“I have no need for ye, nor do I want to hear yer plea.”
The bulging red eyes of the notorious pirate Blackbeard glared across the table. The gigantic man sat before Rick, leaning onto the table, shoveling some concoction that resembled food into his face. The ship pitched to the right, and the huge man caught the gruel with his forearm and sopped up the spillage with his sleeve.
Watching as the pirate rose, Rick grimaced. Even through the room’s pale light, the sight of his dinner remnants spattering the front of the pirate’s clothing and beard, mingled with what looked to be slime and perhaps a little blood, sickened him. Blackbeard snorted and then passed a lengthy spell of putrid gas. The giant grinned.
Rick’s own heart pounded in his chest. “But I feel I can be of some service to you, sir.”
“I’ve no need for a bloody pantywaist in fancy clothing.” Blackbeard’s eyes looked as though they could burst from their sockets. He lunged forward and grabbed Rick’s hand.
The stench of the man as he drew nearer was nauseating. Rick swallowed hard and looked into the face of the Devil himself. Quickly, he pulled his hand away from the pirate’s caked and greasy palm, resisting the temptation to swipe away the grime on his trouser leg.
“Be gone with ye, ye bloody bastard! I’ve no use for ye. ‘Tis no service ye could provide for me short of dumping me slop overboard!”
He couldn’t leave. This was his best and only chance. To have the whole of Blackbeard’s treasure laid at his feet was more than he could fathom. His dreams of power and riches were at hand. He savored the metallic taste of the silver-plated cup in his mouth and then looked to Blackbeard and gave him a sly grin. No. He wouldn’t give up.
“I have names that you need to know. Names you need to fear.”
The giant roared. “I have no fears! The Devil has no fears, nor do I! You should be afeared of me. The world fears me!”
“I have no fear of you.” Rick braced his stance, prepared for the onslaught. “I worship you.”
Blackbeard swirled in a complete circle, swinging his cutlass around his head until he stopped dead center in his quarters, with the cutlass pointed at a spot just below Rick’s Adam’s apple. As the infamous pirate stepped closer, Rick held strong. He would achieve what he sought.
“Worship me! What caliber of man worships another? And what, pray tell, do you think ye can offer me?”
In a heartbeat, Rick answered. His knowledge of Blackbeard’s history was about to pay off. His lips twisted into a smirk. “Names, sir. Names of people you should avoid at all cost. And places. Dates. And if you can give me some time, locations of ships full of treasure just ripe for the picking.” The cutlass dug a little further into his throat, and he was sure it drew blood.
“Names, you say? Give them to me now. Who are these people I should dread?”
Refusing to buckle to the pirate’s wrath, he continued while keeping contact with his narrowed gaze. “Alexander Spotswood, for one. Robert Maynard, for another.”
“Spotswood? The Governor of Virginia? Bah! I’ve no fear of him.”
“He will order your death.”
Watching Blackbeard’s eyes widen further, he felt the prick of the cutlass jab deeper and then release. Dropping his arm to his side, he studied Rick.
“And who be this Maynard?”
Praying he was doing the right thing, Rick took a deep breath and continued, “The man who will see to your death.”
The great pirate only stared at him for several minutes. Without warning, he spun again and laughed a full, lengthy belly laugh that echoed throughout the quarters and up onto the ship’s deck.
He stopped dead center in the cabin and cocked his head to one side. “Yer a seer, are ya?”
In agreement, Rick nodded slowly. “I know things.”
Blackbeard’s gruff voice returned. “Ye may stay for a while, but if ye prove to be a useless piece of shit, and if ye get in my way, I’ll have yer head for dinner! Now, who may ye be?”
Inwardly smiling his relief, but not daring to show it to the great man who stood before him, the man he certainly did idolize and wished he were more like, Rick answered, “My name is Richard Gentry.”
After another pause, Blackbeard stumbled closer until Rick could see the foul yellow of his eyes.
“Well, Richard Gentry, I have me first request. If ye pass muster, we’ll talk further. If not, I’ll set ye adrift on the open sea like any common witch, ye understand?”
Rick exhaled. It seemed he’d been holding his breath for a millennium. “What is this task,” he asked, not blinking an eye.
“The task,” the pirate spit back, “is to bring me a woman. And if ye know things as ye say, ye’ll know exactly the one.”
Every day for two weeks, Claire walked to the stone. She’d studied the inscription and contemplated its meaning and intent. It was a puzzle, to be sure, but slowly, she was gaining headway.
