering your desire to win your mother over, it will be granted. The Maiden has been due for a refit and overhaul for quite some time now, but you kept putting it off to go back out to sea.” He smiled and motioned at Hannah who blushed quite prettily. “Now I understand your eagerness.”

“Once your cargo has been unloaded, let your men know that they will be assigned shipyard duty. A majority of them will be assigned to do the overhauling and refit work. Your two senior officers will be in charge of the yard work to allow you to go home to tend to your pressing family business.”

“And shore leave for my crew, sir?”

“Set up a rotating schedule, Captain. Give each of them a week off with pay. Rare, but not unheard of, especially considering the money you have saved the Crown in keeping the peace out there for years running. You are truly an asset to the uniform, Captain.”

“Thank you, sir. I will have the roster on your desk in the morning. We will be here to unload the stores first thing, and then the Maiden can go into the yards immediately afterwards. I thought the men deserved a chance for a little entertainment tonight.”

“Was that wise, Captain? Do you really believe the crew will be in any shape to carry out their duty tomorrow after they spend the day… ahem… in town?”

“Yes sir, my crew are all good men. They will do their duty, no matter the shape they come back in. They know their bonuses depend on the ship being unloaded in a timely manner. I trust them, and they know that too.”

“It is your decision, Captain. I hope you are not disappointed for your faith.” The Admiral opened the door, surprised to hear the sound of male singing coming from the direction of the Warrior Maiden. He stepped through the portal and stopped, stunned, at the picture before him.

Every man on the Maiden had changed from his dress uniform into his work clothes, and was busy getting the stores unloaded. John Merryweather noted the trio standing in the doorway of the Admiral’s office, and he sketched them a salute, but otherwise, no notice was given to them as the men systematically moved the crates from the hold to the deck and down to the dock.

The Admiral turned to Donovan who had a stoic expression on her face, but whose eyes glittered with fierce satisfaction. “Well, Captain, it seems your faith is well justified. If only the rest of the fleet enjoyed such loyalty. Go tend to your crew, Captain, and get me that schedule. You have business at home that needs tending.”

“Aye sir.”

The Admiral turned and took Hannah’s hand in his own, covering it and squeezing lightly. “It has been an honor and a privilege, my dear. I think you are just the balance Captain Scott needed in his life. I wish you luck in dealing with his mother.”

“Thank you, Admiral. Your good wishes are appreciated.”

“Go, Captain. I will see you in the morning, if not before,” knowing Donovan’s penchant for having things ready early. Donovan offered a salute which was acknowledged and then gave Hannah her arm, and the two made their way back to the ship.

“Captain on deck!”

“As you were! Mr. Merryweather, a word, if you please.”

“Aye sir.” John Merryweather handed his tally sheet to Mr. Roberts and moved to follow the Captain to her quarters. Her belongings and Hannah’s sat neatly in two chests in the middle of the room waiting to be unloaded. Hannah went in first and took a seat on the bed, while Donovan took her desk and the first mate remained standing.

Donovan remained silent, and finally Merryweather asked, “Is there a problem, sir?”

“I am not sure, Mr. Merryweather. Would you care to explain to me why the men are unloading the cargo instead of taking their leave? I thought I gave an order.”

“Donovan….”

“Hannah,” Donovan said before she could speak further. “I understand your concern, but this is ship’s business. Please….”

Hannah nodded reluctantly and sat back against the headboard. She bit her lip. She knew Donovan was right, and in this time and this place she had no responsibility or entitlement to speak. And she certainly had no desire to undermine Donovan’s authority on her own vessel. But it was very hard to remain silent when it was clear that the crew had done it for Donovan’s sake.

“I decided to have done with it, sir. It looks better for you and for us if we unload the cargo immediately. The Maiden has a reputation to maintain.”

“So my orders mean nothing, then?” softly, sharply.

“No sir, we followed your orders. I simply moved up the timetable on them a bit. It is my job as first officer to insure your orders are carried out in a timely manner in a way that befits the situation and your reputation. I exercised my prerogative to move the timetable up to ensure that.”

Donovan bit down on a smile. The truth was, they had done her a good turn, and she wasn’t going to punish anyone for that. But it didn’t hurt to remind them that she was still the Captain, and she let John sweat for a few minutes while she stared at him in silence.

Finally, she rose from her chair and clapped Merryweather on the shoulder. “You did a good thing, John. All of you. The Admiral was most impressed. I would appreciate being made aware of a change before it is implemented if it happens again, however.”

The first mate nearly sank to the floor in relief as his knees tried to unbuckle beneath him. Instead he smiled and said, “Aye, sir,” recognizing the reprimand for what it was. “Thank you, sir. We wanted to make you proud.”

“You did, John. You did very much. Now,” she continued, reaching back to her desk, “I want you to call the men together. I have some news and our new orders they should be aware of before I leave. Then Hannah and I need to make our best speed home. It is time to introduce my bride to my mother.”

John flinched involuntarily at the last statement. “Aye sir. Will you be needing some back-up on that front?”

“Not immediately Mr. Merryweather, though I doubt either of us would object to your coming to visit when you have some free time to spend.”

“I believe I can arrange that, sir. And if you will be kind enough to let me know when and where the nuptials will be, I imagine I can find a way to be there as well.”

“I hope so, my friend, as I would like you and the rest of the crew to stand with me. You especially, though.” Donovan extended her hand.

John accepted it with alacrity. “Thank you, sir. You know it is my honor to stand with you and Miss Hannah.”

“Good. I will let you know as soon as my mother has settled down with the idea. Now come along. Let us give the orders to the men. I think they will be well pleased.”

“Aye, sir!” John held the door open and gestured the Captain to walk before him. Donovan gave a slight bow and proceeded to step through when she realized Hannah hadn’t moved from the bed.

“Wait outside for me, Mr. Merryweather.”

The door closed completely before Donovan turned to Hannah. “Are you coming, Angel?”

“I’m sorry, Donovan. I didn’t mean to overstep my bounds.” It was said mutely, but the Captain could hear the sadness, anger and frustration in Hannah’s voice.

Donovan sat down and took Hannah in her arms. The writer held herself stiffly for a moment, but Donovan’s large hands ran gently up and down her spine and she felt herself relaxing into the embrace. “It is all right Hannah, and quite understandable, given your nature. They did a good thing and you did not want to see them punished for it. I appreciate that about you. But I needed to handle it as I saw fit.”

“I recognize that, love. I felt bad for putting you on the spot. I didn’t mean to embarrass you by speaking out. I know I don’t really behave like a woman from this century should.”

“And why should you, beloved? You are not from this century. I treasure you even more for that very reason.”

“You are a smooth talker, Donovan Scott. You could really turn a girl’s head.”

“I have already turned and caught the only girl whose head I was interested in turning.”

“Oh you have, have you? Then I guess you better make an honest woman out of me pretty quick here, Captain.”

“As quickly as I can, my love. As quickly as I can.” She rose and pulled Hannah up with her, keeping their hands clasped as they moved to the door. “Come, let us go tell the men about their schedule, and then we can go.”

Hannah pulled Donovan to a halt just before she opened the door. She slid her hands up Donovan’s chest, locking her fingers around Donovan’s neck so as not to disturb the hair that was neatly tied back and powdered. She urged the Captain’s lips down to meet her own, and they spent a long moment in leisurely, teasing exploration. Hannah pulled away slightly to breathe and Donovan captured her lips a second time in fierce passion.

When they separated, Hannah laid her head on Donovan’s chest, listening to the rapid heartbeat with a sense of satisfaction. It was nice to know that she affected Donovan with much the same intensity as Donovan did her. She’d seen stars for a minute there.

“Come, Angel,” Donovan said again still slightly breathless. “Before I forget my manners and throw you down on the bed here and have my way with you.”

“And this would be a bad thing how?”

Donovan growled. “Do not tempt me, woman! I have plans for you, for us, and it does not involve anything even remotely resembling a hurried affair on the ship. Now let us leave before I lose what little resolve I have remaining.”

“I love you, Donovan.”

“I love you too, Hannah Scott.”

Hannah couldn’t stop the little gasp that escaped. “I do like the sound of that. Let’s go, Captain. We don’t wanna keep your crew in suspense too long.”

They opened the door and John Merryweather stood there blushing, but maintaining his gaze towards the stairs. Donovan led Hannah past him and up the stairs, and he followed without a word. He was as anxious as the rest to see what news the Captain had in store for them.

************

“The men seemed quite excited about the time off,” Hannah commented as she settled into the small berth they had secured on the afternoon train. “And almost all of them expressed a desire to be at our wedding.”

“It is quite an event for most of them beloved, and somewhat rare. Many men of the sea never marry.”

“Yes, well, you’re not an ordinary man of the sea, are you, love?”

Donovan chuckled and pulled Hannah into her and laying the blonde head gently on her shoulder. “No, Angel. Not exactly. Now rest. We have quite a ride before we reach town, and I imagine Mother will be something of a draining ordeal for both of us.”

“But….” Hannah found her words cut off by a kiss.

“Hush and go to sleep. It will make the time pass a little faster.” Donovan closed her eyes and snuggled close to Hannah. Hannah looked back at the serene face incredulously.

“Can’t believe you kiss me like that then just expect me to turn over and go to sleep,” Hannah muttered as she turned and twisted before settling down with her head on Donovan’s shoulder. She mumbled a bit longer before nervous exhaustion won out and she felt into a light doze. She never saw the blue eyes that smiled fondly down at her before they closed in sleep as well.

************

It was nearly dark when they pulled into the train station, and Donovan groaned when she stretched to her full height before stepping from the train. Their nap hadn’t been very long, and she was tired from just sitting and listening to Hannah worry. Not that she blamed her; she was not particularly thrilled to be facing her mother. But it had to be done, so she took their cases in one hand and Hannah’s hand in the other, and made their way to the local tavern.

“Um, Donovan? Aren’t we going home… to your mother’s house, I mean?”

“We will in the morning, beloved. I do not feel up to facing her disappointment tonight. I would like a hot bath, a hot meal, a soft bed and you.”

Suddenly Hannah understood Donovan’s reluctance. It wasn’t anger Donovan would be facing, though Hannah suspected she herself might be before all was said and done. It was disappointment, the kind that was deep and cutting. She nodded to more than just Donovan’s words when she spoke.

“That sounds lovely. I think I’d like that very much.” And they crossed the threshold into another world.

************

“Folks were very glad to see you, Donovan, and they were very gracious to me as well.”

“I do not get home often, love, and you simply charmed them all.”

They were comfortably sprawled on the bed, the remains of their dinner on a small table nearby. They had bathed first, and Hannah ran her fingers through the hair that was raven once more. “I definitely like it better dark than light,” she said conversationally, which got her a raised eyebrow in return.

“So do I, Angel. Powdering is a formality that is slowly disappearing, thankfully.”

Hannah looked closely at Donovan whose head was in her lap, and for the first time she saw the signs of strain and weariness on her features. “C’mon, love,” she said, tugging gently at Donovan’s shirt. “It’s late, I’m tired, and I want to cuddle with you.”

Donovan didn’t answer; she just stood long enough to help pull the cover back, then crawled in and curled herself around Hannah. Hannah extinguished the lamp before brushing a light kiss across the nearby forehead. “Goodnight, love,” she said. Her answer was a firm hug and the sound of even breathing in her ear.

************

Morning came early, as it is wont to do, and Hannah and Donovan were up with the sun. It wasn’t particularly far to the Scott’s homestead, but Donovan wanted to arrive early and get the unpleasantness out of the way first thing. That way, there would be plenty of time to find another place to stay if her mother turned them out.

So after a good hearty breakfast from the tavern kitchen, Donovan found a carriage for hire to take them the relatively short distance to her parents’ home.

A man opened the door at their knock and then stood with surprise on his face for a long moment before he swept Donovan up in a big bear hug. Hannah would have recognized him as Ernst Scott even without Donovan’s gasping. “Papa, please put me down.”

“Donovan, it is so good to see you! When did you get in? How long can you stay? And who is the lovely lass with you?”

“Papa, allow me to present my bride, Hannah. Hannah, this is my father, Ernst Scott….”

“But you can call me Papa, lass. It would please me no end to have you do that, especially since you are already a member of the family apparently.” Ernst took the opportunity to glare at Donovan. “It seems we have missed quite a bit since you have been gone from us.”

“Not as much as you believe. Papa, can we go inside? I promise to answer all your questions.”

“Of course. Where are my manners? Come in. We have just gotten up from table, but I think we could manage to feed you.”

“We have eaten, thank you.”

“Ernst? Who was at the door?”

“Come, Mama. Our wayward child has returned and brought us a new daughter.”

Margaret turned without a word and went back into the kitchen. “Well, that went well,” Ernst muttered, before grabbing the largest bag and ushering Donovan and Hannah into the house.

************

“So you are not actually, legally married yet?” Ernst asked when Donovan finished speaking.

“No, Papa. We wanted you to do it.”

“So you traveled together as man and wife without the benefit of a minister? You dared to bring a whore into my house and expect me to treat her as a lady? Worse… as a daughter?? How dare you….”

“Now Mama,” Ernst began, but he was overridden by both Mama and Donovan.

“Do not ‘Now Mama’ me, Ernst!”

“How dare *I*?? You do not speak….”

Margaret turned flashing brown eyes towards her daughter. “Do not raise your voice to me, Donovan! I had a daughter once, and I lost that daughter to the sea as surely as though she had died, and what was left in her place was a perversion! An abomination before God! And now you expect me to not only accept the fact that you will live as a man for the rest of your unnatural life, but that you have found a perverted whore who will share your bed!!”

The sound of a chair breaking across the desk stopped her tirade cold, and Margaret turned to find Donovan seething holding only the two remaining legs. “THAT’S ENOUGH!!” Donovan roared.

“GET. OUT. OF. MY. HOUSE. I want you gone when I come back to clean up this mess!”

Margaret stomped out of the room, and everyone took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry, Papa. Would… would you still be willing to marry us?”

“Donovan?” Hannah put her hands on Donovan’s chest and waited for the anguished blue eyes to track to hers. She flinched at the raw pain she saw inflicted there. “Take your fa… take Papa out to the barn and curry the horses. Just for a little while. I am gonna talk to your Mama. When I am done, then we can go.”

“But I… do you… are you sure, beloved?”

“Yes, love. You leave her to me.”

Ernst covered his mouth with his hand. He recognized the fierce light in Hannah’s eyes as something Margaret hadn’t counted on. The woman Donovan had chosen had an intensity he’d never seen matched, and it was obvious by watching the two of them together that their love was real and abiding. He almost wished he could stay and watch the fireworks, then decided he was just not that stupid. He did watch as their lips came together, then turned away in respect for their privacy.

He waited a long moment, until he heard a slight moan. They had forgotten he was even in the room and were consuming one another with their kiss. Though loath to interrupt them, he cleared his throat rather loudly, forcing them reluctantly apart as they blushed darkly at their behavior.

“Come on, Donovan. I think Hannah can handle your Mama just fine on her own.”

Donovan gently traced Hannah’s lips with her fingers, smiling when they parted and her nostrils flared. “I love you,” she said quietly, but audible to everyone in the room.

“That’s a real good thing, Captain Scott, ‘cause I love you too. Now go. I’ll take care of your Mama, then we can go find a place to stay.”

Donovan looked at her father and followed him out the door. Then Hannah turned her attention to the mess on the floor. She’d never seen Donovan get quite so angry… not when she’d gutted Blackthorne and not when she’d take the Admiral to task. Margaret Scott was lucky Donovan had broken the chair instead of her. The fury pounding through her veins at her mother’s words was evident, and it was only Donovan’s iron will that kept her from lashing out at her mother directly.

It’s probably a very good thing that she did that. God knows my self-restraint was about to fly out the window. I was ready to bitch smack her into next week.

Hannah felt her ire rising again and took a deep, cleansing breath. Then she began methodically picking up the shards and splinters of wood that lay scattered across the desk and carpet area around it.

She was about halfway done when she heard a clattering at the doorway. “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?? GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!!” Margaret’s face was so red, Hannah literally feared for her life.

“No.” A single word, spoken with quietness and determination, and it threw Margaret off her stride.

“What do you mean NO??? Get out of my house!! You’re not welcome here, you disgusting harlot!!”

“Mrs. Scott, you have every right to hate me. No real reason, since you don’t even know me, but certainly every right. I suppose there will always be people in the world like you who are too busy judging others that they never take the time to get to know them as individuals. A real shame, that, because you miss out on a lot of things due to your petty hatred, but that is not my concern now.” She held up a hand when Margaret drew breath to speak.

“Please do not interrupt me. I am going to say what I have to say and you are going to sit down and listen. Then I will leave, and it will be up to you what happens from there. Understood?”

It wasn’t her planned reaction, but Margaret surprised herself by nodding dumbly and found herself eased into a chair at Hannah’s gentle insistence.

“As I said, Mrs. Scott, your feelings for me are irrelevant at this point, except as they concern Donovan. But your feelings for Donovan, madam, are completely unacceptable and abhorrent to me. You gave birth to her, loved and nurtured her, and now you turn your back on her because she follows her heart?? What the hell kind of mother are you anyway??

“Now you wait….”

“NO MA’AM!! I am not finished. You know nothing of the wonderful human being Donovan has become. All you see is a perversion, an abomination. She is a respected Captain in the Royal Navy, well decorated, and revered by her men. She is a hero to the people of the islands. And she is a loving, caring woman forced to act out a role because of the path she has chosen to follow. But you don’t see that, do you? You don’t see the brilliant mind, the loving heart, the beautiful soul.”

“It doesn’t surprise me that you cannot accept the fact that Donovan and I love one another. You cannot love Donovan for the person she is or the person she has to be to follow her heart. It should give you a measure of peace to know that as far as the world is concerned, Donovan and I will be lawfully bound as man and wife. At least your neighbors won’t sneer at you and the fact that your child is a disgrace.” Hannah could hear the scorn in her voice, and just couldn’t make herself care enough to stop it.

“I feel sorry for you, Mrs. Scott. You are so busy being cruel and petty that you’re gonna miss out on a lot in life, not the least of which is the amazing person that Donovan is.”

Hannah walked to the door and turned around when she reached the threshold. “I want you to remember something, Mrs. Scott. I don’t know you or anything about you, except for the little bit I have seen and what little Donovan has said. I do not like you and I do not like your attitude. But I especially will not tolerate your attitude towards Donovan, because you hurt her and I don’t like that at all.”

She took a deep breath, and looked out the window towards the barn where she could see Donovan standing in the door. “Stay away from her, Margaret. She is no longer your concern.”

“What gives you the right…?”

“I love her. That gives me the right. We are going to be married in just a few days. That gives me the right as well. And remember when she no longer comes around that you gave up your right to her love when you pushed her away to hold on to petty prejudices and hatred. Goodbye, Mrs. Scott. I wish I could say it’s been nice, but it really hasn’t.”

Hannah stepped through the doorway and made her way swiftly out the front of the house on shaking limbs. She rounded the house and headed in the general direction of the barn, knowing Donovan would see her and meet her halfway or better.

Donovan caught hold of the cold hands, chafing them gently as she led Hannah towards the barn. They didn’t speak; there was no need. Whatever needed to be said would wait til they were long gone from this place.

Ernst looked up at their approach and noted the paleness in Hannah’s features. He was sure he’d hear from Margaret just exactly what had transpired, but his curiosity was overwhelming. He didn’t think Margaret had gotten a word in edgewise; he hadn’t heard her screaming. Whatever Hannah had done had been very draining, though she’d apparently had her say before leaving.

“Papa, will you bring the other bag out here?”

Ernst nodded and went into the house. He noticed Margaret was sitting in one of the wing back chairs unmoving, and he made a note to check her as soon as he got the children on their way. He brought the bag and placed it in the carriage, noting that a healthy color had already returned to Hannah’s face. He took her hands in his.

“Are you all right, Hannah?”

“Yes, M… Papa. It just… I wasn’t very pleasant. You might want to keep an eye on her, because eventually, something’s gonna break.”

“I will do that Hannah. Thank you for caring.” He turned to Donovan. “I will be in town in three days. We can marry you on the Maiden, then you will have a bit of time for a wedding trip before duty will call you back to the sea.”

“Thank you Papa,” Donovan replied. “We will see you on Sunday.”

“I’ll take care of her, Papa,” Hannah whispered. “She’s the best thing in my life.”

“Thank you, Hannah, I know you will. Donovan is one of the best things in mine as well, daughter. I am glad you are part of our family.” Donovan reached over and took Hannah’s hand in her own.

“So am I,“ she said with a smile, then she clucked to the horses and they started down the road back to town. Ernst turned back to the house and shook his head.

“Time to brave the lion’s den.” And he walked back to his home.
Chapter XXIII
“Donovan?” The blonde head peered around the door and Donovan turned from the mirror and caught her breath. While she had been aboard the Maiden working with the yard master on repairs and refits the last three days, Hannah had spent her time finding them a small cottage to rent. They’d gotten it for a paltry sum, since there was a bit of repair work to do on it as well, but Hannah had thrown herself into the task, despite the talk her efforts stirred. Now, as Hannah appeared before her in bridal white, Donovan’s thought was one of wonder and delight. Wondering when and where she’d found the time to find such a talented seamstress on such short notice and delight at just how beautiful Hannah was.

It was only when she noticed the color that flushed prettily up Hannah’s cheeks that Donovan realized she was staring with her mouth agape. She blushed herself and cleared her throat in an effort to dispel her embarrassment.

“Hannah? You look… incredible… simply amazing. But what are you doing here, beloved? We are not supposed to see one another until the ceremony.”

“Donovan, we haven’t followed the rules for anything else? Why should we start now?”

Donovan couldn’t stop the grin that creased her face. “Very true. Come here.”

Hannah obeyed, and found herself swept away on toe-tingling sensations for a very long moment. When she opened her eyes again, she blinked dazedly until she could find her voice. “Wow!” she whispered.

“I have missed you, Angel. The nights are not the same when you do not share my dreams.”

“I know, love,” Hannah answered quietly. She laid her head on Donovan’s chest, unmindful of her hair. Her only concern was listening to Donovan’s heartbeat, and she found great comfort in its steady rhythm. “I’ve missed you too. I think we have both been exhausted by our various labors.”

“Probably, but you have done a wonderful job with the cottage, Hannah. Even though this is temporary for us, it is so nice to have a place to come home to that we can call ours.” Hannah flushed faintly at the praise.

“I just want you to be as happy as I am being with you.”

“I am afraid that is not possible, Angel.” Donovan felt Hannah stiffen in her arms. “I passed that level of happiness the first time I held you in my arms.” She returned Hannah’s firm embrace eagerly. “Now what do you say to you and I going up to the Maiden’s deck and being married?”

“I say I think I like that idea… a lot. I have waited a lifetime for this.”

Donovan leaned down until she was a hairsbreadth from Hannah’s lips. “So have I, beloved.” Then she was swept away on a world of sensation until the door opened and someone was tapping her on the shoulder.

“Yes?” Donovan growled, keeping her attention on placing butterfly kissing around Hannah’s lips. “What is it?”

“Um, Captain? I apologize for intruding, but everything is ready sir. We need to get you both topside to get the ceremony started.” John Merryweather kept his eyes downcast to keep from prying. He could feel the heat they radiated just being together, and had no desire to see if it would singe.

Donovan groaned and pulled away reluctantly. “We will continue this later,” Donovan said to Hannah sotto voce. Hannah bit her lip to keep from whimpering at the desire apparent in Donovan’s eyes and voice. Donovan turned to Merryweather. “Are you giving away the bride, John?

“Aye, sir.”

“Very well, then,” she said, placing Hannah’s hand on the first mate’s uniformed arm. “Give me two minutes to get into position, then escort her up.”

“Aye, sir.”

Donovan turned to Hannah once more and cupped her cheek gently. “I love you.”

“And I love you.”

Without another word, Donovan left the small cabin and walked to the bridge where her father and her crew waited.

“She came to find you, did she not?”

“You can tell?” As much an admission as it was a question.

“She has a fire I recognize, and she is not one to let tradition stand in the way of desire. Besides, you wear a look of contentment.”

“I am quite satisfied. A number of dreams come true for me today.”

“Thank you for giving me the honor of presiding, Donovan.”

A slight stir from the aft area of the boat delayed Donovan’s reply, and she looked up in surprise to see her mother step off the gangplank onto the deck of the ship. Before she could formulate a response, another motion caught her attention, and Donovan focused on her bride.

Hannah really did look stunning. Her gown was simple; plain white silk with a while lace overlay on the bodice and sleeves. She wore a wreath of braided wildflowers as a crown for her head, and in her arms she carried a bouquet of roses from the prized garden of the Admiral’s wife.

The Admiral stood beside Ernst, having been asked by Donovan to bless the union once it was official on this side of the pond. His wife Elizabeth stood to one side, having been happy to stand for Hannah when asked.

But Donovan wasn’t really concerned with anything else but Hannah, and found her gaze captured but the vivid, sparkling green that reflected the sheer joy she felt at the moment. Another second and she was taking Hannah’s hand from John, who moved to stand beside her as her best man. Then the crew closed around them, and Ernst began to speak.

“This union is recognized on one side of the pond, but of course it is not truly official until we do it the Royal Navy way,” Ernst said with a smile, garnering chuckles from the crew. “So let us get to it then.”

When he reached the question about opposition, he more than anyone there held his breath. No one had been more shocked at her arrival than he had. He’d spent two days listening to Margaret waffle between anger and tears. When he’d left the morning before, he’d done so to silence, and he was unsure of the welcome he would receive when he got home. Margaret hadn’t condemned him, but she’d been clear in showing her hurt of his support of Donovan and Hannah over her.

Silence passed, and he continued the traditional ceremony. Then the Admiral offered his blessing. “The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. Now and always.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure to present to you Captain and Mrs. Donovan Scott.”

“Present arms!” John Merryweather’s command rang out and the officers quickly formed a canopy with their swords. The crew threw rice and the flower petals Elizabeth had given them before the ceremony began. Then the entire gathering followed the bridal party down the gangplank and to the Admiralty building for the reception.

The first order of business was the cutting of the cake, and Donovan was hesitant to offer the use of her ceremonial sword to cut it… not with both of them knowing very well where it had last been. Unwittingly, the Admiral came to the rescue.

“Captain Scott, you did not give us much time to complete this, but….” He reached onto the table and drew forward a long, thin, wooden box. “A token of the Navy’s esteem, sir, and a welcome aboard for Mrs. Scott.”

Donovan held the box while Hannah slid the cover off, then both gasped in surprise at the contents. Inside, cradled gently in a bed of rich blue velvet, lay a new ceremonial sword. It was delicately etched in a pattern Donovan had never seen and see looked at the Admiral with wide, questioning eyes.

“Mr. Merryweather took care of the design. He said you would understand them.”

Donovan looked closer and saw several things that she recognized that would mean nothing to the Navy. There was a book, a quill and a parchment for Hannah. For herself there was her standard, her captain’s insignia and her family crest. Right at the very top, nearest the hilt were the eyes that were part of her pirate’s banner.

“That is incredible.” Hannah whispered, sparing Donovan the need for immediate comment. “Thank you, Admiral, Mr. Merryweather.”

“Yes, thank you gentlemen. I am overwhelmed.”

“Wonderful! Now will you and your bride please cut the cake? I have been waiting since yesterday for a piece, and Elizabeth would not let me have any,” the Admiral whined petulantly.

