Theresa woke early, as was her custom, and rose from the bed to look out the window. The North Carolina sun was casting golden prisms through an early morning haze, and she slid open the balcony door to freshen the room. In the bathroom, she slipped out of her pajamas and started a shower. Stepping into the stall, she thought about how easy it had been to get here. A little less than forty-eight hours ago she had been sitting with Deanna, studying the letters, making phone calls, and searching for Garrett. Once she got home, she had spoken to Ella, who again agreed to watch Harvey and pick up her mail. The next day she went to the library and read up on scuba diving. It seemed like the logical thing to do. Her years as a reporter had taught her to take nothing for granted, to make a plan, and to do her best to prepare for anything. The plan she finally came up with was simple. She would go to Island Diving and browse around the store, with the hope of getting a look at Garrett Blake. If he turned out to be a seventy-year-old man or a twenty-year-old student, she would simply turn around and go home. But if their instincts were right and he seemed to be approximately her age, she decided she would try to speak with him. That was why she had taken the time to learn something about scuba diving-she wanted to sound as if she knew something about it. And she would probably be able to learn more about him if she could talk to him about something he was interested in, without having to tell him too much about herself. Then she'd have a better grasp on things. But after that? That was the part she wasn't exactly sure about. She didn't want to tell Garrett the complete truth about why she came-that would sound crazy. Hi, I read your letters to Catherine, and knowing how much you loved her, I just thought you might be the man I've been looking for. No, that was out of the question, and the other option didn't seem much better-Hi, I'm from the Boston Times and I found your letters. Could we do a story on you? That didn't seem right, either. Nor did any of the other ideas that filtered through her mind. But she hadn't come this far to give up now, despite the fact she didn't know what to say. Besides, as Deanna had said, if it didn't work out, she would simply return to Boston. She stepped out of the shower, dried off before putting some lotion on her arms and legs, and dressed in a short-sleeved white blouse, denim shorts, and a pair of white sandals. She wanted to look casual, and she did. What she didn't want was to be noticed right off the bat. After all, she didn't know what to expect, and she wanted the opportunity to evaluate the situation on her own terms, without having to deal with anyone else. When she was finally ready to leave, she found the phone book, thumbed through it, and scribbled the address of Island Diving on a piece of paper. Two deep breaths later, she was walking down the hall. Again she repeated Deanna's mantra. Her first stop was at a convenience store, where she bought a map of Wilmington. The clerk had also given her directions, and she found her way easily, despite the fact that Wilmington was larger than she had imagined. The streets were packed with cars, especially as she passed by the bridges that led to the islands right off the coast. Kure Beach, Carolina Beach, and Wrightsville Beach were reached by bridges that crossed from the city, and that was where most of the traffic seemed to be headed. Island Diving was located near the marina. Once she made her way through town, the traffic became a little less congested, and after reaching the road she needed, she slowed the car and looked for the shop. From where she had turned, it wasn't far. Just as she had hoped, a few other cars were parked on the side of the building. She pulled into a space a few spots from the entrance. It was an older wooden building, faded from the salt air and sea breezes, with one side of the store facing the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The hand-painted sign hung on two rusty metal chains, and the windows had the dusty look of a thousand rainstorms. She stepped out of her car, brushed the hair from her face, and started toward the entrance. She paused before opening the door to take a deep breath and collect her thoughts, then stepped inside, doing her best to pretend she was there for ordinary reasons. She browsed through the store, walking among the aisles, watching assorted customers pull and replace items from the racks. She kept an eye out for anyone who appeared to work there. She glanced furtively at every man in the store, wondering, Are you Garrett? Most, however, appeared to be customers. She worked her way to the back wall and found herself staring at a series of newspaper and magazine articles, framed and laminated, hanging above the racks. After a quick glance, she leaned forward for a closer look and suddenly realized she had stumbled across the answer to the first question she had about the mysterious Garrett Blake. She finally knew what he looked like. The first article, reprinted from the newspaper, was about scuba diving, and the caption beneath the photo read simply "Garrett Blake of Island Diving, readying his class for its first ocean dive." In it, he was adjusting the straps that held the tank to one of the student's back, and she could tell from the photo that Deanna and she had been right about him. He looked to be in his thirties, with a lean face and short brown hair that seemed to have bleached a little from hours spent in the sun. He was taller than the student by a couple of inches, and the sleeveless shirt he was wearing showed well-defined muscles in his arms. Because the picture was a little grainy, she couldn't make out the color of his eyes, though she could tell that his face was weathered as well. She thought she saw wrinkles around the corners of his eyes, though that could have been caused by squinting in the sun. She read the article carefully, noting when he generally taught his classes and some facts about getting certification. The second article had no picture but talked about shipwreck diving, which was popular in North Carolina. North Carolina, it seemed, had more than five hundred wrecks charted off the coast and was called the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Because of the Outer Banks and other islands directly off the coast, ships had run aground for centuries. The third article, again without a picture, concerned the Monitor, the first federal ironclad of the Civil War. En route to South Carolina, it had sunk off Cape Hatteras in 1862 while being towed by a steamer. The wreck had finally been discovered, and Garrett Blake, along with other divers from Duke Marine Institute, had been asked to dive to the ocean floor to explore the possibility of raising it. The fourth article was about Happenstance. Eight pictures of the boat had been taken from various angles, inside and out, all detailing the restoration. The boat, she learned, was fairly unique in that it was made entirely of wood and had first been manufactured in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1927. Designed by Herreshoff, one of the most