Somewhere in the North Sea
THORN STOOD AT THE bow of his ship, My Hedera, and stared into the dark night, lost in deep thought. The brigantine dipped and swayed into the huge waves. Dark storm clouds stretched across the skies and blended into the black sea. None of the stars lit the sky because the heavens had opened for a fierce storm. He ran his fingers through his long, dark, wet hair, and then brought his hands down to his sides, fisting them in anger. The storm was nothing compared to the turmoil of emotions that ran through him.
“Captain, do you think it’s her?” His first mate shouted to be heard above the thunder as he twisted his hat in his hands.
“I don’t know Sammy. I don’t know,” Thorn whispered into the storm.
Marcus Thornhill, Thorn, to his friends continued to stare into the dark night. He knew it was her, but he just didn’t want to admit to it to himself. As he tried to gain control of his anger, he also tried to figure out who would have done such an awful thing to her. He needed to be calm before his return, but he was furious with himself. If he would have come home sooner, he could have prevented this from happening.
Thorn made his way down the stairs to his cabin, where he found her asleep on his bed. She hadn’t woken since they discovered her in the small lifeboat adrift aimlessly in the sea. He didn’t know how long she had been out there, but her clothes were soaked through from the rain. The night air was frigid, and she would have frozen to death if they had gotten to her any later. Thorn could still remember how her body felt as he lifted her from the boat—chilled to the bone, lips blue, and body shaking uncontrollably.
He was grateful Sammy had been on the lookout for any suspicious ships in the area and had called Thorn to investigate when he’d spied the lifeboat in the open sea. Thorn didn’t know if it was a trap or not, so he decided to row to the boat himself to see what floated in the middle of nowhere.
He was not prepared for what he saw—a lifeless, abandoned girl with nothing for her comfort. He climbed into the boat and knelt next to the girl, pulling her wet hair away from her face. Long and blonde, it clung to her cheeks and neck. His heart stopped as he took in what he saw as a familiar face of his past. It looked like her, but he wasn’t sure. He only knew he must get her to safety.
He lifted her from the puddle of water that had collected in the boat. As he lifted her in his arms, he yelled at his men for a blanket. He passed her to one of his men as he made his way back onto the boat. As he settled down, he wrapped her in the blanket and held her tight in his arms.
“Get us back to ship swiftly!” Thorn shouted at his men.
As they rowed back, the rain started again and pelted their bodies harshly. Thorn pulled her closer into the warmth of his body to protect her from the storm.
When they returned to the ship, Thorn ordered someone to take her to his cabin. As Jake carried out his order, Thorn ordered the rest of the crew to prepare the ship for a storm.
He had so many questions that needed answered, but for now he had to help her stay alive. She had to live, because without her, his life wasn’t worth living.
She lay on his bed so lifeless. If it weren’t for her soft moans, Thorn would have thought she died while he was on the top deck. Thorn reached to touch her red cheek to realize her body burned. He went to the door and called for Sammy.
Sammy limped into the room. “What do you need, Capt’n?”
“Fetch me some wet towels. I need to bring down her fever.”
Sammy left the cabin and returned quickly, bringing with him a bowl of cold water and towels. He watched as the captain wetted the towels and gently wiped them over the young girl’s face. He noticed how the captain took such gentle care of her, like she was a priceless doll. He had never seen this side of the captain before, not that he was a cold man, but during times of war, the captain couldn’t show his softer side. They’d all be dead if he did.
“Capt’n?” Sammy tried to get Thorn’s attention.
Thorn turned toward Sammy, realizing Sammy was still in his cabin. He raised his eyebrows at him in silent inquiry of why he still remained.
“The storm is getting worse, sir. We need you on deck,” Sammy stuttered.
“Get all hands on deck and steer her to calmer seas yourself. I’m needed here. I cannot abandon her again,” Thorn shouted in annoyance.
Sammy left the cabin, climbed on deck, and called all men on deck to help him get the ship to safer waters. Sammy directed the crew to their positions while he took his position behind the wheel. The crew worked to lower the sails while Sammy started to steer them out of the storm. They had their work cut out for them tonight because the wind was strong, and the sea was rougher than ever. Their feet were unsteady on deck as the sea threw the ship back and forth between the waves. It will be a miracle to keep this boat afloat, Sammy thought, but he planted his feet firmly and held onto the ship’s wheel for dear life.