Donovan chuckled nervously and nodded for Hannah to lift the blade from the case. She had to secretly smile at Merryweather’s nerve. If the true meaning behind at least one of those symbols became public knowledge, disgrace would be the least of their worries.

Hannah was surprised at the weight of the sword, and smiled thankfully when Donovan wrapped her much larger hand around her own on the hilt. Then they cut the cake to much cheering, and fed one another carefully before moving to the punchbowl where John waited with a glass for each of them and one for himself. He raised his own in toast.

“No finer Captain could a crew ask for than Captain Scott, and we are thrilled he has found a lady who is worthy of him.” A cheer broke out from the crew. John held up his hand for silence. “So to Captain and Mrs. Donovan Scott, I would like to wish happiness, joy and strength. May you find your dreams in one another.”

The entire room raised their drink in toast. Contrarily, Donovan put hers down and took Hannah’s face in her hands. “I already have,” she whispered, before capturing her lips in a kiss that blocked out everything but each other for a very long time.

Eventually, they became aware of the calls and cheers of their audience and pulled away blushing.

“Well, now,“ the Admiral boomed, “looks like we need to get this young couple on their way!”

Their friends laughed and cheered again, and twin blushes deepened further. “Sorry, beloved,” Donovan started as she wrapped Hannah in her strong arms. Hannah snaked an arm out and placed her fingers across the pliant lips.

“Never be sorry for loving me, Donovan. You make me too happy for me to worry about what the rest of the world thinks anyway.”

“I love you, Mrs. Scott.”

“I love you back, Captain Scott, with all my heart.”

They stepped back slightly and altered their positions so they were standing side by side and not face to face. Then they began making a circuit of the room, making sure to stop and speak to each and every person there.

Elizabeth met them as they neared the door. She gave Hannah a hug, and handed a basket to Donovan, who took it with a raised brow.

“I know you are both anxious to leave. The basket contains some of the food,” motioning around the room, “and a bit of cake. The girls and I will pack up what is left and bring it over to your place tomorrow.” She paused. “Late tomorrow,” she added with an almost girlish giggle. “Now go, before they discover you are leaving.”

Hannah leaned forward and kissed Elizabeth’s cheek. “Thank you, Elizabeth.” Then she tugged Donovan’s free hand out the door….

… and ran smack dab into the imposing figure of Margaret Scott.

The trio stared at one another for a long moment before Margaret’s eyes fell to the ground. “Donovan, I would like to speak to your bride. Would you excuse us, please?”

“No ma’am,” Donovan answered succinctly. “Whatever you have to say will be said to both of us or not at all.” Hannah had been very honest in her telling of exactly had occurred during her confrontation with Margaret. Donovan had no intention of leaving Hannah to her mother’s tantrum, especially given how she felt about Hannah standing up for her like that. It still sent warm tingles up and down her spine.

Margaret flinched, but nodded her head. “Very well.” She turned to Hannah. “I still do not like you, but you were right in saying I do not know you either. I do respect your willingness to stand up for yourself and Donovan. It says a lot about your character, and frankly reminds me more than a little of myself.” She drew a deep breath. “I cannot bring myself to bless this marriage… not now; maybe not ever. I am… there are a lot of things that… well, perhaps with time…? I cannot say. But I would like you to know that you have given me a lot to think about. And anything is possible.”

She turned back to Donovan. “I do sincerely hope for your happiness, Donovan. It is all I have ever wanted for you, though our ideas of what should make you happy vary widely. Go with God, children, both of you.” Then without another word, Margaret turned and headed down the street in the opposite direction from the one they needed to be going to reach their small cottage.

Donovan watched her walk off for a long moment before she turned and extended her arm to Hannah once more. “Mrs. Scott? Shall we go home?”

“Absofriggenlutely, Captain. I have plans for you tonight.” Then she had to laugh aloud as Donovan’s pace suddenly redoubled.

************

They nearly fell in the door. Donovan had insisted on lifting Hannah over the threshold and was loath to give up the basket to do it. So she was fairly unbalanced as they stumbled in and it was merely saving grace that kept them upright as she fell back against the door to close it. She stood for a minute breathing hard with her eyes closed before she noticed the bouncing in her arms. Donovan cracked one eye open and peered down at the silently laughing Hannah.

“What, pray tell, is so funny, madam?”

The silent laughter became real laughter, and Donovan was having a hard time keeping her face a stoic mask. There was something in Hannah’s laugh that made her warm and happy and a stern façade was almost impossible to maintain.

“We are, Captain. We survive decades between us, pirates, storms and any other number of things to nearly crash and burn just before our honeymoon starts?! There is something cosmically wrong with that picture. Especially since we could have avoided it.” She tenderly stroked the smooth face above hers. “You didn’t need to carry me over the threshold, love. Particularly since you were unbalanced by the basket.”

Donovan processed what Hannah had said, understanding the meaning behind the words, then she pouted just the least little bit. “But I wanted us to have the whole starry-eyed, fairy tale experience. We have done too much to be together not to do the best we can for us.”

“Drop the basket, Donovan.” The low husky voice made her obey, and she heard the rattle of dishes before she found her lips covered by Hannah’s. She immediately found another reason to be thankful for the solid construction of the thick oak door as it was all that was keeping the two of them from falling to the floor.

Hannah’s hands began a gentle wandering, scratching her scalp and the back of her neck before coming around to the front of her dress tunic. Her lips left little butterfly kisses everywhere they could reach before she started nibbling down the side of Donovan’s neck.

She popped the first button and slid her hand in the two inches it would go before she proceeded to work the second one free. The third button allowed her access to Donovan’s breasts just as her lips reached the sensitive juncture between Donovan’s neck and shoulder. She heard and felt the moan that rose from deep in Donovan’s chest, and she reached up to grasp Donovan’s face in her palm. The desire in the darkened orbs was scorching and she pulled the lips to her own once more, devouring them with unexpected intensity. Then she pulled back until they were barely apart… lips still touching and breathing the same air.

“Take me to bed, Donovan. I’m gonna make love to you til the sun comes up.”

Donovan didn’t answer verbally. She couldn’t, and there was no need. Instead, she traced her tongue over Hannah’s lips until Hannah despaired of the teasing and declared war with her own tongue. Donovan pushed herself away from the door on shaking legs and headed for their tiny bedroom, glad beyond reason that it was only a very few steps. She had sincere doubt in her ability to make it farther than that.

Donovan’s knees hit the edge of the bed and she lowered Hannah the short distance to the mattress. Gradually she pulled back from their kiss and devoured Hannah with her eyes, keeping her hands in constant motion on Hannah’s body. She was quickly coming to understand that her dreams couldn’t begin to hold a candle to the sensations reality caused in her body.

Donovan traced lightly up Hannah’s torso with trembling fingers, watching in fascination the play of muscles beneath its silk covering. Gently she tugged Hannah into a sitting position, covering her face and hair with light kisses as she struggled to unfasten the multitude of tiny buttons that held the dress together. She growled in frustration over her lack of progress, especially when Hannah’s own hand became busy and she quickly unbuttoned Donovan’s tunic. Then she started her fingers running up the silky skin in an effort to touch Donovan everywhere at once.

When she brought her lips to Donovan’s neck again, the growl became a purr and the Captain shifted her head to one side to allow Hannah the access she needed. Hannah pushed at the dress coat, anxious to have it out of the way. “Let me love you, Donovan,” she whispered.

Donovan nodded and stood, then slipped the jacket from her shoulders. Hannah knelt before her and almost immediately Donovan lifted her up to stand in front of her. “Do not kneel before me, beloved. You are neither slave nor servant to me.”

“No, but I need your boots and trousers off, love, and I have waited a lifetime to undress you.” Donovan swallowed hard at the words and nodded her agreement. “Would you prefer to sit for your boots? It might be easier.”

In response, Donovan took a seat, nearly missing the bed in her haste. Hannah worked the right boot off, taking the time to tickle her toes when she slid the sock off her foot. Donovan jerked in surprise and chuckled. “That was not very nice.”

Hannah laughed lightly. “No, but it sure was funny.” Then she turned her attention to the left boot. It came off a little easier, but instead of tickling the foot she cradled, Hannah stroked her hands up and down the now naked calf, raising the foot to place delicate kisses on each toe. Donovan sucked in a breath at the sheer eroticism of the act, and almost missed Hannah’s low command.

“Stand up for me love.”

Donovan did so on shaky legs, wondering why she felt so nervous. She and Hannah had loved one another many times in their dreams, and had indulged in some private necking on their crossing over. But this is the first time we will love each other for real, Donovan thought, and felt the butterflies twitch in her belly. Then she lost all coherent thought as Hannah’s hands slid her trousers off, managing to hit every sensitive spot on her ass and the back of her legs.

“Oh, God, Hannah,” she moaned, gripping the sheets in her clenched fists as she fell to the bed. “Undress for me, Angel. I need to see you; I want to feel your skin touching mine.”

Hannah whimpered at the husky tone in Donovan’s voice, and turned her back. “Unbutton me, Captain. But no touching.”

Eagerly Donovan complied, finding it much easier to deal with the myriad of tiny buttons now that she could see them. Of course the unsteadiness of her hands was somewhat detrimental to her cause, but not enough to keep her from doing Hannah’s bidding.

At last the dress lay open from neck to waist, and Donovan could not resist the temptation of the golden skin that lay beneath the silk covering. Starting at Hannah’s slim waist, she placed her open palms on Hannah’s bare back. Slowly she traced upward with her thumbs along Hannah’s spine, and she smiled when she felt Hannah push back into her touch.

When she reached the strong shoulders, Donovan pushed the material down her arms, being sure to keep her hands in light, teasing contact all the way to Hannah’s fingertips. Donovan let the dress fall to Hannah’s waist, and when Hannah turned, stared unabashedly at the now naked chest. Donovan entwined their fingers and slowly brought them one by one to her mouth to be kissed. Then her hands dropped to Hannah’s waist, and she eased the dress the remainder of the way to the floor.

“So beautiful,” she murmured. “Even better than in my dreams.”

“Mine too,” Hannah replied, wrapping her arms around Donovan’s neck and pulling her in for a kiss. Donovan edged them to the bed once more, and Hannah proceeded to maneuver herself on top, straddling Donovan at the waist. “Now it is time to make our dreams become reality, love.”

Donovan’s answer was made in her kiss as she pulled Hannah down until skin met skin. Then everything became about sensation – touch and scent and taste and sound – and the world went on its way without them for quite a little while.

************

Sunlight streaming in was the first thing that woke Donovan out of a deep, dreamless sleep, and only because it was falling directly in her eyes. They had spent the previous day intermittently loving one another and laughing and talking. It had been both frightening and wonderful, and Donovan had felt something settle into place at least.

They had finally fallen to sleep just as the sun had begun to tint the sky with morning, both relaxed and sated and utterly exhausted. Donovan scowled, not happy to be awake yet, though her inner clock told her it was close to midday. She shifted to find a better position out of the glare when the warmth in her arms mewled and stirred slightly. Then Hannah renewed her grip, and settled back into a peaceful slumber.

Donovan smiled and focused her attention on Hannah. What they had shared yesterday had been a culmination of a lifetime of dreaming and waiting and…. And it had been more wonderful than Donovan had imagined it could be. Dreams had nothing on the reality they shared together, and even the slight pain and discomfort she felt now couldn’t diminish the true suitability they shared together.

She lay there with a smile on her face, concentrating so hard that she didn’t notice Hannah was awake until a tender touch on her face brought her back to reality and the woman who shared it.

“Problems, love? You had a very peculiar look on your face.”

“No, Angel. Contemplating the rightness of my world as it is at this very moment.”

“I see,” Hannah yawned, scrubbing her face with the hand not currently running lightly up Donovan’s torso. “And what brought you out of a sound sleep that you felt the need to ponder that?”

Donovan twisted enough to allow the glare of the late morning sun to hit Hannah squarely in the eyes. Hannah flinched, and buried her face in Donovan’s warm, soft chest.

“Ow,” she mumbled from her cocoon. “That hurt.”

“Yes. It was much more pleasant to concentrate on us than continue to face that.”

“Well, now that we are awake,” Hannah hesitated when the surface below her began to rumble with laughter. “What’s so funny?”

“You are tickling me,” Donovan growled out, even as another ripple of laughter shudder through her frame.

“Huh?” Hannah asked. “Donovan, I haven’t moved my hands.”

“No, but you are breathing, talking and blinking. And it all tickles.”

“Heh heh heh. Ammunition… gotta love it,” Hannah mumbled, proceeding to blink, breathe and nuzzle until Donovan was squirming. Then without warning she found herself on the bottom of a very small pile with Donovan’s long fingers grazing up and down her sides.

“Yes, well, all is fair, beloved,” were Donovan’s last words until Hannah pleaded for mercy with tears running from her eyes and laughter rolling from her belly.

Their laughter finally wound down and they remained wrapped in the warmth of one another’s arms for a while. Finally though, full bladders and empty stomachs forced them from the bed to take care of some of life’s other most basic needs.

************

In the early afternoon, the couple decided to take a walk down the beach. The air in late August was warm, but there were hints of cooler weather not far behind. Hannah shivered, unused to the difference in temperature, and Donovan naturally wrapped an arm about her and held her closer.

“Cold, Angel?”

“A little. I’m not used to this kind of weather at this time of year. This is winter for me.”

“Um, Hannah… this may not be the best time for me to mention this, but it is going to get a lot colder before it gets warm again.”

“How much colder, love?”

“It has been a few years since I actually tried to winter here, but if memory serves… quite a bit. It is one reason we hate to come in. We will head out as soon as we are able, but we will be here for at least part of the winter, I am afraid.”

“You are taking me with you when the Maiden heads out again, correct?”

“Yes. I will make the arrangements.”

“Then I can bear the cold for a few months. I will need some heavier clothing, though.”

“I think we can manage that, Angel. That does remind me, though,” Donovan added as they turned around and headed back down the beach towards their cottage.

“Yes?” Hannah asked when Donovan didn’t continue to speak. She noticed Donovan’s eyes were focused on her and she blushed under the intensity of the stare.

“So very beautiful,” she commented, stroking Hannah’s cheek with the backs of her fingers. “Have I told you today just how much I love you?”

Hannah’s blush deepened and she grinned. “You might’ve mentioned it once or twice, but I certainly never get tired of hearing it said.”

Donovan put her hands at Hannah’s waist and slid them around the back. Hannah naturally slid them up Donovan’s chest and shoulders to lock around the Captain’s neck.

“I do love you… more than life or breath or the sea. You changed everything for me. You are the best part of me, and I am thankful every single day that you are in my life.”

Hannah would have responded, honestly, had not Donovan stolen her breath first by her words, then by her actions. When they finally separated, breathless, Hannah simply took Donovan’s hand again and quickened their pace towards the cottage. The writer had lost her words for the moment, but she was sure that Donovan would understand her message.

************

They were in the small living area preparing dinner when a knock sounded at the door. They looked at one another puzzled til the second knock brought a recognizable voice with it.

“Hannah? Captain Scott? It’s Elizabeth. Is it safe for me to come in for a moment?”

Both women were in robes, so Donovan hastily moved to the bedroom and shut the door. Hannah tightened the robe around her midsection and went to open the door for Elizabeth, who promptly blushed at Hannah’s state of undress. That caused a blush of her own, and Hannah was thankful for the distraction of taking the large basket out of Elizabeth’s hands and resting it on the table.

“You would think after more than thirty years of marriage to the same man and six children, I would not be embarrassed about sex. And I am not, exactly, I suppose. I just hate interrupting newlyweds.”

“You weren’t interrupting, Elizabeth. I was just getting ready to fix a little dinner for the Captain and myself.”

“Then I will not keep you, my dear. I just wanted to drop of the remainders of your feast from yesterday, not that there was much left. Enough for a meal or two, perhaps. It will save you the trouble of having to prepare anything this evening, at any rate.”

“I appreciate that Elizabeth, and so will Donovan.”

“Good, good.” She sighed and put her hand on the door knob. “In a few days, when the Captain returns to his duties, perhaps you could spare a bit of time for me. You have the most interesting pattern of speech I have ever come across, and I wish to know more about it if you would be willing.”

“I can do that. Do you know of a place I could get a journal?”

Just then, Donovan walked out of the bedroom, cutting a fine figure in loose britches and a linen shirt. She looked between Hannah and Elizabeth, one brow slightly raised.

“Excuse me, Captain Scott. I was just leaving. Hannah, if you ask your husband to take you to Mills and Rowe, I believe they will have a journal like the one you need.”

“Thank you, Elizabeth.”

“Yes, thank you, Elizabeth,” Donovan echoed.

“You are both most welcome. Now if you will excuse me, I still need to prepare dinner for my husband and family. We will see you both soon, because you will have to join us for dinner when you return to duty, Captain.”

“Thank you, madam. We are happy to accept.”

“Then we will plan on it. Good evening,” and Elizabeth disappeared out the door before either could say another word.

Donovan stared at the closed door a moment longer before joining Hannah at the table. “Let us see what fine repast my crew left for us, Angel. I am surprised there was anything for her to bring at all.”

Hannah laughed and the two sat down to a fine evening meal.
Chapter XXIV
The week passed quickly, though Donovan soon learned that she didn’t do well with nothing to occupy her time. Much as she and Hannah enjoyed making love together, there was only so much real world intimacy their bodies could handle before begging for mercy. So that left them a lot of hours in the day to fill.

They took walks along the beach every day, and Donovan took Hannah to Mills and Rowe for her journal. Hannah spent time every day trying to adjust to writing with a quill as opposed to using a pen or her computer. It was a frustratingly slow process, but Donovan worked patiently with her every day, and gradually, Hannah was getting the hang of it.

Donovan made a few repairs to the small cottage, fortifying it for the coming winter. She added interior shutters, and caulked all the cracks and crevices. Then she spent an entire morning walking on the roof, making sure all the shingles were good and tight. Surprisingly, Donovan was quite adept with a needle and thread as well, and spent part of each day sewing what she referred to as ‘cozies’ for the windows and doors. And she was doing her very best to figure out a way to add a bathing room and water closet.

Hannah meanwhile was not having an easy go of things. She never realized how accustomed to modern conveniences she was until they were no longer there. Suddenly something as simple as making a cup of coffee or trying to bathe was a chore that took a tremendous amount of work and effort. Even writing was difficult. Had it not been for the fact that Donovan was home, Hannah would have cried in despair. As it was, she dreaded the day Donovan returned to the yards for work.

Donovan noticed Hannah’s edginess, and chalked it up to the new surroundings. She wasn’t far off; she simply did not know how to fix what was wrong, especially since she wasn’t entirely sure what the problem was. Hannah was loving and attentive whenever she knew Donovan was nearby, but Donovan caught her muttering invectives to herself on more than one occasion when Hannah was unaware of her presence.

When Monday morning rolled around, Hannah saw Donovan off to the shipyards with a well packed lunch and a kiss. Then she went back to the cottage determined to do her best to make a comfortable home for Donovan and herself.

It wasn’t so bad at first. Hannah was gradually adjusting to the need to keep the fire stoked, and learning how much wood was enough, and figuring out just how long it actually took to make coffee. She was learning to have a real affinity for tea because of it.

She secretly sort of enjoyed the handle pump, recognizing it as a form of progress, and able to relate it to similar exercises she enjoyed in her gym at home. She tried not to get off on that tangent, though because she found it depressed her and she was not going to saddle Donovan with a depressed, weepy woman.

She doted on Donovan when she stepped through the door, feeling for all the world that Donovan was her only contact with any type of reality. Donovan encouraged her to get out and make friends, and they did visit the Admiral and Elizabeth occasionally, but Hannah found herself reluctant to leave the cottage for any length of time alone. They were so many mistakes she could inadvertently make here, and so many things she needed to do at the cottage that she went out sparingly.

Hannah did manage to make a few friends in her wanderings, though, and she was fascinated with seeing what was for her living history. But it also made her homesick for ‘civilization’, which in turn made her depressed again. It was becoming a vicious, bitter cycle.

Concerned with what she felt was Hannah’s unease, Donovan went to Elizabeth for some advice.

“Captain Scott… Donovan… you have to realize that women are completely different beings from men. We are diametrical opposites, and it is sometimes a wonder that the institute of marriage continues to survive.”

Donovan couldn’t correct her, so she simply nodded and let Elizabeth continue.

“You have to realize that EVERYTHING has changed for Hannah. She had blossomed from a girl into the flower of womanhood. Her body is changing again, and she is learning things, physical things, about herself and you. What is pleasurable; what is not. You see, Captain,” here Elizabeth leaned forward conspiratorially. “Women are taught from an early age that sex is for procreation only. That we are not supposed to enjoy it. Let me tell you the secret behind my long and happy marriage, Donovan. My husband cares about me… inside and outside of the bedroom. He sees to my pleasure as well as his own, and he always makes it a point to notice things around the house and compliment me on them.”

“Ma’am,” Donovan pleaded, holding up her hands to keep Elizabeth from elaborating any more. There were some things NO ONE needed to know about their commanding officer.

“I am sorry, Captain. I do not mean to make you uncomfortable. But I think it is important that you understand this clearly. You also have to realize that Hannah is now many, many miles from what has been her home all her life. Everything is different here, and she is still trying to settle in and make a proper home for you. She does not have many friends that I am aware of, aside from myself and a few of the shopkeepers.”

“Give her some time, Donovan. She is making a lot of difficult adjustments. Just love and support her the best that you can.”

“Thank you Elizabeth. I will do my very best.”

“I know you will, Captain. I have seen the two of you together. What you have is special… nurture it, and it will turn out all right in the end.

************

Hannah didn’t understand her reticence to get out among people. She’d been granted an opportunity historians would have killed for. Donovan had tried to encourage her, but still she hesitated. In her heart, she acknowledged that it was more than simply fear of exposing her differences to them. But she wasn’t sure if it was the lack of modernity that would depress her further or the chance that she might find more to like here that was keeping her apart.

Hannah was ashamed of her weakness, but couldn’t seem to find a way past the homesickness that was plaguing her. So she threw herself into every task and focused her attentions on Donovan. Donovan didn’t begrudge Hannah’s attention, and she made an extra effort to seem appreciative of it.

Hannah managed to do a credible job finishing up the cozies, and Donovan was quick to praise her efforts. It was especially pleasing since she really did not care for sewing or mending, and had to take special pains to complete them properly.

Things settled down for the next couple weeks, and Donovan felt herself relaxing slightly. She was still good to compliment Hannah sincerely on whatever task she has assumed for the day, but she no longer felt the need to walk on eggshells. If their bedroom activity was any indication, there never had been a problem. It was the one place Hannah was completely free and open with her.

Hannah had been fierce and wild or tender and soft by turn, and Donovan had responded eagerly to each and every prospect afforded her. Sometimes she led and sometimes she followed, but always they loved one another with deep and sincere passion.

One month after they had wed, however, Donovan was forced to stay late at the yard, and everything came to a head.

************

It started when Hannah got up, bloated and miserable. Donovan offered to stay home, but Hannah refused, knowing however badly she wanted her Captain home, the ship and crew needed her there if they were going to get back to sea early. Hannah had stopped by the yard on occasion and had seen the massive amount of repair and refit work the Maiden was receiving. She appreciated the need, and yet she resented it as well, because every new job meant longer they had to stay here.

On this day, however, Donovan was torn between the need to stay and comfort Hannah and the need to be at the shipyard supervising the refit. They were installing a new boom and Donovan knew it was going to be a chore. But when Hannah shooed her out the door with her lunch and a kiss, she took it as a good sign, and headed cheerfully toward the dock yard.

Hannah decided to lay back down for a bit, hoping the cramping would ease. She fell asleep quickly, and it was almost noon before she stirred again.

The first thing she noticed was the fact that it was chilly in the house, and realized immediately that she’d forgotten to stoke the fire and it had gone completely out. She sighed and bit her lip, and moved to relight the flame, knowing she needed to do that before anything else was possible.

Three skinned knuckles and two burnt fingers later, Hannah finally had a small flame burning in the stove. She sighed with relief and stuffed the box with wood, knowing it would catch fairly quickly. Her next step was to fill a pot with water for heating. This could have gone better, since she barked her skinned knuckles on the cabinet while she removed the pot, but thankfully she didn’t smash them or worse.

She finished embroidering a table cover, not completely satisfied with how it turned out, but well-pleased with the fact that she was learning a new skill. She couldn’t wait to show Donovan when she got home from work today.

Hannah smiled when her thoughts turned to Donovan. She couldn’t ask for a more thoughtful lover. Donovan was so good to notice all of Hannah’s efforts, and kind enough not to mention the less-than-stellar ones, thinking wryly of some of her earliest cooking and sewing attempts. She was getting better, though, and Donovan was quick to encourage her and praise her efforts.

Her attention was drawn out of her thoughts by the rumbling of the stove which was literally jumping with the heat. Hannah jumped up and quickly closed most of the vents, and opened the firebox to spread the fire out a bit. It took some patience and a lot of effort on her part, but she managed to bring the fire under control without any mishaps, and she was quite proud of that fact. Even better, the heat had caused her water to boil much faster, and she filled a tub with the water, intent on soaking for a bit. Suddenly things were looking up.

Hannah slipped into the warm tub with a sigh of relief. The warmth helped ease the nagging ache in her belly, and she turned her thoughts back to Donovan. She treasured their time together and she knew Donovan did as well. Hannah simply wished there was more of it. She smiled. Donovan had been supportive of her and she determined more than ever to show Donovan her unwavering support in return.

She clutched the ring she still wore around her neck. Hannah hadn’t realized that she would not be given an opportunity to place a ring on Donovan’s finger, and she hadn’t seemed to find the right time to do it since the ceremony. Maybe tonight, she thought. It was their one month anniversary, and she had made some nice plans for them to celebrate. The house was clean, the table set with flowers and candles; all she had to do was take care when preparing dinner.

Gradually Hannah’s water cooled and she bathed quickly and changed into one of the comfortable outfits Satosh had created for her. It was one of the most flattering, and Hannah felt attractive as well as relaxed when she wore it. She carefully emptied the tub, and turned her attention to preparing a special meal for Donovan.

The time for Donovan to come home came and went. The candles burned down, and despite Hannah’s best efforts the meal overcooked and dried out as she valiantly tried to keep it warm. Finally, she closed all the vents and stoked the fire, then she grabbed the new overcoat Donovan had gotten for her, and walked calmly out the door.

************

When Donovan walked through the door much later that evening, she sensed something awry immediately. There was no sound in the bedroom, and it was obvious Hannah was not in their small living area. It was also chilly in the house, something Hannah didn’t tolerate well at all. It had become something of a joke between them, since given the option Hannah would keep it as warm as the tropics. Secretly, Donovan would have been happy to have it that warm as well, but she knew there was no way to feasibly maintain it in this part of the world.

Donovan hung her hat and cloak on their hook and went straight to the bedroom, then cursed herself for not lighting a candle first when she kicked the corner of the bed.

Still cursing, Donovan stumbled out of the bedroom and over to the table where to candles sputtered trying to remain lit. Even as she watched, one candle went out, and Donovan carefully picked up the second one. She noticed then the remains of what would have been a feast had she been home on time and winced. Donovan took a second look at everything, noticing the newly embroidered tablecloth and the fresh wildflowers and felt like crying. Hannah had planned a special evening for them, and she had, however inadvertently, ruined it by not being at home on time.

