He came with the rain from the sea on a stormy Nantucket morning. It was his boat, or what remained of it, that first caught her eyea long fragment of splintered wood, a jagged needle of white in an endless gray tempest of angrily churning saltwater. His head was no more than a black stain on the wood, his arms dark bands on either side, and she stared for long, disbelieving moments at the sea-tossed voyager before realizing that it was indeed a man.
Her racing pulse accompanied the driving rain as it beat its wrath against the windowpanes surrounding her. Her soft brown-eyed gaze widened to train itself on the distant figure approaching the beach with the belligerent rush of the tide. Horror-struck, she watched the piece of debris as it ricocheted amid the waves in their violent race toward the shore.
Ducking out of the rooftop cupola, she clattered down narrow wooden steps that creaked in tune with the static-riddled voice of the small transistor in her shaking hand. "Hurricane Ivan at last shows signs of turning out to sea." It offered little solace. Tearing to the closet, she stepped into her boots and threw a heavy yellow slicker over her slender shoulders. "True to its name," the voice continued, "Ivan the Terrible has wreaked havoc along much of the eastern seaboard of the United States, inching its way northward with terror in its path, destruction in itswake." The radio went dead beneath the summary flick of her thumb as she tossed the box onto a sofa, hoisted the full hood up and over her thick mahogany mane and reached for the front doorknob.
Only then, as she emerged from dryness and warmth, did the full impact of the storm, stirred to gale force mere hours before, hit her. The wind pounded her slim body, fighting her at every step as she burst into a run down the gentle incline toward the sea. The rain formed sheet after sheet of fluid barrier through which she broke determinedly. The sandy path, once benign, was now a begrudging ribbon of mud sucking greedily at the heavy rubber of her boots, making a mockery of her attempt at speed.
Head down, she pushed on, her body piercing the torrents at a forward tilt as she worked her way along the beachfront toward the point where she had last seen the man. How often had she imagined the drama of rescues in the glory days of the whaling ships of Nantucketbut there was nothing remotely romantic about the life-and-death reality in which she now unexpectedly found herself.
Squinting through glistening lashes, she scanned the beach, still empty, then the water, similarly so. Had he gone under? Was he lost so close to safety? No. There! Riding a wave, suffering beneath another. The pitiful piece of fractured wood, the dark head. One swell, then another, each bringing him closer. Until, at last, with ragged release, the drenched body washed up on the shore not ten feet from her.
Compassion surged through her as she closed the distance in an instant, throwing herself down beside the gasping figure now prone on the wet sand. With a grunt, she levered the rock-hard form onto its back, then up to rest in a half-sitting position against her own body.
His eyes were closed, his skin an ashen-blue tone. Only the fierce shiver of his body and the raspy pant of hisbreath spoke of the life that miraculously remained. Directed by pure instinct, she spoke aloud and with a trace of triumph as she struggled to get the man to his feet.
"All right, whoever you are, you are alive and I intend to keep you that way." His weight set her momentarily back. "But you'll have to help me." His eyes barely flickered with the awareness that she spoke, yet when she went to lift him again, she sensed a momentum on his part, without which the job would have been futile. He was a tall man, an immovable obstacle should he go totally limp.
"That's it," she said through gritted teeth, shifting behind to lift him farther. "That's it. Easy does it. On your feet. You've come this far. Just a little farther." His breathing was ragged as she snaked his long arm around her shoulders and slid her own across his back, her fingers barely reaching his ribcage. "Come on, come on," she urged softly. "We're going to walk just a little way. That's it." His feet were leaden weights beside her own, yet they managed to move slowly in the direction toward which she propelled him.
Her eye scoured the beach in search for the help she knew was not there. "My car," she cried with growing urgency. "We'll get to my car. I can drive you into town to the doctor." Talking seemed one way to keep him aware and moving, her major objective at the moment. His bulk was large, further weighted down by his sodden clothing, and the storm persisted with maddening rage about them, bent on thwarting their efforts to reach the high ground.
