Sabrina wasn’t miserable enough sitting
alone in her Chicago condo on a Saturday
night, her father telephoned with bad
news. "I’m afraid your grandfather has
groaned. "Just what I didn’t need to
hear right now."
"You were thinking of Peter again."
"So what else is new?"
"It’s time you stopped grieving for
"I have. I’m a strong person, never even
glance at the gas oven."
He ignored her attempt at black humor.
"Naturally the funeral is in London, and
I think you ought to go."
"I haven’t visited since I was nine. I
shouldn’t have waited so long." She
sighed. In her experience, time had done
a bang-up job of matching the speed of
"You must stop moping around feeling
sorry for yourself."
"You‘re right, as usual. I’ll go."
Better than lying awake listening to
mice chatting to one another in the
"You haven’t had a vacation in two
years, not since your fiancé was killed
in that car accident. Visit your cousins
in England, go sightseeing. Look at this
trip as a chance to renew your own
Of course, it was the worst possible
time. Flying to London didn’t solve
Sabrina’s business problem–to sell or
not to sell: that was the question–and
she doubted it would improve a life as
dull as a mashed potato sandwich.
"Maybe you’ll meet someone over there."
"You’re way too anxious to become a
grandfather yourself. If that old
mansion Granddad lived in is as spooky
as I remember, I’m more likely to meet a
* * *
Three days later, Sabrina stood in the
library of Gilmore Manor, its size and
prominence reminding her again of
Rebecca. Author Daphne du Maurier
replaced Shakespeare in her mind. Since
reading the book as a teenager, she’d
always envisioned Manderly as her
father's ancestral home, with a
mysterious, handsome Max de Winter.
Now, however, instead of Max de Winter,
a different handsome man stared at her
and smiled. His slender build seemed
every inch of six feet tall. His face,
beneath a thatch of sandy hair,
resembled that of a blond Hugh Grant:
fair complexion, straight nose, firm
chin, and eyes so blue and large one
could almost drown in them. Had her
father been clairvoyant about her
He spoke in a BBC-terrific accent. "I
don’t believe we’ve been introduced. I’m
She said the first thing that came to
her mind. "Are you a cousin too? Did we
play together as children?"
"No to both questions. I’m thankful
we're not related."
Before she could discover what he meant
by that remark, her cousin, Elmore
Manville, ding-donged a little silver
bell, her two widowed aunts pushed
between her and Pendleton to take seats,
and he moved to the end of the row of
chairs in front of her.
Why did he not wish to be related to
her? His smile assured her he hadn't
meant it as an insult. In spite of
running her business in Chicago, she'd
skipped only a few Pilates exercises,
let a professional cut her
naturally-curly hair when necessary, and
her face hadn't scared anyone since the
mask she wore at a Halloween party.
Another thought surfaced. If not a
relative, why had he come to the reading
of the will? Just her luck if it turned
out the estate owed him money, and she
had to pony up her share. Or, her
thoughts of Rebecca fresh in her
mind, did he harbor some mysterious
secret, like killing his wife?
As he read from the will, Elmore,
obviously relishing the role of
executor, droned monotonously, and she
ignored him, remembering the last time
she'd been in Gilmore Manor. The library
took up a mere fraction of the
three-story mansion nestling in a fold
of the valley, and it brought back many
memories. During that long-ago summer,
she’d run across the broad, green lawns
and waded, against Granddad’s rules, in
the lily pond. With her girl cousins,
she’d climbed over the stone cherubs,
giggling about whether the boy cherub
was anatomically correct.
"–and to my granddaughter Sabrina,"
Elmore read, "I leave the large blue
trunk in the nursery."
That old blue trunk was her inheritance?
As was becoming increasingly clear, her
grandfather had died almost penniless.
Gilmore Manor, apparently mortgaged
clear up to its leaky third floor roof,
now held only some furniture and the
library's collection of books. They’d
long since sold any objects of value.
Glancing again toward Hugh Pendleton,
she caught him looking in her direction.
As if embarrassed, he turned back toward
Manville, but she’d detected a slight
flush cross his face.