Donovan bit her lip, thinking long and hard about where Hannah might go. Then she donned her hat and cloak and lit a lantern, walking out into the crisp, clear night to find her Angel.

************

Donovan thought long and hard about the possibility of Hannah going to Elizabeth’s but summarily rejected it… primarily because Hannah just didn’t socialize much here. I think it is time we talk about these things. Just supporting her has not been enough. I need to know what she is thinking, feeling. Why she has changed so much.

Having given up the idea that Hannah would go to one of her only friends here, Donovan headed down the stretch of beach they loved to walk on. She walked slowly, not wanting to miss Hannah in her haste.

She was nearing the end of the tract of beach they normally frequented, and was beginning to despair of actually finding her. She was torn between anger and hurt, and Donovan was just ready to give up when she heard a gentle voice call her name.

“Donovan?”

“Hannah?” Donovan swung the lantern in a wide arc searching for her heart’s desire. Even knowing she was nearby, Donovan still nearly missed Hannah’s small form in the darkness.

Hannah sat in the shadow of a dune, mostly out of the wind, but still able to see the waves come crashing onto the shore. It had helped restore her balance, and she felt more normal than she had in a while. Knowing, *realizing* that some things were constant regardless of the time and place had proven very soothing, and Hannah felt she had finally put her problems into perspective.

“Hannah?” Donovan called again. Hannah was swaddled in her coat, and the only thing actually visible in the bare light was her eyes. She didn’t realize Donovan couldn’t see her.

“Donovan, love. I’m right here. Look to your left, by the dune.”

Donovan peered into the darkness, scrambling to Hannah’s side when she found her and almost dropping the lantern in her haste. She set the lamp to one side and immediately wrapped her arms around Hannah’s small body, murmuring love and apologies into the covered head now neatly tucked beneath her chin. Hannah greedily absorbed the love and warmth, until she became aware of the mumbled words being spoken in her ear. Then she pushed away from Donovan just slightly, and looked into her sad eyes.

“Donovan, sweetheart? What are you apologizing for? You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“You went to such effort to make a special meal, and I completely missed it. I….”

“Shh,” Hannah said, putting her fingers to Donovan’s lips, and taking a moment to be distracted by their softness. “It took me a while, but I realized when I came out here tonight that I have been grossly unfair to you. I know you don’t understand what I am going through, and until tonight, I’m not sure I did either. But I think I have figured it out, and I’d like to share if you’re willing to listen.”

“Absolutely, Hannah. I was hoping we could talk about this. I mean, I have been wracking my brain to figure out what I could do differently….”

“You don’t need to do a thing differently, love. You have been wonderful and supportive of me, and I know it hasn’t been easy. I haven’t been easy to live with in the last month, and I apologize. It’s not your fault this isn’t the cinch I thought it would be.”

“Cinch? Like for a saddle?” Donovan was honestly confused, and it showed.

“No, love. Cinch as in easy. But that is a prime example of what I mean.”

Donovan turned them so she was leaning with her back to the dune, and Hannah was cradled between her legs in front of her. She wrapped her long arms around Hannah’s slim waist, and sighed in soundless contentment when Hannah leaned her body back into Donovan’s own. “I am not sure I understand you, beloved.”

“I know, and I am not making this any clearer. Let me start from the beginning and see if that helps.”

“You see, Donovan, I fully expected to have an easy adjustment to living here in this time with you. I mean, I read all about it. I understood what the times were like. And even given the rather rough time I had at your cottage on the island, I chalked it up to nerves. I mean, how hard could it be to live here, really? I did okay on the island, and I did pretty well on the boat. How hard could dry land be, right?”

“I should have caught a clue when we were in the cottage on the island. Book smart doesn’t always translate into practical smart, and I was getting kicked in my practical butt. You can’t just pick up the phone and say you’ll be late; I can’t just flip a switch for coffee; I can’t simply flush the toilet or run a hot bath. The harder I tried, the worse I seemed to fail, and you were always so tolerant and understanding about the whole situation, and that almost made it worse sometimes. The only time I felt on an even keel was when we were alone together, and it just isn’t feasible for you to be around all the time. And it certainly isn’t practical for us to spend ALL our time together in bed, as attractive as the possibility sounds sometimes.”

“Is that the reason you have not gone out much at all since we have been here? Is that why you have been missing from my dreams? Are you that uncomfortable in my world?”

Donovan held her breath, not wanting to hear, but needing to know. Hannah frowned slightly.

“I have been there waiting for you, love. Maybe my depression kept us apart?” She tapped a short nailed finger against her teeth, and Donovan swallowed her words when it became obvious Hannah was working through something.

“Let me start over, love. Because I don’t want any more misunderstandings between us, all right?” Donovan nodded and Hannah continued. “It doesn’t make much sense I’m afraid. But I am uncomfortable with the fact that I can’t function here like I think I ought to be able to. I am having a harder time adjusting than I expected to and that depresses me, especially when you really have been too understanding for words.”

“I’m afraid if I go out among people I will embarrass myself or you, since, as Elizabeth inadvertently reminded me, I stick out here. With my speech and attitude and mannerisms. It’s apparent to everyone that I am different. The fact that I can’t seem to do the simplest things simply frustrates me more, and it all becomes one huge, vicious cycle.” She paused and tilted her head back at Donovan. “Does that make any sense at all to you?”

Donovan sat silently for a few minutes, processing everything Hannah had said and hopefully translating it correctly into something she understood. “Do you want me to become less understanding?” she finally asked. “Elizabeth said it was important… that I notice things and compliment you on them. But if it is making you uncomfortable….”

“No, love, no! To be very selfish, I need that from you. It reminds me that I am making some progress here, and given enough time, I can make this work for me and for us.” She swallowed and looked away from Donovan, who could feel her unease, but remained silent, waiting. Finally Hannah spoke again, very faintly.

“I think it boils down to the fact that I want you to need me… need you to need me, like I need you. And a lot of times lately I seem to have been coming up short in that department.”

“Not at all, beloved. Elizabeth was correct in pointing out one thing to me… this IS a major adjustment for you, and I have been amazed at how well you do seem to be adapting to what for you is a completely unnatural environment. You always manage to have a hot meal ready for me when I come home, and I have had a lot less burned ones than I managed myself when I was learning to cook.” Donovan smiled to take away the sting of her words, and Hannah returned it, understanding exactly what was being said.

“I know I miss many of your attempts to do things during the day, but I do appreciate your efforts on my behalf. I am glad you are here with me, and would sooner have us working through your frustrations than for me to be without you or let you suffer through the aggravation alone. We are married, Hannah; husband and wife in the eyes of the world and….” Donovan cocked her head in thought. “What was the word you use in your world, Angel?”

“Partners?”

“Yes, partners. We are partners in every sense of the word. If you have a burden, share it with me and let me help you. If you have joy, share it also, that I can celebrate with you as well. We are one together, beloved. Do not shut me out… let me do my part.”

Donovan felt the sobs shake Hannah’s small frame, and she cradled her close in silence for long moments before speaking. “Tears, Hannah? I did not mean….”

Fingers at her lips stilled Donovan’s voice and she waited for Hannah to speak. “That was beautiful, love. I didn’t mean to be so selfish, but I see now that by not sharing my misery as well as my joy that you were being shut out. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. You deserve better than that.”

Subtly, Donovan shifted Hannah in her arms until she was cradling her in her lap. “I got precisely what I deserved, Hannah. My dreams came true when I got you.”

Hannah wrapped her arms around Donovan’s neck and pulled her in firmly until their lips met passionately. Only when they needed air did she pull back, and then she whispered, “I love you,” and cuddled tightly into Donovan’s chest.

“I love you, too, Angel. I want you to remember that the next time things seem hard. Come to me and let me help; just like I will come to you.”

They sat quietly for a time, unmindful of the steadily dropping temperature. Instead they focused on the warmth the returning stability to their relationship brought and were content. When Hannah fidgeted and shifted lightly, Donovan looked at her expectantly. Hannah cleared throat.

“Donovan?”

“Hmm?”

“I was wondering something.”

“What is that, Angel?”

“Well, Jack gave me something, and I’ve been meaning to give it to you, but the time never seemed right and I didn’t have a chance at our ceremony and well, I was wondering…?” She broke off her ramble, not sure she was going about this the right way.

“You were wondering what, beloved?” Donovan was intrigued. She’d never seen Hannah quite as flustered as she was right at this very moment, and she found it endearingly cute.

“Would you unfasten my necklace, Donovan?”

Perplexed, yet charmed by the simple request, Donovan complied, handing the two ends forward into Hannah’s hands. She couldn’t see what Hannah did, but almost immediately the two ends came back to her.

“Would you put it on me again, please?”

Donovan’s curiosity was burning brightly now, but she obey, then sat quietly waiting for Hannah’s next words, noting that her eyes stayed riveted to the hands in her lap and whatever she held in them.

“Do you remember the bag that you found in the carriage on the way to the ship?” Donovan nodded and Hannah continued. “Yes, well you said it was addressed to me, and it was. From Jack. He gave me a lovely supply of chocolate….” She snuck a peek at Donovan. “I still have some, by the way.” She was charmed by the bright smile she got for that.

“Anyway, it also had an envelope in it with my name on it.” Donovan nodded. She remembered that as well. It was the reason she’d been sure the bag was Hannah’s.

“Right. So anyhow, in the envelope was a note from my father… and, um, my mother’s wedding ring. He said….” She shivered, and Donovan wrapped her arms tighter. Hannah felt the light brush of a kiss across the top of her cloak and smiled tremulously. “He said that he hoped I or the one that I loved would wear her ring. So I was wondering….” She took Donovan’s left hand in her own and held the ring up. “Would you be willing to wear my ring? I know you may not be able to with being a sea captain, but maybe we could put it on a chain for your neck or… OH!”

Donovan slipped her finger through the ring, amazed at the way it fit like it was made for her. Donovan stared at it a long time, or so it seemed to Hannah, before she turned her attention back to Hannah. “It is beautiful, my love, and the sentiment behind it leaves me speechless. I will wear it proudly.” She tipped her head slightly and sealed the promise with a kiss.

Eventually they pulled away and Hannah looked into Donovan’s eyes. “Captain Scott?”

“Yes, Mrs. Scott?” said with formality but a teasing grin and a twinkle in her eye belied the seriousness of the reply.

“Would you be so kind as to take me home and make wild, passionate love to me for the rest of the night?”

Donovan shifted so quickly Hannah would have fallen had it not been for lightning fast reflexes on Donovan’s part. “I believe, madam, that is the best offer I have had all day.”

Hannah rose and put her hands on her hips, eyebrow arched in mock annoyance. “I believe, Captain, that had better be the ONLY offer you’ve had all day. You’re taken… and you’re mine.”

“Body and soul, beloved. Body and soul.”

Donovan stood and brushed the sand from herself and then Hannah, then she grabbed the lantern and gave it to Hannah to hold so she could scoop Hannah into her arms.

“Donovan put me down! It is too far for you to carry me all the way to the cottage through the sand! Please, love,” she said on a softer note. “I don’t want you to hurt yourself.” Donovan pouted, and Hannah chuckled, nearly upsetting them both when the pout became mock indignation. Hannah bit her lips, and aimed for a compromise.

“How ‘bout this? We’ll walk together back to the cottage and you can carry me across the threshold into the bedroom. BUT… I’ll hold the lamp.”

Donovan ducked her head and stole a quick kiss before gently setting Hannah on her feet. “I believe I can accept that as an equitable arrangement.” She offered her arm gallantly and took the lantern from Hannah. “Allow me the honor of lighting your way, m’lady.”

“You already do love, in every way that matters.”

Donovan heard the sexy undertone in Hannah’s voice and without warning took the smaller hand in her own and began loping down the beach at a run. She had to taper her steps to match Hannah’s own stride and accommodate their laughter, but her intent was perfectly clear.

And when they arrived back at the cottage, she was happy to show Hannah just how focused she was… several times.

************

“So why were you so late getting in last night, love? Or can you say?” It was just before dawn, and Hannah and Donovan were in the small living space trying to restart the fire. Actually, Donovan was relighting the fire, and Hannah was cleaning up the remains of their ruined evening meal. Neither had been a top priority when they’d arrived home the night before.

“We had difficulties getting the boom in place and balanced. That took the majority of the daylight, and the crew and I had to scramble to get the rest of the day’s work done.”

“What’s the rush?”

“The rains are due any day, and we want to have the outer repairs as soon as possible before they come. Then we can move indoors and do the interior work.”

“Makes sense.”

Donovan was finally satisfied that the flame had caught, and after adding more wood, caught Hannah’s robe tie between her fingers and tugged gently. She smiled rakishly when Hannah stood in the circle of her arms.

“Thank you, beloved. I do try that on occasion. Besides, the men are already complaining about the weather here. I think we will be ready to go out again sooner than expected.” Donovan paused and allowed herself to be distracted by the warm hands and nails that were scratching slow circles on her back. “Now, what do you say to my staying home with you today?”

Hannah’s green eyes were filled with exasperation as they gazed up into blue. “Donovan, last time I checked, I didn’t have STUPID tattooed on my forehead.” Donovan’s own forehead crinkled in confused thought as she tried to figure what that statement had to do with anything.

“Sweetheart,” Hannah said, moving her hands to grasp Donovan’s face on both sides. “Of course I would love to have you stay home with me today. Even though I feel so much better about things after last night’s talk and all, I still miss you when you’re gone. So of course I want you here. Thing is… can you stay?”

“I not only can,” Donovan said. “I will. We have something we need to do later on this morning, but I am open to suggestions for right now if you have any.”

“Hmm,” Hannah answered thoughtfully while her hands were busy untying the closures on Donovan’s robe. “I think,” she said, sliding her hands up the smooth skin of Donovan’s torso to her broad shoulders, and pushing her robe to the floor. “We could probably… oh, God,” feeling Donovan’s strong hands return the favor. “Find some… thing… oh, sweet Jesus, love!” Hannah forgot what she was saying when Donovan’s hands found her breasts, and Hannah pulled her in to a deep, passionate kiss.

Donovan smiled into the kiss, loving the influence her touch had on Hannah. Then moaning herself when she felt Hannah’s hands trace down her back and around the front of her thighs.

“Oh, Hannah….” Donovan murmured before finding her lips captured once more.

“You… me… bed… now.”

Donovan slid her hands around until they rested on Hannah’s waist, then gently lifted, not at all surprised when Hannah’s legs wrapped around her waist. She stood still for a long moment as they absorbed the renewed sensation of skin on skin. Then she edged the three steps it took to reach the bedroom door.

Hannah caught her hand on the doorframe, and Donovan pulled up short, a frown crossing her face. “I thought you wanted…?”

Hannah smiled, cupping Donovan’s face tenderly. “I do. I just wanted you to know something first.” A dark brow rose and Hannah traced it gently. “You make my life worth living.”

Donovan’s face softened, and she crossed to the bed, laying Hannah down tenderly on the bed. “As you do mine, beloved,” running her hands along Hannah’s naked body from toes to shoulders. She stopped along the way to tease and taste, delighting in the shivers and moans she was drawing from deep within Hannah’s chest.

When she reached Hannah’s lips, Donovan was drawn into another fiery kiss, and thoughts of teasing flew out of her mind. “I love you, Mrs. Scott,” she murmured before beginning her assault in earnest. Hannah’s answer lost as she wrapped her hands in Donovan’s hair, and abandoned herself to the feelings Donovan was stirring in her.

Neither of them noticed the sun come up.
Chapter XXV
“So where are we going?” Hannah asked as they made their way down the street. Donovan had been surprised at the number of merchants that greeted her and Hannah by name. Obviously in her few excursions into the marketplace, Hannah had made a good impression. Donovan patted the hand tucked into the crook of her arm and returned the greetings as they strolled through the market towards the lumber mill.

Arriving, Hannah looked at Donovan perplexed. “Um, honey?”

“Yes, beloved?”

“Um, not that I mind the walk and everything, but what are we doing here? I thought you’d finished the repair work on the house.”

“I have,” Donovan replied, taking her hand and helping her up the steps. “This is for a new project.”

“A new project?” Hannah echoed. “Isn’t it getting late in the year to be starting something new?”

“Yeeees,” Donovan drawled. “But once I get the walls and roof up, the rest will follow fairly quickly. John and a few of the crew have volunteered to help me get the basics done.”

“And may I ask what it is you are building?”

“You may ask.” Hannah waited, but Donovan was not forthcoming with any further information. Hannah raised a blonde brow in mute question.

“It is a surprise, Angel. One I promise you will like.”

“You promise, huh?”

“Yes, I promise.”

“Okey dokey, then,” Hannah replied and waited for Donovan to conclude her business with the lumber merchant. Then they headed back the way they’d come.

The lumber wagon was at the cottage being unloaded when they arrived. Donovan tipped the driver and his man, and sent them on their way as soon as they were finished. Then she began digging holes for the posts, and Hannah went to start lunch.

It was nothing fancy, but by the time Hannah got things ready and went to get Donovan, the Captain already had a rough outline of a room that was about four feet wide and it looked like it was going to run the length of the cottage. Hannah cocked an eyebrow at the speed at which Donovan was working but knew better than to ask, so she simply called her in for lunch.

By the time the sun set, Donovan had the posts in place for the room that did run the length of their small home. Hannah’s curiosity was piqued, but she kept her suspicions to herself. She’d wait to see if she was right.

The following day was cloudy, and Donovan held her breath, hoping for the rain to hold off just a little longer. If they could get the mortar poured and the roof on, the rest would be easy. It was Sunday, the crews’ day off, and she was expecting John and a few of the other men to show up sometime in the early part of the morning to help her. She’s spoken to them a couple weeks before when she’d originally ordered the lumber.

Donovan was quite surprised however, when she opened the door to John’s knock just after dawn, and saw her entire crew standing behind her first mate.

“John?”

“They volunteered, Captain. We all figured you were doing this for Miss Han… Mrs. Scott, and she was so kind to us on the trip back that everyone wanted a chance to do something nice for her in return.”

“Donovan? Who’s at the door, love?” Hannah came up behind Donovan and stuck her head under Donovan’s outstretched arm. “Oh,” she said, a bit startled to see the entire crew staring shyly back at her. “Mr. Merryweather, gentlemen. What an unexpected surprise,” glancing down at the robe she was still wearing.

“Beg pardon for intruding so early, Miss Ha… Mrs. Scott. The weather looked so poorly this morning we decided to get over here quickly to help the Captain get finished with… his project.” Donovan had given them specific instructions on the room’s secrecy, and Merryweather was quick to remember them at her warning glare.

“Well, I’m glad to see you all again. If you will excuse me, though, I need to get dressed and put the coffee on to boil for you gentlemen. Donovan, could I see you a moment before you start working, please?”

The crew didn’t say a word, but Donovan could feel their gleeful trepidation on her behalf. They were not stupid men by any means, and they moved around to the side of the building without any prompting. Donovan spoke to Merryweather, who was the only one who remained.

“You know what needs to be done, Mr. Merryweather?”

“Aye, sir. Apologies for arriving so unexpectedly. We did not think about Miss Ha… Mrs. Scott’s feelings or what kind of trouble it might present for you.”

“It is all right, John. I….”

“Donovan?” Hannah called.

Donovan looked back towards Hannah, then at John with a resigned look on her face. “I’ll be out shortly,” she whispered. “You know what to do to get them started.”

“Aye, sir. We will take care of things.”

She shut the door carefully behind him, and turned to where Hannah stood in the bedroom doorway, dressed and waiting. Donovan walked slowly towards Hannah, with the gate of a man on his way to be executed. True, she had been quite surprised by the earliness of the hour and the number of men who had arrived, but she couldn’t find it in her heart to blame them for their eagerness. Hannah had shown all of them unfailing kindness, and it was natural that they’d want to do the same in return. She probably should have given Hannah a little more warning about the crew coming to help though.

“I am sorry, beloved. I….”

“Donovan, I don’t mind that the crew is here, and I appreciate that they are gonna help you finish this project. If it turns out to be what I expect it to be, I’m sure I’ll be thrilled that all of them showed up on our doorstep at dawn this morning. It would have been nice to have had a little warning about their presence before I peeked out the door at them in my robe, though.” Her tone, while not ugly or demanding did have a hint of scolding in it. “It’s improper for me to be seen not fully dressed.”

Donovan dropped her head, and looked at Hannah through her dark lashes. “I did not expect the entire crew to show up and certainly not this early. I thought it would be John and perhaps half a dozen men later this morning. However, I should have mentioned their coming to you last night, and for that I apologize.”

Hannah leaned into Donovan’s strong body and forced the blue eyes to meet her own. “No worries, love. You go on out and do your Captain thing and I’ll see what I can come up with for lunch for these guys. Looks like our roast will be turning to stew.”

“I love you, Hannah.”

“I know you do. And I love you back. Now go help the crew so ya’ll can get finished before it starts storming.” Thunder rumbled ominously, and Hannah smacked Donovan lightly on the butt. “Go on. You don’t wanna be out in this getting sick.”

Donovan kissed her and hurried out the door, hoping the weather would hold back for just a few more hours.

Hannah turned her attention to her larder, looking to see what she had to turn her roast into stew. Another knock on the door startled her, and when Hannah opened it, Cookie was standing in front of her with an armload of groceries.

“Cookie?”

“Sorry it took me a little longer to get here than it did the rest of the crew, lass. I needed to get enough together to feed this bunch.” She grabbed him by the elbow and ushered him inside.

“Come in! Come in! Let’s see what you’ve got and what I’ve got and see what we can come up with between us. I have a feeling they’re all gonna be cold and wet before all is said and done.”

“I would be inclined to agree, lass. Let me get the rest of the foodstuffs before the bottom drops. Be right back.”

It was midmorning, and dinner was well underway when the first drops of rain fell lazily from the darkened sky. It only took minutes for it to become a downpour, and Hannah fully expected Donovan and the crew to come running inside to get out of the pelting rain. Instead, she heard the frenzied noise of more rapid work.

Hannah went to the small window on the ‘living’ side of the house, only to realize she really couldn’t see anything that would be helpful. There was a scream, a holler, then a loud thunk against the side of the house hard enough to make the front window shudder. Heedless of the weather, both Hannah and Cookie dashed out the door.

The roof was on and at least one short wall was up, because neither of them could see anything. As quickly as they dared in the slick mud, they moved around to the long side of the addition. Here the wall and the roof were only partially completed and the crew was struggling to finish the roof. However, it would only support a very few of them at once so it was slow going, especially since the rain made it slippery and dangerous.

The men who were working on the walls stared at Hannah as she stomped into the room to stand under the bit of roof that was finished. She put her hands on her hips and glared up at Donovan who settling another beam into place. Hannah waited calmly until the lumber was in place, then she bellowed, “DONOVAN SCOTT!!!” The crew averted their gazes at the sheer fury the small woman was emitting.

Donovan looked down into the sparking green eyes and understood immediately she was in a world of trouble. “Yes, dear?”

Hannah opened her lips to rail at Donovan, then took a deep breath and asked sweetly, “Do you think I could speak to you privately for a moment, Captain?”

Donovan nodded and turned to John, who was her partner on this side of the roof. “I will send someone up to help you when I get down, John.” She glanced at Hannah again. “I have a feeling this may take a while and we need to at least finish the roof today.”

“Do not worry, sir. We will take care of the roof. You go take care of your wife.”

Donovan nodded, and motioned to one of the men to join her near the ladder. She slid down and they conversed briefly before he went up to take her place. Then she walked over to the sheltered corner where Hannah waited. Then they stood dripping in the dirt at one another for long moments before Donovan spoke.

“Are you all right, beloved? Why are you out here in the rain? You could catch your death….”

“And so could you,” Hannah shot back, shivering. Even though they were dry and relatively sheltered from the wind, the temperature was quite chilly, and the cold was making her teeth chatter. Donovan slipped out of her heavy oilskin coat, and wrapped it around Hannah’s body. Hannah sank into the warmth with a sigh of relief.

“No, Angel. Mr. Merryweather brought our rain gear just on the off chance it would be needed.” She motioned to her dry body. “See? It has done its work very well. I am dry and warm, except for my hair and face. Even my hands remain warm from the constant work.” She waited a beat then continued. “We should be done with the roof and a majority of the walls by dinner. After that we will finish the walls and lay the floor. We will be under cover then, so it so move along at a bit faster pace.”

“You’re that determined to finish today then?”

“With as much as we can be, yes.” Donovan answered. “Once we get the roof on, the rest will be considerably easier.”

“I just don’t want you… or anyone, for that matter, to end up sick or hurt from this. A bathroom is not worth someone dying for, love.”

“I understand your concern, Hannah. That is why we… wait a moment… how did you know it was a bathing room? It was supposed to be a surprise!”

Hannah put her hands on Donovan’s chest, despite the fact that her crew was standing around trying not to stare at the two of them. To their credit, they did keep working, just at a much slower speed than they had been previously. Hannah lowered her voice farther and leaned in, greedily absorbing the warmth Donovan seemed to have in abundance.

“It was a surprise, love… it took me a while to figure out. It was the only thing I could come up with that made any sort of sense. I will admit to being selfishly pleased by the whole idea.”

Donovan grinned. “I was hoping you would feel that way.”

Hannah slid out of the oilskin, and shivered when the cold air hit her wet body. “Here,” easing the coat around Donovan’s shoulders. Let me go back inside and change before I get sick.” She looked at Cookie. “I hope we can get him dried out.”

“Let him stand at the stove for a bit; he will be fine.”

Hannah started to leave when firm hands at her waist stopped all movement. She looked back at Donovan who stood casually, possessively behind her wearing a rakish grin. “No kiss goodbye?”

“I didn’t think….”

“Do not think so much,” Donovan teased. “This is one of those times thinking is highly overrated.”

She realized Donovan stood between her and the rest of the room, and the men were at least trying not to stare in their direction. Hannah didn’t answer, but applied herself wholeheartedly to the task at hand. She felt a languid warmth steal through her bones, and sighed softly when they parted. She licked her lips before opening her eyes.

“You are really good at that, you know.”

Donovan grinned and nipped Hannah’s nose. “I have a wonderful practice partner.” That got her a grin in return. “Now go inside before you get chilled again.” Hannah nodded and scooted out the nearest wall opening. Donovan watched her go, and a thought occurred to her. She took Cookie aside and whispered something to him. He nodded and picked up a saw and ran through the downpour back to the house.

By the end of the day, the long room was complete, and a corner of the living area wall had a hole that would soon hold a door. The crew had finished just around sundown and Hannah and Cookie had given them all a second hot meal and warm cookies before they had left to return to their lodgings.

“That was a nice thing you did, beloved,” Donovan commented as she stepped out of the bedroom drying her hair. She’d been glad to slip into a sweater too, and came out now in her sock feet and set her boots near the fire.

“What, love?” Hannah asked as she snuggled up with Donovan on the small couch. Each of the men had washed his cup, bowl and spoon as he finished and packed it away in Cookie’s box. Then they had gently accepted Hannah’s hand as she thanked them all personally, and taken the cookies she’d offered before they slowly, surely made their way out of her home.

“Providing us with that coffee break, cooking for everyone on short notice, but especially for the cookies. I think you took everyone back to their boyhood with that gesture.”

“Well, it was so nice of them all to come out here on what was supposed to have been their day off that I just wanted to do something nice. Cookie helped me, ya know. He gave me a few tips for the stove as well. I didn’t realize until today that he always tended the kitchen fires on the ship. I just mixed ingredients.”

