Read an Excerpt
Olivia grasped the ship's railing until her knuckles turned white. She filled her lungs with the salty air, then slowly released her breath. A balmy June breeze whistled in her ears. Calm down. Now. She faced the ship's bow as they traveled east, away from Fairport Harbor. Sun sparkled off the rippling water.
A familiar longboat chugged past them. Dad! Olivia released one hand long enough to wave at her father, heading out to check his lobster pots. Then she clamped her hand back around the railing. There went the ice company, more docks, more fishing boats, their trawling nets wrapped up as their captains brought in the catch.
For you, Dad. I came for you. Olivia battled the old ache, as she had every day since returning to Fairport. With the close of the school year in Pennsylvania, she'd bid her middle school biology students good-bye, loaded up her car and headed back to Massachusetts. Perhaps if she closed her eyes, she could imagine the waves turning into the green rolling hills near Harrisburg. Waves of grassy hills couldn't swallow someone you love and tear them from you forever.
She shivered at the idea of being out on the ocean again. Olivia willed herself to relax her hold on the railing. Lord, help me make it through this trip. The glory of Your creation is around me, but part of me wants to jump in my car and head back to Pennsylvania.
Above the rushing water and clicking cameras and chattering tourists came Maggie's unmistakable voice over the loudspeaker.
"Today our vessel is piloted by Captain Jonathan Barrotta. Say hello, Jonathan!" The deafening ship's horn was his reply.
Olivia deserved stony silence from her old friends. She wasn't surprised that so far neither of them had acknowledged her presence on the boat. Their boss Terry must have mentioned that she would be on board today, a trial run to see how she coped on the water. She'd been honest with Terry when he hired her, that the idea of being on the water was terrifying. But she was the expert on whales he needed, even without an advanced degree.
She entered the large enclosed cabin that hosted a few cafe tables facing the windows outside and a small snack bar. Even inside, Olivia could hear Maggie's voice pointing out harbor seals and other wildlife. Face it, girl. You're not irreplaceable. Life had gone on. Olivia sighed, and ordered ginger ale and crackers from the snack bar. She found an empty table and slid onto a vacant seat.
Life had also gone on without Robby, as she had known it would. Being back in Fairport, and out on the water, made memories of him come rushing back with the force of a tsunami. Time had dulled the edge of pain, but its assault was overwhelming nonetheless.
Maggie breezed into the snack bar area and headed for the coffeepot. Olivia turned to face the window. Maybe Maggie hadn't spotted her.
"Liv! It is you!" She was engulfed in a hug, and a paper cup filled with coffee appeared next to the ginger ale.
"Maggie." Olivia swallowed hard. Her best friend, a comfort and source of humor during Olivia's grief. She'd missed Maggie these past couple of years.
"I thought it was you I saw in the crowd earlier. You getting your sea legs back?" Maggie's brown eyes sparkled.
"I'm doing well, considering it's the first time I've been out on the water in ages. Dad says it's like riding a bike, though I can't say I've ever seen him ride one." She shook her head at the mental image of her weather-beaten father clad in rubber hip boots and riding a bicycle to the docks every day.
"How is your dad? I haven't seen him around town lately. But since Todd and I started working on the house, we haven't had time for much else." Maggie took the seat across from Olivia.
"So you're working on renovations. That's good to hear. I know you were talking about it before I left." The boat smacked against a wave and her stomach lurched. Olivia leaned on the table to steady herself. She'd forgotten how even a ninety-foot cruise boat could get tossed by the waves.
"Mmm-hmm! Even Jonathan pitches in when he has a moment." Then Maggie rubbed her stomach. "Plus, come December, there'll be three Donovans in the house."
Olivia felt a smile stretch across her face. "Wow, that's wonderful."
Rosy-cheeked Maggie nodded. "I'm glad you're back. Really. And not just for when I go on maternity leave."
Olivia shifted her gaze to the package of saltines. "I don't know how long I'll be working for Whale Tales. I told Terry I'd stay until the end of the summer at least, until the tourist rush slows down. And then I start my graduate program again."
Maggie tugged on Olivia's arm. "Hey, speaking of Jonathan, you should come up to the wheelhouse and see him. He'll be glad to see you."