Elmore read a few more minor bequests
from the will, thanked everyone for
coming and stood up to mark the end of
the proceedings. Chairs shuffled against
the fading carpet, and everyone ambled
toward the doors leading to the drawing
room. A hum of conversations began,
mainly on the lack of anything
worthwhile to inherit. The mortgage
company would take over the house. The
relatives, many of whom had journeyed
some distance to London—none however
from as far away as Sabrina—must content
themselves with only some personal
mementoes of the eccentric, reclusive
Richard Gilmore. She sighed and rose
from her chair.
"I say." The voice startled her, and she
turned. Although she stood
five-feet-nine in her heels, Hugh
Pendleton’s gaze lowered to look at her.
"I hope my remark earlier didn't offend
you. I meant it as a compliment."
"That you'd rather not be a part of my
He cleared his throat. "You have me at a
disadvantage. I'm not saying this at all
well. I meant I'd rather you weren't a
cousin. That would be somewhat
Were all Englishmen so formal when
starting an acquaintance with a woman?
What a refreshing difference. Chicago
men, at least many of those she'd met,
were vastly different in that respect.
Perhaps it explained her remaining
single long after some of her friends
were on their second, or third,
"What types of inhibitions are you
concerned about?" She moved toward the
Queen Anne desk.
He followed, circling the desk toward
her. "Getting to know you better, of
course." His smile revealed even, white
teeth and made little crinkle lines at
the corners of his eyes. "Mr. Manville
indicated you're from America, and I
wondered how you came to be a cousin."
"You said you wanted to know more about
me, but it seems you're more interested
in my bloodlines." She enjoyed teasing
him and edged away, putting the desk
"But you're wrong. And your lines—" His
gaze traveled over her figure. "—speak
A warm glow stole onto Sabrina’s cheeks,
and she didn't answer. She noticed
everyone else had already left the
library, leaving them alone.
"I merely tried to get the polite
generalities out of the way first," he
continued, "and I have a natural
curiosity besides, which is one of my
"You classify your faults?" She
pretended to be shocked at the idea.
"What are some of the worst ones, I
"If I'm fortunate, there may be an
opportunity to introduce you to one or
two of those as well." He smiled again
and continued his stroll around the
Sabrina did the same and saw a twinkle
flash in those electric-blue eyes.
Contrary to what she’d heard, apparently
not all Englishmen were stuffy
"But you haven't answered my question."
He edged his way around the desk.
Her pulse quickened. Yes, she was
recovering from the death of her fiancé,
and she not only liked Hugh Pendleton's
looks, but loved mysteries. Yet, her
two-week trip seemed inadequate for
starting a new relationship.
"I'm the daughter of David Gilmore,
Richard's youngest son. My father
traveled to the United States where he
met my mother and never lived in England
again, although he visited from time to
time. I visited by myself when I was
"Weren't you a trifle young to travel so
"My mother died, and father sent me here
that summer while he put his life back
together." Her throat choked for a
moment. Her memory included the trauma
of her own loss as well as the
unfamiliarity of vastly different
The smile left his face. "I'm most
awfully sorry. How unfortunate. And your
"Never remarried, and is quite well,
thank you." She went on quickly, to
spare him the necessity of asking. "He
came over for his father's funeral, but
flew home yesterday to return to his
job. I arrived this morning and am
staying on until the tenth."
"I say, may we stop circling this desk?
I shan't bite."
Sabrina realized with chagrin that she'd
begun her third time around, always
keeping the desk between them. She
stopped moving and let him catch up. "I
haven't been back since the summer I
"So long? What kept you from returning?"
"Life." She grinned. "You know, all
those necessary evils: school, work."
She moved away from him again, this time
walking slowly about the library,
looking upward along the shelves at the
He followed her, the clean masculine
scent of him mingling with the library's
smell of furniture polish and old
leather. "What work keeps you away?"
"I’m in business, and you don’t really
want to know the boring details."
"But here you are visiting Gilmore Manor
once more." He paused. "Yet you did
inherit something. A trunk in the attic
sounds positively mysterious."