“I know. I also know the cookies were entirely your idea as he made it a point to tell me that… several times.”

“Well, it was little enough to do for them. Maybe we could do something for Thanks… I mean Christmas. I keep forgetting ya’ll don’t have Thanksgiving here.” The last was mumbled under her breath so low Donovan nearly missed it.

“We do have a harvest celebration, though,” Donovan said, having caught Hannah’s words and understanding the meaning behind them. “We can talk about it and decide later.” She yawned. “Right now I just want to hold you and rest a bit before bed.”

Hannah shook her head. “Uh uh. C’mon, love. Let’s go to bed properly. It’s been a long day for both of us, and I’m beat.”

Moments later, gentle snoring could be heard coming from both sides of their bed.

************

After talking things out with Donovan, Hannah finally felt comfortable enough to venture out a little more. She found that people were ready to welcome her with open arms. Donovan accompanied her as often as she could, and Elizabeth was always happy to welcome Hannah into her home when she felt a little overwhelmed.

Gradually, but faster than she’d expected, Hannah settled into the mid-eighteenth century life. And she made preparations to spend the winter.

Slowly, Donovan was converting the new room into a bathing room. It wasn’t as modern as her efforts on the island, and certainly not nearly what Hannah was used to, but they were both thankful for small comforts. It was nice to have a full-sized tub, and they both appreciated not having to go outside to use the facilities in the freezing rain. Donovan was still working on the flushing system for their toilet, but they were both pleased with her hard work.

In addition, Hannah had set up a laundry area on one end, and when she had chance to show it to Elizabeth, she found herself the object of much envy. And suddenly there were several among the wives who were anxious to make her acquaintance and were glad to find they were welcome.

For it all, Hannah always made sure they were gone and dinner was ready when Donovan came home. The evenings were their time, and Donovan encouraged Hannah to talk about her day much as she shared her own. Donovan found herself learning as much about the world around her as Hannah was. Hannah was introducing her to a world she herself spent very little time in, and she found to her amazement that she was enjoying it. And they spent many hours together educating Donovan on all the technologies and lifestyle nuances she would experience in Hannah’s world.

By the same token, Hannah was fascinated when Donovan spoke of her work. It was almost as though they were completely rebuilding the ship, and she couldn’t wait to see all the work they’d done on the Maiden. Still, for all their efforts, it would be at least April before they would be able to sail for warmer waters.

Hannah was of two minds about the news when Donovan told her. One the one hand, it meant that they would be here through the winter. Not necessarily bad news, since they had been preparing for such an outcome since they’d arrived, and they were quite snug in their little nest. But it was a little disappointing to know that they would be wintering in the cold, especially with the warm waters of the Caribbean awaiting them. On the other hand, the news that Donovan would be home more was most welcome.

With that in mind and knowing that many of the men under her command had no real families to go home to, Donovan extended an invitation to her crew on behalf of herself and Hannah for the men to join them in celebrating the holidays.

Most of the crew was overjoyed with the invitation and accepted with alacrity. They missed Hannah’s special treats, and truth be told, were a bit jealous of their Captain everyday around lunchtime when she unpacked whatever goodies Hannah had prepared for her.

Hannah was thrilled by the enthusiastic acceptance of their invitation and began preparing her menu. She realized almost immediately she would need assistance in making it a special time for the men, and went to Elizabeth for advice.

************

“Come in, my dear,” Elizabeth beckoned when she saw who stood on her doorstep. “This is a most pleasant surprise as I didn’t expect to see you for a few days. I understand you are hosting a holiday meal in your home for your husband’s crew.”

“Yes, we are. That’s actually why I’m here. I need your help.”

“Whatever I can do to help, Hannah. It has been such a joy watching you come out of your shell these last few months. I will tell you that you and Donovan have caused quite a stir among the wives here.” Elizabeth watched Hannah’s brows rise in question and patted her hand. “It is a good thing, dear. They needed stirring out of their complacency. Now, what can I do to help?”

So it was decided that Elizabeth would share her dishes and her stove in exchange for a few of Hannah’s recipes, and an invitation to join them. They two discussed actually moving the get together to Elizabeth’s home, but it was decided that would make things much too awkward for everyone.

Once everything was arranged, Hannah made her way home, where a surprise of a different sort awaited her.

************

Hannah didn’t know whether to be thrilled or dismayed by the fact that Margaret Scott was standing outside her door when she arrived home from Elizabeth’s. She sent a silent plea to Donovan for help before her good manners came to the fore and she graciously greeted the woman who would rather not be her mother-in-law.

Hannah opened the door and turned to her unexpected visitor. “Won’t you please come in, Mrs. Scott? I was just gonna prepare myself a bite of lunch and a spot of tea. You’re welcome to join me.”

“Thank you,” came the quiet answer and Margaret followed Hannah indoors.

“Please, have a seat and make yourself at home. I need to hang up my things, and I’ll be right back.”

Hannah left Margaret staring after her in surprise. It only took her a moment, and Hannah returned to find that Margaret hadn’t moved from her spot. Hannah crossed to the stove and added more wood, pushing the kettle closer to the center to catch the heat faster. The she removed the bread from its place and began cutting slices.

Slowly Margaret’s eyes took in everything, and she lifted her coat from her body and hung it on a peg by the door. Then she walked over to the kitchen side of the house, and noted the difficulty Hannah was having slicing the bread evenly. It was a difficult task for one with no experience, and Hannah was very new to this particular skill.

“May I?” Margaret asked, indicating the loaf. Hannah nodded dumbly, still trying to figure out exactly why Margaret was here. Ernst had been to visit them several times, but he had always been alone, and neither woman felt comfortable pressing him for details about his wife. He had relayed bits about her, but nothing concrete. Nothing that would give Hannah any indication of why the woman was standing in her kitchen area cutting bread like they did this together every day.

Hannah watched her cut for a moment, then turned to get out her skillet and butter. It wasn’t toast like she was used to, but it was buttered toast. She place it near the edge of the stove, having learned the hard way how quickly a fire could start with bread and butter if it was too near the heat. Then Hannah set the table, and moved back to the small counter where Margaret had buttered the bread.

Carefully, she toasted each piece to a golden brown color, setting each piece on a saucer and covering it with a napkin. Then she poured the boiling water into the teapot, and set it to steep on the table. Without a word she motioned Margaret to join her, and they sat down to their simple repast.

“I apologize for the simple fare,” Hannah said after a few moments of silence. “This is usually what I fix at midday when I am home alone. I’m not fond of cooking for just myself.”

“Actually, I did much the same thing before Ernst was home all the time. It was easier, and generally it was all I could manage after breakfast,” Margaret confided agreeably. Hannah wondered if she had slipped a dimension somewhere, things were so peculiar. Then Margaret’s voice caught her attention again. “Besides, I like the flavor you have added to the bread; it is different and intriguing.”

“Thank you, Margaret. I find it is more fun both to make and to eat if I spice it up a little when I make it. Oh, it doesn’t get spiced every time, and even the spices change each loaf. But it’s a nice change of pace.”

“You have the most unusual speech pattern….” Margaret scrunched up her forehead trying to place it, but didn’t continue speaking so as not to appear rude.

Hannah blushed and smiled. “A lot of folks have mentioned that. I think the fact that I come from the United States has a lot to do with it. The fact that I come from the Southern part of those same United States just makes the difference that much more pronounced.”

“I suppose it does,” Margaret replied. “It is unique and quite charming actually. No wonder Donovan was taken with you, aside from everything else. I know the first time I heard Ernst’s brogue, I nearly swooned.”

Hannah chuckled, and blushed again. “I can imagine. I did the same with Donovan.”

Margaret looked up then, and caught the sincerity of the remark in gentle green eyes. “May I ask you something? I know I have no right, but I am trying to understand.”

Hannah returned the gaze, and saw the honest plea in the eyes facing her. She nodded, then added, “Though I reserve the right to decline to answer if I am uncomfortable with the question.”

“Fair enough,” Margaret stated. She played with the bread crumbs on her plate. “How could you love my daughter like you do?” She looked up and saw the swiftly building anger and held up her hand. “Wait, please. I am trying to understand how one woman could be attracted to another woman in any sense other than as kin or in friendship. It goes against everything I have ever been taught.”

Hannah drew a deep breath, knowing her relationship with this woman, and Donovan’s relationship with her mother was riding on her answer. She folded her hands together and leaned her mouth on them, contemplating her answer seriously for a long moment.

“Mrs. Scott, I think you are coming at this from the wrong angle. You are stuck on the fact that we are both women. But we got to know one another as people first. The fact that we were both women never figured into the equation. When we fell in love, it was much the same thing… the fact that we are women is secondary to the fact that we are two people genuinely in love with each other. I like the person that Donovan is, and I fell in love with that person. She completes me in ways that no one else ever has or ever could.”

“As Hannah does for me, Mother,” Donovan spoke quietly from the doorway. She had been so silent and they were so engrossed in their conversation, neither woman had heard her enter the small cottage. Now she pushed away from the door where she and Ernst had stopped and walked towards the table.

“We are two whole parts of another separate whole. Together we are most complete.”

Hannah took the hand that Donovan held out to her and pulled the taller woman closer. Donovan’s arm automatically slid around Hannah’s shoulders and Hannah leaned into the unconscious support Donovan offered. “Mrs. Scott… Margaret, I want you to think about something else. I know you are unhappy with the path Donovan has chosen in her life, but she is happiest at sea, captaining her own vessel. To do that in this society, she has to carry the pretext that she is a man. For Captain Donovan Scott to take a wife was not unusual and was in fact a celebrated event. Would you rather she be alone for the rest of her life?”

“I… do…. I never… I….”

“Think about it, Margaret. And you and Ernst join us for Christmas with the crew of the Maiden.”

Margaret blinked the tears from her eyes. Hannah had given her a lot to think about and had done so without attacking or accusing; simply laying out the facts as she saw them. Maybe it was time to do some rethinking of the woman herself.

“Thank you, Hannah. You have returned intolerance and ignorance with graciousness and understanding. And you have given me a lot to think about. It is very possible I completely misjudged you and your motives, and I ask for your forgiveness in doing so.”

“Absolutely,” Hannah responded.

“I still need time to think about things. This is so different… goes against everything I have ever believed. But I would not see Donovan alone if given the choice, and it is apparent even to me that you two are bound by something deeper than love and marriage. It reminds me of a story I heard as a girl. There is something familiar….”

Margaret gazed off into space for a few minutes and no one disturbed the silence. Without warning she shook herself and returned to the present with a brisk nod. “I will have to look through some of the old journals….” Here Donovan smiled. She had grown up learning to read by those journals, and they held many fascinating tales and myths of her people in them.

“Now if you will excuse us,” nodding to her still silent husband, “I think we will leave the two of you for a bit. But I would like to accept your invitation to dinner?” looking to Ernst for confirmation. When he nodded, Margaret smiled and returned her attention to Hannah. “Yes, we would love to join you. What can I bring?”

The abrupt change in attitude left Hannah was too stunned to speak and not really knowing the woman she wouldn’t have known what to suggest anyway. Donovan stepped smoothly into the breech. “Raspberry tarts? I have not had those in so long, and they would be quite the treat for everyone.”

Margaret smiled. Raspberry tarts had always been a particular weakness for Donovan and she was glad to do this much for her daughter. “I believe I can manage that. But we need to catch the afternoon train home if I am to have this ready in the next few days.”

She rose and Ernst helped her on with her coat. He hadn’t said a word, but he was much pleased at Margaret’s attempt. It had taken him months of talk and subtle effort for Margaret to realize the mistake she had been making, and Hannah had vindicated his faith in her beautifully. They left without further adieu, and Donovan and Hannah just stared at one another for a long moment. Then Donovan wrapped her arms around Hannah, and they moved to cuddle together on the couch and ponder the abrupt turn of events.

************

The holiday came and went with no disasters or further surprises. The house was full to bursting with painfully scrubbed sailors, the Admiral and his family, Margaret and Ernst and Hannah and Donovan. There was a lot of talk and laughter shared among the group, and though Margaret did not actively participate, she did observe Donovan and Hannah diligently, and at one point she and Elizabeth sat together in deep conversation. When all was said and done, everyone had a most enjoyable day.

************

Time passed slowly… slower than most of them wanted it to, at any rate. Most of the Maiden’s crew was ready for warmer weather and blue-green seas, not the dark gray of the North Atlantic. Still the time passed pleasantly enough beyond trying to stay warm in the bitter weather. Hannah and Donovan accepted the extra time together gladly and counted it among their blessings.

Work on the Maiden was completed, and as the weather began to clear, the crew started taking her out for short test runs. Hannah secretly hated these as she wasn’t allowed on board and it meant one or two days at a time where she and Donovan were separated, and neither of them cared for that. Still they met one another in their dreamscape to talk and snuggle and were happy for the ability to still share that way.

Finally, though, the day in April came when it was time for the Maiden to return to her duty in the Caribbean.

Hannah came back from her shopping in the market to find Donovan packing her sea bag. Her eyes sparkled until she saw the look of despair covering Donovan’s face.

“What is it, love?”

Donovan sank to the bed. “I could not obtain permission to take you home. I thought they would make an exception because of my service record, and you have made such a good impression on everyone here. I never dreamed the Admiralty would refuse.”

Hannah sat on Donovan’s lap wrapping her arms around the Captain’s strong neck and feeling Donovan’s hands come to rest neatly on her own waist. Hannah removed an arm when it became clear Donovan would not meet her eyes and tilted up her chin til their eyes met.

“I cannot do this Hannah,” Donovan said sadly. “It took too much to find you. I cannot just give you up for months on end. I will give up my commission and we will go home together.”

“Donovan, love… you need to stop a minute and start thinking outside the box.” Hannah blew out an exasperated breath at Donovan’s furrowed brow as she tried to communicate what she meant to Donovan in terms she could understand. “Surely Naval ships aren’t the only things that leave out of the port.”

“Of course not. Passenger liners go… out….” Donovan looked at Hannah in amazement. “Passenger ships leave from the port all the time; some bound for the Colonies and others bound for India and the East. We could book you passage….”

“… then I could check in and leave. We still need to figure a way to get me to the Maiden but….”

Donovan caught her lips in a deep fiery kiss. “I can do that. You leave that to me.”

Hannah couldn’t answer as Donovan’s lips began moving down the side of her neck and her hands started wandering over Hannah’s bodice, popping buttons along her way. Hannah shivered as the shirt fell open, and Donovan pushed it to the floor before picking them both up off the bed and laying Hannah down gently beneath her. Then she resumed her tender removal of Hannah’s clothing, whispering, “Later,” before applying herself wholeheartedly to the task at hand.
Chapter XXVI
It was sometime later, and they had figured out the basics of how to get Hannah to the Maiden. Her only concern was stirring up the crew’s resentment with her presence. Donovan was packing once more, and had both her ceremonial sword and their wedding blade resting on the bed.

“Let us go find you a ship to sail on beloved. I will insure that the Maiden departs on the same day.” When Hannah didn’t move, Donovan raised her eyes from her packing to see Hannah studying the etching on the wedding sword.

“Donovan?”

“Yes, Angel?”

“I understand these,” pointing to the book, quill and parchment. “They are supposed to represent me.” She looked up and Donovan nodded. “And these,” motioning to the standard, insignia and crest, “are meant for you, I believe,” seeing Donovan’s head nod again in confirmation. “Okay, so what is this for?” indicating the pair of eyes just at the hilt.

Donovan chuckled. “That was John’s idea of a bit of humor… tweaking the Admiralty without actually giving anything away.” She noted Hannah’s perplexed look and sat down to explain.

“These are your eyes… the eyes on my pirate standard. Merchants and pirates who see the Ice Maiden’s pirate standard tremble in fear, because we always exact justice for whatever crime they have committed. To the locals, we are heroes. To those we punish, we are fearsome. To the Admiralty, though, we are criminals who would be executed on sight if they caught us.”

“Why do it then Donovan? Is it worth the risk?”

Donovan laid the blade to one side and took Hannah’s hands instead. “We do it for many reasons. Some of them are shared by all of us, and others are shared by only a few. But they are all important.” Donovan kissed the hands clasped in her own then rose from her seat. She walked to the window and looked out on the rainy landscape.

“We started out trying to protect the people of the islands. Unfortunately, as sailors of the Crown, we could not take action. We are bound by too many rules and regulations, and thieves and murderers go free while innocents suffer at their hand. So we do the throne’s business to the best of our ability, and when that does not suffice, we become pirates and do as justice demands.”

“Then that makes you judge, jury and executioner,” Hannah commented.

“Yes, I suppose it does.”

“And what happens if you’re wrong, Donovan? What then? I’m not saying you should stop defending the people. God knows they deserve to have someone like you watching out for them. But the odds are that eventually, something is going to go wrong. The wrong person will suffer and they will come looking for you and the crew.”

Hannah, torn between anger and anguish, looked at Donovan and continued, “I know this is selfish of me, but I don’t want to give you up. I have no desire to be a widow. Dammit, Donovan! I just found you!!”

The outburst was unexpected and Donovan found herself nearly crushed in Hannah’s return embrace when she wrapped Hannah in her arms. “It is not selfish, Angel. It is human nature. We have made contingency plans for various scenarios going awry. For now we do the best we can and hope. If… WHEN it catches up to us, we will do our best to escape with our honor intact and disappear forever.”

She took a deep breath and resumed her seat, cradling Hannah on her lap. “Many of the crew have homes and families scattered across the small islands in the area. Everyone would be taken care of. But no matter what, I promise you we would be together.”

They sat quietly for a time before Donovan spoke again. “Do you remember what I told you on our wedding day? That neither time nor distance nor death would ever separate us again? I meant that Hannah Scott, with everything that I am, and I promise you again here and now that no matter what, we will always, *ALWAYS* be together.”

“Forever?”

“Eternally… soulmates bound by love and life and time itself.”

“You keep reminding me of that, will you?” Sometimes I just need to hear it for reassurance, and others I like the goosebumps it sends skittering up my spine.”

Donovan chuckled at the blushing confession and ran her hands up Hannah’s sides to see the goosebumps follow in her wake. “That is good. I like that reaction in you.”

Hannah did her best to get a few pokes in, but found herself slipping from her seat as Donovan squirmed to stay out of her reach. Clutching Donovan’s neck, Hannah chose to poke her in the chest to emphasize her words. “You. Are. An. EVIL. Woman.”

“Thank you, beloved,” Donovan replied with a smirk. “I do try.”

She rose from the bed and brought Hannah with her when it became apparent the smaller woman was not going to release her hold. “Come, Hannah. Let us go book your passage and then send a message to my father.”

************

Four days later, Hannah was boarding a passenger ship bound for the Colonies, as the British were wont to refer to the United States at that point in time. She checked in with the man holding the manifest lists, and indicated that her luggage had already been brought aboard. Hannah mingled on deck for a bit, watching the chaos on the dock with interest.

There were so many things going on preparing the ship for departure that it was easy to slip away during a moment of distraction on the crew’s part. They never even missed her. And in the chaos, no one saw the small sloop ease away from a nearby dock and out into open water.

************

“Hannah?”

“Yes, Ernst?” The sloop was taking the long way around to meet up with the Maiden, and they had several hours to kill before their rendezvous. Ernst Scott decided to use the time to his advantage and have a bit of conversation with his daughter-in-law.

“Can I ask a favor of you?”

Hannah edged over from where she’d been sitting watching out towards the horizon. The tug she felt pulling her towards Donovan was strong… stronger than she’d ever realized, and she understood that their being together in the same time and space, coupled with their physical and emotional entwining made separation almost physically painful. She was glad to hear Ernst voice directed towards her to take her mind from her thoughts.

“Certainly, sir. What can I do for you?”

“First, stop being so formal. I know we are still getting to know one another, but we are family now. Ernst is acceptable, though Papa is preferred, but sir will never do. That is for sailors and Captains, but not a new member of the family. All right?”

“Yes sir… Ern… Papa.” She blushed and smiled at him. “Sorry… old habits.”

“Ernst chuckled. “I understand, my dear. I just want you to feel comfortable with Margaret and me. Those manners are ingrained in you, and that is a credit to your parents, Hannah.”

Hannah flushed and tried to divert the conversation away from herself. “Um, what was the favor?”

Ernst kept his eye on the jib, but Hannah could clearly hear his emotions through the timber of his voice. “You hold something very precious and rare, Hannah. I am asking you to take special care of my daughter. She is one of the strongest people I have ever known, and yet there is a fragility there that needs to be protected. Look after her, Hannah. And look after yourself for her. She depends on your presence more than she realizes.”

“I intend to do so, sir, with everything that I am. She has trusted me with her heart, her career, with her very life, and I have no intention of betraying that trust. What we have between us is something that many spend a lifetime hoping to see or experience even once. I am holding on with both hands and never letting go. I need it… her… as badly as she does.” She bit her lip in thought. “May I know what brought this up?”

“You should be aware that there may be trouble brewing for Donovan. There are one or two of her crew that have been waiting for a time to cause trouble, and my gut tells me that time may be very near.” He patted her knee and shifted the sails just slightly before turning to face Hannah. “Just be careful. Losing you would kill Donovan at this point, and I have no desire to lose either of my daughters.”

“I’ll take care of her Ernst. You can count on that.”

Ernst Scott noted the fire in the green eyes that held his and nodded. He was sure if her expression was any indication, Hannah was more than capable of dealing with any threat to herself or Donovan. He almost wished he could be there to see it.

There was silence between them after that, and they were each left to their own thoughts. After a bit, Ernst pulled a basket from the small hold. “Mama sent us some lunch along. Are you interested?”

Hannah turned back to him at the sound of his voice. “Hmm?” Then seeing the basket he held, she continued, “Oh, yes, please.”

Ernst looked relieved and the blushed just slightly, reminding Hannah greatly of Donovan with the same sheepish expression on his face. “Good,” he said with a grin. “I was afraid you were going to say no, and then I would have to be a gentleman and wait.”

Hannah’s laughter caused a sympathetic chuckle to rumble from Ernst’s broad chest. “No, actually I have been waiting patiently hoping you would suggest lunch. Something about fresh salt air makes me ravenous. It feels like it’s been days since I had breakfast.”

“Is that why you took to helping Cookie in the galley?” Ernst asked conversationally as he passed Hannah a thick sandwich. “I have never been as surprised as I was when Donovan told me that not only were you helping, but that Cookie was also enjoying it. Cookie was always quite protective of his galley.”

“Well,” Hannah said around a bite of sandwich. “I think my approach to Cookie made have made a bit of difference… I came bearing gifts of chocolate.”

“That had to go over well with Donovan also. It’s never been something we could afford, but it has always been a treat Donovan loved the scent of.”

Hannah giggled. “I think she’s a true convert. I’ll just have to find a way to keep a small supply for special occasions.”

“She is very lucky to have you.”

“I think we’re both lucky to have each other, Ernst.”

“I believe you are right, Hannah. Thank you for loving her.”

“I couldn’t not. Thank you for taking me to her. I’m not sure we could bear another separation.”

“I was glad to do it, Hannah. There are days I miss my life on the open sea as part of the Navy, and others I am glad to be home in my own bed every night.”

There was silence for a while then as they finished their sandwiches and Ernst divided the fruit between them. Hannah looked up from her apple and pinned Ernst with a look. He returned it with a raised brow that reminded her very much of Donovan and had to smile at the resemblance.

“Ernst, may I ask you a question?”

He started to make light of his answer before realizing the underlying seriousness of her question. He simply nodded.

“What do you think of Donovan being a pirate?”

Well, nothing like asking the hard one first, he thought even as he considered his answer. “I think, Hannah, that sometimes the world needs people like Donovan to stand up and do what others will not. I do not like the fact that she seems to be the one chosen to stand between weakness and greed, but I am very proud of the fact that she does, and that she does so well.”

“It scares me a little,” Hannah whispered, feeling Ernst of all people would respect and appreciate the reality of her fears.

“Does it change the way you feel when you see her as a pirate as opposed to a legitimate sea captain?”

“No, because both are genuine parts of who Donovan is to me. It scares me because the piracy could destroy her. If she is caught….”

“I have seen the logs she keeps for the Admiralty. She has taken steps to protect herself without actually lying about her activities, and the Admiralty sees what it wants to see in her reports. And her crew knows and supports her decision. Many of them are protecting their own loved ones when they leave their official duties behind and become pirates. Therefore they do their very best… for her and for themselves.” He paused, thinking. “I would like to think they would do it even without loved ones of their own involved, but I cannot say for certain. I do think most of them would defend Donovan to the death, though I hope it never comes to that.”

“Me too,” Hannah agreed. They sat silently for another little while as they steadily moved towards their rendezvous and the sun continued to show the passage of time. Finally Hannah turned to Ernst again, noting the similarity between his profile and Donovan’s. “Can I ask something else?”

Ernst turned and took Hannah’s hands in his own, noting both a strength and a fragility that was familiar to him since the reminded him greatly of his Margaret’s hands. “Hannah, you are my daughter now. You do not need permission to talk to me or ask questions. You need only ask. I can refuse if I do not wish to answer. Agreed?”

She nodded, but kept her eyes on their hands. “Papa,” he smiled at her use of the familial title. “How did you really feel when Donovan told you she was in love with a woman? I mean….” she hastened on, trying to ask something she’d never been able to discuss with her own father. “Honestly, what was your first reaction? You see, my mother died when I was born, and my father died when I was fifteen, and it wasn’t something we talked about before he died. You remind me a lot of him, though and I’d like to think he’d be as accepting about it as you are, but….”

She trailed off as she realized she was babbling and sat quietly waiting for his answer. “Hannah, you were there when Donovan told me she was in love with a woman.”

Hannah’s head jerked up to meet blue eyes and she stared at him in mute incomprehension for several stunned moments. “I’m sorry… I don’t….”

“Hannah, Donovan and I never discussed her love life.” He let her hands go and turned his attention back to the steering rudder while he continued to talk. “When Donovan took to the sea, I knew she was searching for something, and I suspected she was searching someone… a lost love perhaps. And I knew that given the life she had chosen, she would have to find a woman who could accept her duality if she was to have love and her career. So I cannot honestly claim surprise when she introduced you, but we had never discussed it before you crossed the threshold into our home.”

“We talked about yours and Margaret’s suspected reactions to me on our crossing. Donovan told me that you would be happy to marry us, and that Margaret would be unpleasant at the very least. She knows you both very well, and I really don’t know what my parents would have done given the same circumstances.”

“It is not always easy to say. I had many years to think on it and reflect and decide if losing my daughter was worth giving up a religion I am not sure I always agree with. I have found a medium that allows me my faith and my child, and I am content with that.”

“Do you think Margaret will ever reach that balance? Donovan doesn’t say much, but I know her mother’s rejection of her, even though it was the expected reaction, cuts very deeply.”

“I like to think so, Hannah, and I honestly believe that given time, Margaret will come around. She has made amazing advances in the relatively short time you have been here, and much of that is due to you. You stood up for yourself and for Donovan without stooping to pettiness or rude behavior. Margaret respects that, and I think she genuinely likes you. Give her some time. I think you will find her more accepting as she gets to know you as an individual, and you and Donovan as a married couple.”

“I hope so, Ernst. I think Donovan needs her mother’s approval whether she will admit it or not.”

“I think we all need that parental approval at some point, Hannah.” He smiled and tapped her shoulder, motioning when he had her attention. “Do you see what I see?”