But April Wilde was a woman of determination. Her bone-white fingers dug into the soaked fabric of his clothing as she braced his sagging body with her own and plodded on. It seemed an eternity of agonized trudging before the house materialized in her rain-whipped gaze. Her hair, having escaped from its cover in the turmoil, streamed down her face in soggy strands. She ignored it purposefully.
Her dark blue Volvo wagon, parked in front of the house, was a metal island rising from the gritty swamp. "Almost there," she shouted. "You'll wait in the car while I get the keys. Then we'll be in town in no time!"
Even as she said it, she questioned the realism of her goal. Visibility was practically nonexistent, as was the paving on the roads of this southeastern coast of the island. But she had to trythere was no choice.
The stranger's body slumped against the car as she opened the door on the passenger's side. Exhausted from the trek, she called up what meager strength was left to ease the cold form into the seat where, as though on cue, he lapsed into unconsciousness. With a slam of the door, she raced back to the house, leaving a trail of water from hallway to kitchen, where her car keys lay, and back.
Trepidation filled her as she slid behind the wheel and glanced at her passenger. He was still, so very still. Should she search for a pulse? As she shook her head in dismissal of the time-wasting notion, her impatient fingers tucked the wet hair behind her ears, then put the key in the ignition, started the engine and flipped the gear into reverse. The sound of tires spinning was barely audible above the storm, but the lack of movement in response to her foot on the gas told the story eloquently.
Her reaction was not quite as eloquent. "Damn it!" she swore beneath her breath, flipping into drive, going nowhere, then back into reverse with the same dismal result. "Damn it! Not now, fool car! Move!" From drive to reverse to drive again, April rocked the car, feeling herself and her vehicle sink deeper into the mud with every whir of the tires.
What of her shipwrecked passenger now? A more poignant oath escaped her lips as she made the quick decisionthe only decision. Springing from the car, she circled to his side, swung open the door, and leaned in, slapping thepale, cold cheek of the tall figure. She bent to struggle with his legs until they were, once more, free of the car.
"Here we go again," she humored herself. "Hold on, damn it. We're going into the house." Again, she slapped his cheek firmly. "Wake up! I need your help!" A faint stirring of his body brought a sigh of relief from her trembling lips. Buoyed by firm resolve, she slid her arms around the wet form and hoisted him, with all her strength, from the car. Moments later, by what miracle she didn't know, the two were inside the house with the door shut against the storm.
Calling on her intuitive reserve, she led himhalf-dragged him, through the living room to the small room at the back that she had designated as her bedroom. Her murmur was weak as she looked frantically around. "I'll have to take off those wet things. You've got to get warmed." Repeating the thoughts aloud over and over again, she eased the man down into the large rattan chair in the corner. "No sense getting the bed wet before I can get you into it." Her explanations may or may not have been heard or understood, yet she persisted, verbalizing her rationalizations at every step of the way.
The zipper of his drenched nylon Windbreaker gave way only with a struggle. Levering him forward, she peeled it from him, then went to work on the equally wet fabric of his cotton shirt and, finally, the dark turtleneck jersey that clung stubbornly to his skin. The shirt shifted the dark hair on his forehead back as she removed it and revealed a gash at his temple, open but no longer bleeding.
"My God," she moaned softly. "I'm no doctor. What do I do?" Fast on the heels of a brief moment of panic came a resurgence of her common sense. Resting the limp form against the chair, she dropped her own slicker and ran for the bathroom, returning with an armload of soft, warm towels, one of which she wrapped around the stranger's bare chest as she pulled him against her oncemore. "To bed, whoever you are. I can't do anything more here."
Again, it was as though some small part of him heard, for his legs moved slightly as she lugged him across the short distance to deposit him on the edge of the bed, his long legs left dangling over the side. The laces of his canvas deck shoes resisted her chilled fingers, but yielded at last to her tugs. Shoes and socks fell to the floor before she contemplated the next step. Again, there was little choice. She had come this far; it was obvious that the man needed to be drycompletely dry.