"You mean I might find an old skeleton
"Let's hope not, but aren't you anxious
to find out?"
"Not much. Elmore hasn't led me to
expect the Crown Jewels."
What could she expect? The
mystery of the blue trunk suddenly
intrigued her. She wanted to know what
At that moment, Elmore entered the hall,
and she used his appearance to say,
"Excuse me," to Pendleton and head for
the stairway to the upper floors.
* * *
Hugh expected a conversation with
Elmore, but the executor only nodded and
continued on his way without a word.
Shrugging, Hugh watched Sabrina cross
the Great Hall with its swords, shields
and battle-axes fastened to the walls
and colorful pennants flying from the
rafters. She climbed the staircase,
holding onto the polished bannister,
while he stayed a considerable distance
behind, yet close enough to catch her
should she fall. Such gallantry was an
ancient rite, but one all good English
schoolboys learned early on. Modern
women pretended not to want such
courtesies, but he'd noticed they
usually accepted them readily enough.
The ones who insisted he not treat them
so politely often failed to measure up
anyway. A few appeared to have the
brains of earthworms and the enthusiasm
of your average brick. However, Sabrina
seemed everything at once: an
intelligent business woman–or so he’d
surmised–and exceedingly feminine as
Admiring the elegant, if somewhat
shabby, furnishings of the mansion, he
paused at the second-floor landing.
Sabrina, apparently not realizing he’d
followed her, continued upward another
flight. He recalled Manville telling the
guests they’d installed an elevator in
the mansion a few years before, but he
didn't know its whereabouts. In any
event, he didn’t mind walking up.
Besides, it gave him such a striking
view of Sabrina’s marvelous body, her
trim waist, perfect hips, and legs that
tapered to not-too-thin ankles. He'd
never liked women whose legs seemed too
spindly to support them.
He’d been attracted the moment he'd
caught sight of her. Short hair curled
all over her head like a cap, and its
blue-black color made the grey eyes all
the more surprising. Her rosy
complexion, such a pleasant change from
the pallor of many English women,
together with a pert nose and generous
mouth, made her absolutely
He wanted to rush toward her but changed
his mind. She might resent his following
her without permission. She might wish
to be alone while she perused her
* * *
The nursery occupied the space at the
end of the hall on the third floor, and
the mere act of approaching it set
Sabrina's heart ticking like a
fast-paced metronome. What sweet
memories it evoked, remaining just as
she remembered it: the wide windows
overlooking the kitchen garden, padded
window seats covered in faded chintz,
the fireplace with its heavy metal
screen. She patted the wooden rocking
horse in the corner, saw low, scarred
wooden tables and chairs. The shelves
that once held children's toys and books
now stood empty.
She paused at the doorway, drinking it
all in, fighting the urge to cry. Had it
been only three months she'd spent
there? How, then, had it managed to
color her entire life?
She crossed to the windows and looked
down. The kitchen garden looked cared
for, perhaps the work of the one
gardener she'd seen at the reading of
the will. Grandfather left him
something, she supposed. Or did the
cook, also present, plant those rows of
parsley and chives?
She moved away from the window and
spotted the blue trunk, its color faded,
in the corner. Kneeling on the
threadbare carpet, she pulled up the
hasp. Inside she saw stacks of
children’s books and some old-fashioned
clothes she’d once worn to play at being
grown up. As she lifted a fringed shawl,
she saw something in the bottom of the
trunk. Amy! Her doll!
Tears sprang to her eyes. Her father had
given her the doll when she started her
solo journey to England as a child. But
when she packed to return home three
months later, she couldn’t find it. Back
in Chicago the twice-searched suitcases
yielded no missing doll. Now it had
turned up at last in the trunk she’d
She picked up the doll and examined her.
Almost twenty years before, Amy eased
the loneliness of the long trip to
London and served as constant companion,
which made it all the more painful to
lose her. Now, miraculously returned,
Amy still looked almost brand-new,
hardly played with. Perhaps she always
lay in the bottom of the trunk and no
one else ever removed the old clothes
that covered her.
Amy's cloth face, with embroidered-on
eyes, nose and mouth, smiled up at her.