Hannah turned her head, and just at the edge of the horizon she could see the bare outline of a man-o-war. She turned back to Ernst with a dazzling grin.

“Take me home, Papa,” was all she said.

************

“How did you like Papa’s sloop?” It was late at night and the two women were settling into their cabin. The Maiden had picked Hannah up mid-afternoon, but this was the first chance they’d really had to talk. Donovan had been busy watching two of the men she suspected of causing trouble, and Hannah had gone immediately to settle her things in their cabin. She smiled now before she answered.

“Not as much fun as your ship, but it was nice. He taught me a little about how to steer it. We had some good conversation too.”

Donovan smiled in return, and munched on a cookie from the batch Hannah had prepared for supper. “Did you now? What did you talk about?”

“Daughters and love and understanding.” Hannah chuckled at the slow blush that crawled up Donovan’s neck then sobered. “Papa gave me the names of two sailors he suspects will make trouble for you very soon. He asked me to keep an eye on them and on you.”

Donovan’s eyes turned to ice. “I can take care of myself and my crew. I will handle any problems.”

“Yes,” Hannah answered. “You will. It is your right and your privilege as Captain. BUT….” and here she poked Donovan firmly in the chest to emphasize each and every word. “It is MY right and MY privilege as your wife to protect and defend you, and I fully intend to exercise that right.”

Donovan looked shell-shocked by Hannah’s vehemence and the green eyes softened. “Donovan, we look out for one another. It is part of being married. I won’t interfere with your duties as the Captain, but I will watch your back.”

Now Donovan smiled and took Hannah into an embrace. “I cannot think of anyone I would rather have doing that, beloved.” She cleared her throat. “Who did Papa… you called him Papa?!”

Hannah wasn’t sure by the tone of Donovan’s voice if she was pleased or mortified by that fact, but a glance into Donovan’s face showed Hannah that it was surprised pleasure. It reminded her greatly of the look on Ernst’s face when she’d finally looked at him after referring to him as such, though he’d had more than a touch of pride in his expression as well. Hannah nodded her affirmation.

“He asked me to; said we were family now, and I was his daughter too.”

Donovan smiled and tightened her hold, then brushed a kiss across Hannah’s hair. “He is right about that, you know. We are family now, so that does make you his daughter. I am glad you do not mind calling him Papa. I am sure he was thrilled by it.”

“I think it made him happy, yes.”

“So who did he tell you to watch?”

“Simmonds and Walker. He seems to think they have already been stirring up trouble at the Admiralty and figures they will do their best to make the crew discontent. Especially since I am on board with you and the crew of course doesn’t have their families.”

“I have been watching them. They have been unhappy since we brought you on board, but it makes no sense.”

“Why?”

“Because they are shipboard lovers and have been for years. Not common knowledge and they do have women on both sides of the ocean as well. Makes me wonder who or what is behind it. I know there is a big push to find the Ice Maiden now. With our disposal of Blackthorne, we have become the Navy’s number one target.”

“How did they find out about Blackthorne, love? I know that didn’t go into any official records,” Hannah asked as she loosened the braid Donovan wore and began running a gentle brush through the long, dark tresses. Donovan closed her eyes and gave herself over to Hannah’s tender ministrations.

Hannah felt Donovan relax under her touch and loosened the laces on the front of Donovan’s shirt, sliding her hands in enough to start a massage of already stiffened shoulders. Donovan groaned when Hannah hit a knot, and leaned into the firm touch. When the knot worked out, Donovan straightened and turned, wrapping herself around Hannah. Hannah stroked the smooth hair and waited, wondering if Donovan remembered her question.

“The remnants of Blackthorne’s crew were picked up by the Hawke. They told the story of the Ice Maiden defeating and marooning them. That took Blackthorne off the most wanted list and put us squarely at the top.”

“Does that mean your pirate activity will be curtailed?”

“It means we have to be more careful, but Hannah, I cannot in good conscience let others’ piracy continue to protect myself.”

Hannah didn’t answer, but Donovan felt the stiffness in her bearing and looked up to see her biting her lip to keep from… crying? Screaming? Donovan didn’t know for sure. She felt Hannah pull away from her and the chill was frightening. The kiss Hannah brushed over her dark head was comforting, but not nearly as reassuring as Donovan would have liked.

“Be careful, love. I have a very bad feeling about this.” Then Hannah blew out the candle and crawled between the sheets.

Donovan sat in the dark, suddenly feeling cold and bereft. Then Hannah sat partway up, and lifted the covers. “Are you coming to bed, sweetheart, or are you gonna sit there in the dark all night?”

“I thought….”

“Come to bed. I’ll give you something else to think about.” The tone in Hannah’s voice was sultry, and Donovan felt her body warm in response.

“But I thought….”

“I’m scared Donovan, for you and for us. Doesn’t mean I love or desire you any less.” Her voiced deepened again. “Now come to bed, Captain.”

Donovan was quick to comply this time, and there was no more talk of pirates or traitors or orders. Tomorrow would be soon enough to talk.

************

Things settled into a routine in the next few weeks, though Donovan and Hannah continued to be more vigilant. Something just wasn’t right, and it was putting them both in knots. It was beginning to wear on them, and everyone noticed the strain. Finally, John could stand it no more and knocked on the Captain’s door. He was going to confront them both.

“Come in, Mr. Merryweather,” Donovan called at his knock. It was almost time for the evening meal, and John made it a point to meet with her around that time to settle any ship’s business before he took over for the evening shift.

“Evening Captain, Mrs. Scott,” the first mate greeted as he closed the door behind him. “Do you have a few moments sir?”

“Of course, John. Please have a seat.”

“Do you need me to leave?” Hannah asked, looking between Donovan and John. She’d never had to leave so far, but she didn’t want to make things difficult, and it was obvious by the way Merryweather was acting that he had something serious on his mind.

“No, ma’am. You are fine. I actually need to speak with both of you.”

Donovan was intrigued and it showed. She gestured to the chair again. “Have a seat John, and tell us what is on your mind.”

The first mate shook his head. “No, sir. This will not take but a moment. I um… sir, what is going on between you and Mrs. Scott?” Two sets of brows rose in tandem and Hannah and Donovan looked at one another in startlement before turning questioning eyes back to Merryweather. John stuttered, realizing just exactly how impertinent and invasive his question had actually sounded.

“I… I’m… I’m sorry, sir. What I meant to say was… well, there is obviously some strain between you, and I was wondering if there was anything I could do. The whole crew has noticed it sir, and it is affecting morale.”

Blue and green gazes returned to one another for a long moment, and John watched their wordless conversation in fascination. “Well,” Hannah finally commented, “I supposed we better not ever really fight.”

Donovan grinned at her. “I guess not.” She sobered. “I will admit I did not realize the crew was so sensitive to, well… us, though.”

“I think the crew is sensitive to the fact that something is wrong, Captain, and you and Mrs. Scott became the focus because it is apparent you are aware of the problem,” John said. “Am I making the least bit of sense here?” He looked at the two of them in confusion. “Because I think I lost myself somewhere in that explanation.”

“You are fine, Mr. Merryweather. We did not realize that the crew had picked up on our unease.”

“Then there is a problem?”

“Yes, there is,” Donovan continued. “I believe… *we* believe we have two traitors on board. We are fairly sure we know who they are. We are just not positive what they plan to do or when they plan to strike. The waiting and uncertainty is making us somewhat uneasy, and that is what the crew has picked up on, I suppose.” Donovan turned her attention to Hannah. “I think we need to work on hiding our anxiety.”

“Agreed,” Hannah responded.

“Um, Captain?” the first mate cut in. “Begging your pardon, sir, but what is going on? If we are facing treason from one of our own, I think the crew deserves to know.”

“Mr. Merryweather, telling the crew of our suspicions will tip our hand, and that will help no one. However, if you would like to keep an eye out on Simmonds and Walker, I would not object. And perhaps institute a few more surprise drills. I believe when trouble comes for us, it will be when we are pirates of the Ice Maiden and not when we are British sailors of the Warrior Maiden’s crew.”

“Understood, sir. I will get right on it.”

“Thank you, Mr. Merryweather. I hope I am wrong, but I do not think I am.”

“We will keep an eye out sir. If we have traitors, they will be betraying us all. Most of the men will not stand for it.”

Donovan swallowed and nodded. “That is good to know, John. But you and the rest of the men need to keep in mind that if it comes down to it, we will be fighting our own to survive. I do not want you to have to give up your privileges as British citizens….”

“Captain, we all went into this with open eyes. We knew when we became pirates that it might come to this one day, and in all honesty, we knew that it probably would. The odds against us were simply too high. We chose this destiny… as a group. We will face the outcome together, sir. You let us do our part, and you take care of yours,” with a look in Hannah’s direction.

Hannah met his eyes squarely. “I assure you, Mr. Merryweather,” and he audibly gulped when she used his military salutation, “if it comes to a fight, I will be protecting what is mine as well.”

He nodded at the fierce burning fire in her eyes, and swallowed again before answering. “Yes, ma’am. I am certain you will. And we will all be better off for it too.” He saluted and left the room before Donovan could even dismiss him. She chuckled.

“I think you put the fear of God into him, beloved,” then found herself swallowing at the intensity of Hannah’s gaze when it focused on her. She cleared her throat. “I believe I understand why, too.”

Hannah smiled and her eyes softened, and Donovan found herself responding in kind. “C’mon, love. It is dinner time and I think we should eat together with the crew tonight.”

“Sending them a message, Hannah?”

“Yep. I want them to understand that we are together and that messing with you is messing with me.” Her voice deepened. “And they really don’t want to do that. I still have to share my world with you, and we have a lifetime to spend together. I won’t let some pansy-assed scum screw that up.”

Donovan’s eyes widened at the aggressiveness she felt emanating from Hannah’s very being. “You know,” Donovan said conversationally as she took Hannah’s hand in her own. “I believe it will turn out all right. Simmonds and Walker have no idea the hornet’s nest they have stirred up tangling with you.”

“Damn straight!”

“In the meantime, though, let us hope we are mistaken. I really do not want to be a part of the carnage this will produce.”

“I know, love. But sometimes, ya just gotta stand up and fight for what you believe in.”

“Oh, I will, Angel. You can count on that. I just hope it isn’t for a while.”

Two days later all hell broke loose.
Chapter XXVII
It started out fairly simply. The Warrior Maiden came across a merchant ship docked at an island in her patrol. Seeing nothing illegal in that, she pulled around to the far side of the island to allow her own crew a chance at R&R. They had been at sea for several weeks, and all the men were glad to see dry land again.

The Maiden’s crew was one of several making use of the small island, and her sailors had long ago learned the value of blending in to their surroundings. So now Merryweather, Trilby, and several other men sat in a back corner table at the tavern sipping on ale and eating a meal that made them wish heartily that Cookie or Hannah would come in and assume command of the kitchen.

That was the way the quiet conversation was going when a bit of loud talk from the next table over caught their attention, and they concentrated more firmly on eating so they could overhear what was being said by the biggest man at the table.

“I’m tellin’ yer… Waxley’s gonna git top dollar fer these ‘uns. I’ve ne’er seen flesh so fresh ‘n’ sweet, an’ he damn near won’t let us touch ‘em. Cut the balls off’n one man who tried. Rest o’ us been content enough to leave ‘em be. We been promised an extry ten percent of the haul to split if we git ‘em there quick ‘n’ undamaged.”

“Where ya be headin’?”

“Brighton’s Corners,” the unknown man answered to a chorus of “Shh’s!”

“C’mon, fellers… we all be mates here. We gots nothing to be fearin’ from each other, and I ain’t talkin’ loud enough fer anyone else here to care.”

“That be true ‘nuff, but yer never knows who may be listenin’ in.”

The big man guffawed, and clapped the younger on his shoulder. “Stanley, ya thinkin’ the Navy could be sneakin’ in here a-listenin’? Ya be daft, man. We be able to spot Navy from a league away.”

Stanley punched the man in the ribs, causing him to release his hold. “Ya big dumb oaf!” ha spat with contempt. “Ya be fergittin’ ‘bout the worst enemy we gots?”

The entire table quieted and Merryweather risked a quick glace up to see the pale faces that sat there. He dropped his attention back to his meal as soon as the talking resumed.

“Ya meanin’ the Ice Princess and her crew? Hell, we ain’t heard hide ner hair of them fer better’n six months, and this be our fourth run through here. I be thinkin’ that rep the so-called Ice Princess got’s nothin’ but talk ‘n’ bluster. I ain’t never seen ‘em. I don’t think she’s real.”

“Oh, she’s real all right. I gots a buddy on her ship… saw ‘er take out Blackthorne with one blow. Took off’n the head of another crewman that refused to surrender his blade to ‘em. I’m thinkin’ they’re ‘bout due to be ‘round soon.”

“Ya ain’t got no buddy on that there ship. Ain’t no way.”

“All right then. Ya believe whatcha wanna. But ya mark my words. Yer big mouth is gonna getcha caught by them Ice pirates, and I don’t wanna be nowhere’s near ya when it happens.” The younger man got up and left and the big man just laughed.

“Let ‘em go. He ain’t got shit fer brains worryin’ ‘bout some cockamamied ghost story.”

The rest of the men didn’t agree with the biggest man, but none of them were in the mood for a fight. They had been long at sea, and this night was for wine, women and song. They never noticed when the men at the next table over slowly rose and left as quietly as they’d come.

************

It didn’t take them long to find the younger man. He was walking slowly muttering to himself as he wandered back towards the docks. They surrounded him and he walked into Merryweather before he realized he was in something of a pickle.

“You will come with us please,” Merryweather said, taking his arm gently but firmly and escorting him to a room they had taking at the small lodge. It wasn’t much, but it was private, and that was what they needed now.

By the time they entered the room, the pirate had brought himself to bear and was pulling trying to get away from them. “Ya can’t do this! Ya gots no right.”

“Oh we have every right, and you’re going to give us the answers we need, see?”

“Who are you?”

“That doesn’t matter right now. What matters is you have information we need.”

“And what iff’n I don’t wanna be sharin’?”

“Oh, you will. You get to decided whether to give it to us the easy way….” John stepped back to allow the man a glimpse of Seaman Marcus. Marcus was a strapping fellow more than six feet in height and almost half that in breadth across the shoulders. The seaman was an oarsman, and it showed plainly in the bulge of muscles covered by his rough-hewn shirt. “Or you can choose the hard way,” Merryweather went on conversationally. “It’s up to you of course, but I will tell you up front that the seaman here is something of a boxing champ.”

“Whatcha be needin’ to know?”

“Let’s start with something simple… name?”

“M’name’s Stanley.”

“Well, Stanley, why don’t you take a seat, and we can have a little drink and some conversation?”

Stanley looked around at the men surrounding him and nodded meekly before taking a seat. Merryweather leaned back and the rest of the crew stepped away a little, allowing Stanley to relax. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

************

“Are you sure about this information, John?”

“Yes, sir. We used the herbs you recommended the last time we did an interrogation. Stanley was more than happy to share a drink with us after he got a look at Marcus.”

“So we now have confirmation that Simmonds is a mole. How did he pass information to Stanley?”

“Apparently they grew up together for a bit before being sent to sea to earn wages for their families. Both were part of a merchant convoy that was attacked by pirates some years ago. Simmonds’ ship was rescued by no other than your father. Stanley was kept by the pirates and became one himself. They found one another again a couple years ago, and managed to keep in touch by notes and messages left in various ports.”

Donovan ran her hands through her hair trying to keep from screaming in sheer frustration. Hannah moved up behind her and began to gently knead her back, smiling slightly when she felt Donovan relax and lean back into her touch. The Captain drew a deep breath and remained leaning against the muscular body behind her. Hannah complied with the unspoken request and kept a light, firm touch on Donovan’s shoulders.

“I will admit to being more than a little confused.”

“Glad I’m not the only one,” Hannah mumbled for Donovan’s ears alone. She felt Donovan’s chuckle run through her strong frame.

“Let me see if I understand this. Correct me if I am wrong, Mr. Merryweather. Simmonds is friends with a pirate from a relatively unknown ship that is shipping slaves out of the islands to parts unknown once they leave Brighton’s Corner’s. But he hasn’t told him that he is part of Ice Maiden’s crew or that I am a woman?”

“That is correct, sir.”

“Why? Nothing makes sense here.”

“Is it possible that Simmonds friendship with Stanley has nothing to do with the big picture?” Hannah asked.

“A little too convenient a coincidence for me, I think,” John answered quietly. “It is a tie-in to one side, but damned if I know what it all means. Excuse me, Mrs. Scott. I should have found a better way to phrase that.”

“John, I appreciate the gesture, but I assure you I have heard and said worse a time or two.”

“The thing is, we still don’t know if Simmonds and/or Walker have ties to the Admiralty and a reason to see us caught.” She paused and scrubbed her face, almost breaking out into a purr when she felt Hannah’s nails begin scratching her scalp. “Very nice work, John,” Donovan said in a voice that held a deeper timbre than he was used to hearing from her.

“Thank you, sir,” he acknowledged with a nod of his head. “We will continue to keep our eyes and ears open.”

“Good idea. You did manage to leave Stanley so he will have no memory of your questioning of him, correct?”

“Aye, sir. He will wake in that little room with a hangover, and no idea how he got there. He will probably be thankful to be in the little room,” glancing out the window that showed clearly the summer storm that had been blowing since the early morning hours.

“I imagine so. Who is keeping a watch on the slave ship?”

“Trilby sir. We have a relay system set up to let us know the minute they begin preparations to leave port. We will be underway by the time they are.”

“Very good, Mr. Merryweather. Pass along my compliments to your party. I will speak to them each privately later, but for now please ensure that they are aware that their efforts are greatly appreciated.”

“Aye, sir. They were glad to do it. This is about all of us, Captain.”

“Yes, it is, Mr. Merryweather. It just has the feel of something more personal.”

“I understand, sir. We will remain alert. Now that we have some clue, I do not think the men will be satisfied until this is settled in our favor.”

The first mate nodded and excused himself from their presence. Hannah came out from behind Donovan and settled herself comfortably in the Captain’s lap. Donovan encircled Hannah protectively and buried her face in the blonde hair.

“You have to do this, Donovan. You have to go rescue those slaves. It is part and parcel of who you are.”

“It has all the ear markings of a set-up, Angel.”

“I know that. I also know that you being you cannot leave here while there is a possibility that the information is true.”

Donovan lifted her head and looked directly into Hannah’s eyes. “It sounds like you are trying to talk me into doing something about that slave ship. I thought….”

“No, love. I’ve made my peace with this. I am simply reminding you who you are. You can’t turn your back on that kind of suffering and live with yourself in good conscience.” Hannah pulled Donovan’s head back down to her chest, and the two of them sighed at the peace the setting afforded them. “I told you… you take care of your Captain stuff. I’ll take care of you.”

“I love you, Hannah.”

“I love you too, Donovan. We’ll get through this… together.”

************

It was still raining in the mid-afternoon when the slave ship slowly pulled out of port. Trilby waited until they were at the edge of the horizon before launching the flare John Merryweather had issued him. Then he ran as fast as he could to the dinghy, angling his course to meet the trajectory he knew the Maiden would have to take to intercept the slavers.

It was just short of midnight when Donovan and her crew caught up with the slave ship. Without being told, John had the pirate ensign run up the mast, and the men moved with silent precision to load the guns. They were going to do their best to disable the other ship, since they really had no room for any extra passengers or cargo. It was hoped the pirates would surrender to their standard at the first sight of it. Their hope was in vain.

As the Maiden drew within range of the darkened slave ship, the flames and roar of cannon fire echoed across the night sky. Only because the gunner had misfired did the enemy ship miss, but the fight was on.

Mr. Trilby had taken the wheel, since he was the most capable steersman Donovan had. By good sense and a lot of luck, he managed to keep damage to the Maiden to a minimum as she drew closer to her prey. Without warning, Donovan shouted out an order, and a volley of cannon fire erupted from the belly of the Maiden. The pirate ship began listing, dead in the water, and as soon as they were within boarding distance, Donovan grabbed a harpoon and fired it up into the main mast post. When she was sure it was secure, she yelled down to her boarding party, “Follow me, men!” Then letting loose with a thunderous war cry, she grabbed the line and swung across the divide to meet the slavers head on.

John Merryweather shook his head, glad Hannah hadn’t seen that display of misplaced bravado. Those pirates stood little chance against Donovan and her crew. But the Captain and men of the Warrior Maiden stood no chance at all against the wrath of Hannah.

Quickly, the Maiden’s crews dropped planks across and began swarming the other ship, meeting stroke for stroke and pushing the slavers further and further away from the edge. John could hear Donovan’s feral focus as she slowly worked her way through the crowd of men doing their level best to kill her.

One by one they went down under her blows, most of them unharmed save the knot she left on their jaw or skull. Her men did the same. They had learned many things since their decimation of the first slave ship years before. Now, they tried to maroon the crew or leave them stranded for someone else to find. It was easier on their consciences, and everyone slept better at night.

Finally, only the Captain of the pirate vessel remained standing, and Merryweather and most of the boarding party started methodically binding the pirates while the remainder went below to free the slaves. Donovan rested her blade on her shoulder, unsullied as yet by a kill this night. She wondered if this captain would change that.

“You have a choice, Captain…? Captain…?” The man looked at her dumbly, and she shook her head. “You do have a name, correct?”

“Aye, but, ye’ll not be hearin’ it til I be ready to strike the killin’ blow.”

Donovan scratched her head. “Oh, I see. Well, then, let us be about it, because I have other things that need tending.”

Her arrogance infuriated the man, and he swung at her head viciously, only to find that his strike was met and held well above the dark head. Donovan lifted a foot and kicked him away from her, and the man growled before stumbling to his feet with unsteady strength. He came at her again, not realizing she was forcing him to wear himself out, and she was merely holding his place until he came at her again.

This happened repeatedly, and the man marveled at the fortitude of the man Donovan Scott was. He shook the sweat from his eyes and said as much, noting that Donovan wasn’t even breathing hard. He didn’t understand the smirk that crossed her face any more than she understood the sudden craftiness that entered his eyes. Then four things happened almost simultaneously.

Donovan felt the blade enter her shoulder in a rush of fire and fell to her knees at the unexpected assault. At almost the same moment, John Merryweather yelled and threw his blade deep into Walker’s heart, and watched as he toppled over backwards from the impact.

The pirate captain grinned fiercely and raised his blade with the words, “My name is Captain Waxley, Captain Sc….” But he was unable to finish his words as a shot rang out in the night, and he fell over dead with half his head gone.

Donovan looked towards her own ship, and saw Hannah standing there quite calmly with a smoking gun in her hand. She looked at her first mate who was also looking at Hannah and started to speak. Instead, Hannah spoke first.

“John, can you please help Donovan get back so I can dress her wound? We are expecting company very shortly.”

Wondering what Hannah meant, both Donovan and Merryweather took a moment to look around, and only then noted the rapidly approaching British man-o-war. John nodded and replied, “Yes ma’am,” before putting an arm around Donovan and easing her to her feet. Then they started a slow shuffle across the gangplank.

In the meantime, the slaves had been freed, and Mr. Roberts and Mr. Trilby had escorted them topside and were sorting them out. The ship was listing, but still seaworthy enough to make it back to the small island they had come from earlier in the day, and they we now trying to determine the best way to go about getting it there. There were a few men in the group, but it was more women and older girls that made up this shipment, and that meant it would take a little more organizational effort to sort out who was doing what to get them home.

When Donovan’s feet touched the deck of her ship, her knees buckled, and Hannah took up her place on Donovan’s other side to help her across the smooth teak wood and down the short steps to their cabin. Once inside, Hannah sent Merryweather off with a few tense instructions, and returned to Donovan’s side.

Hannah unlaced the shirt and gently eased it off Donovan’s body, flinching when Donovan did as it ripped and left of bit of material embedded in the wound. She turned Donovan away from the door and searched the cabin, finally coming upon one of the pieces of rawhide leather that Donovan used to tie her hair back. Snatching it up, Hannah took Donovan’s chin in her hand, and waited til the pain-filled eyes turned her way.

“Sweetheart, I have to remove the dagger. I want you to bite down on this, because it’s gonna hurt, and I know you don’t want the crew to hear you scream.”

Donovan nodded wearily. “Thank you, Hannah,” then waited for Hannah to put the strip between her teeth before she bit down. A knock sounded, and Hannah called out for Merryweather to enter. He did so, bearing a small, steaming kettle and some clean linen. Hannah nodded her thanks, and John stepped out to retrieve the medical kit she’d asked him to request from the priest.

“Can you stay and help me, John?” Hannah asked faintly.

He swallowed hard and looked at Donovan’s back covered in blood with the still embedded dagger and swallowed again as he nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Good, then get the linen ready. I’m gonna pull the knife free, and I’m gonna need you to help me staunch the flow and clean the wound.”

The first mate didn’t answer verbally, but nodded sharply once and waited. Hannah tucked a towel into Donovan’s pants, then pulled on the knife. Donovan bit the leather hard, and soft whimper escaped her lips. As soon as the blade was free, John kept the blood from flowing down Donovan’s back, and Hannah started to clean the wound as gently, quickly and thoroughly as she could. Finally the bleeding slowed and John began to clean the drying blood from Donovan’s back as Hannah applied a bandage. When they were done, John gathered up all the used linen and the towel and dumped it in the pot with the dirty water, and made quick his escape. Hannah waited until he had closed the door behind him before she turned Donovan around to face her. What she saw then broke her heart.

Donovan had tears streaming down her face to mingle with the sweat the exertion of not screaming had caused her to shed. Hannah cradled her close and Donovan absorbed the love and warmth Hannah offered as the pain level equalized and she was able to slow her breathing. Hannah reached over with one arm and poured cool water from the pitcher into the bowl, dipping a cloth into it and tenderly wiping Donovan’s face. Donovan accepted the ministrations gratefully, knowing that Hannah’s loving care came from the heart. Not that Father Thomas’ didn’t, but it was different when it was the one who loved you the most in all the world.

They stayed that way for a time while Donovan focused on breathing and Hannah simply comforted her. A knock to the door interrupted them, and Hannah answered it.

“Yes?” she called out.

“Mrs. Scott?” John said through the shut door. “The Captain of the British man-o-war Hawke has arrived and requested a parley with the Captain. What shall I tell him?”

Donovan looked at Hannah and sighed. “Help me on with my shirt, beloved. We knew this day was coming.”

“Donovan, let me greet him.”

“But….”

“Please. I don’t know why, but I think it may help.”

Donovan nodded wearily. “Very well. Have John accompany you to the deck when the man arrives. But you still have to help me get dressed. I am still the Captain of this vessel.”

“All right, love. Let me tell John to grant the Captain’s parley request, and then I’ll help make you a presentable Captain.”

Donovan smiled briefly, and leaned back against the headboard to rest as Hannah rose to speak to Merryweather. Then they set about the task of preparing Donovan for the coming interrogation.

Once Donovan was dressed and resting comfortably in the bed with her arm in a sling and her hair pulled back, Hannah changed into one of the simple dresses she’d had made during their winter stay in Britain. Then she went upstairs to wait for the Captain of the Hawke.

************

William Meredith stepped aboard the Ice Maiden, and realized several things at once. This wasn’t a pirate ship. These were British officers and men. And he recognized the blonde woman who now stood calmly in front of him.

“Mrs. Scott? So you’re not really pirates then, are you?” he asked almost rhetorically.

