Chapter Four

"Bye, Mike, I'll see you in a few hours," I called out to my boss, stepping out of the restaurant and into the warm autumn sunshine. The job at the restaurant wasn't the best, but it had paid the bills over the summer. Fall was just starting to touch the trees, turning them into glorious balls of fire against the blue sky. The change had come early this year, but I was enjoying the extra color in the trees.

"Make sure you're back in time!" Mike yelled after me. I raised my hand to acknowledge him, but I kept on walking. I had three hours before I had to pick up Avery, and then once her mom got home, I had to go back to the restaurant for a second shift. It was going to be a long day, but the extra time was going to ensure we could pay the bills this month.

I walked down the pier, heading to a small shack by the water. It was technically for boats bringing fresh fish in to the restaurant, but it was the perfect place for me to store my windsurfing gear during a shift. I had three hours, and the waves were calling my name.

"You heading out, Sam?" A strong, masculine voice asked from behind my shoulder. I turned to see Sheriff Matt, sitting on a bench overlooking the water. I grinned and went over to talk to him.

"Yup, I've got a couple of hours before I have to pick up Avery, and I thought I would go play in the water while it's still warm. How are you doing?" I asked.

"Doing quite well. Today's my day off, so I'm here enjoying the scenery. Might even go fishing off the docks in a bit. I caught a nice big bass there the other day, and I'm hoping he had some friends." The tall man gave me a big smile and adjusted his baseball cap.

"Well, I hope you catch them. Be sure to throw the little ones back, or they'll take away your fishing license," I teased him. He laughed.

"Always do. Speaking of little ones, how's Avery doing? Is she liking school?"

"She loves it. I'm so glad we were able to get her into the accelerated program. The teachers can't stop talking about how smart she is, and she can't stop showing me all the stuff she's learning. It's adorable." I grinned at Sheriff Matt. Avery was the bright spot in my world. She had made moving to Winchester worth it.

"That's so awesome. I'm glad that's working out," he said. He paused before asking, "I know it's a sore subject, but how's the racing looking for you? Your old sailing partner doing any better?"

I sighed. "No. The doctors say that Cora might be able to sail next season, but it will depend on how she does in rehab this winter." The loss of this season stung, and the idea that I might not get to sail with Cora next year only made it worse.

Sheriff Matt nodded, his face crinkling in commiseration before shifting into a frown at something behind me. "There goes Robbie Saunders. It's a little early in the day, but what else does a billionaire have to do?" Sheriff Matt asked. I turned to see what appeared to be a very drunk Robbie weaving his way down the dock toward his boat. He stumbled, nearly eating it on the wooden platform, but he managed to get onto his yacht and disappear below.

I had only run into him once since moving to town. He had been tying his boat to the docks when I had walked by with my windsurfing board. We had made eye contact, but neither one of us knew what to say. I hadn't talked to him since that day I left him on the dock, the bucket at his feet. I had hurried off into the water, unable to think of anything to say.

"Do you think he's going to take his boat out? I mean, he's trashed," I asked Sheriff Matt. I couldn't see the stickler-for-rules Robbie I had known doing that, but I didn't know him personally anymore. People change after ten years.

"No. He won't take it out. You're new here, but never worry about Robbie drinking and sailing. He's trouble on land. Bar fights, public intoxication-- he's always in trouble with me and the rest of the boys. But the Coast Guard loves him. He's the perfect sailor and refuses to let anyone touch the sails if they've had a sip of alcohol." The sheriff shook his head and continued, "He helps with marine rescues and even received a commendation last year. He's a model citizen on the water. There’s no way he takes that boat out inebriated." Matt leaned back on the bench, crossing his arms over his burly chest.

I nodded as he spoke. I could tell from Robbie's sailing interviews online that his rule on no sailing with alcohol was something that he prided himself on. I figured he must just be settling down in his boat and sleeping it off.

"He always was a saint on the water," I murmured softly. A ghost of a smile crossed my face as I remembered how the two of us used to sail together. He always wanted to follow the rules and never let me get away with anything on the boat. On land, he was a devil-child, but out on the water, he was a sailing angel.

"Poor guy, though. His dad is sick," Matt said, leaning forward to catch my attention. "It's all over the tabloids. Some sort of cancer. They say his older brother Jack has already taken over their oil company. Robbie's been spending most of his time either in the bar or on his boat. It seems like he's taking it rather hard."

For a split second, I thought about following Robbie to his yacht and saying hello. My feet almost took the steps, but my brain stopped them before I actually moved. I hadn't seen him in almost eleven years. He had probably forgotten about me a long time ago. The last thing he needed was some strange girl barging onto his boat and asking him if he needed a hug.

"Mr. Saunders was always really nice. I'm sorry to hear he's not doing well." My voice was soft as I stared at Robbie's yacht, my mind far away.

"You knew Daniel Saunders? Billionaire oil mogul Daniel Saunders?" Sheriff Matt stared at me like I had grown a second head. "Why didn't you ever mention that?"