While Jack worked or fished or tended to his farming, she learned her way around the area. She’d not seen a solitary person since she’d been there, so she’d decided Hannah’s clothing needed some alteration. What would it matter? No one but Jack ever saw her anyway. And it was too damned hot to wear layer upon layer of clothing. How Hannah stood it, she didn’t know.
But Hannah, even though Claire felt like she knew her at times, was not entirely like her. She couldn’t be. Hannah was more reserved, gentler, and probably would have never thought of crossing Jack’s wishes. There’s where they were different. Claire cared for Jack, she knew she did right from the very beginning, but her contemporary upbringing would in no way allow her to be docile and obedient.
Unless of course she wanted to be those things.
Certainly though, Hannah wouldn’t have ripped her clothing to shreds in an indecent manner, at least for the times, as Claire was about to do.
The skirt was all right, long and loose and comfortable, but the chemise had to go. That morning after Jack left, she’d loosened the stitching at the shoulders and removed the long sleeves and then ripped the entire bottom length off the thing from about the waist down, making herself a sleeveless blouse. To humor Jack, she slipped her arms though the openings of the corset and laced it over the blouse. It did help to support her breasts, since she didn’t have a bra. She thought she looked somewhat like Heidi, but then laughed off the thought. She was anywhere but the Alps, and she looked nothing like a ten-year-old girl. And besides, she was having wicked thoughts of what Jack might think of how she looked in the corset sans chemise later tonight.
Forget the bonnet. Forget the apron.
She felt like a three-year-old when she put them on.
I might have to live in the eighteenth century, but I don’t have to concede to their clothing. Maybe I’ll start a trend.
She was dressed in just that manner when she returned from the beach later that afternoon and Jack, for the first time, witnessed the alterations. She knew instinctively, before she’d even reached within ten yards of him, that he didn’t like it.
“What happened there with your clothing?” he asked as she drew nearer. Then panic washed over his face. “Are you all right? Did someone try to harm you?” He rushed forward. “Lord in heaven! Your chemise is ripped and your shoulders are sunburned red as a lobster!”
Claire glanced down at one shoulder. It was red, but no worse than any other sunburn she’d ever had. She normally tanned quite easily and rarely blistered after a burn; she didn’t suspect this one would either.
“Just a little red,” she mumbled and then lifted her eyes to his. “How was your day?”
For some reason, he appeared angry. “I asked you a question, woman. What happened to you? If someone harmed you, just tell me and I’ll…”
She stepped closer, smiled sweetly, and then placed a peck on his cheek. “Calm down, Jack. Nothing happened to me. I just got hot, that’s all.”
He stared back. “You mean you did that to your clothing?”
“It was hot.”
Anger raced over his face. But there was something else, too. Desire? She was hot and sweaty, so much so that the cotton fabric of the chemise-blouse stuck to her like something out of a spring break wet T-shirt contest. She glanced lower. Her breasts, just above the area where the corset left off, were peaked and her hard nipples made an outward protrusion beneath the damp fabric. Her skirt, wet at the bottom from her walk near the sound’s edge, hung close to her ankles, its weight pulling at the fabric around her waist.
“You can’t go around like that!”
“And why not?”
His stance broadened. He placed fists on either hip and fully faced her. “Because you can’t, that’s all. Someone may see you!”
Claire chuckled. “Who in the hell is going to see me, Jack? I’ve been here two weeks now and I’ve seen no one but you. Are you sure it’s not just that I arouse you a little dressed like this?”
He jerked forward, seemed to contemplate her question, and then evidently chose to ignore it. “It isn’t ladylike. You need your bonnet and apron when you go out. You can’t show your shoulders like that and your skirt, the way it hugs your body, I can almost see through it. You’d think there was nothing on underneath! What have you done to your chemise?” He slipped a finger under the cotton fabric at her shoulder.
Instinctively she stepped backward and glared.
“Don’t you take another step. What I wear is of no concern to you. It’s hot, Jack, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to wear all those layers. I’ll die of heat exhaustion!”
“I asked you what you had on underneath the skirt. What’s happened to your chemise?” His brows knit together, determined. “Now let me see.”
Her eyes widened. “You want to see what’s under my skirt?”
He exhaled impatiently. “I said, yes.”
With a slight tug, the weight of the waterlogged fabric dropped from her hips. It pooled around her ankles leaving her naked from the waist down. Her gaze stayed glued to his face, and she watched with amusement as his expression turned from one of anger…to desire…to anger…and back again.