“Welcome aboard, Captain Meredith. I believe my husband is able to see you now, but I ask that you not push him too hard tonight. He was injured during the battle and needs a chance to recover his strength.”

He nodded but didn’t answer, choosing to take the opportunity to look around the well-kept ship. “Is someone going to explain this to me? About being considered pirates and such?”

“Yes. We’re not what you consider real pirates to be, no, but we do operate outside the laws you are used to.”

“Madame, your very presence here attests to that fact. No pirate ship allows women, except as cargo or slaves.” He pulled his lip between his fingers as he thought. “Then again,” he said calmly, “the Admiralty doesn’t approve of them either.”

“Come along, Captain. I assure you you’ll get yours answers.”

“Lead on, please,” he replied, and gestured her to precede him.

************

Donovan heard the muted knock on the door and opened her eyes with a moan. Then she called quietly to Hannah, “Come in, beloved.”

Hannah eased her head in the door, making sure Donovan was ready to receive her visitor, then opened the door wider to step in. Captain Meredith followed her and remained standing by the door until Donovan motioned him to the only chair in the room. Hannah closed the door behind them and crossed the few steps to take her place at Donovan’s side.

William shifted uncomfortably in his chair and motioned discretely to Hannah. “Sir, do we need your wife present? I think what needs to be said between us should between the gentlemen here. There is no need to inflict the lady with such details.”

Donovan laid her good hand over Hannah’s as Captain Meredith spoke, easily discerning her ire. Hannah looked into Donovan’s eyes and found the reassurance she needed, then sat back quietly, providing Donovan with the support she required.

“William, I appreciate your concern for my wife, but I assure you, sir that anything you need to say can be said in front of her. She knows everything, and in fact saved my life this evening.”

“Did she now? May I ask how?”

“She is the one who shot Captain Waxley before he could… Hannah?” Donovan’s attention immediately focused on Hannah as she began trembling. Neither one could miss the look of distress so clearly etched on her features. Donovan forgot about the man who sat across from him and concentrated completely on Hannah. “Beloved?”

For a moment, Hannah sat silently shivering in Donovan’s arms. William Meredith sat silently with his eyes averted, not wanting to intrude, but needing to stay and finish his business with Donovan. Hannah let herself center on Donovan’s voice and warmth, and put her own discomfort aside for the present. They would have time to deal with the after effects of her actions once Captain Meredith was gone.

With a deep breath, Hannah stopped shaking though she was content to remain in the circle of Donovan’s arms. “My apologies, Captain Meredith,” Hannah said delicately. “I’m not quite sure….”

“It is quite all right Mrs. Scott, and very understandable. Perhaps it would be best if I leave…?” He made to rose, but halted at Hannah’s forceful headshake. He sighed; he’d not wanted to leave as he was eager to have this matter settled. But good manners dictated that he asked, and he had.

“No sir. It would be best if you can understand what is going on here so we can get this taken care of and leave.”

“I agree, Madame.” Meredith turned to Donovan. “What say you, Captain Scott, sir? Can you clear this up for me so we can finish up our business?”

“I believe I can, Captain Meredith.”

So for the next hour Donovan told William Meredith about the Maiden’s duality of purpose, and why they had come to be pirates as well as sailors of the Crown. Finally, exhausted, she sat back and let the Hawke’s Captain absorb the knowledge he’d been handed.

For a bit there was nothing but silence in the room. Hannah rose and poured two cups of port, handing one of them to Meredith before taking the second back to the bed and helping Donovan to drink. William sipped at his while he pondered all the facts that had been laid before him. He cleared his throat to speak.

“It is a shame that your first mate had to kill Walker. I am more than a bit curious as to what lay behind his motivation for attacking you, and for his betrayal of you to the Admiralty. He assured everyone there he would expose you for being the fraud you were, and he was so insistent that the Admiral finally asked me to keep an eye on you out here. It is the reason we were following so closely behind you.”

“I had wondered about that,” Donovan murmured, taking another sip of port.

“Walker never said what his was going to expose you for though I am sure no one would have guessed the truth about you being a pirate, Donovan, or the fact that your wife is actually the famous Ice Princess.” William sat quietly for a moment.

Donovan opened her mouth to speak, but was stopped by Hannah’s hand and her arm and the miniscule negative shake of her head. Captain Meredith began to speak again.

“I see no reason for this to get out. Your father was very kind to me, and I honestly cannot disagree with your rationale for doing what you did.” He saw her release a deep breath and smiled.

“As far as I am concerned, Captain Scott, we assisted the HMS Warrior Maiden to capture a slave ship. I will write up my reports for the Admiralty and show them to you before they go in the next courier post so that our stories concur.”

“Thank you, William.”

“Think nothing of it Donovan. As I stated, I do not disagree with your actions, though I am not sure I understand your reasoning behind them. I would like to make a suggestion, and I hope you will understand why I am making it.”

Donovan nodded and shifted, then winced when she moved the wrong way. Hannah helped her, seeing a small bit of fresh blood on the back of the shirt and knowing the bandage would need changing soon. “Go on,” Donovan said, motioning with her good hand.

“Take some time off. With the injury to your shoulder, it is a perfect excuse, and your crew should be able to handle some standard cruising without you. That way, the Warrior Maiden’s presence is still out there, and the Ice Maiden will disappear from people’s memories. If the pirates are not out there to be found, the Crown’s attention will turn elsewhere.”

Donovan drew breath to speak before Hannah caught her attention. “Listen to him, Donovan. It really would be best for all concerned if the Ice Maiden disappears for a little while. You need time to heal, love, and it will be good experience for John to handle the reins for a while.” She lowered her voice until it was a bare whisper that Donovan could barely make out. “It will give us a chance to visit my world as well.”

Donovan stared into Hannah’s eyes, acknowledging the truth of everything she had said and seeing the need there. Then she looked at William and nodded her agreement. “I need to talk this over with John, but I believe it would be the best solution for all involved.”

“Thank you, Donovan. And I want you to know that your secret life as a pirate is safe with me. I wish I had the courage of my convictions like you do of yours.”

Meredith rose from his seat and went to the door, but stopped with his hand on the handle before he could open it. “I do have one question,” he said, turning to face them. Donovan arched an eyebrow and waited. “How did you change the name of the ship? Everyone knows that the pirates are on the Ice Maiden while the Warrior Maiden is considered on of the Navy’s finest ships.”

Donovan chuckled, then winced. “It is simple. You know the windows over the name plate?” She waited for William to nod, seeing the dawning of comprehension in his eyes. “The Ice Maiden was usually only seen under the cover of darkness, and with her standard flying and a different nameplate on the back, people tended to overlook the similarities. We made a removable nameplate that is changed before every pirate action, and removed as soon as we go back to regular duty.”

“Very clever, that,” William said. He turned and saluted. “Thank you, Captain Scott. I will see that you have a copy of my report by the time we reach the port.”

“Actually, Captain Meredith, we will not be going to the same port. May I arrange for Mr. Merryweather to pick them up from you? I would like to go ahead and get started on my recovery immediately.”

William Meredith nodded. “Keep me advised of when and where to meet him, Donovan, and we will be there.”

“Thank you William. It was good to see you again,” reaching out her left hand for the other Captain to take, which he did.

“It was good to see you as well, Donovan. And you are to be congratulated again on your marriage. I am very happy for you both.”

“Thank you, Captain, Meredith. So are we,” Hannah said, and William took his leave as Hannah turned her attention back to Donovan’s wound.
Chapter XXVIII
The crew spent the next few days transitioning from Donovan’s leadership to that of John Merryweather. They arrived at the island at sundown the day after the fight, but John was hesitant to leave until he was surer of Donovan’s recovery time. So they anchored out from the island to wait.

Shortly after Captain Meredith had debarked, Donovan had fallen victim to fever and it had taken Hannah the better part of the day and night tending to Donovan, removing the fever and any hint of an infection. When blue eyes had open at dawn a full day following the attack, they were clear and bright. Donovan looked lovingly at the exhausted blonde head that rested on the edge of their bed.

Gently, Donovan eased upwards, pleased that the need to scream in agony had dissolved into a mere grunt and groan as she shifted. Her movement wakened Hannah and bloodshot green eyes looked up at the sound.

“You all right, love? You really had me worried there for a while yesterday.” The expression emanating from Hannah’s eyes told a story that the casual sound of her voice did not. Donovan extended her good arm and beckoned Hannah to join her on the bed. Hannah did so with alacrity and curled up in her favorite spot, having sorely missed it the night before.

Donovan shifted again and hissed, wincing at the pain the movement had caused in her chest. “DAMNATION!” she growled between gritted teeth. “That hurts!”

Hannah laid a hand between Donovan’s breasts, pressing gently to keep her restrained. “Sweetheart, take it easy. It’s a very deep cut, and it hasn’t even been two days yet.”

Donovan sighed. “I know, Angel. I just… I am not a very good patient.”

Hannah rolled her eyes. “Big surprise there.” She felt Donovan chuckle at the irony in her voice. “Would you feel better if I told you that we are at the island?”

Donovan started to sit up, then thought better of it when Hannah pressed lightly against the action. “Why are we still on the boat?”

Hannah shook her head and laughed. “You’re impossible, ya know that?” Blue eyes glaring in her direction caused the soft laughter to become an outright guffaw. “Donovan, you just woke up after a full twenty-four hours of fever. When exactly did you expect to have had time to get home?”

Donovan couldn’t help but smile at Hannah’s unconscious reference. Her cottage here on this island was home to her more than anywhere else and she was gratified to see Hannah felt the same way. “Very valid point, beloved.” She nuzzled Hannah’s hair and tried to restrain the yawn she felt upon seeing Hannah’s. She closed her eyes.

“Besides,” Hannah spoke again as she snuggled deeper into Donovan’s embrace. “John and the rest of the crew are a little nervous about being on their own, I think. And honestly, John doesn’t seem as excited about command as I would expect a Naval Officer to be. They depend on you.”

Donovan thought about it for a moment. “I suppose they do, but I depend on them as well. Does that bother you?”

Hannah didn’t answer for a very long time, and when Donovan craned her neck down to see what the problem was, she noted that Hannah had fallen into a deep sleep. “Rest, Angel. You have more than earned it. We can talk more later.” Donovan never even noticed when she drifted off.

************

They spent the next several days doing drills and running the ship under Merryweather’s command and Donovan’s watchful eye. As John’s comfort level grew, so did his confidence in himself and the crew’s confidence in him. After nearly a week of exercises, Donovan and Hannah prepared to step into a small pinnace to be rowed to shore.

Just before she left, the entire crew came to attention and gave a sharp salute. Donovan gave them a crisp salute in return, then Captain Scott stepped into the small boat and signaled for her and Hannah to be lowered to the water. Their rowers climbed the nets to the watercraft, and in silence, they headed to the island without looking back.

John Merryweather escorted them to the cottage, carrying the things Donovan could not manage with her arm still in a sling. He set their bags just inside the door and turned to his Captain and friend. “Sir, we are set to leave as soon as I return to the ship, unless there is something else you or Mrs. Scott require?”

“I think we’re all set, John. Thank you for your help,” Hannah said, taking his hand and squeezing it gently.

“You are welcome Miss Hannah. We will miss you.”

Donovan extended her hand and Merryweather accepted it, then stepped back to snap a salute. “Thank you Captain. We will be back for the Ball. That should give you plenty of time to heal before you rejoin us.”

“Godspeed you, John. Good hunting.”

“Thank you, sir.” Then he turned and made his way down the path and back to his future.

************

The remainder of the day was spent settling into the cottage and reacquainting themselves with the place they considered their home. Only when they were cuddled together in bed did they talk about their prospects for their time alone together.

“Mama and Debendra do not know we are here, Hannah. The Maiden is not scheduled to arrive until it is time for the Pirate’s Ball. So going to see Jack tomorrow will not anger Mama.”

Hannah smiled. “Good. I’m really anxious to show you my world, but I don’t wanna make Mama mad either. I have a feeling she could teach me a lot about you.”

Donovan lightly stroked Hannah’s bare belly, thankful beyond words that they had returned to the tropics. It was really hard to sleep naked when it was freezing cold and raining besides. “Oh, I do not know, Angel. Seems to me you know all the important things.”

Hannah returned the tentative touch, lightly tracing Donovan’s collarbone and down her muscular arm. When she reached the long fingers, Hannah tangled them in her own and brought them to her lips. “Do I now?” she asked teasingly, as she nipped and licked each digit slowly. Hannah felt Donovan began to squirm and shifted accordingly until she was straddling Donovan’s hips.

Knowing she couldn’t flip them without doing damage to her still healing arm, Donovan loosened her hand from Hannah’s grip and tangled it in her hair instead. She urged Hannah lower until their lips were a hairsbreadth apart. “Yes,” was all she said before she tilted her head up to possess Hannah’s lips. Donovan’s other hand slid up Hannah’s thigh, and conversation went to the wayside until much, much later.

************

It was mid morning before the two of them headed for Jack’s place hand in hand. They were relatively unconcerned about the doorway being opened. Their dreams the previous night had given them opportunity to explore the island, and they found Jack’s house in much the same state it had been in when they’d left almost a year previously.

Donovan kept casting curious glances at Hannah, but every time she opened her mouth to speak, something stopped her. Finally her curiosity over came her, and Hannah turned to Donovan, catching her staring with her mouth opened as if to speak. “What is it, Donovan?”

Donovan shook her dark head, not having expected to get caught flatfooted by Hannah’s inquiry. Hannah stopped walking and pulled Donovan to a halt by virtue of their linked hands. Hannah lifted her free hand and cupped Donovan’s chin, forcing the blue eyes to meet her own. “Love, what’s wrong?”

“I am confused about something, but I do not want to upset you, especially before we see Jack again. I do believe he will take me to task for it,” said with just the hint of a smile.

Hannah raised a brow. “Confused about what? And why would your asking me something upset me? We agreed… no secrets. If there is something you need to know, ask. I’ll be as honest with you as I can.”

Donovan bit her lip and gaze out at the horizon before taking a deep breath and nodding her head decisively.

“You took the life of a man and except for your initial breakdown in my arms that night, you have shown no emotion about it, and as far as I know you have not spoken to anyone about what happened. I am concerned that… well, I am not sure what I am concerned about. I know the first time I killed, I was violently ill. And yet you….” She was cut off by the fire in the green eyes now facing her. A fire which died between one breath and another as Donovan’s eyes widened.

Hannah took Donovan’s hand and led her over to the edge of the beach that butted against the native trees. She’d almost forgotten the high temperatures of the tropics after the cold winter, and had spent the weeks on their return soaking the warmth into her bones. But the sheer heat made her grateful for the shade, and when they reached on of the taller pines, she eased Donovan to the ground and sat between her legs. Both of them face the sea, and she raised her voice so Donovan could hear her words.

“When you fell unconscious from fever that night, I had a lot of time to do some serious soul searching about what had happened. John came in to help me tend you and he told me that the crew was proud of me… of what I had done. He said that not a man among them would have hesitated to do what I’d done, because you would’ve done the same for any of them.”

Donovan’s arms crept around Hannah’s waist and she breathed a sigh of relief when Hannah relaxed deeper into her body.

“I thought about what he had said, about what I had felt… both when I saw that bastard raise his blade and again when I lifted that gun and fired.” Hannah turned in Donovan’s arms and faced her. “I didn’t mean to kill him, Donovan. I only wanted to stop him… to keep him from killing you. But I’d do it again, Donovan, in a heartbeat. Am I sorry I took a life? Yes, I really am. It’s not something I ever thought I’d be capable of, and I doubt if the circumstances were different, I’d be able to do it. But Donovan, he threatened my heart, my home, my soul, and for that I would willingly kill again. Not something I ever had to think about before then, but when you were laying there with fever, I decided that you would always be my greater good.”

Donovan smiled through her tears and caressed Hannah’s cheek with the back of her hand. Before she could compose herself to answer, Hannah leaned forward and kissed her gently, then took her hand and stood.

“C’mon. I wanna go surprise Jack.”

************

They felt the chill as they passed through the portal, and then they were taking the overgrown path to Jack’s house. Hannah’s brow wrinkled in concern. “I wonder if something’s wrong. I know Jack was big on keeping things in as natural a state as possible, but it was never unkempt like this before.”

Donovan shrugged and took the lead, more than a little concerned with the niggling feeling that was creeping up and down her back.

When they reached the end of the path, they stopped and stared. The house was boarded up as if no one was living in it, and Hannah looked at it in confusion. This wasn’t what they’d seen in their dreams. The boards were gray and weathered like they had been there for several years instead of the months they’d been gone. Hannah stepped forward and grabbed a side of the wood, pulling with all her might. She looked around for Donovan, only to find she’d disappeared.

“ARGH!!!!!” Hannah screamed in frustrated confusion. Donovan came running, and wrapped her in a hug from behind.

“Beloved? Are you all right?”

“No, I’m not all right! Something is obviously screwy around here and then you up and disappeared on me too! Scared the bejesus outta me!!” She punched Donovan on her good shoulder and both of them winced. “Where’d you go anyway?”

Donovan held up the crowbar she had in her hand and pointed to the small shed beside the house. “I noticed it the first day I was here and Jack told me it was a tool shed. I thought it might help.”

Hannah smiled and kissed the spot she had so recently punched. “I love you.”

“I know… I love you too.”

Together they managed to pull a board away from the door and Hannah was able to unlock the French door easily.

Hannah stepped across the threshold, noting the stale, musty smell of the air and wondering just how long the house had been closed up.

“Uncle Jack?” She didn’t expect an answer given the state of the house, but she called out anyway, hoping that she was wrong. Hannah stepped away from the door as Donovan hesitantly eased in behind her, and together the stood looking around. It was difficult to see with all the windows blocked, and Hannah reached out to flip the kitchen light on. Her head dropped when nothing happened.

“Come on, Angel. Let us see if perhaps Jack left a note before he left.”

The power was off and the phone wasn’t working, and they made their way cautiously through the house. Everything was thick with dust, and by the time they reached the limestone hallway, they were both sneezing violently. Donovan leaned against the wall to breathe, and Hannah leaned her forehead into Donovan’s chest.

Hannah caught her breath then eased back and took Donovan’s hand in her own before crossing the hallway to stand in front of her own door.

Nothing had changed except the dust, and Hannah looked around the room that had become home to her very briefly just a few short months before. Her diary and her great-great-great grandfather’s letters still rested on the bedside table where they’d been left. She opened the closet and saw the few clothes she’s left. Then Hannah blushed when Donovan cleared her throat and she turned to find her holding up a pair of blue silk thong underwear.

Hannah tried to snatch them from Donovan’s hands only to have them held up out of her reach.

“Donovan!!” she whined.

Donovan chuckled and whined back, ”Hannah!” Then she lowered them into Hannah’s grasp and held onto Hannah’s hand. “Model them for me later?”

Caught completely off guard and seeing the utter desire in Donovan’s eyes, Hannah swallowed hard and nodded her head. Donovan leaned down and kissed Hannah thoroughly but quickly, and it took Hannah a minute to open her eyes. She licked her lips, not missing the flare of Donovan’s nostrils at the action.

“Let me put these things in a bag, and we’ll go check Jack’s room. But I think it is safe to say he hasn’t been here in a while.”

It took them a while to get the board back in place once they were ready to leave. Hannah had found the keys to Jack’s jeep and was more than a little frustrated that she couldn’t even get then engine to click. She hauled her small bag out of the back and looked down at Donovan’s booted feet.

“You gonna be okay for walking a bit, love? The road isn’t the smoothest.”

“Has to be better than trekking through the sand,” Donovan said with only a hint of irony. Hannah chuckled and nodded her head, and the two of them headed into town at a leisurely pace.

************

It took less time than Hannah expected before they reached the edges of civilization. She blinked. She hadn’t expected it for a while longer, considering their casual stride. Donovan noted her confused expression and called her on it.

“Hannah?” Donovan waited a moment, then squeezed the hand she held until Hannah’s head turned in her direction. Hannah’s brow rose in mute question. “Angel, is there a problem?”

Hannah shrugged, looking around them again before coming back to Donovan’s eyes. “I’m not sure. I don’t remember any cottages being out this far, but maybe it’s just the difference in walking and driving. C’mon.” Hannah shook her head and tugged on Donovan’s hand. “It’s probably just my imagination.”

Another fifteen minutes passed before they came to the opening in the trees, and they just stood there for a moment looking around. Donovan felt Hannah give an unconscious sigh of relief.

“Hannah?”

Hannah sighed again before turning to face Donovan. “I can’t really explain it,” she said, referring to the gnawing in her guts. “I was afraid something weird had happened, but it looks about the same as it did a year ago.”

“That is good, correct?”

Hannah nodded. “I think so. Let’s go find Merry and see if we can get some information.”

They crossed the square and stepped over the threshold into the general store. Donovan looked around with bright eyes, thankful for the hours she and Hannah had spent going over the differences in their worlds. Donovan felt more secure about her ability to stay in this time now that she understood how it worked.

Her eyes looked in fascination at the light fixtures discretely tucked in the ceiling, and at the fans turning lazily beneath them. Donovan was so busy staring at the new world around her that she missed Hannah’s confusion until she found her hand clutched tightly. Then Donovan focused her attention on Hannah’s face.

Hannah’s eyes continued to flit around the room, searching, until Donovan put a hand on Hannah’s face and waited til the green eyes tracked to hers. Then she waited for Hannah to speak.

“It’s… different. It’s not like I remember.”

“We have been gone almost a year, beloved. Things can change in that time.”

Hannah shook her head. “It’s more than that, Donovan. I’m not sure I can explain.”

“Well, let us find your friend. That should help clear up your confusion.”

Hannah searched Donovan’s face and found the reassurance she needed. Then she allowed Donovan to lead her to the counter, where a young woman stood patiently watching them with curious eyes.

“May I help you?”

Hannah tilted her head to one side, trying to place the familiarity of the girl who stood before them. “Yes, could you tell me where we can find Merryweather?” Donovan couldn’t stop the shudder that ran through her frame at the mention of her friend and first mate. Her mind knew that in this time, he was no longer alive, but her heart knew she had only spoken to him two days prior. Her mind started to whirl and she forcefully put the paradox out of her mind. She had no desire to be forcefully separated from Hannah as she had been before and was afraid that too much thought directed toward their situation would lead to precisely that.

Donovan blinked her eyes to find Hannah watching her closely. “You all right, sweetheart? It felt like I was losing you for a minute there.”

Donovan took a deep breath and nodded. “Yes. Just a little disorientation. I will be fine.”

Further conversation was disrupted when the young woman came out of the back area accompanied by an older woman. Hannah shook her head. The older woman reminded her of Merry, but she was considerably aged from the last time Hannah had seen her, bearing in mind it had only been a year.

Her raven hair was liberally sprinkled with gray, and her face was more lined. She looked at Hannah blankly for a time, then her features gained a puzzled look as she tried to place the woman who stood before her. Finally, Merry blinked in recognition and grasped Hannah’s arm tightly.

“Hannah? Hannah Reilly?”

“Yes, Merry. It’s me.” She reached out and took the hand that was clutching her arm in her hand. “Merry, what happened to this place? Where’s Jack? He knew we were coming back in the summer. We had to come for the Pirate’s Ball.”

Merry loosened Hannah’s grasp and walked around the counter until she stood directly in front of her. She reclaimed Hannah’s hands and gripped them gently but firmly. Donovan stepped up behind Hannah and wrapped her in strong arms. She had the distinct impression Hannah was going to need support for whatever news Merry was fixing to relay.

Merry shook her head and released Hannah’s hands with the admonition, “Do not move. I’ll be right back.”

Hannah intertwined her hands with Donovan’s, but they did not speak. Instead, Donovan rocked Hannah in her embrace while humming an old tune that Hannah had found a fondness for. Hannah closed her eyes and tried to relax, the roiling in her gut making it nearly impossible.

Merry came out with a letter in her hand. “Jack left this for me to give to you in the event he was not here to do so personally. I think it will explain a great many things.”

Hannah accepted the missive with trembling fingers. Then she took Donovan’s hand and followed Merry to the back room office area. The older woman motioned them inside while standing in the doorway. “I will leave you in privacy then. When you are finished and ready to talk, simply lift the receiver on the phone. I will come back and answer any questions you may have.”

Merry closed the door behind her and Donovan led Hannah to the big office chair. Without warning, she seated herself and pulled Hannah into her lap. Donovan didn’t speak, but rain her hands along Hannah’s back in an oddly comforting gesture.

Hannah leaned her head on Donovan’s strong shoulder, and sat silently flipping the envelope over and over in her hands. Finally she took a deep breath and ripped it open, easing the written pages from within. Jack’s bold handwriting flowed distinctively across the paper, and Hannah took a deep breath and began reading aloud.

Dear Hannah, (it read)

It has been just over a year since you and Donovan left and your absence at the annual Pirate’s Ball prompted me to do a bit of research.

Apparently the portal changes the passage of time for you. What is months for you becomes years for us. I cannot be sure of the exact ratio, but I am sure that there is a months to years ratio going on here. It has made some things make perfect sense and others more difficult to understand. It is also unclear to me whether this is limited to you and Donovan, though that would appear to be the case as you two are the only ones able to cross the portal in both directions. I also do not know if your being together and crossing times is a cause or a result of your actions. I’m still researching the phenomenon, and hope to have more concrete answers when I see you again.

Before you ask, because I know you will, I am writing this down just in case. I don’t know what the future holds for me, and much as I want and expect to be here when you return, I learned a long time ago to always make contingency plans. However, if you are reading this, and it would seem that you are, talk to Merry. She should be able answer any questions this has raised for you.

I am checking into the portal as well. I cannot in good faith believe it will stay open indefinitely. There has to be some clue as to when it will close again.

More to come.

Jack
Hannah turned the paper over to the next page to see another note dated six months after the first one. She scanned it with a frown and began to read aloud to Donovan again.

I have found something disturbing, and hold my breath to see if it is true.

Apparently, once you return to this area of the world, you will have until midnight the night of the Pirate’s Ball to make a decision whether or not you will live in Donovan’s time or your own. At that point, the portal will close forever.

I can’t find what triggers it, or what triggered it open in the first place, and since I have no way to reach you across time, I have to wait and hope my warning will not be in vain.

Will you do me a favor, though? Please pass along to Donovan my thanks for the break in the weird weather. Since ya’ll have been gone, it has almost been peaceful here, if you don’t count the odd hurricane or two that has blown through.

That being said, I do miss having you around. I hope you are enjoying living history, and that life is being kind to you both.

Love from your favorite uncle,

Jack
Donovan sat quietly, respecting Hannah’s need to process everything she’d just been told. She herself wanted to close her eyes and try to will away the confusion Jack’s revelation had thrown her mind into. What he was saying sounded so impossible, but then their entire story did when put into realistic confines. There was no way they should be able to cross time and space to be together, and yet they had. Now they were faced with making a decision neither had actually expected to have to.

Hannah lifted the receiver, then replaced it just as carefully, then leaned back into the comforting circle of Donovan’s arms. They waited in silence until footfalls broke it and the door slowly opened. Merry darted her head around and smiled at them, then walked in and closed the door behind herself.

She took a seat in front of the desk and regarded them, waiting for Hannah to break the stillness. Hannah looked down at her hands and laid the envelope in her lap. Then she tangled her fingers with Donovan’s again and took a deep breath.

“Merry,” she asked finally, bringing her eyes up to meet the older woman’s. “Where’s my Uncle Jack?”