"Sorry about this, pal," she babbled uncomfortably, as she forced her hands to the buckle of his belt. "It's not that I make a habit of undressing men " The snap was released, the zipper lowered. "In fact, I'm not " She tugged at the heavy denim. " overly " She struggled past his hips. " skilled at this type of thing." With awkward tugs, the jeans fell to the floor. April took a deep breath. "I hope you're not terribly modest." Fighting a wave of her own self-consciousness, she divested him of the last of his underclothes, then quickly lifted his legs to shove them beneath the covers, which she promptly drew to his chin. "Smart girl," she murmured in self-encouragement, stooping to flip on the electric blanket. "He'll be warm in a jiffy."
Propping herself on the edge of the bed, she roughly rubbed the chest and arms of the inert form, willing circulation back into the bone-soaked limbs and torso as the heat of the blanket began its slow rise. Her eye scanned the room behind her for an instant, coming to rest with a flurry of interest on the old pine chest beneath the windowsill. Trembling hands withdrew a heavy quilt and spread it over the long body. Only then, with the knowledge that she had done whatever she could to make him warm, did her heartbeat begin to slow to a more normal level.
With another dry towel in hand, she moved closer to the dark head that lay, still and pale, on her pillow. Her fingers were gentle as she raised it, slid the towel beneath it, then began a soft rubbing of his wet hair. Even with the worst of the moisture removed, it was uncompromisingly black, increasingly thick as the warmth of the house dried it further. With a corner of the towel, she dabbed at his face, still pale but less blue than it had been. His beard showed a shadow of growth, though the even trim of his short sideburns spoke of a man careful in his grooming. His eyes were deep-set, capped by dark brows and long, thick black lashes. Her terry fabric traced the angled line of his cheekbone and jaw, sensing the strength that this mysterious visitor held. When a dark red line of blood appeared on the gash at his temple, she brought a damp washcloth from the bathroom, and blotted it gently. Other than this gash and a slowly darkening bruise high on his cheek, there seemed no other obvious injury. For that she was grateful. If she was to harbor this man until she could find help, or vice versa, she prayed for no complications.
Then the thought registered. Tucking the covers more tightly around the unmoving form, she tossed the towels onto a chair and headed for the living room. If she couldn't get to town herself, surely someone in town might get to her in this emergency. The local directory provided a number; filled with new hope, she lifted the phone's receiver. There was no dial tone. Impatiently, she jabbed at the disconnect button. Nothing. Dead. The phones were dead! Frantically, she turned toward her Apple, her major link to the outside world from which she had been in self-imposed exile these past few weeks. But the machine, she reminded herself, communicated through the phone jack just behind itdead as well. Even her faithful companion, her personal computer, had now denied her its vital link to America! Discouraged, she turned away.
Tired feet squished their way back to the bedroom, theirnoise reminding her of her own sodden state. Within minutes, dry clothes lay across her arms and, with a brief glance at the quiet form on the bed, she hastened to the bathroom to administer to her own chill.
The sight that met her in the mirror shook her. "Lord help me, if he wakes up now he'll wish he hadn't!" Her hair was matted in straggles, her face pale, her eyes hollow pools of chocolate. Within minutes, fresh water warmed her cheeks and a brush worked its way through her tangles. Her damp clothes hit the hamper, replaced by dry jeans and a shirt. A second glance in the mirror was more rewarding. The brush had returned a chestnut gleam to her long tresses, and the warmth of the water and clothes had heightened the color on her cheeks. That the day had strained her, her eyes could not deny. Yet gold sparks flickered once more amid the brown, a sign of marginal refreshment.
Her satisfaction was short-lived, however, as an agonized groan brought her on the run. Pulling her heavy woolen sweater into place, she returned to the bed. The man within had rolled onto his side; his shivering was evident even through the thick covering layered about him. Sitting quickly, she resumed her rigorous massage, rubbing his back and arms, then moving to will warmth to his legs. His eyes remained shut, his face half-buried in the pillow.
"You'll be fine," she murmured to herself, as much as to him. "It's warm here now. Please feel it " The words fell victim to her work as she put all concentration into the rubdown her hands mechanically maintained. When he moaned again, she moved closer. "Can you hear me?" she begged softly, soothing the dark swath of hair from his temple, relieved to see that the gash there had begun to crust. "Are you awake?"