Finally, he stared at the small golden triangle just below the point of her corset. His lips parted as she stood silently watching him. Again, she noticed the influx and release of a slow, deep breath, and then he shook his head from side to side.
She reached down to her golden curls and flicked a forefinger through them.
“Hannah…” he warned.
She trailed that forefinger over her mound, teasing him. He didn’t, or couldn’t, look away.
“See anything you like?”
He tore his gaze upward. “Stop doing that. Now.”
Giggling, she continued. “Ah, come on, Jack. You know you see something here you like.” Why was she taunting him? Perhaps it was because in all his affronted manliness, he somehow seemed so…innocent?
She dipped two fingers deeper between her legs.
He moved closer. “Hannah! I forbid you to touch yourself like—”
“Forbid me to do what?” Slowly, she brought her fingers up to her mouth and sucked on them.
He rushed to her and grabbed both of her hands. “Stop! Dammit, woman! I…”
She held his gaze, didn’t falter. He halted, her hand inches from his face, his breathing labored. Slowly, he slid his gaze over to her fingers laced within his, brought them to his own mouth and sucked, his eyes closed, and then tugged her closer.
This time Claire trembled with desire. “You like that, Jack,” she whispered. “Don’t you? Admit it. Seeing me touch myself made you hard and you want me.”
He nuzzled into her neck, his teeth raking across her pulse. “Changes. I can’t seem to remember sometimes that you are her, but then you are not.”
“But these changes turn you on. And you like it.”
He pulled back, studied her face. Then he trailed a solitary forefinger toward her breast. He lightly touched one sensitive nipple through the damp cotton.
“You make me hard,” he admitted. “And yes, I like it. You have lost your inhibitions and you share that with me. I want that. I do not like to think of other men ogling you when you look like that though. You cannot, Hannah, ever be in the presence of another man dressed like this.”
She shook her head. “No, Jack. I wouldn’t. I understand that. I…”
“It is also disturbing to me that you do not want to obey my wishes, as a dutiful wife should—but then…I believe I rather prefer the surprises you bring.”
She reached up and grasped his hand in hers and then placed it on her bare hip. “And what surprises might those be?” She dismissed the “dutiful little wife” comment until later. This was not the time or place.
He sucked in a quick breath. His other hand closed over her opposite hip and he dragged her closer, his fingers kneading into her flesh. He lowered his lips to hers, barely scraping them. “Each day is a surprise, Hannah. Each day you bring me more than the one before. It’s just that I’m not used to you this way yet.”
“What way? Tell me.”
“Like…like this. The way that you are right now. Like you’ve been since you’ve been back. So…” He trailed his lips down her throat until he met the cleavage of her breasts. He thrust himself closer into her bare pelvis. She clearly felt his arousal.
“Seductive? Easy? Uninhibited?” She whispered as she clutched his head to her breast, relishing in his tongue dipping beneath the cotton.
The thing is, Jack, I was never this way before. It’s only with you.
His head jerked up and met her gaze. “So full of passion…surprises.”
“You like that?”
One finger pulled at the laces holding the corset together, and then he plunged both hands under the fabric, loosening the laces fully, and palmed both breasts. Soon she stood naked before him. Reaching out, she undid the front closures of his shirt. He didn’t flinch, but let her undress him as they stood in the hot afternoon sun in front of their cabin.
She enfolded the fingers of one hand around his hard length.
“Hannah…would never do…that.” He spoke between ragged breaths.
“She never touched you? Like this?”
She watched his face as she stroked him, her touch feather-light on his swollen shaft. His eyes rolled back in his head with unbridled pleasure and he wavered, slightly, standing there. She wondered if he was fighting an internal battle. Knowing, and yet not knowing, she wasn’t Hannah; that they were different people.
She would make him see the difference.
“No, Hannah probably wouldn’t do this,” she whispered. “But I would.”
She nudged closer, pressed her hips to his, and slid him between her legs, supporting his cock between her thighs. Reaching around, she kneaded his rear and pulled him as close into her as she possibly could.
He pushed in between her legs, pumped in and out slowly, building friction. She was hot. Wet. And she loved the feel of him there. He moaned, and then he grasped her face, cupping her cheeks in both hands, and heatedly kissed her. When he was through, she drew back only slightly and breathed heavily against his cheek.
In one swift moment, Jack lifted her and she wrapped her legs around him. His shaft penetrated her thoroughly and with a wild abandoned shriek, she felt his hot length take her…filling her…possessing her as she’d never before been possessed.