Merry couldn’t stop the tears that formed and blinked rapidly to will them away before they spilled down her cheeks. “Eighteen months ago, just after he gave me that second note to give to you, Jack had a massive heart attack. He died before we knew there was a problem. He missed a dinner date with us, and when we went out to check on him the next morning, we found him slumped over his computer keyboard.”

“We had to have an autopsy done because of the suddenness of his death, and the doctor said his heart just couldn’t stand up under the onslaught of his heart attack.”

Hannah’s breath caught and she bit her lip. Donovan’s arms tightened reflexively and Hannah allowed herself their comfort. Merry continued to speak.

“He had told me a little about you and Donovan, and I was present as your representative at the reading of his will. The house is yours, of course. We simply barded it to keep it safe during hurricane season, and since no one was using it, we left it closed. Everything else he had put in your bank on the mainland, except the helicopter that a small co-op here purchased and now runs.”

Hannah nodded and assimilated the knowledge. Then she looked back at Merryweather with a no-nonsense expression on her face.

“Merry, how long were we gone?”

“Hannah, the Pirate’s Ball takes place in thirty-two days. On that day it will have been three years since you and Donovan left.”

Hannah’s eyes widened in shock. Hearing Jack speculate about it and coming face to face with the truth were two completely different thing, she was fast coming to realize. She took her eyes off Merryweather and turned to face Donovan head on.

“Three years? Donovan, we have to get home. Katie is gonna kill me!”

Now it was Donovan’s turn to stare. “Oh boy!”

Hannah had to chuckle at the expression on Donovan’s face. It was the best stress reliever she had, and it was very effective. Soon Donovan joined her laughter and before long, Merry had as well. The three women laughed for a few minutes, before stopping to breathe. Finally, Hannah turned to Merry.

“Can you get us a charter to the Big Island? We need to get home.”

“Have some lunch, and the boys will take you over after that.” Merry rose, and made her way to the door. “Welcome back, Hannah. It is good to know you are both okay.”

“Thank you, Merry… for everything.”

Merry nodded and closed the door behind her, leaving them to decide how quickly they wanted to start the final leg of their journey.
Chapter XXIX
Donovan woke up in a strange room and lay unmoving as she tried to assess any threat this new environment might present her. The room was large and bright. Sunlight came in through a wall of glass and the walls were a robin’s egg blue. The bed she lay on was huge by her standards… large enough for several people, though she and Hannah were curled up comfortably together in the middle.

Donovan smiled. It was a blur as to how they had gotten from the Island to Hannah’s home where they were now. They had gone back to Jack’s to give Hannah a chance to say goodbye. Then Donovan distinctly remembered the rather unpleasant sensation of the bottom falling out of her world, and then… nothing until she had awakened as the sun made itself known to her rather forcefully. But she had to admit she liked waking up with Hannah in her spot and the bed supporting them so firmly.

Slowly, Donovan edged out from underneath the warm body that enveloped hers, substituting her pillow for the body that Hannah grumblingly searched for. Donovan smiled at how cutely Hannah settled her face into the pillow, and began a quiet investigation of her new surroundings.

The first thing she did was move to the windows, spending a long moment just looking out over the busyness of what Hannah had simply referred to as the city. Donovan couldn’t believe some of the things she was seeing, and felt reality begin to slip away from her again. Hastily, she paid attention to her body, and decided that finding the bathing room in this home should probably be the next order of business.

Donovan went into the bathroom with a look of total wonder at the opulence, and a feeling of despair washed through her. She would never be able to equal this in her world, and why would Hannah choose to leave all her conveniences behind? It made no sense.

The feeling passed when she realized that they might decide to live here in this time, and with a more lighthearted outlook, decided to clean up and start her day in earnest.

Donovan used the toilet, then spent several moments marveling to herself of its technology. She studied it from every angle, determined to be able to recreate this bit of modern plumbing should she and Hannah decide to live in the nineteenth instead of the twenty-first century. Donovan walked around the room several times, eyes brilliant as she noted more and more of the room’s engineering.

“I can do this,” she murmured to herself. “I could make our bathing room nice,” fighting the irrational stab of jealousy she was having concerning the bathroom. She walked over to the shower and turned the handle, pulling at various knobs until the water began to spray from the wall. Then Donovan jerked her head back and shook it violently to rid it of the water.

She stepped back and shed her robe then stepped back into the shower, not realizing that the water had gone from cold to scalding. She screamed and fell out of the shower stall, laying on the floor dazed when Hannah slid into the room.

Without a word, Hannah cradled Donovan in her arms, gently checking her over for signs of serious damage. Seeing nothing but pink skin that the hot water had briefly touched, Hannah clasped Donovan’s face in her hands and forced eye contact with her.

“Donovan, love? Are you all right?”

Donovan concentrated on listening to the sounds coming from Hannah’s mouth, and drew a deep breath when she felt herself returning. Apparently, maintaining her hold in this world was going to require some extra effort on her part. She was going to need to let Hannah take her around and teach her.

Finally, she realized what Hannah was asking her and nodded. “I am fine, beloved. Just a little startled by the change in the water. What did I…?”

Together they stood, and Hannah reached in and adjusted the handle so the temperature of the water was merely warm. Hannah stepped in first and pulled Donovan in behind her.

“You see, this handle controls the temp… temperature,” she said, stuttering when Donovan’s hands slid around her middle. “Right makes it… (ahem) um, cooler and….” She stopped again as Donovan’s hands moved upwards to cup her breasts. “Um, a… and left, left….” She tilted her head back and found herself in a lip lock that was quickly negating any sense of rational thought from her mind. She turned in Donovan’s arms, moaning when Donovan’s hands slipped down to knead her firm ass cheeks.

Donovan pulled away from the kiss and began an assault on Hannah’s neck. “We can figure the rest out later,” Hannah murmured as her own hands moved down Donovan’s shoulders and to the front of her chest to start her own teasing offensive. They never even noticed the water had grown cold until they were clean and pruney.

************

Hannah led Donovan out to her living area and into the kitchen. Again Donovan felt overwhelmed by the technology surrounding her, and simply marveled at the ease with which everything was done here. The flip of a switch, the press of a button and voila! It was somewhat unnerving.

Hannah cooked them both breakfast, and Donovan ate quietly trying to absorb everything she could about her environment. She noticed it was a lot noisier here than she’d expected. There was a very loud hum that seemed to permeate everything, and Donovan wondered that mankind had not driven itself nuts with the sound.

When they were done, Hannah turned to Donovan and twined their fingers together. “There are some people I need to see. Would you like to come with me, maybe?”

“I would like that, Hannah. I would like that very much.”

While they dressed, Hannah said, “I need to get you some new clothes.”

Donovan looked down at her leather trousers and silk shirt, suddenly self-conscious about how different her clothing was and wondering if perhaps Hannah was embarrassed by her. Hannah saw immediately the conclusion Donovan had jumped to, and rushed on to reassure her.

“You are beautiful, love, and I adore having you in leather and silk. But you will need more than one set of clothing while you’re here. And besides, leather gets very hot in the heat and humidity of mid-summer without the sea breeze you are accustomed to for staying cool. I can’t give you as nice as what Satosh created for me, but perhaps you will be able to find something modern that appeals to you.”

Donovan thought about everything Hannah had said, and saw the logic behind it. “Yes. Let us see what we can find. I would like to look nice for you.”

Hannah consciously dragged her eyes slowly from Donovan’s boots to her face, letting her eyes linger in several places long enough to make the blood start pounding in Donovan’s body. “No worries, sweetheart. I love the way you look for me.”

An unaccustomed blush raced across Donovan’s face and she stood open mouthed at the sensuality Hannah was emanating with a single look. “Um, well… um….”

Hannah took pity on Donovan’s flustered state. “C’mon, love. Time to go see how hot the water has gotten for me around here.” She snatched up her license, work badge and credit cards, thankful Jack had had the foresight to put them in the safe for her til she came home.

They went to the newspaper office first, and Hannah couldn’t help but notice the stares she got as she crossed the lobby. She walked to the security desk and flashed her badge, indicating to the woman seated at the desk that she wanted to sign Donovan in. The security officer asked for her badge, and noting the name on it, immediately called upstairs to the human resources department. After a brief conversation with them, she turned back to Hannah.

“I’m sorry, Ms, um… Reilly, is it? You’re not listed as an employee. I’m going to have to ask you to come with me please, until we can get some confirmation of your status here. This way.”

The woman started to leave until she realized that both Hannah and Donovan were making no move to follow her. “This way, Ms. Reilly, or I will call the police to help sort it out.”

Hannah sighed deeply and started to follow, pulling Donovan docilely behind her. The security officer halted again. “No ma’am… just you.”

Donovan growled low in her throat and stepped in front of Hannah. “No ma’am. We go together. Where she goes, I go.”

The woman looked back and forth between the two of them and noted the rings on their fingers. “Newlyweds, huh?” She relented the least little bit, glancing to her own finger. “All right, your husband can come along, but no monkey business.”

Hannah nodded around Donovan’s body, and they took hands and began to follow the woman once more. Hannah marveled to herself at how people could see what they wanted to and not what was so plain in front of them. Of course, she had never seen Donovan as anything other than a woman, so she couldn’t picture why everyone saw her as a man with such ease.

They were led to a tiny room off the lobby and asked to wait. “If you will let Charlie Jones know that I’m here, I’m sure it will clear up a lot of misunderstandings,” Hannah said confidently.

The woman nodded to them, but did not answer. She simply closed the door behind them, then lifted the receiver of the house phone right outside the room. Since security had tightened so drastically, she couldn’t afford any screw-ups, and she put in a call to the big chair.

Donovan sat calmly at the small table with her hands folded on top of it while Hannah paced around the room. The reality of her situation was hitting her in the face in a very real, very big way, and she was trying to cope with several realities she hadn’t been prepared for.

The fact that she’d been gone so long as to have been forgotten… the fact that Jack had died and she hadn’t been able to say so many things to him first. She quickly switched from that train of thought. Once she and Donovan had settled down, she would sit down and maybe write him a long letter. She felt he deserved to know how things had turned out, even if it was only in retrospect.

She stopped at the small window and stood looking out, allowing her mind to leap from subject to subject. She made a mental note to check her bank account. All of her bills and deposits were handled electronically, and for that reason alone, she’d had power in her penthouse when they’d returned the previous night. She also noted a need to check on Harry before they left to go visit Katie and Frank. She’d decided that needed a personal visit, just like this did, and hadn’t called. There was just too much to try to explain without trying to do it long distance over the phone.

Hannah hadn’t realized how her anxiety level had risen until a pair of arms wrapped around her and she allowed herself to melt into Donovan’s strong hug. There was just something so comforting about that embrace, and Hannah floated in peace for long minutes as her racing heart calmed and she accepted that no matter what else had gone wrong… no matter what else was screwed up by the whole time issue linking them, this one thing made everything all right.

No words were needed between them and they were still standing silently wrapped together when the security officer returned with another woman following right behind her. “Ms um, Reilly? Ms Jones would like to speak to you.”

Hannah and Donovan turned as one and Charlie’s hand came up to cover her mouth. She looked to the officer. “It’s all right, Ms Weinmann. This really is Hannah Reilly, and she really does work here, or she did until she disappeared from the face of the earth.”

Charlie’s head whipped back around to face Hannah. “Where have you been? Do you know who worried we’ve all been? How anxious? What the hell…?” But she got no further as Donovan stood to her full height and stepped forward one pace.

“I am not sure who you think you are, madam, but you will speak to my wife more respectfully or we will take our leave of you immediately.”

Charlie’s eyes widened and she turned her attention back to Hannah and swallowed forcefully before speaking. “Wife? You got married? But when? Where? I don’t….”

“Take a breath Charlie, and have a seat. I’ll tell you what I can.”

************

An hour later, Charlie held up her hands in surrender. “Okay, so you’re not gonna tell me everything. Am I at least gonna get a novel out of this?”

“Well, all my notes are hand written. I will turn them over to you to transcribe, and you can tell me if it is worth making into a novel. How’s that?”

“And why am *I* transcribing *your* notes, hmm? Aren’t you supposed to do that? Isn’t that part of the author’s code or something?”

Hannah dropped her head and nodded. “Yeah, usually it is. But I am running real short on time right now, and if you want it, that’s how you’re gonna get it. It may be years or never otherwise.”

“You’re serious.” A flat statement.

“Absolutely. I have found something else that consumes my time, and I have never been happier.”

Charlie accepted the declaration with a graceful nod of her head. “I can see that.” She turned and looked at Donovan who had sat quietly holding Hannah’s hands in her own during the entire proceedings. “You sir, are one very lucky man.”

“Madam, you have no idea, but I must agree. I am very, very lucky.”

Charlie watched them together for a moment longer, then nodded her head as though making a resolution. “All right, Hannah. I accept your terms. How quickly can you get me your notes?”

For answer, Hannah opened the small briefcase Donovan had carried for her, and lifted out several old-fashioned tablets. Charlie’s eyebrows rose to her hairline and she gingerly took the first one from the stack and opened it. Inside were lines upon lines of Hannah’s neat script, and the pages were filled front and back.

“My God, Hannah! This will take me a year just to get to first draft form.” Her eyes continued to skim the words.

“That will be all you need, Charlie. All my books and articles have been published in their original written form. It was printed just like I wrote it out.”

“But….”

“Think about it Charlie. The only editing you or Anita ever had me do were for spelling and grammar mistakes. I never rewrote any of the actual work.”

Charlie’s eyes took on a shine then. “This is fabulous!” Her excitement was palpable and she jumped up from the chair. “How long will you be here?”

“We are driving down to see Katie this evening, but we should be back by the end of the week or the first of next.”

“Wonderful! I should have the first read-thru done, and will know what we’re looking at. You’ll be in touch then?” she asked, scooping the papers in her arms.

“Yes, as soon as we get back.”

“Cool, then. I’ll be ready.” She gave the blonde a one-armed hug. “I missed ya, Reilly, but it was worth it if this turns out as well as I think it will.” She looked to Donovan. “And it was nice to meet you, Donovan. You take care of your wife here. She’s one in a million, and if you mess her up, I’ll have to kick your ass.” She crossed to the doorway and started out before turning back. “Let’s plan to get together for dinner when you get back. I want to get to know this man who stole your heart.”

Then Charlie was out the door before either of them could say a word.

Donovan stood still for a moment, not sure if she’d been complimented or insulted. Finally, she looked at Hannah. “She loves you,” stated matter-of-factly.

Hannah shrugged. “She was attracted to me. Probably one reason she sees you as a man so easily. It’s a smaller blow to her ego that way.”

Donovan chuckled. “I guess your world is a lot more like mine than we realized. People see what they want to see regardless of when in time you are.”

They walked out the door, and headed for the nearest department store.

************

Donovan’s eyes were huge as she looked around what Hannah had referred to as a mall. Never in her life had she seen so many merchants under a single roof. And she’d never, ever thought to see so many different things and so much of them in one store. She looked around again, wondering vaguely how long it must take someone to do all the sewing and crafting that was available just in this one store they were standing in. Then Hannah was leading her in a specific direction, and Donovan concentrated on not being separated from her.

By the time Hannah got them to the section of casual clothing, Donovan wanted nothing more than to cover her ears. She was ready to scream at the sheer amount of noise she was surrounded by, and she looked at Hannah miserably.

“What’s wrong, love?” Hannah asked, tightening her hold.

Donovan pointed to her ears and shook her head. Hannah pulled her head down until her lips were even with Donovan’s ear. “What’s wrong?” she asked again, concern tingeing her voice.

“It is very loud here. It hurts my ears.”

Hannah’s brow scrunched up in thought, listening carefully to hear what exactly was causing Donovan so much grief. All she heard were the normal sounds… the air conditioner clicking on and off, the background music that flowed from the store’s speakers, the chatter of patrons as they shopped, and their footsteps as they walked and the occasional announcement coming across the loudspeakers. She didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary.

Then it dawned on her that ALL these sounds were out of the ordinary for Donovan, and remembering the peace she was accustomed to on the Island understood her problem perfectly. Not that it wasn’t noisy there, or that being on a ship was deafening at times. But those were sounds Donovan was accustomed to and she was prepared for them.

“I’ll make this quick, sweetheart, and then we’ll go home and pack to go on to Katie’s okay?”

Donovan nodded, then watched in fascination as Hannah fell to her task with a will. Amazingly, the salespeople left them alone, and in short order, Donovan held two pairs of jeans, three pairs of shorts, two white oxford shirts, and five colored T’s. Hannah snagged a package of white socks, and began searching for comfortable underwear. She grabbed up several very feminine articles as well as several pairs of boxers. She wasn’t sure which Donovan would prefer, never having tried either before, but this way she could choose something besides wearing long johns or going commando.

Finally, Hannah led them to the shoe department and stood looking for a long time. She was approached by a salesman, who tried to steer her towards lady’s shoes. She shook her head and pulled her arm from his hand. “No, I want these in a size nine,” holding up a pair of short hiking boots.

He looked like he wanted to argue, but changed his mind at the low growl that emanated from the tall, muscular figure standing behind her. He nodded and found the shoes, happy to hand the correct size to Hannah to avoid the fiery gaze that was coming from the blue eyes behind her burning a hole through him.

They went to the register, and the woman behind it rang up their purchase and gave them the total. Donovan nearly disgraced herself by fainting at the amount. Hannah didn’t blink though, and merely handed her credit card to the woman at the counter.

“Can I see some ID, Ms Reilly?”

“Is there a problem?” Hannah asked, taken back by the suspicious look the woman was giving her.

“I need to verify your name and identification, please.” She waited patiently while Hannah dug for her driver’s license. Hannah reluctantly surrendered the bit of plastic and the woman accepted it with the instruction, “Wait here, please.”

Donovan looked confused by the entire proceeding, and Hannah wasn’t far behind her. After several minutes, Donovan found a chair near the counter and took a seat, pulling Hannah into her lap. They sat that way, giving silent comfort to one another until the saleswoman returned with a manger in tow. Hannah eased up and Donovan stood behind her, neither aware of the formidable picture they made.

The manager extended is hand and Hannah automatically reciprocated, accepting the handshake as the man introduced himself.

“I apologize for the delay,” the man gushed, “but your card came up as inactive and we had to verify a few things.” He continued to hold her hand, and Donovan glowered at him.

“Did everything check out all right?” Hannah asked, feeling the jealousy growing behind her and easing her hand from the manager’s with a gentle tug.

The man seemed flustered by this and mumbled, “Beg pardon.” But he failed to say anything else until Donovan stepped into his line of sight. Hannah laid a hand on Donovan’s arm, and Donovan moved back reluctantly to let Hannah handle the man. She made sure to stake her claim however, by casually putting possessive hands on Hannah’s trim waist.

The man noted the hold and the wedding bands and realized where Donovan’s thoughts were headed. Before he could speak, Hannah interposed again, “Sir, is there a problem?”

“Huh? Oh no. Everything checked out fine and Ms Browne should have your sale completed.” He turned and looked at the woman, receiving an affirmative nod. “I simply wanted to apologize for the delay and to mumble, mumble, mutter.”

“I’m sorry. What was that last bit?”

He looked at her red-faced, knowing he would probably never get another chance like this one, and swallowed what was left of his sense and his pride. “I was hoping you would sign this for me,” he said, taking a worn copy of her very first Trudy and Evan story from his pocket. “My daughter got me hooked years ago, and I became a big fan.”

Hannah smiled at him compassionately, having been in his shoes once upon a time. It was hard to remember sometimes that the person whose work you admired was still a human being and usually only wanted to be treated like one.

She took the book from his hand and rummaged for a pen. Then she opened it to the dedication page and asked him his name, writing for a full minute before handing him the book back. He opened the cover and read, smiling so big Hannah was afraid his face would split. She patted his arm and hefted her bags, only to have them gently but firmly removed by the presence that stood faithfully behind her.

Hannah looked up into Donovan’s eyes and smiled her thanks, noting the melancholy and wondering at the cause of it. Then she took Donovan’s arm, which got her a genuine smile back, and they headed for the car.

Donovan flinched perceptibly at the noise level outside, and even Hannah found it disconcerting after the quiet peacefulness of their beach.

“Noisy out here too, huh?”

Donovan nodded, concentrating on blocking out all the extracurricular sounds. She continued to look at her surroundings, amazed that buildings could be built so high and made of glass. She looked down as well, wondering why the ground was so hard and even, and how one could possibly stand the heat coming up from the ground as well as pouring down to it.

She was sweating liberally when they reached Hannah’s car, and opening the doors only seared her with more heat, making the situation worse.

Hannah started the engine, letting the air run at full blast. After a few minutes, she motioned Donovan into the car. Donovan ran her hands over the vents in rapture, still not used to the fact that one could force cold air into the atmosphere. There were so many things here to get learn about, and she wondered if they would be here long enough to experience them all. Then she wondered if she really wanted to. It was an interesting place to visit, but Donovan has serious doubt she could ever live here. It was just too… too…. She rested her head against the window and let the artificially cold air blow in her face. It was simply overwhelming… just too much.

Hannah noticed the miserable look on Donovan’s face as she sat leaned against the window with her eyes closed. She gripped the steering wheel tightly. She knew just how Donovan felt, easily remembering her own anxiety and displacement just months prior. She had the distinct feeling it was harder for Donovan though, because there was less way to prepare oneself for the future than there was for the past.

Hannah sighed and pulled the car into her building’s garage, wishing there was something she could do to ease Donovan’s unease. She popped the trunk and opened the door, only then seeing the blue eyes open. Donovan scrubbed her face and yawned.

“Sorry, Angel. I think I fell asleep with the heat.”

Hannah smiled. “It’s all right. Many is the time I have come home and taken a nap after being out in it for a while. The concrete and lack of vegetation only make it hotter.”

Donovan nodded her agreement. “I believe it.”

“C’mon, love. Help me get the bags upstairs, then you can take a nap while I pack and check on Harry. We can’t leave til later anyway.”

Donovan, who hadn’t napped since she was in diapers, nodded her head. She was drained and though she put it all down to heat and her still aching wound, she wondered in the back of her mind if it had more to do with the stress of being out of her time.

It didn’t take long, and they were upstairs. Donovan allowed Hannah to tuck her in with the promise that she would be back as quickly as she could. Then Hannah went down to the front lobby area.

She walked to the front door, expecting to see Harry standing in his usual afternoon post, and was surprised to see a young man standing by the door. He saw her and hastened to open the door, her forehead scrunching in thought as he tried desperately to place her in his mind.

“Excuse me…” looking down at his nametag. “Matt, but where is Harry?”

“Harry, ma’am? Harry hasn’t been here in almost two years. He passed away.”

Hannah couldn’t stop the sob that caught in her throat, but Matt didn’t notice and kept talking.

“He was coming in to work one afternoon and collapsed. Doctors said it was a stroke or heart attack or something. I don’t rightly know what, but it happened mighty quick. Mrs. Padulous still came around every week for a while. Then she passed on about six months after Harry did.”

Hannah held her head in her hand just breathing for a while. That bit of information explained so much, and she took a moment to absorb it all. Finally she noticed that Matt had stopped talking and was looking at her funny.

“Miss, I’m sorry, but do you belong here? I know everyone who lives here, and I don’t recognize you.”

“Yes, Matt, I have the penthouse. My name is Hannah Sc… Reilly and I have just returned from an extensive sabbatical.”

“Harry talked about you. Do you have some proof of your ID?”

Hannah rolled her mental eyes and whipped out her wallet once again to prove she was who she claimed to be. Satisfied, Matt nodded and stepped back from her. “Thank you, Ms Reilly. We do have to check.”

“Not a problem, Matt. Better safe than sorry. And thank you for telling me about Harry. He was a good friend, and I’ll miss him.”

She’d pushed the up button for the elevator when she remembered her other reason for coming downstairs. She turned and walked back to the doorway, and Matt looked at her questioningly.

“I’m sorry, Matt. I forgot to ask. Can I use the house phone to call the corner deli? I have a craving for a Reuben sandwich.”

Matt scratched his head in thought. “Corner deli? You mean the Thai place? That’s the only restaurant on the corner hereabouts.”

“No, the deli, at the end of the block here,” Hannah answered, pointing in the direction of the restaurant.

“Huh? Oh!” Matt exclaimed as what she meant occurred to him. “It’s not a deli anymore. The deli went under a couple years ago. Not enough business. The Thai place moved in last year.”

Hannah’s shoulders slumped. “Oh. All right then. Never mind then. Thank you, Matt.”

Hannah went back upstairs and walked into her bedroom to find Donovan still curled up in the same position Hannah had left her in. Hannah stripped out of her clothes and crawled in beside Donovan. Donovan mewled in her sleep and wrapped reflexively around Hannah, sighing in contentment before slipping into deeper sleep.

Hannah let herself relax into the embrace and let her mind wander to how much had changed since she’d been gone. With those not-so-happy thoughts, she fell asleep, knowing that her biggest hurdle was yet to come.
Chapter XXX
Hannah awoke in the mid afternoon when the sun was still shining brightly. The tickling sensation on her arm made her look up into blue eyes that twinkled back at her in merriment.

“How long have you been up?” Hannah asked in a sleep-husky voice.

Donovan smiled. “Long enough to count my blessings when I woke up and found you in my arms. Everything tends to come into focus differently when I concentrate on that.”

“Umm,” Hannah replied, stretching into the hug Donovan held her in. “I can agree with that. Being here has always been the safest place in the world for me, even in my dreams.” She stretched again and sat up. “But right now, I think I need to get us something fixed to eat so we can get on the road.” She grimaced internally. She would have preferred to fly, but given Donovan’s reaction to her first flight and the need to sedate her, Hannah had decided that she could suffer a road trip this one time.

Hannah rolled out of bed and headed for the kitchen, grateful they had picked up a few essentials the night before. Now she went in and quickly prepared another breakfast meal, knowing they would have to go shopping again as soon as the got back from Katie’s. Much as she and Donovan both enjoyed breakfast food, it could get old very quickly if that was all you had.

They ate and showered then got dressed. It was then that Hannah noted what a difference clothing made in the way Donovan presented herself. With the disappearance of the leather pants, knee-high boots and loose-fitting silk shirt, so went any impression that Donovan could be mistaken for a man. The shorts hugged the curve of her hips and the T-shirt accentuated the fullness of her breasts. Donovan stood staring at her reflection unmoving for a full minute before her stillness caught Hannah’s attention.

“Donovan, love? What’s wrong?”

“I do not… I mean, I am not….” She looked at Hannah in dismay. “Angel, you know I am a woman. *I* know I am a woman. But for all of my adult life I have had to be a man in public to succeed. I do… not… I am not sure… I can… do… this. Be a woman for others, I mean.”

“Donovan, if you are uncomfortable, wear these,” handing her a pair of jeans and an oxford. “They will be hotter, but they are also not as revealing.”

Donovan accepted the alternate clothing with a nod and a smile. When she stripped out of the shorts and t-shirt, Hannah gasped and Donovan whirled in apprehension.

“What? Is something wrong, beloved?”

Hannah released a shuddering breath and swallowed hard. Her voice took on a husky tinge as she re-crossed the room to gently finger the silk hi-cut panties Donovan had chosen to wear. Donovan’s face flushed a bright red as Hannah continued to absently fondle the garment, even as her green eyes devoured the flesh that was both hidden and exposed.

