Authors: Wendy Lindstrom
Tags: #Historical Romance, #New York Times Bestselling Author, #USA Today Bestselling Author
Leave it for the Rain
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, business establishments, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
EBook copyright 2014 Wendy Lindstrom
EBook published by Rustic Studio Publishing 2014
Cover design by Kim Killion of
Hot Damn! Designs
EBook design by
A Thirsty Mind Book Design
All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means whatsoever without written permission from the author.
After four years at university and two years apprenticing with his Grayson relatives on the southern coast of Maine, Adam Grayson was beyond ready to go home.
Stepping onto the long wooden pier at Crane Landing, Adam drank in the sheer magnificence of the square-rigged six-masted ship anchored amid debris flushed into the dockyard by last night’s storm. This would be his last glimpse of the sleek ship and of the beautiful but ever-changing harbor he’d come to love. In the morning, he would head home—to New York... to Fredonia... to Rebecca and the life they had waited so long to embrace. He would bring Rebecca here someday to see a ship launch. Watching the massive sails unfurl as the schooners and ships slipped out into the vast, sparkling ocean just beyond the bay would thrill her. There were so many things he wanted to show his fiancée, so many places he longed to take Rebecca.
“We have quite a snarl down there,” Adam said to his coworker and best friend, Leo Sullivan, who stood beside him on the dock.
Leo gestured with his whisker-shadowed chin toward the water below. “I might spare two men from my crew for an hour or so, but that’s all I can afford. We need to get that girl repaired and at full sail by Saturday.”
Floating logs waiting to be sawed into keel beams, hull ribs, and deck planks for their growing fleet of merchant vessels littered the inlet. The recent storm and resulting ocean surge had flooded the bay and floated several logs over into the dockyard, a small cove of water reserved for ship launch and repair, creating a dangerous tangle that needed to be cleaned out to prevent possible damage to the
“My crew and I will get it cleared out You take care of
” Adam said, nodding toward the ship in repair.
Anchored in the bay, tethered to the pier by thick ropes and a plank bridge, the regal ship sat high in the water, her expansive sails drawn and lashed tight to the masts to keep her stationary for repairs. Swing stage scaffolding hung off her starboard bow as two men worked on the damaged wooden hull. The sight both awed and saddened Adam. Vessels of live oak and white pine were fast becoming extinct. Instead of wood and wind, ships were now being made of steel and powered by steam.
“All right then. I’ll meet you at The Crowe’s Nest tonight,” Leo said, referring to the tavern on Main Street where he and Adam and their crews spent a good amount of time. He crossed the long plank-and-rope bridge with the agility of a sailor.
The staccato banging of hammers and shouts from the ship’s crew were loud as Adam appraised the four thousand ton ship. The crew aboard the
created a hive of activity and noise. Seagulls screeched and swooped around the rigging, gliding through air tinged with the scent of fish and ocean grass.
“Enough loafing about you lazy hoar hounds,” Leo shouted to the crew as he leapt onto the pine deck of the ship.
From the pier, Adam heard laughter and ribald shouts fill the air. Leo was at home here. He would master the shipbuilding trade as Adam had mastered the intricacies of running a busy, profitable sawmill.
During the playful scuffle on
sun-washed deck, the scaffolding dropped sharply as one of its stirrups slipped free of the supporting lines. One man clung to the dangling scaffold, shouting for help and struggling to climb to safety. Another man fell into the heaving snarl of timber and debris trapped between the pier and the
. His head snapped back and Adam knew instantly the man was injured.
Whistling to the crew, Adam gestured to the man hanging from the scaffolding and then to the water below. As he rapidly unlaced his boots, he watched the unconscious man sink into the water between the timbers—and heard the clock ticking away the last seconds of the man’s life.
One boot off!
The crew, alerted to the accident and the potential demise of their friends, snapped into action, dropping manropes and a rope ladder from the starboard bow into the water below.
Two boots off!