A short white apron still covered her
blue gingham dress and, at the bottom of
her cotton-stuffed legs, appliqued black
cloth substituted for shoes. She had
been neither expensive nor particularly
pretty, Sabrina realized, but she meant
more than any dolls she’d owned before
or after. Was it because the black yarn
curls resembled Sabrina's own short
curly hair, or because she mysteriously
disappeared, never having a chance to
wear out or lose her appeal?
Yet, she felt heavier than Sabrina
remembered. How odd. A cloth doll ought
not to weigh very much. Furthermore, a
doll ought to have seemed heavier to her
when she was a child than now as an
adult. The same way your first-grade
schoolroom dwindled in size after you
Sabrina turned the doll over and
inspected the closure of her apron.
Obviously sewn together by a careless
seamstress, the stitches didn't even
match in color. Why had she never
noticed it before? Even at nine, she
hadn't been that unobservant.
She pulled at the threads with her
fingernail, and they came loose. The
entire apron and dress opened. Beneath,
on the cloth body of the doll, more
clumsy stitches showed, and she tore
those too, until Amy's back opened and
her stuffing oozed forward. Sabrina
probed inside, widening the opening.
Something hard met her fingertips. She
turned Amy upside down and the something
dropped into her lap: an ornate jeweled
"I wouldn't ask Gary Pritchard to captain Southern Star if he were the last
skipper left alive in the Bahamas!"
Marilee Shaw rarely put herself in the position of having to eat her own
words, but as she walked quickly along the dock to where Southern Star lay tied
at anchor, the challenge she uttered earlier lingered in her ears as well as on
her tongue. So much for rash promises.
"That sounds vaguely familiar, except this morning it was the entire
world." Jane Owens, who owned a catering service that supplied food for
local charters, and who at sixty had the energy of most women at forty-five,
hurried to keep up with Marilee's long-legged stride. "Now that you've changed
your mind, let's not quibble over geography."
As she neared the yacht she had recently inherited, Marilee slowed her pace.
The largest and most luxurious of the two dozen craft berthed in the marina, the
Star swayed gently atop the water's surface.
"I wish I could think of one good reason, even two bad ones, why he should
agree to take Southern Star out on this cruise." Her gaze swept the fifty-two
foot length of the yacht. With a sigh, she climbed the gangplank, a red and
white For Sale sign in one hand and a roll of tape in the other. Although the
Star was listed with three brokers, one at Harbour Island there on Eleuthera,
and two in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, it paid to be practical.
"He loved you once," Jane said from the deck below. "Men don't forget those
things, although they like to pretend they do."
"Whatever he felt, that was eight years ago. Men don't stay in love that
long." All he was likely to remember was how much she’d hurt him. "He'll say
After securing the sign to the forward window of the saloon, Marilee turned
quickly and, with Jane, left the yacht and dock behind, heading for the nearby
cinder block building that housed her late father's office for South Wind
Charters. As she made her way across the asphalt roadway and down the cement
sidewalk, a crisp Atlantic breeze, carrying the fresh, clean scent of salt air,
riffled through her hair. The sun felt warm on her skin and she would have liked
to enjoy it further, but enjoyment of any kind had been pushed to somewhere
below "read everything by Shakespeare" on her list of priorities.
She pushed open the office door and went to the desk where piles of invoices,
outdated correspondence, and an unhealthy preponderance of bills greeted her.
Having sorted through all that paper for the past three weeks, she wanted to
sweep it into the trash and return home to California.
"I need a miracle," she said. "Only something tells me that Gary will not be
the knight who rides to my rescue."
"Then why are you going all the way down to Governor's Harbour when you
already know his answer?" Mischief danced in the depths of Jane's dark eyes.
"Because I'm a masochist." Marilee sank into the ancient swivel chair.
"Because I have this overpowering urge to have him slam the door in my face.
Because I believe in living dangerously. Take your pick."
"I like the last," Jane said.
"Unfortunately, I have few options. This is simple economics. Either I honor
the last commitment Dad left on the books, or the bank will repossess the Star."