Jack had been patient with her as a “wife” since he didn’t really understand that she hated housework and domesticity. Well, hate was probably too strong a word. It was just that it wasn’t her thing. She liked numbers and figures and cutting to the chase. She didn’t like dust cloths and broom handles. But she had found herself hand washing some of their clothing and hanging them out on a makeshift clothesline. And she’d swept and dusted and straightened the little cabin until it shined, more out of sheer boredom than anything else. But Jack had never asked her to cook for him. Not until the previous night.
He wanted her to bake bread.
Bread. Oh my God. How in the world am I going to pull this one off?
But the thought that startled her most was she really hadn’t minded doing these things, and if Jack wanted bread, she would try to provide it for him.
Geez! What am I turning into?
Rising, she briefly washed and then dressed. Jack was gone for the day—scavenging and fishing he’d told her—and she had the cabin to herself. At loose ends as to what she would do with the rest of her day, she thought perhaps she could put the bread making off. It wasn’t as if she actually knew what she was doing, anyway.
After wandering the cabin for a while, she took a brief walk outside. Bored, she went back inside. Plopping down on the bed, she longed for a juicy book to while away the afternoon. Or a magazine. Newspaper. Cereal box.
And then it dawned on her. It would be like this every day Jack was gone. What it would be like every day of her life if she stayed here.
In this century. Forever.
What a lonely existence Jack Porter had on this island. How in the world could a woman take all this? Lord. This was what it would be like for the rest of her life. Even though she cared for Jack and shared a deep sense of connection with him, she wasn’t sure if she could take it. Could she resign herself to living this lonely life?
Suddenly she longed to nail a closing on a prime piece of real estate.
But that wasn’t to be.
She shook off the thought. It was easier and simpler to just think about making bread. Something menial and manual. Something to occupy her hands, not her brain. Or her heart.
All right, Claire. Just do it.
She stared at the fireplace. The thing took up nearly the entire back wall of the cabin.
Bake bread indeed.
Not once in her life had she baked bread. When was there time? And who in their right mind would want to, anyway?
The thing was though, if she were living in her own century, she’d probably have a good idea of what she was supposed to do. She’d find a cookbook, go to the grocery store, call Vicki…
Claire snapped her fingers and glanced around the room. Cookbook. Any self-respecting 18th century woman worth her salt probably had a cookbook—or some semblance of one anyway.
Okay, so where would Hannah keep it?
Slowly turning on her heel, she glanced from one piece of furniture to another. Up until now, she’d not dared to explore the contents of the cabin—she’d never felt up to doing so. And now she was supposed to bake bread. But she needed a recipe. So, she’d have to snoop…or rather, search for one, right?
There was a small cabinet next to the fireplace, and she suspected it would be the most obvious place to look. She peeked inside. What was she doing? What if she found out something she didn’t like? What if she found out Jack was a murderer or something? Murdered ol’ Hannah in her sleep!
She chuckled. Jack was no murderer. Just a man. An incredibly sexy, gorgeous man, who was perhaps just a tad chauvinistic, but not beyond the realm of what was expected in his time. She cared for him, and he expected bread, did he say in the morning? Well, surely to goodness it wouldn’t take twenty-four hours. Why, if he wanted bread, that’s what he would get. And he would get it tonight. Obviously the makings were around here somewhere, and if he expected it, she would just have to look around for it, wouldn’t she?
Yes, she would.
Triumphant, Claire grasped the cabinet handle and pulled it fully open, sniffed appreciatively at the aromas wafting out. She reached for the tiny wooden boxes inside. Spices. Honest to goodness spices! But upon closer inspection, she realized that the containers were nearly empty; only their fragrances lingered behind. Then another container caught her eye. Some type of decanter.
She lifted it and then removed its lid. A quick whiff and her head tossed backward. The pungent fumes penetrated her nostrils.
Rum. Very strong rum.
She returned it to the shelf and closed the door. Well, she thought, unless she was making rum cake, she’d better get busy on the other ingredients and find a recipe. Otherwise, she might be tempted to forego the bread and indulge in the rum, forgetting this entire scenario all together.
Panning the room, her gaze fell on the chest against the far wall. As if drawn to it, she walked across the room and stood before the massive box. She felt compelled to search through it—almost as if it was the thing she was supposed to do. She remembered Jack opening it once before, when he had retrieved Hannah’s clothing. She had a brief moment’s hesitation before she opened the lid.