As Adam kicked aside his boots, two crew members slipped over the side of the
and slid down one of the three remaining hawsers holding the dangling scaffold. Leo rapidly descended a manrope as other crew members began to lower a small skiff, but none of them would reach the man in the water soon enough.
Scanning the timber-littered bay, Adam sought a safe point of entry, knowing there wasn’t one. With a hard leap from the pier, he dropped into the bay feet first, praying nothing was hiding beneath the surface that would break his legs or worse.
The frigid, murky water swallowed him.
The roar of the ocean filled his ears. His chest compressed as the cold water gripped him and forced out some of his precious stock of oxygen.
Fanning his arms, he clamped down the urge to gasp at the cold jolt to his body. He surveyed the area around him, seeing little in the storm-churned water.
Where are you?
With a hard sweep of his arms, he propelled himself in the direction of the ship, to where the man had slipped beneath those long, deadly timbers.
Flashes of broken planks and ocean grass caught his eye, and he maneuvered around them.
The man was wearing boots. He may as well have sandbags strapped to his feet.
Adam looked deeper, swam closer to the ship’s hull, felt his lungs bursting... saw nothing.
He surfaced with a gasp, gulped a lungful of air, and dove deep, stroking hard, looking harder. Around and down... around and down... there!
Limp, lifeless, weighted by his boots, the man drifted slowly toward the ocean floor.
Adam’s lungs cramped, commanding him to surface and suck in a lungful of life-sustaining air.
But he dove deeper.
Down he went, pushing hard, regretting that he hadn’t shucked his clothes. With each stroke his shirt and dungarees created a drag, slowing him down, forcing him to work harder.
And all he could hear was the clock ticking away the man’s life. Hurry... hurry... hurry...
Lungs on fire, arms fatigued, Adam snagged the young man’s shirt collar and pulled him toward the surface that was too far away.
For every upward tug on the man’s collar, it forced Adam’s cold, exhausted body in the opposite direction. Stroke after hard stroke seemed to bring little progress.
Adam’s chest cramped.
He released some air, trying to ease the fiery pressure in his chest and the edge of fear cutting into him. He lost his sense of direction in the murky water. Was he heading toward the surface or was he pulling the man deeper? Is that why his chest felt as if it would burst? Was the pressure building because he was heading down instead of up?
He paused, indecisive, and then he panicked.
The man floated past him, his face surprisingly youthful and pale as death—and familiar. Adam’s face would look like this too. Leo would fish him from the water. He would take the young man, barely out of boyhood, home to his parents... and Adam home to Rebecca.
Adam clamped his fingers over the boy’s shirt collar and tugged. After sacrificing so many years to become a
man, he would
let her down. He would not miss his chance to fulfill the dream they had shared since their teens.
And he would return this young man, dead or alive, to his parents.
He thrust hard with both arms. Bubbles of air burst from between his clenched teeth, but he couldn’t hold his breath another second.
Tick... tick... tick... Time slipped away.
They weren’t going to make it...
The ocean’s song thrummed in his ears, beckoning him, rocking him like a babe...
It’s all right... it’s all right... it’s all right...
Executing another hard thrust with his arm and legs forced the rest of the air from his lungs. Adam glanced in apology at the boy he couldn’t save—and he heard the heartbroken sobs of that man’s family... of his own family—of Rebecca.
With his remaining strength he shoved the boy toward the surface, forcing himself deeper, hoping the crew would be able to find both of their bodies.
Making one final attempt to surface, Adam thrust his arms down to push his body upward.
His head slammed into something hard. Water filled his mouth, choking him. He punched his fist upward between two soaked timbers. Raising his other fist, he shoved the massive pine logs away from each other, creating a gap.
He burst above the surface coughing and belching and vomiting water and air. Clamping his lips to suppress his coughs, he immediately ducked beneath the surface and reached for the boy, who was drifting away. Adam hooked his stocking clad toes in the young man’s shirt and dragged him close.