She stared at the invoice confirming a ten-day charter for Tom Wellman and a
party of four. The very fact of the cruise seemed an answer to her prayers. How
else could she make even one payment to the bank?
"Dad put his entire life into the Star," she continued. "Now he’s left her to
me, every gleaming, mortgaged foot of her. They'll sell her at auction for a
fraction of what she's worth. I can't let them do that."
"You've convinced me," Jane said, "and you'll convince Gary. I think it a
good sign he's come back to Eleuthera after all those years he lived away. As if
he knew you were going to need him."
"That's one way of looking at it." Marilee had already decided she needed a
second miracle, finding a skipper. She stood and picked up her keys. "But I
still wish there was another way. Any other way. Taming lions would have
to be a picnic compared to coaxing Gary into this assignment."
She remembered their last meeting vividly. Hurt had burned in his eyes and it
had taken her the better part of two years to stop hating herself for what she
believed, at the time, was the right decision.
"Don't feel you have to be overly scrupulous." Jane, never one to keep good
advice to herself, pressed each point home with emphasis. "Play on his sense of
fairness. Your father helped Gary get started in this business, made it possible
for him to buy his first yacht. Loyalty and obligation are sentiments he'll
"I'll try." Marilee paused at the door. "But will they work when he knows
I've got a fifty-two-foot white elephant on my hands?"
"Gary Pritchard was like a son to your father. You might want to remind him
of that, too."
They stepped out into the bright sunshine. "This sounds like a pep rally. You
know, one up for our side." She laughed, but it came out sounding forced.
After saying goodbye to Jane, she climbed into the Jeep and, as she turned
the key, its engine sprang to life. She felt a moment's hesitation, but before
she allowed herself to think of the consequences, swung the Jeep onto the road
and headed south toward Governor's Harbour.
Her memory was good and the area she sought was not too difficult to find.
Eleuthera Island, less than 100 miles long and under five miles wide in many
places, could be covered in less than three hours. In the past, she had explored
every inch of it with her father, but that had been only after her parents
divorced and he moved from Florida to the Bahamas, where he thought business
would be better. She drove past old homes, lying on either side of the hill,
half secluded by tropical shrubs, tranquil and quiet. That day, however, she had
no time to slow and admire their quaint beauty. Then she was past the few shops,
the supermarket, the bank, the church she had once attended and over the ridge
where the road ran toward sandy beaches.
An hour later, she recognized Gary's house from Jane's brief description. She
climbed out of the Jeep and walked slowly up the flagstone path. All smoked
glass and wood and vaulted roof, the house was bordered on three sides by
immaculately kept emerald lawns. Just beyond, across an expanse of pink sand
dotted with lush green palms, the ocean rushed at the shore. In a swirl of
sparkling turquoise, it inched up onto the beach only to be swept back out to
sea. Almost mesmerized by the motion of the water, ebbing and flowing, rising on
a high, sweet crest, only to crash and slip away, she realized her relationship
with Gary had been like that.
If it was possible to love a man too much, to become totally captivated by
the sight and sound of him, then that was how she had loved Gary Pritchard. But
what she had felt for him in the beginning had become, at the end, too strong,
too consuming, so that when he asked her to marry him, she knew without a
moment's doubt that she could never share him with his mistress, the sea. She
could never have become a part-time fixture in his life. Like her mother had
been in her father's.
She pushed the bell. A chime sounded somewhere in the interior of the house,
soft and muted. It died, and she waited, finally deciding, almost with a sense
of relief, that no one was home. Before she had a chance to consider what plan
to adopt next--leaving a note was out of the question--something furry brushed
against her. With a small gasp, she looked down to find a fat orange and white
striped cat looking up at her.
"Where did you come from?" she said aloud.
The cat examined Marilee, then strolled languorously to the door, where it
stretched its front paws against the polished mahogany.
Surprised to find so tame an animal on the premises--a pair of Great Danes
would have seemed more appropriate for the Gary Pritchard she
remembered--Marilee said, "Don't tell me you belong here!"
"He doesn't. I gave him a hand-out once or twice and I haven't been able to
get rid of him since. I call him Cat." The voice that came from directly behind
Marilee was low and husky, familiar, and intensely masculine, like its owner.