Did she dare look? But if the trunk contained Hannah’s things, then perhaps there would be recipes. And perhaps she would find out a little more about Hannah herself. It was strange, but since her arrival in the eighteenth century, there were things which seemed familiar, but about which she could know nothing. And now, as she stood in front of this carved, heavy chest, it felt like she’d done so a thousand times before.
Reaching out, she stroked the soft, polished wood, worn by the fingertips of time. A tingling sensation traveled up her hands to her arms and shoulders and then settled deep in her abdomen. Claire knelt before the chest and took a deep breath before placing her hands on the wooden lid. Slowly, she pushed the lid back until it sat on its hinges, leaning against the cabin wall.
At first she was hesitant to look inside. She sat back on her haunches and closed her eyes, almost fearful of interfering with the possessions of a woman long gone. But after she sat there for a few minutes, she gathered enough courage to peek over the edge. When she did, she let out a long sigh, not realizing she’d been holding her breath, and then reached over to touch the first objects her eyes rested upon.
There were several articles of clothing similar to the ones she now wore. Another corset, two chemises, two skirts, the pantaloon type things, three bonnets and two aprons. After lifting these items one by one and carefully placing them on the floor, she again peered into the chest. There was a pair of shoes—a low boot type of shoe with a buckle across the top. The leather was very stiff and, she thought, quite uncomfortable looking. She’d just as soon go barefoot. And along with the shoes were two pair of thick stockings. Neither of these items looked as though they’d had much wear, so she assumed Hannah didn’t wear them often either.
Rising onto her knees so she could reach further into the chest, she lifted out several other items and placed them one by one on the floor beside her: a small wooden box tied with a leather strap, a leather-bound book that she suspected to be a journal, and a large Bible.
Picking up the wooden box, she turned and sat against the chest, placing the box in her lap. Carefully, she released the leather tie and lifted off the lid. It was an ornately carved little box, and when she removed he lid, she instantly smelled cedar. Inside, there was a pincushion with several pins and two threaded needles, several loops of thread, two skeins of floss, some folded panels of white cotton, a thimble, a blue ribbon, and deep in the bottom, several letters wrapped with a dull red ribbon. Shoving the other items out of the way, she hesitantly picked up the bundle of letters. As if interfering in something she should not, she simply held them in her hands and looked at the script running across the envelopes. Miss Hannah Amalie Bell. She sensed the letters were from Jack. Somehow, she knew it.
She held the packet in her hands. She had no right—no right whatsoever—to read these. No right at all to pry into the past life of the man with whom she now shared an existence.
Nor that of his former lover.
Claire dropped the letters into her lap, closed her eyes and leaned her head against the chest. She wouldn’t do it. It was none of her business. But then another voice broke into her thoughts. If you read them, you will know more about Jack, what he is like, what pleases him, what kind of a man he is. You are living with a man about whom you know nothing.
Glancing back down into her lap, she seized the letters and stared at them. Turning them sideways, she thumbed her fingers along the edges, counting each one. Seven. Eight. Nine.
Nine letters in all.
Were these courting letters?
Had Jack met her on the mainland and then pined for her when he was back on the island? Did he find it unbearable to be without her?
Maybe I need to read them.
And then, maybe I don’t.
She carefully laid the bundle in the chest deciding now was not the right time to invade Jack and Hannah’s private world.
She picked up the journal. A niggling of the same feelings swept over her, but she swiftly abandoned them. Letters were personal. This was not so much. Not that a journal wasn’t personal, it was, but she found it much easier to read the woman’s thoughts than to read a lover’s words written for someone else. And she couldn’t do that to Jack. But Hannah wasn’t here anymore, so reading her journal wasn’t nearly as sinful as reading her love letters.
She leafed through the pages. Within, were all sorts of recordings. Not only personal entries about the comings and goings and the social lifestyles in
, but little tidbits
like how to make soap and candles, and several recipes. Recipes! But her
interest in baking was long gone now. Bath
Finally, she came to where Jack Porter had entered Hannah Bell’s life. Claire read the entire section, learning only that Hannah had thought Jack the most handsome man she’d ever seen. So mannerly and gentleman-like, she wrote. He came whenever the merchant ships hit Bath Town, or when he could catch a ship crossing the inlet that required a pilot. He came calling whenever he could, although her parents did not necessarily approve. But soon Hannah had confessed her love for Jack, within the pages of her journal at least, if not to him then, and later agreed to be his wife.