The opening in the logs was disappearing, forcing Adam to wedge them apart again. The door between life and death was barely open and he had to fight to stay on the living side.
The logs could save them—or crush them, but they were Adam’s only option.
Coughing and gagging, Adam gripped the young fella beneath the armpits and tried to lift him onto the large pine log. He succeeded only in shoving himself under water.
When he surfaced, he heard shouts to hold on, but they seemed so far away—and he trembled from cold and fatigue.
Exhausted, Adam struggled to keep the boy’s head above water while he dragged himself onto a long, bobbing log.
From the corner of his eye, he saw Leo and two others in a small skiff pushing aside logs, doing their best to navigate through the mess, but he couldn’t wait for them. He had to get the boy out of the frigid water—and get him breathing!
Clenching his teeth, growling deep in his throat, Adam forced his trembling arms to haul the inert young man upward.
He could only manage to drape the boy’s torso across the log, face-down over the wet bark. But that was enough to keep the lad’s head above water.
With that, Adam pounded the young man on the back until the boy vomited.
An hour later, Adam scrubbed the chill from his bones in a hot bath. Then he dressed as quickly as his aching body would allow.
Although Micah Crane had been breathing when Leo and the others rowed Adam and the young man ashore, he’d been unresponsive and bleeding from a gash beneath his chin. No one knew if Micah would survive. Dockhands had carted the boy home on a lumber wagon. Other workers went in search of Doc Samuel, who had been tending the residents and workers of Crane Landing for twenty years.
Leo wanted Adam to see Doc Samuel, too, but Adam had waved him off.
Other than a smattering of abrasions on his hands and knuckles and a bump on top of his head, Adam suffered no injuries that a hot bath and cool ale couldn’t remedy.
The bath did succeed in ridding him of chills and stopping the chattering of his teeth, but Adam was still deeply shaken. He craved a stout tankard of yeasty ale to settle his nerves, but he needed to check on the Crane boy first.
With his damp hair combed back, Adam stepped out of the private bathing chambers attached to the bunkhouse at the mill where he’d lived the past two years. Twenty cots and wooden footlockers filled the long corridor. Four windows on either side let in negligible light, too much cold air in the winter months and not enough fresh air in the summer months, but that dingy room had fostered many great friendships during Adam’s stay.
His fellow bunkmates began filing in after another long day of sawing and moving timber.
To a man, his bunkmates surrounded Adam, applauding his quick thinking and asking after his health. Their admiration and concern was real, but it made Adam grossly uncomfortable. He’d done nothing more than any of the men around him would have done. To be lauded a hero for a simple act of decency seemed... sad. Was helping others not a natural instinct or the decent and honorable thing to do?
After asking about the other man on the scaffolding and learning he had been pulled to safety, Adam excused himself from the gathering. He lifted a light jacket off a wall hook beside his cot, and slipped away from his friends who were still talking about the accident. Outside, he stuffed his arms into the sleeves and headed into town at a brisk pace.
Crane Landing had grown up around Crane’s shipbuilding works. When Jack Crane navigated his ship into the deep bay in 1763, he had found the perfect place to build ships and merchant vessels. To supply the Cranes with timber for their ships, Benjamin Grayson located his lumber mill adjacent to the shipyard. Other business quickly sprawled outward from the massive shipyard, creating a string of shops and a full mile of wharves along the harbor. A blacksmith and a sailmaker both set up shop close to the shipyard. A large livery provided strong, healthy horses for moving and hauling timber between the sawmill and shipyard. Soon after a general mercantile opened, followed by a woodworker who plied their trades alongside the harbor. As the number of workers increased at the shipyard and the sawmill other businesses flourished, and Bay Street was created.
The business Adam frequented most often was the Crowe’s Nest. The tavern had become a second home for him and many other men. At the end of a long, hard day of work, he and his friends would gather at the tavern to wash down the dust and slake their thirst while talking about the business of building ships. Nearby the Beacon Inn provided respite for the weary travelers. Doc Samuel’s residence was a block over near the church and school.