Hannah cleared her throat before speaking. “No, love, nothing is wrong. I am pleasantly surprised and very turned on by your choice, but absolutely nothing is wrong.” Hannah continued to gently touch and stare, and Donovan knew by the darkening of Hannah’s eyes and the flaring of her nostrils exactly what being turned on was.

“This was a good choice then? You have always let me be a woman and I wanted to show you how much I enjoy that, even though it will always be just between us.”

“It was a great choice, sweetheart,” she said looking into blue eyes so Donovan could read the sincerity and the desire so clear in Hannah’s eyes. Hannah leaned up and kissed Donovan quickly but thoroughly. Then she stepped back a bit breathless. “But we need to get down to Katie’s tonight. Hold that thought for me?”

Donovan nodded vigorously, eyes wide.

Hannah chuckled at her enthusiasm, drawing a glare before a smile broke through. “C’mon. Sooner we leave, sooner we get there and get this over with.”

Donovan didn’t comment until they were in the car and headed out of the city. She watched avidly the complicated motions it took to maneuver the vehicle down the road. Hannah noticed, but didn’t say anything until they were far out into the countryside, and nearing her small hometown.

She gave thanks for the lateness of the setting summer sun as she pulled off the side of the road. Hannah sat still for a moment then turned her attention to Donavan who returned the look curiously. Without ceremony, Hannah opened her door and came around to the other side and opened Donovan’s. Donovan stepped out of the car and waited for some sort of instruction. Hannah merely slid in the passenger seat and closed the door. Donovan raised an eyebrow in question.

Hannah indicated the empty driver’s seat. “I thought you might want to give it a try.” Donovan ran around the other side excited as a kid.

She slipped into the seat with her knees tucked under her chin. Hannah blushed and reached over to slide the seat back from the steering wheel. “Sorry, love. Forgot about that.”

Donovan nodded absently, her attention taken by the myriad of gauges and dials in front of her. “Now, the car is already started,” Hannah commented, “so put your right foot on the brake pedal. No, the long one. There ya go. Now ease this lever until it is in ‘D’, and gently release the brake.”

They started slowly rolling forward, and Donovan slammed her foot on the brake again. And so the driving lesson continued until a short while later, a police cruiser came up behind the car. Hannah saw it and reached over to put the car in park, then opened her door.

“Wait right here, love,” she said to Donovan. “I’ll be right back.”

The officer exited his car before the report came back when he saw the passenger door open. He walked towards the vehicle with one hand on his gun, trying to keep an eye out for trouble. “Is there a problem, Miss?”

“I’m sorry officer….” Hannah stopped speaking in stunned silence. “Frank?”

The policeman’s head snapped around so rapidly he felt the vertebrae pop down to his shoulders. “Hannah?? Oh my God! Hannah Reilly??” He lifted her up in his arms and hugged her close for long minutes.

Donovan noted their interaction and eased her foot from the brake pad once more. When she was sure that the car wasn’t going to move, she opened the door and walked towards the rear of the car. Silently she watched the reunion, trying to place the face of the good-looking man holding Hannah so possessively in his arms.

When Hannah and Frank broke apart, Hannah immediately slipped to Donovan’s side, encircling her in a protective embrace.

“Donovan, you remember Frank… Katie’s husband?” Hannah waited a moment while Donovan’s catalogue memory placed him. She turned back to Frank. “And Frank, you remember Donovan, of course.”

He extended his hand, and Donovan accepted it. “You bet I do,” he said casually. “Katie and I have spoken of you both often,” he added, not mentioning the many nights when Katie had railed about their disappearance.

“So what was going on, or dare I ask?” Frank said with a grin. “Katie doesn’t know you’re coming, does she?”

“Donovan was getting her first driving lesson, and no. I didn’t know how to do this over the phone.”

Frank nodded understanding what Hannah was saying. This was something that needed to be seen to be believed. “How would you like an escort then? I’d like to see her face when she realizes it’s you.”

“Good idea. Guess that means I’m driving again,” Hannah said with a look at Donovan. Donovan simply nodded almost guiltily relieved. Driving had been much more difficult a skill to master than she’d suspected it would be.

“Lead on, MacDuff,” Hannah commented to Frank with a grin. “Let’s get this show on the road.”

It had gotten progressively darker as they had talked, so it was full dark before they pulled into the small town Hannah had grown up in calling home. Hannah carefully followed along behind Frank, looking around with shrewd eyes to see the many changes that had occurred in her absence.

Donovan looked around noting the similarities and the differences between this place and their home in Britain. Then she noticed Hannah gripping and releasing the steering wheel in a nervous manner. She decided to call her on it.

“Angel, is there a problem?”

“Huh? Oh no. Why do you ask?”

Donovan’s large hand covered Hannah’s smaller one in a comforting gesture. “You seem upset or on edge about something. Can I help?”

Hannah bit the edge of her lip, stopping the car at a stop sign and looking both ways before moving forward again. “I’m a little nervous. Katie was always my best friend aside from you, and we’ve always been a part of each others’ lives… until now. We’ve never gone very long without calling or writing or emailing news and gossip to one another when we can’t get together the old fashioned way. I’m just concerned she may be angry at me for having been gone so long.”

Donovan squeezed Hannah’s hand. “She probably will be angry at first, and then she will be thankful you are home and will welcome you with open arms.”

“Thank you, love. You’re probably right,” Hannah said with a tense smile. Then they were pulling into Frank and Katie’s front yard, and the time for worry and speculation was over. They opened the doors and got out of the car, and Donovan came round to stand at Hannah’s side.

The porch light flipped on as Frank stepped from his cruiser and he motioned for them to wait as the screen door opened and a VERY pregnant Katie stepped out onto the porch.

“Frank, sweetheart?” she called out as he approached the steps. “Is something wrong? Who’s with you?”

Frank took Katie’s arm and led her down the steps carefully, mindful of her condition. “I have someone here I think you’ll wanna talk to, honey.”

Katie’s eyes remained on the ground, watching her steps vigilantly to avoid a fall. So they were to the second car before she looked up and saw….

“Hannah?” She covered her mouth with her hands and stood breathing, unable to quite believe what her eyes were telling her.

“Hi, Katie,” Hannah said softly, and those spoken words seemed to release Katie from the spell that held her motionless. With a cry, she walked forward into Hannah’s embrace and just held on for dear life while Hannah rocked her gently back and forth. Finally, Katie relaxed her gripped on Hannah and leaned back far enough to punch her in the arm.

“Where have you been? Do you know how worried I have been?? How sad… how angry… how… how… ARGH!!!” Katie punched Hannah again then looked down at her hand. “God, what have you been doing to yourself? I think I broke it.”

“It’s a long story. Can we come in?”

“We?”

Hannah pointed behind her, and for the first time Katie saw Donovan standing quietly behind Hannah. “Donovan?”

“Hello, Katie. You look well.”

“I look like a beached whale and I feel like one too. But thank you. It’s good to see you again. You look wonderful… both of you.” Before Donovan could respond, Katie turned and took Frank’s arm. “Ya’ll come on inside. I need to get off my feet.”

They followed slowly, and Donovan wrapped an arm around Hannah’s shoulders, smiling when Hannah’s arm snaked around her waist.

“Are you all right, beloved?” gently rubbing the spot Katie had hit. “She hit you quite hard.”

“Yeah, but it’s all muscle where she hit. It probably hurt her worse than it did me. Coulda been worse. Has been worse, actually. She nearly broke my ribs when I came home for her wedding.”

Hannah chuckled in memory and Donovan joined her. “It is a good thing she didn’t swing again. She would have hit me.”

Hannah looked at Donovan, easily recognizing the protective look on her face. She arched a brow and Donovan shrugged. “I thought she had expressed enough anger. I was not going to let her hit you again.”

“I love you,” Hannah said.

Donovan smiled. “I love you too.”

Then they were crossing the threshold and entering Katie’s home.

************

It was late, or rather, very early in the morning when Hannah finally stopped talking. It was Frank returning from his swing shift that clued them all in to the fact that it was so late. Katie offered them a bed and they accepted, knowing she still had lots of questions.

Frank led them upstairs to their bedroom and with a muted goodnight, left them to get settled. It didn’t take long before they were crawling together between clean sheets. Minutes later, they were sound asleep, exhausted from the emotions and the heat of the day.

It wasn’t too late when they rose the following morning, and they dressed and went downstairs for coffee. The house was still quiet, and they figured Frank and Katie were still sleeping. Much to Donovan’s surprise, Hannah began to scrounge around the kitchen looking for tea. When she found it, she flipped the coffee on for herself and began filling the kettle with water to fix tea for Donovan.

Frank and Katie had a flat surface stove, and Donovan unknowingly placed her hand down on the burner Hannah had just turned on. It didn’t take but a second to discover her mistake though, and she jerked her fingers free from the source immediately. Hannah saw it and grabbed Donovan by the wrist, quickly running her fingers underneath cold water.

“I’m sorry, love. I didn’t think to tell you about that.”

“It is different from yours,” Donovan commented, wincing at the sting from the burn. Hannah led her over to a chair at the table and applied some aloe to Donovan’s fingers.

“Yeah, it is. It didn’t even occur to me… God, I’m sorry, sweetheart. That has got to hurt.”

“It is not that bad, Angel. I have certainly had worse. But I would not object to you kissing and making it better later,” Donovan teased. In truth, it did hurt quite a bit, but she had no desire to see Hannah suffering over what was an accident.

Hannah smiled, knowing what Donovan was up to and loving her more for it. She wiggled her eyebrows rakishly. “I think I can do that,” and she lifted the fingers to her lips. Just then the tea kettle whistled, and she moved away from Donovan. “Let me fix your tea and my coffee, and we can go out onto the deck.”

They went outside and sat on the deck, enjoying the relative peace of the morning. It was still hot, though not the unbearable heat of mid-afternoon, and Donovan sat comfortably in the odd chairs that were around the pool.

She watched as Hannah laid her chaise flat and stretched out in the sun. With a bit of finagling, Donovan managed to do the same with her own and lay back, feeling Hannah’s fingers curl around her good hand, and reveling in the touch.

The warmth and their contentment had almost lulled them back to sleep, and they were in fact in a state of drowsiness when Franks’ shocked exclamation brought them out of their stupor and to their feet in the same swift motion.

“YOU’RE A WOMAN!!!”

Donovan looked down at herself, realizing that her prone position had outlined her breasts. She looked back at Frank, but Hannah stepped in front of her before she could speak.

“Frank, she’s *always* been a woman. Surely you knew that! Didn’t Katie…?”

Frank shook his head adamantly. “Nope, not a word. And I just assumed… I mean, when I saw you together at the Ball, I thought Donovan was a man. She was the leader of the pirate crew, and I thought… well, I obviously thought wrong.”

“Is it a problem?”

He shrugged. “Can’t say that I’ve really thought about it, but I dunno. Not something I approve of necessarily, but then you don’t need my approval, do you? And you look really happy, Little H. That’s the most important thing to me. So no… it’s not a problem. I would kinda like to get to know Donovan a little better though. I think it’s only fair.”

“I am agreeable to that,” Donovan answered unexpectedly from behind Hannah.

“Wonderful. Now that we are all satisfied, do ya’ll think someone could take me to the hospital?” Katie asked from the doorway. “My water just broke.”

************

Frank had the opportunity to get to know Donovan as a person. He found to his surprise he liked Donovan for herself but he was still having issues with the fact that she was a woman who loved women. Then he realized that Donovan loved Hannah and Hannah loved Donovan, and that made them both happy. He decided that was enough, and the rest could take care of itself. He never even knew he has taken the first step towards broadening his horizons.

After three days, Katie came home with her new son Aaron, and Hannah and Donovan made preparations to go back to the city.

“I wish ya’ll didn’t have to go back so soon,” Katie said. “I’ve missed you. I never would have suspected when we got together for my wedding three years ago that so much would have changed.”

“Katie, it has and yet it hasn’t really, and you and Frank need some time to enjoy with the new baby. I’m glad for the time we’ve had.”

“So am I, hon.” Katie pulled Hannah aside, and Frank took the hint and took Donovan to the kitchen. “Do me a favor…?”

Hannah nodded. “If I can, sure.”

“I know from what you said last night that ya’ll have to make a decision on what time you’re gonna live in soon. If ya’ll decide to go back to Donovan’s time, will you at least call me and let me know? Let me say goodbye this time?”

Hannah took Katie in her arms and hugged her fiercely. “You bet I will. If I have any control of it at all, we will have a few days together first. But Katie, Donovan and I haven’t even talked about it. We may end up here. If we do….”

“If you do, I’ll expect you to be around more. I’d like Aaron to get to know you.”

“I’d like that too,” Hannah said, looking down at the not-so-little bundle she held in her arms. “I’ve missed you as well.”

“Well, whatever you decide, know that Frank and I love you both. It may take him a while to get past the woman thing, but he really likes Donovan and he is trying to understand. I think the fact that he can see the love between you as something beautiful just like it is for us has helped tremendously. Give him some time… I think he’s more open-minded than he’s ready to admit to.”

“I hope so. I know he and Donovan have had some time to bond, and she mentioned last night that he seemed more comfortable every time they talked.”

Donovan and Frank came out of the kitchen laughing, and Hannah took that as her cue to leave. She kissed Aaron’s head, and passed him to his mother before taking Katie in a big hug. “I’ll call you when we get back to the city, and as soon as we make a decision, I’ll let you know.”

“Whatever you decide, Hannah, do it for yourselves and not anyone else. Do what makes you happy.”

The two friends hugged again and Donovan said her goodbyes before going to stand by the car to wait for Hannah. Though she’d made great progress with both Frank and Katie, she still wanted to allow Hannah a little privacy to say goodbye to those she considered her family.

Frank wrapped his arm around Hannah and hugged her before whispering into her ear. “I really do like her, Hannah, and she has obviously been so good for you and to you. I’ve never seen you so happy. I’m glad you have each other.”

“So am I, Frankie. Thank you for accepting us.”

He kissed her cheek and started escorting her to the car. “Thank you for helping me become a better person.”

He opened the door for Hannah, and waited for her to situate herself before closing it. She started the car and rolled down the window.

“Drive safe,” Frank cautioned. “Things are starting to pick up for the holidays.”

Hannah nodded. “We will. I promised Katie a phone call tonight.” And they eased out of the driveway and headed back to the city.

************

They got back to the city safely, and Hannah met with Charlie the following day to discuss the book. She noticed a restlessness in Donovan that she felt echoed in herself. She knew they were going to have to make a decision soon. They were running out of time.

************

“Donovan?” Hannah asked two evenings later. Hannah had driven them out to the beach and they were walking along the shore watching the waves crash as the tide came in. It was near sunset, and amazingly, they had the beach to themselves at the moment.

“Yes, Angel,” came the reply, though Donovan was fairly certain what was on Hannah’s mind.

“What are we going to do?” straight to the point.

“What do you want to do, beloved?”

“Uh uh… oh no. I asked you first.”

Donovan took Hannah’s hand in her own and led her to a dune where they could sit and watch the twilight. She seated herself and pulled Hannah into her, just watching the waves. After a while, near darkness settled and Donovan opened her mouth to speak.

“I like it here, mostly. The noise is somewhat deafening and the air is think and heavy, but I find it interesting. The conveniences you have, and I know I have only touched the surface of what is available these days, they are overwhelmingly decadent and I could grow accustomed to such leisure easily.”

When Donovan didn’t say any more, Hannah turned to look at her. “But…?”

“But what, beloved? If you want to live here, I am happy to stay with you.”

“But you’d be happier at home… on the island.”

Donovan couldn’t help the flicker of truth that flashed through her eyes at that statement. Hannah saw it and grinned.

“So would I, love,” Hannah admitted, nearly being crushed by the hug that followed. “I have about three days to wrap things up here, and then we can go home for good.”

Hannah rose and wiped the sand off herself, then offered a hand to Donovan. “C’mon, sweetheart. Let’s go home.”

They arrived back at Hannah’s apartment late, and made love passionately until nearly dawn. Just as Hannah was falling asleep in Donovan’s arms, she whispered, “I love you, Donovan. Forever.”

“Across time, Angel. Always,” came the sleepy response. Then they fell asleep tangled in one another’s arms.

When Hannah woke up much later, Donovan was gone.

************

Hannah made a few phone calls, the first being to Katie, and then began preparing things for her permanent disappearance from this time. She had hoped that Donovan had gone out for a stroll that morning, but as morning became noon and then mid-afternoon, she started to worry about Donovan’s absence. Though there was nothing Donovan could do to expedite their return to the nineteenth century, Hannah had counted on Donovan’s presence for moral support.

When Katie arrived with Aaron in tow, Hannah put off her questions about Donovan with the excuse that she had needed to return to the island to prepare things on that end. But the truth was, Hannah didn’t know where Donovan was and was torn between anger and worry.

Fortunately, the drive to the city had worn out both Katie and Aaron, and everyone retired to bed rather early.

As soon as Hannah drifted to sleep, her soul began searching for its mate in the special place they had always shared. When she reached the meadow, Hannah saw Donovan waiting for her on the rock overlooking the stream, and rushed down to meet her.

Donovan waited with open arms, muttering words that Hannah did not understand. Finally the embrace ended and Hannah pulled back far enough to understand what Donovan was saying.

“Beloved, what happened? I remember falling asleep with you and then…. I awakened this morning and you were not here. Where did you go? How did we get separated again?”

Hannah was puzzled. “Donovan, where did we fall asleep?”

“In our bed at the cottage.” Donovan’s brows scrunched up. “Did I miss something?”

“Maybe. Or maybe I did. Do you remember anything about visiting my time?”

Donovan shook her head. “No, I know we talked about it, but that was the extent of it, except for that one brief time at Jack’s before we went back to Britain. I would like to see if I can implement some of the progress you and Jack showed me into our home here. Why?”

“Because I am at my home in the States in my time… where you and I have been for the last couple weeks. I wonder why you went back without me, and with no memory of what has happened.”

“I had some odd dreams. Are you telling me they were not dreams, but things that really happened?”

“Well, depending on what the dreams were about, yeah.”

“I will do some research, and see what I can find out. Are you coming home soon?” said with the slightest trepidation in her voice.

“I’m leaving tomorrow night. I will be there on the morning of the Ball, if I have things figured right in our time differences.”

Donovan nodded. “I will be waiting at the portal.”

“Good. Now will you hold me? I miss you.”

Without a word, Donovan tucked Hannah into her body, and they fell asleep in their dreams to the beating of their hearts.

************

Hannah spent a good portion of the following day badgering, pleading, cajoling, and otherwise harassing people to get everything done she needed to finished up before Katie took her to the airport. Everything was transferred to Katie and Frank, and there were even provisions for Aaron and any siblings he might have in the future.

She sat down with Charlie, and after some serious discussion, they decided the proceeds for Hannah’s novel, Most Cherished Dreams, would go to set up a shelter for battered women and children.

“You’re doing a good thing here, Hannah, because this book is gonna be a best seller.”

“I’m glad, Charlie. This book is very personal for me. It’s gratifying to know you think it will do well.”

“I don’t think, babe… I know.”

“Good. It will take care of a lot of women then. Are you gonna be okay administering it with Katie?”

“Yep, though I don’t understand your reluctance to be involved.” Charlie held up a hand. “I know, I know… you’re gonna be on an island where you can’t be reached. Not like you couldn’t come back once in a while,” she muttered.

“Charlie….”

“I know, babe. I’m just gonna miss ya.”

Hannah opened her arms and she and Charlie exchanged a brief hug. “Thank you, Charlie. You’ve always been a good friend. I’m gonna miss you.”

Charlie kissed the top of Hannah’s head. “I’m gonna miss you too, Hannah. And much as it breaks my heart to admit it, I’m glad you found Donovan. Ya’ll seem to have something pretty special together.”

“Thank you, Charlie. We do.”

************

The final goodbye was a little more emotional since Katie now understood the extent of what Hannah’s leaving really meant.

“I’m really gonna miss you, Hannah. I don’t know what I’m gonna do without you in my life anymore.”

“You’re gonna remember me, just like I’m gonna remember you. And when all is said and done, we will still be friends forever in our hearts.”

“I’m glad I have the Trudy and Evan stories.”

Hannah chuckled. “Yeah, those are pretty true to life for us, aren’t they? There are a few that haven’t been published yet locked up in the trunks at the penthouse. You can decide whether you wanna keep or share them. Charlie will recognize them and she will get them to Anita if you decide you want to publish them.”

The call for Hannah’s flight came across the PA system and they stood together. Hannah kissed Aaron one more time, then handed him back to his mama. “I love you, Katie,” Hannah said, taking her best friend into a strong hug.

“I love you back, Hannah,” Katie replied, returning the embrace fiercely. The call went out again and they separated, wiping their eyes.

“I’m gonna miss you, but I want you to go and be happy. You waited a lifetime for this.”

“Thanks, Katie. I’ll miss you too.” Hannah ran out of words and simply kissed them both, then ran for her flight without looking back.

************

The sun wasn’t even up when the helicopter landed on the tiny island, and Merry stood waiting by her jeep yawning. As soon as it had safely touched down, Hannah thanked her pilot and ran for the jeep. Merry chuckled at her enthusiasm, then blinked the sleep from her eyes again, and headed out to Jack’s place.

Hannah thanked Merry and moved around to the back of the house, locating the path easily. The moonlight was still bright and with lighthearted steps, she ran down the trail towards the beach.

She slowed when she was nearing the portal, knowing the Donovan wasn’t expecting her until a little later in the day. She debated on waiting for Donovan to arrive, and then it didn’t matter as Donovan stepped from the portal.

It occurred to Hannah to ask how she knew for the millisecond it took her feet to propel her forward into Donovan’s arms. Then all thought was lost as their lips met and Donovan rocked them slowly back and forth.

“Welcome back, beloved,” she said as they pull apart slightly.

“Take me home, love.”

Donovan let Hannah slide down her body, then extended her hand. Together they walked into the past and their future.
Epilogue
Dear Uncle Jack, (the letter read)

I don’t know if or when you’ll get to read this. I’m gonna give this to Satosh (Merry’s ancestor) and asked that it be passed down through her family with instructions on when to deliver this to you. I think it will work and I have faith that you will get to read this before I return for the final time to your timeline.

Donovan and I made the decision to live in the nineteenth century, and then we discovered that she didn’t actually have a choice. The decision was mine alone, and I’m still not sure how it worked. I know she was with me in the future; I have proof. But she swears she never left the cottage or the island once we left your place that morning. For her, our experiences in the future seem to be nothing but a series of bizarre dreams. We think it has something to do with the fact that her existence in my time was tied into my will to be there, because as soon as the decision was cemented in our hearts, she was gone. Personally I think it was the easiest way for Donovan’s mind to rationalize all the things she saw because she told me that several times during her dreams she seemed to lose touch with my time. Maybe one day I’ll be able to convince her of the reality of her actually having been with me in my time. Until then, we are still searching for answers, but it is something she may never be convinced of.

Jack, I want you to know how much I appreciated having you in my life. I loved Daddy very much, but you were always a special part of my life from the time I was born. I don’t want you to think you were ever anything less than you were, and I find that I miss having you around to talk to. So if you don’t mind, I will write you letters from time to time. I don’t know if you will get them all, but it is a comfort to me knowing I can reach across time to talk to you through them.

Let me bring you up to date on our life here. Donovan retired from the Navy. The injury she sustained in the battle that involved the Hawke and the slave ship was made out to be more than it was, and with both the priest’s report and Captain Meredith’s confirmation, Captain Donovan Scott was honorably retired from the service of the Royal Navy.

John Merryweather assumed command of the Maiden, and he and the crew have continued to look out for the native people around the Islands. He brings Donovan’s small stipend in every so often; otherwise we don’t get to see them very much. The Maiden has been very busy keeping the merchants on the straight and narrow, and surprisingly, more and more of the Crown’s ships have followed her example.

Both the Maiden and the Hawke do stop by though, and Captains Merryweather and Meredith are good to bring a small supply of chocolate and a new writing tablet for me when they come. I know it is bribery for chocolate cake, but as long as they keep bringing in the chocolate, I am happy to share some with them. The fact that they also keep me well supplied with tablets and ink is a bonus.

John and Cookie, whose real name was Steven I discovered, had a beautiful commitment ceremony here. Donovan presided, and I thought she was going to bust a button at being asked. Seems they have been a couple for several years and seeing Donovan and I get married prompted them to acknowledge their love for one another publicly. They can’t admit to it beyond us and the crew of course, but it is good to see them take a step towards being happy together.

Many of the other men have families here, and some of them have families back in Britain as well. It is much as Donovan told me… there are many secrets here among them. They were willing to keep hers because she protected theirs.

Everything has not been smooth. I am still adjusting to the lack of conveniences that I was used to. The hardest thing for me is no longer having a coffee maker and maintaining the stove fires properly, but I am learning. Donovan continues to work towards making a bathroom much more user-friendly, and I will admit to being spoiled by all the work she’s put into it. Of course, she enjoys the pampering running warm water allows us just as much.

Donovan’s mother hasn’t come around as much as I had hoped she would, though she and Ernst did take a trip over on one of the merchant ships. The Captain and Ernst were old friends and Ernst called in a favor to get them a visit here. Part of Margaret’s problem was probably the lingering side effects of the seasickness that plagued her on their voyage. But another part remains that Donovan and I are both women. I continue to hope she will see that love is love whatever its form. But even most people in my own time can’t see that. How can I expect that from the fiercely religious woman my mother-in-law is? At least she is making an effort.

Mama (Satosh’s mother) is a good friend and she is giving me lessons on many of the different skills necessary I need to contribute here. Some of them are harder than others, but Mama is patient with me, as is Donovan. Good thing too, because there are just some things I despair of ever actually mastering. But I keep trying. Donovan deserves my very best. It is what she continues to give me.

It’s funny, Uncle Jack. When I knew the portal was gonna close behind us, I was a little afraid. It was different when I knew we could cross back and forth, but knowing once we crossed through that doorway this time that it really was final was frankly scary. But you know something, Uncle Jack? When I heard the portal close behind us, and we actually heard it close, I felt a sense of relief. Knowing I had made the right decision made all the difference.

I love being here. It is home to me, though anywhere Donovan chooses to be is that for me. I am learning to appreciate the simple things in life, and I wouldn’t trade where I am for anything or anywhere in the world. This is right for me, and it is right for us.

I suppose I need to go for now. Donovan fixed us a picnic, and we are going down to the shore to watch the sunset. One of the great things about being on an island out in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle is that we can choose to watch sunrises or sunsets.

I want you to know how happy I am here, Uncle Jack. And do one thing for me, will ya? Go see a doctor, and take the best care of yourself that you can. The world needs people like you to stick around a long time. Thank you for helping me find the woman of my dreams. Thank you for helping me find Blue Eyes.

All my love,

Hannah
Jack finished the letter and folded it up, replacing it in the envelope thoughtfully before turning to Merry.

“Thank you, Merry. I guess you’ve held on to this for a very long time.”

“Well, Jack… they’ve been in the family for several generations. I hope they gave you some insight.”

“I suppose they did,” Jack responded. “They gave me some answers. Merry, if I give you something to hold onto to give to Hannah when she returns, would you mind…?”

Merry smiled and patted his arm as she stood. “Of course, Jack. You know where to find me when you’re done.”

Jack nodded and shut the door behind her before going to his desk. Then pulled out a sheet of paper and began to write: Dear Hannah….

And They Lived Happily Ever After….

 

 

THE END

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