No answer met her plea. Her hand was warm against his cheek, and she felt his returning warmth with gratitude.Gently, her fingers slid down the column of his neck to the blanket edge, sliding beneath to rest lightly on the reassuring warmth of his chest. That he was strong of build was no surprise to her, considering the reserve of strength he must have called upon to withstand his ordeal at the hands of a merciless ocean's fury. That he was also extremely good-looking now became very clear.
Her soft brown-eyed gaze touched his rugged features, examining them one by one as though to piece together the puzzle of his identity. There were neither scars nor marks, save those from his present trial, and even in his present spent state, the power of the man was evident. His scent, as his skin warmed to a more healthy tone, was clean and male. To her dismay, there was nothing at all offensive at the thought of this total stranger lying in the middle of her own large double bed.
Raking tapered fingers through the dampness of her chestnut hair, she chided herself at the irrelevancy of her thoughts. No time to get romantic, April Wilde, she told herself sternly, then pivoted toward the kitchen for a pot of steaming soup.
To her chagrin, however, her patient was unable to take a drop when, a few minutes later, she returned and tried to spoon-feed the hot liquid through his firmly shut lips. Commanding as he may have been in other times, exhaustion was clearly his master now. There seemed nothing for her to do but let him rest.
Gingerly, she placed his dark head back on the pillow, only then noting that the blankets had fallen to midchest, where a fine coat of salt crusted the light furring of dark hair. The breadth of his shoulders startled her, drawing her fingertips inexorably downward. Palm resting on his heart, she reveled in the strength of its beat, and the muscled wall surrounding it. For a water-logged sea rat, she mused, with her first semblance of a smile since spotting his bobbing head several hours before, he was quitea figure of a man! If only there were something she could do to make him more comfortable .
On impulse, she headed for the bath, returning with a small basin of warm water which she placed on the stand by the bed. Her hand reached for the blankets before she stopped it midair. What was she doing? Was she really about to bathe a total stranger? Wasn't it enough that he was dry and warm? Did she have the right to go further? Just who was this man? Where had he come from? What sort of accident had cast him upon her shore?
The persistent howling of the wind and stubborn belligerency of the rain was sufficient answer for the last, yet the others remained an enigma. And she was no Florence Nightingale, she reminded herself with a start. Yet, seemingly of their own will, her fingers were once again at the edge of the blanket. Did she dare? Should she? After all a man's body was not foreign to her. She grimaced, conjuring up images of the classic perfection of one Shane Michaels. And hadn't she stripped this man of every stitch of his clothing before safely tucking him into her bed? Her eye strayed to the wet garments strewn about the floor atop ever-widening puddles. They should be washed and dried, she musedbut later. Her gaze settled on the taut features of this nameless mariner, lost now in his internal battle for survival. Anything, anything, she might do would be better than nothing. Determination behind her, she began.
Squeezing the excess of warm water from her cloth, she lowered the blanket and bathed him gently, coaxing the last remnants of sea salt from his body in soft, steady strokes. The wide span of his chest, rising and falling in thankfully even rhythm, tapered beneath her hands to a narrow waist. His arms were long and well-corded, the grace of lean hands and fingers marred only by vivid red welts on his palms, which untold hours of clutching to life adrift in the tempest had bestowed. Perhaps he was apianist, she mused, wrapping the cloth around each of his fingers separately. There were no seasoned calluses such as a laborer might bear, yet every digit held a fine-tuned, if latent, strength.
Carefully, she towel-dried him, mindful that some injury may have been hidden from her scrutinya scrutiny that saw little but raw masculinity in every pore. Satisfied with her progress, she paused, riddled anew with unsureness. But he was in her bed and he should be clean as well as comfortable, she reasoned. The shudder that shook the house in the crunch of the hurricane winds echoed in her chest as she draped his upper body to retain its heat and, with only a moment's additional hesitation, lowered the blanket farther. Catching her breath, she nearly rethought her plan. For if his maleness was evident from the waist up, what lay in her sight below was even more so. In her haste to undress him earlier, there had been no time for speculation. Now, as she bathed him slowly, there was no doubt as to his virility. The blush that warmed her cheeks was steadfastly ignored, though she spared a quick glance to assure herself that her patient was oblivious of her exploration. Then, with a prod of diligence, she proceeded with her task, washing and drying his flat abdomen, his lean hips, and seemingly endless stretch of hair-roughened legs. His skin was mercifully warm to the touch; the shivering had subsided momentarily. And again, there were no visible bruises.