"I used to sail with Robbie and so I met his dad. His dad used to come to Robbie's races and he would take Robbie and I out sailing sometimes." I shrugged. Despite being a billionaire, Mr. Saunders had been a pretty normal dad.

"Ah, gotcha." He nodded as he remembered my friendship with Robbie, then frowned as he looked at me. "You haven't talked to him yet, have you?"

I turned back to face him, a blush creeping into my cheeks. "You are just too good at figuring people out. No, I haven't talked to him. I've been busy with work and Avery. Besides, he probably doesn't even remember me. We were just kids, and it was a long time ago."

"Sure," he said as he raised his eyebrows like he didn't believe me. He was about to say more, but his phone started to ring. He started to dig around in his pockets, cursing under his breath as the ringer stopped before he could get to it.

"I'm going to go windsurfing before I have to get back to work," I said, trying to edge away while he was busy.

"Have fun. Isn't it a little cold for surfing?" He asked, his eyes focusing on the tiny phone screen when he finally found it in his coat pocket.

"Anything to get out on the water." I grinned.

"Why don't you just go in a boat, like normal people?" he asked, pressing buttons on his phone.

"I only sail double-handed. I don't like sailing by myself," I chided him gently.

"Right, and you don't consider windsurfing to be sailing. I remember now." He smiled and replaced his phone back in the original pocket. I wondered if he would lose it again.

"It was great to see you, Sam," he said with a warm smile. "Have fun out there."

"Always do!" I flashed him a bright grin and waved as I turned and headed toward the shack storing my equipment. The ocean was calling my name and I was ready to get out on the water.  


The water slipped silently under my board as I glided out toward the open ocean. A slight breeze tugged gently at the waves, promising a fun afternoon. I couldn't wait to really let loose and speed across the water, but I wanted to get out where I could practice some of my more flamboyant moves without looking like a complete idiot in front of the entire marina.

Seeing Robbie brought back old memories, and I paddled through them as I worked my way out to where I could play in the wind.

"We are going to get through this together, Sam." My older sister's voice echoed through my mind as I was transported back in time.

It was three years after leaving Robbie and I had just had my fifteenth birthday. My sailing lesson was done for the day and I was out on the water by myself. I didn't want to go back in yet, so I sailed further out. There was a storm brewing, but it made the waves more challenging. I thought I could handle it.

The storm caught me by surprise. I had managed to pull the mainsail before the boat flipped, but the mast was broken. The ropes were now wet and slippery. I couldn't handle it on my own. I wasn't ready for a challenge like this. I wished I had someone to help me.

The waves tossed my little boat like a toy. This storm was past what I could handle. I clung to the rigging, praying that my tiny boat wouldn't capsize. I had radioed for help, but I wasn't sure anyone had heard me. Saltwater and tears burned in my eyes. I was going to drown because I had been stupid and gone out too far on my own.

A horn sounded, heavy in the storm. Relief flooded through me as a beautiful white and red Coast Guard ship shined a light on my boat. I could hear sailors yelling as they threw me a line. I was saved.

I tipped the sails on my windsurfing board into the light breeze, making me go faster as I stayed in my memories.

The Valiant brought me home, cutting through the storm as though it were nothing. The sailors deposited me, blanket-wrapped and terrified, at the dock with stern warnings to never to do that again. It was raining at the dock, but the wind was gone. A parked police cruiser was waiting to take me home, only something was wrong. Grace was in the car, her eyes red and her cheeks splotchy. She took me into her arms, holding me close as she told me the news.

When I didn't come home after my lesson, and the reports of the storm came in, my parents had gotten in the car to come look for me. There was a horrible accident. They were gone.

I didn't believe her at first. I pushed her away and ran out into the rain. A police officer chased after me. I tripped and fell into a puddle; I didn't bother to get up. This wasn't how the day was supposed to have gone. I should have just gone home; I should never have gone into the storm. If only someone had been there to help me get the sails down, I would have made it back before they went out to look for me; if only I hadn't gone out into the storm...

The wind sent a spray of water into my face. I returned my focus to the present, letting my memories and the hurt wash away in the ocean. From the corner of my eye, I could see a boat approaching, its sails full out as it glided along. It almost looked like the yacht that I had seen Robbie enter, but I knew it couldn't be Robbie. Robbie wouldn't be sailing drunk.

My board caught a wave, stealing my attention away from the oncoming vessel. I had the right of way, so I focused on my own board instead of the boat, trying to keep from tipping over in the strong breeze. I concentrated on getting control of my sail and moving out of the way, knowing that the approaching ship could easily avoid me. The wind whistled in my ears, the ocean slapping at the board.

I turned, thinking I was clear, but the boat had moved more quickly than I anticipated. The keel of the boat seemed bigger than I thought possible as it hurtled straight for me. Time slowed, and the details burned into my eyes: the white tips on the gray-green water, the yellow in my sail, the tiny barnacle trying to find a foothold on the keel of the oncoming yacht. There was no way to stop the collision now, and I let go of my sail, hearing it splash into the water. Robbie's eyes met mine, full of terror and recognition as his boat crashed into me, and everything went dark.

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