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Cape Cod, Massachusetts 1852.
Captain Alexander London's luck had just run out.
The Jeunesse, his prized sailing vessel, heaved and bucked beneath his firmly planted feet. Drenched by the storm's onslaught, his white shirt and black pants lay plastered to his cold, clammy flesh. His grip tightened on the ship's wheel. White-knuckled, he fought the beast. The wind whipped his dark hair about his face. The abrupt storm urged his crew into action. No warning sounded from the on shore bells to guide their way through the thickening night. No glow shone from the lighthouse at the point. A brilliant flash of lightning zigzagged across the sky, cutting up the night like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The waves pounded unmercifully time and again over the bow of the ship.
Alex knew if this punishment continued all would be lost. As he scanned the ship's bow, he watched as a carelessly hung lantern crashed to the deck, engulfing the forward sail in flames. He clenched his jaw and cursed a blue streak as the acrid scent of burning timbers assailed his nostrils. Chaos reigned supreme.
The ship floundered amid a whirlwind of thick, black smoke. The glow from the bright orange flames illuminated the stark terror Alex saw upon his crew's faces. Their sheer panic chilled him to the bone.
Alex knew the craggy cliffs of the shoreline and jagged edges of the rocks that lined the beach loomed ominously ahead in the inky darkness. The squall tossed the Jeunesse like a rag doll being handled by an exuberant child.
Time was of the essence as he yelled out orders to abandon ship. Precious seconds remained before the flames reached the powder kegs stored below deck.
Aloud hiss drew his attention upward as the main sail broke free of its lashing. Alex threw his hands over his head too late to ward off the impending blow. He pitched forward over the side of the ship, and into the icy water far below.
He fought hard, struggling against an invisible foe forcing his way to the surface of the churning water. His lungs burned from lack of air. His head pounded.
A deafening boom filled his ears. The ship shuddered a final time, readying herself to succumb to a watery tomb. A sick feeling went through him. Alex prayed for a miracle. Don't let me die like this, his last thought before pain exploded anew in his skull.
His ship and cargo were gone. Blown to bits by the explosion. What remained was battered beyond recognition against the rocks. A piece of broken, burned mast slammed into his chest, the sickening crunch of timber connecting with bone echoed in his head. The icy water reached up frigid fingers to claim her next victim.
Suddenly, a woman's anguished cry of distress pierced the darkness. Alex tried to make out a human form among the debris. He could see nothing. Was it possible in all the commotion they'd struck another vessel? His mind fought the searing pain. He needed to get ashore and secure help.
His arms and legs slowed to a crawl. Exhaustion tugged at his waning strength. A weary sigh escaped his lips and Alex let his head loll backward, oblivious to the waves that continued to pound his back. He scanned the inky waters for signs of his crew or the Jeunesse's lifeboats.
There was nothing.
What seemed an eternity later, Alex dragged himself upright to wade through the shallows. The storm had abated to leave a calm, clear sea in its wake. Dawn broke across the water, the pinkish hues of the sunrise reflected on the now tranquil blue waves. He scanned the shoreline. No sign of wreckage littered the beach. White sand stretched for miles, unbroken except for clumps of vegetation and driftwood.
Alex turned in a slow circle to face the land, his eyes widening in surprise at the sight of a dwelling. Bone weary and bleeding profusely from a sizable gash on his forehead, he limped toward the house. Surely, he could find help there. Smoke curled lazily from the chimney, a welcome sight to his eyes.
The front door swung silently open before him. Cautiously, he stepped across the threshold and felt a tingling sensation. It started in his toes, to work its way upward through his body. The pain faded as odd warmth filled his body. The fireplace beckoned him; to rest his tired bones in a wing chair placed cozily before the hearth.
Alex sank down into the welcome relief the chair offered, and then abruptly stood back up afraid his wet clothes would damage the fabric of the cushions. Slowly, he reached out and touched his fingers to the velvet material. Odd, there wasn't a damp spot anywhere on the chair. Nor on him. His clothes were completely dry.
He turned toward the hearth, to the large mirror that graced the mantel. He could see the chair reflected there, but not himself. Alex passed his hand back and forth in front of the glass, watching in amazement. The room remained frozen in the mirror, his own presence oblivious from sight.
A low keening filled his senses as he remembered the old gypsy woman. Their last day in port, Alex had been helping to stow cargo when she appeared. She had grabbed his hand and started to stroke his callused palm. Her gnarled fingers traced a ragged path, her grubby fingers poking and probing at his skin.
"You will see what others will not. Your time is not now. You are destined to walk for eternity, lest you find true love."
Alex shook his head to clear his thoughts. His knees felt weak as he braced his hands against the mantelpiece. In the hall, the front door closed silently, the latch clicking softly into place.