There was one journal entry concerning an argument Jack had had with her father, who had insisted they reside in Bath Town. Jack insisted he must stay on the island. Hannah only wanted to live with Jack, be his wife, bear his children, and it mattered not where they resided. Finally, Hannah wrote that her father gave in, she married Jack, and he moved her to his island home.
She turned one more page to find it empty save for a few words.
The date was August of 1717, a little over a year earlier, two months after she and Jack were married. The letters stood out against the white journal pages.
I want to go home.
Then for the remaining pages, there was nothing. A chill traveled up Claire’s spine as she finally leafed back to the last words. Why would a woman who made an effort to write her thoughts in this book so frequently suddenly stop? And what was the meaning of those last words?
She would never know. She could argue the point internally all day long, but the result would be the same. She simply would never know. All Claire could do was guess, and the most obvious guess was that Hannah was not as happy as Jack let on. Perhaps Hannah was lonely, too. Did Jack know?
She closed the book and laid it alongside the wooden box and the bundles of letters in the trunk. The last item was the Bible. She sighed.
Enough snooping for one day.
But as she held the large Bible in her hands, she found herself drawn to it. Settling back down to a seated position on the floor, she laid it on her lap and carefully fingered the carved backing of the book.
A vague remembrance tickled the recesses of her mind. She paused, glanced off. Why did this seem familiar?
She wasn’t sure and opened the thick cover.
Upon turning the page, she realized just how delicate and special the Bible was. Reverently, she turned several of the pages starting about two-thirds of the way back. When the pages fanned out to the center, stiffer pages stopped the motion, and the Bible lay open in front of her. A family Bible. Complete with the family lineage.
Placing a gentle finger over the names carefully written there, she leaned forward, almost squinting, to see the names. The dates of births and deaths and marriages spanned over a hundred years. Claire skimmed the names with her finger, tracing the lineage until she reached Hannah and Jack’s entry. And there it was, in black and parchment white, staring back up at her. Hannah Amalie Bell married to Jackson Miller Porter, 15 June 1717.
She gasped. The same inscription as in her ring. For Eternity.
What the hell was that supposed to mean? That this was fate? That she was supposed to take over Hannah’s body? That she was born with Hannah’s soul?
Glancing once more at the names linked before her, she almost grew enraged at the entire situation. This was her life someone was playing with here.
But if she were stuck here, then by God she would stake a claim to it. All of it!
She rose quickly to her feet. She knew that somewhere in this cabin there had to be the items she needed. After rifling through some of Jack’s things in a chest with drawers, the cabinet with spices, and some small wooden boxes stuffed under the bed, she finally found them. Not sure how they worked, but it didn’t matter. She would do what she had set out to do, and the simple matter that she didn’t know beans about how to write with a quill pen and ink didn’t faze her.
So she returned to the Bible. After a few practice swipes on a blank sheet of the parchment in the back, Claire set out to finish her task. Directly underneath Hannah and Jack’s betrothed names and the date, she wrote two things. The first: Hannah Amalie Bell Porter, died May 21, 1718. Then, with shaking hands, the second: Hannah Claire Winslow betrothed to Jackson Miller Porter.
When it came to the date, she faltered. They’d not actually married, had they? But it seemed as if they were. Perhaps, we will. Someday. Did she want that?
Damn! What am I saying here? Am I saying that I want to marry Jack and stay here forever?
The ink dried and Claire stared down at the words she’d hastily written in the Bible, feeling somewhat guilty about writing in someone else’s property. She doubted Jack ever went through Hannah’s things.
But as she looked at the writing a bit longer, a chill traveled up her back and settled around her heart. Even with Claire’s shaky handwriting and her clumsiness using the quill pen, she could see the similarities. Stroke for stroke, Claire’s handwriting matched that of Hannah Porter.
She drifted. Her mind spun. A dizzying sense of otherworldliness overtook her.
Before. She’d seen these pages before. When?
Stunned, she closed the book, not caring if it smeared, and placed the Bible back in the chest. She layered Hannah’s clothing on top and closed the hinged lid. Turning back to stare at the empty cabin, too many thoughts jumbled up the control panels of her brain.
She was going into overload. Confused. Too much to think about.
She couldn’t live like this for the rest of her life.
Exhausted, she climbed onto the bed she’d been sharing with Jack, covered herself with the thin, small coverlet, and momentarily slept her fears away. She no longer cared that she hadn’t baked bread. Jack would just have to deal with it.