Her eye noted the tan lines of summermore vivid where a bathing suit had been, less marked though still apparent at ankle, thigh, and upper arm. A tennis player, her wayward thoughts suggested, as she drew the blanket back over his length. Perhaps he was a tennis player; that might account for the prime condition of his body. After all, muscles did not develop from disuse, nor was one born with themPopeye and Swee'pea notwithstanding. Andhe swamperhaps a long-distance swimmer? Or was he simply a worshipper of the sun?
Deep in thought, she sat by his side, studying the silent features, wondering at his origin. Not a pianist, she concluded, in light of the tan that, with the lessening of the surf-splotched pallor, came increasingly to the fore. Yes, an athletebut by profession? Her eye traced the outline of his hair, now full and vibrant. It was too long for the military, too short for the art world. And the tanits very specific markings would be foreign to either. Perhaps he was a business tycoon, a corporate wizard, even a politician; any of these could most possibly acquire such a tan. What would she find when he finally awoke from his life-renewing sleep? There was nothing to do but wait and see.
A sigh of resignation slipped through her lips as she gathered together the cloth, towels, and basin, and returned them to the bath. Back in the bedroom, she collected the sodden clothing that had been discarded haphazardly on the floor, loaded it into the small washing machine in the mud room off the kitchen, and wandered back into the living room to sit out the storm. With the trusty transistor propped on her lap, she rested against the cushions of the ancient sofa and closed her eyes, mindful with poignant force of the toll this unexpected rescue mission had taken on her.
Weary fingers fumbled at the dial of the radio, finding frequency after frequency of static until one weak signal finally came through. "The storm centered south of Nantucket of noon," the broken voice informed her. "It appears stalled in area, lashing last strength against the Cape offshore islands."
Hmph! she grimaced. You needn't tell me that! Her eyes shot open as a gust of wind seemed to penetrate the sturdy rafters of the house she had thought to be so secure at the time of its purchase last summer. Slowly, her eye perused the decor she had inherited with the sale, taking in earlyAmerican furniture, a myriad of crammed bookshelves, regional artwork, scattered rugs. As the lights flickered for an instant, she wondered where kerosine lamps might have been stored by the previous owner. Praying that they would not be needed, she nonetheless searched the kitchen pantry and the dank basement, finally emerging with two vintage lamps and a tin of kerosine. Filling the lamps as a precaution, she placed them on the low wood table in the center of the room before peeking in on her visitor.
He hadn't moved since she'd left him and seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Reassured, she returned to her perch in the living room. If they could only see me now. She laughed at the irony. From the lap of luxury to the edge of the world, in one fateful moveyet she felt not one ounce of regret. The move was one she had chosen herself. The jet set, into which she had been born, held no lure to her; the fast crowd of New York, which she had left with such firm resolve, offered no greater attraction. She had deliberately chosen this spot, 'Sconset, on the far end of Nantucket, for its inaccessibility. Wasn't that what it had been touted for? Wasn't that what the wealthy exiles from the seaboard cities had sought when they had fled here summer after summer? Now she was a year-round resident of this small communityon a trial basis, of course. Her avenues were all very open. If she could continue her work from this isolated spot, aided by her Apple and several understanding colleagues in New York, she would stay. She loved it so fardespite the whims of the elements!
A stirring from the bedroom brought her quickly to her feet, stockinged now in the thick wool legacy of her skiing days. Padding across the polished oak floor, she entered the bedroom to find that her mysterious stranger had thrown back the covers and was enveloped in a sweat totally out of sync with the chill of hurricane winds that enveloped the house.