She straightened up and turned in that direction.
Except for the deeper lines etched into his brow and along the sides of his
mouth, he had, in her view, changed very little. At thirty-two, he was still
slim where it counted, the muscles finely toned in his long legs and upper arms.
Dark hair fell carelessly in thick waves to frame his face, and his blue eyes
were exactly as she remembered them, alive with a curiosity and zest for living
that had once made him the most exciting man she had ever met.
"Hello, Gary." Her heartbeat shifted into high gear. She took a series of
deep breaths. In, out, in, out, like a do-it-yourself mouth-to-mouth
He took a half step toward her, then drew back. "Well." He sounded uncertain,
which heightened Marilee's own nervousness.
"How are you, Gary?" There, she had managed to say his name twice without
sounding like a breathy ingenue.
"Right this minute, surprised would be an understatement." After a moment,
the uncertainty disappeared from his voice. "You look wonderful, Lee."
"You look well, too." It was her turn to understate. Dressed in denim
cut-offs and navy blue tank top, he looked as vital, tanned and handsome as
"I had no idea you were here on Eleuthera." A tiny smile flirted with the
corners of his lips.
"I'm on temporary leave from my job." The cat brushed against Marilee, then
leaped to its adopted owner, rubbing against his legs.
"Computers, isn't it?"
"Yes." Had her father told him that? Or had he asked about her? She wondered
what else he knew of her life. "I'm with Visions Unlimited. I help businesses
develop networking systems, use new software."
"You're a teacher. That's a good career for you, Lee."
"What makes you say that?" She laughed. "Have you pictured me as some
outdated stereotype of a teacher, in stout shoes and frumpy dress, my hair
pulled into a bun?"
"Hardly. And it would be a shame to hide that hair." His smile softened his
rugged features. "But it's conservative, and predictable."
"Not the kind of work I do." She felt an urge to defend herself. "My
territory takes in three states. I could be in San Diego one day and Seattle the
next. There are times I have to catch a flight on less than four hours' notice.
It's hectic, but it is not predictable."
"I'm glad." He smiled more broadly this time. "You've changed, then. That's
Oh, he was going to make this very difficult. Why had she allowed herself to
hope otherwise? "I have less than a month left to sort out Dad's affairs. The
business is in terrible shape. I... I suppose you heard."
He nodded, genuine sorrow flicking to the surface of his eyes. "I'm sorry,
Lee. He was a good friend--the best--and I'll miss him. I was in Miami when he
died. I didn't find out about it until last week."
He pushed open the door and reached toward her.
Her first instinct was to back away, but before she could act on the impulse,
his long fingers brushed her arm. With the slightest pressure he guided her into
the cool interior of the house.
"I appreciate your driving all this way to tell me."
Guilt washed over her momentarily, and she followed him into a large living
room, but its simple beauty failed to register on her. Rattan chairs, glass
topped tables, recessed lighting, woven straw rug, made only fleeting
impressions. Her conscious mind was filled with the man, not his surroundings,
and also of the fact that she was disturbed he could still have such an effect
on her. On the drive down to his house, she felt convinced she had made peace
with herself over Gary. Now, she wasn't so sure.
"Can I get you something? Club soda or coffee? I'm afraid that's all I can
offer you just now."
She shook her head. How could she admit she had come, not to share her grief
with him, but to offer him a proposition, yacht owner to yacht owner: that she
had, in essence, materialized on his doorstep to offer him a job? "Gary... I..."
She turned toward the tall sheets of glass that formed the side wall of the
room. "I like your view." She wished again that she didn't need his help.
"I like the one I’m looking at." He came up behind her, and she felt
vulnerable again, wished she hadn't come rushing down there wearing her yellow
terry cloth shorts and top, as if she were still eighteen. Brief hot-weather
clothes were usually all she had ever worn when she visited her father there.
But now, at twenty-six, their encounter was to be strictly business. Had to be.
But, with the mere sight of him warming her face and turning her hands clammy,
surely that was merely wishful thinking.