"What have you done?" she scolded him softly, racing to the bed and retrieving the blankets, lowering the heat of the electric one before replacing them. Her hand felt his forehead, dotted now with moisture. "And you're running a fever. Terrific!" Her sarcasm was lost on the patient, who, in his dazed state of sleep, was oblivious to her concern. "Aspirin. Two aspirin tablets." Instantly, she ferretted the pills from the bathroom medicine chest, grabbed a glass of water, then pondered the best way to get the medicine down. Lifting the heavy head was the least of her worries; coaxing the pills home was the worst.
"Come on, whoever you are. Open up. This will curb that fever." She wedged one arm behind his neck to prop up his head and forced the tablets between his lips, chasing them quickly with water. When he tried to turn his face away she held it fast, pleased that there was no sign of either pill.
"There! That's my good fellow!" Her soft voice crooned her praise as she eased his dark head down. "Now you can go back to sleep." But he already had, his senses dead to the world once more.
How long she sat, bathing his forehead with a cool cloth, pulling the covers over him as he shifted and displaced them, she didn't know. In the midst of Ivan the Terrible's fury, time lost all meaning. When he was calmer and cooler she left him, but only to retrieve her transistor.
"Extensive flooding reported Connecticut shore." The crackle came through in broken phrases.
"You don't say," she mumbled caustically, nestling into the rattan chair from which she could monitor her patient's condition as well.
But the voice had more good news to report. "Hundreds of telephone lines knocked down "
"Tell me something I don't know," she whispered in facetious challenge, which, to her horror, the faceless announcer promptly seized upon.
" and tens of thousands left without electricity "
"Uh-oh," she moaned, her fearful eyes skittering to the pale shaft of light that filtered in from the living room. "Spare me that. Anything but that!"
The crackle went on blithely. "Damage estimates from storm worst in thirty years put in multimillions wind and rain rage on. Trees uprooted, windows shattered roofs have caved in "
Every muscle in April's body tensed. "I take that back," she countered contritely, her husky voice faltering. "I'll do without lights for a while, if this old house will just stay in one piece." Her eye ranged over the ceiling and walls, built over a century before to withstand the ire of the Atlantic. As though to second her plea, the house groaned in loud torment as it fought the force of the hurricane, then was still but intact. The breath she'd been holding was slowly expelled. "Thank you," she whispered in heavenly appreciation, before turning her attention to the bed. How nice to sleep through this, she mused, then caught herself at the realization of all else this man had not slept through. Once again, the jumble of questions assaulted her; once again, she came up empty-handed.
She pushed herself from the chair with a sigh, only to fall back again when the light in the doorway flickered and died. Even white teeth punished her lower lip as she held her breath, awaiting return of the currentbut to no avail. The phone was dead and now the lights! Though it was mid-afternoon, darkness hovered about the house. For long moments she put off lighting the lamp, bent on preserving her supply of kerosine. Finally realizing that, for the sake of her sanity alone, light was imperative, she wandered into the living room, struck a match and found herself in a room newly golden and atmospherically warm. Warmfor the time being, she reminded herself, aware that the furnace depended on electricity to function.Ah well, she mused, eyeing the fireplace wistfully, there was always that cord of wood stacked neatly in the basement. And after all, she reasoned, it was really not that cold outside, being barely the start of October. Only the wind, with its continuous wail, and the rain, clattering mercilessly against the panes, implied a harsher season.
Pacing the floor, she began an analytical review of her situation. Here she was, several miles from the nearest outpost of humanity, and given the damage of the storm, a good day or two from help. She had neither lights nor a telephone; her Apple was hopelessly, albeit temporarily, crippled. And there was the small matter of the stranger in her bed, felled by exposure and exhaustion and Lord knew what else, perhaps in need of medical attention. What was she to do, given the impracticality of panic?
Memories of a letter that had arrived the day before entered her mind. It was to be the subject of her next column. Crossing the room to her rolltop desk, she fished into the large manila mailing envelope sent by the newspaper office, withdrew the item she sought, then sank down on the sofa beneath the glow of the kerosine lamp.
"Dear Dr. Wilde," she read silently. "Can you help me? I have a family of three squalling children and a husband, a rabbit, two dogs, and a house. Lately, everything has gone wrong. The children scream constantly at one another, my husband screams at me, I scream at them allabout everything from food to clothes to television shows. To top it off, every machine in this house has managed to break down within the past two months. I go to bed every night with a headache. Is there any peace to be found for me?" It was signed simply "Hartsdale's Harrowed Housewife."
Settling more deeply into the sofa, April contemplated the letter for several moments before rereading her own answer, typed and clipped to the letter, awaiting transmission via computer. "Dear Hartsdale's HarrowedHousewife." She scanned the page quickly. "What you need is a cram course in positive thinking. Look to the bright side of life. Do you love your children? Are they innately rewarding? Sensitive? Companionable? Do you love your husband? Is he honest? Faithful? A conscientious provider? And the housedoes it keep you warm? Dry? Protected and private?" Skipping over a greater elaboration on the theme, her eye came to rest on the final sentences. "Hard as it may be at times, you must seek out the positive aspects of your life. In these, you will find your peace. Remember, think up!"
Think up. The words echoed in her mind as April replaced the letter in its envelope, the envelope on her desk. Think up. That, Dr. Wilde, is precisely what you must do right now! Wasn't it her own personal credo, one that appeared repeatedly, in one form or another, in her column? Wasn't it the backbone of her therapeutic approach?
Looking around, she evaluated her assets. There was the house, standing valiantly against the ravage of Hurricane Ivan. There was the kerosine lamp, providing what little light she needed with its pale orange glow. There was the fireplaceand woodready for warmth, should the need arise. There was a pantry full of edible provisions, gas to make the stove operative. And there was that man in the other room, resting peacefully and seeming to hold his own. All in all, she was not in bad straits. And, assuming her patient did not awaken a raving lunatic or a lecherous demon, she might get him to the village before long and find herself with nothing more than painless memories of the entire adventure.
Suppertime came and went to the unabated accompaniment of the storm's blusterous racketyet still no sound at all from the stranger. Evening's torrents became midnight's deluge. April sat tucked in the rattan chair in her room with her feet curled beneath her, eyes glued to the nameless figure asleep in her bed. Was hers but one vigilfor this man? Did he have family somewhere? A wife? Children? Parents? Friends? Were they keeping their own, more painful watch for his return?
The helplessness of the situation frustrated her anew. If only the telephone lines had not fallen, she might have called the authorities to tell of a missing person now found. Or she might have used her Apple to seek information on the man washed up on her shore. Wire services, newspapersall would have been at her fingertips. But the elements had conspired against her. Indeed, she smiled ruefully, the elements had been responsible for the very shipwreck that had thrown this man into her hands. Or had they? What had caused his accident? Only he could have the answer to that.
And so she satthinking, debating, questioning, puzzling, then gradually wearing down as the needle-thin hands of her fine gold watch neared three o'clock. She finally acceded to the necessity of sleep, realizing too well that the new day which had already begun might be as trying as the last. Extinguishing the lamp in the living room, she stretched her cramped limbs on the well-worn cushions of the sofa and helplessly drifted into oblivion.
The room was lit by broad daylight when next she moved. Though the wind had died down, the steady pelt of the rain brought the events of the past day to her consciousness. With a burst of awareness she bolted up and headed for the bedroom. She stopped abruptly on its threshold. The pillow still held the indentation of his head; the sheets were rumpled from his body. The man himself, though, was gone.
WHAT THE WAVES BRING. Copyright © 1983 by Barbara Delinsky.
Barbara Delinsky is a New York Times bestselling author with more than thirty million copies of her books in print. She has been published in twenty-five languages worldwide. A lifelong New Englander, Barbara earned a B.A. in Psychology at Tufts University and an M.A. in Sociology at Boston College. Barbara enjoys knitting, photography, and cats. She also loves to interact with her readers through her website at www.barbaradelinsky.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bdelinsky, and on Twitter as @BarbaraDelinsky.