noted maritime engineers of that period, it had a long and adventurous history (including being used in the Second World War to study the German garrisons that lined the shores of France). Eventually the boat made its way to Nantucket, where it was bought by a local businessman. By the time Garrett Blake purchased it four years ago, it had fallen into disrepair, and the article said that he and his wife, Catherine, had restored it. Catherine . . . Theresa looked at the article's date. April 1992. The article didn't mention that Catherine had died, and because one of the letters she had was found three years ago in Norfolk, it meant that Catherine must have died sometime in 1993. "Can I help you?" Theresa turned instinctively toward the voice behind her. A young man was smiling behind her, and she was suddenly glad she had seen a picture of Garrett moments before. This person obviously wasn't he. "Did I startle you?" he asked, and Theresa quickly shook her head. "No . . . I was just looking at the pictures." He nodded toward them. "She's something, isn't she?" "Who?" "Happenstance. Garrett-the guy that owns the shop-rebuilt her. She's a wonderful boat. One of the prettiest I've ever seen, now that she's done." "Is he here? Garrett, I mean." "No, he's down at the docks. He won't be in until later this morning." "Oh . . ." "Can I help you find something? I know the shop's kind of cluttered, but everything you need to go diving you can find here." She shook her head. "No, I was just browsing, actually," ""Okay, but if I can help you find something, let me know." "I will," she said, and the young man nodded cheerfully, then turned and started toward the counter at the front of the store. Before she could stop the words, she heard herself ask: "You said Garrett was at the docks?" He turned again and kept walking backward as he spoke. "Yeah-a couple blocks down the road. At the marina. Do you know where that is?" "I think I passed it on the way here." "He should be there for the next hour or so, but like I said, if you come back later, he'll be here. Do you want me to leave a message for him?" "No, that's okay. It's not that important." She spent the next three minutes pretending to look at different items on the racks, then walked out after waving good-bye to the young man. But instead of going to her car, she headed in the direction of the marina. *  *  * When she reached the marina, she looked around, hoping to spot Happenstance. Because the vast majority of boats were white and Happenstance was natural wood, she found it easily and made her way to the appropriate ramp. Although she felt nervous as she started down the ramp, the articles in the shop had given her a couple of ideas of what to talk about. Once she met him, she would simply explain that after reading the article about Happenstance, she wanted to see the boat up close. It would sound believable, and hopefully she could parlay that into a longer conversation. Then, of course, she'd have some idea of what he was like in person. And after that . . . well, then she'd see. As she approached the boat, however, the first thing she noticed was that no one seemed to be around. There wasn't anyone on board, there wasn't anyone on the docks, and it appeared as if no one had been there all morning. The boat was locked down, the sail covered, and nothing seemed out of place. After looking around for any sign of him, she checked the name on the back of the boat. It was indeed Happenstance. She brushed aside some hair that had blown onto her face as she puzzled over it. Odd, she thought, the man at the store had said he was here. Instead of returning to the shop right away, she took a moment to admire the boat. It was beautiful-rich and textured, unlike the boats that surrounded it. It had much more character than the other sailboats docked on either side of it, and she knew why the paper had done an article on it. In a way, it reminded her of a much smaller version of pirate ships she had seen in the movies. She paced back and forth for a few minutes, studying it from different angles, and wondered how run-down it had been prior to the restoration. Most of it looked new, though she assumed that they hadn't replaced all the wood. They had probably sanded her down, and as she looked closer, she saw nicks in the hull, lending credence to her theory. She finally decided to try Island Diving a little later. It was obvious the man at the store was mistaken. After one last glance at the boat, she turned to leave. A man stood on the ramp a few feet from her, watching her carefully. Garrett . . . He was sweating in the morning heat, and his shirt was soaked through in a couple of places. The sleeves had been torn off, revealing tight muscles in his arms and forearms. His hands were black with what appeared to be grease, and the diver's watch he had on his wrist looked scarred, as if he'd used it for years. He wore tan shorts and Top-Siders without socks and looked like someone who spent most, if not all, of his time near the ocean. He watched her as she took an involuntary step backward. "Can I help you with something?" he asked. He smiled but didn't approach her, as if he were afraid she would feel trapped. Which was exactly how she felt when their eyes met. For a moment all she could do was stare at him. Despite the fact that she had seen a picture of him, he looked better than she expected, though she wasn't sure why. He was tall and broad shouldered. Though not strikingly handsome, his face was tan and rugged, as if the sun and sea had taken their toll. His eyes weren't nearly as hypnotic as David's had been, but there was something compelling about him for sure. Something masculine in the way he stood before her. Remembering her plan, she took a deep breath. She motioned toward Happenstance. "I was just admiring your boat. It's really beautiful." Rubbing his hands together to remove some of the excess grease, he said politely, "Thank you, that's nice of you to say." His steady gaze seemed to expose the reality of the situation, and suddenly everything came to her at once-finding the bottle, her growing curiosity, the research she had done, her trip to Wilmington, and finally this meeting, face-to-face. Overwhelmed, she closed her eyes and caught herself fighting for control. Somehow she hadn't expected this to happen so quickly. She suddenly felt a moment of pure terror. He took a small step forward. "Are you okay?" he asked in a concerned voice. Taking another deep breath and willing herself to relax, she said, "Yeah, I think so. I just got a little dizzy there for a second." "You sure?" She ran her hand through her hair, embarrassed. "Yeah. I'm fine now. Really." "Good," he said as if waiting to see whether she was telling the truth. Then, after he was sure she was, he asked curiously: "Have we met before?" Theresa shook her head slowly. "I don't think so." "Then how did you know the boat was mine?" Relieved, she answered, "Oh . . . I saw your picture down at the shop in the articles on the wall, along with the pictures of the boat. The young man in your shop said you would be here, and I thought that as long as you were, I'd come down to see for myself." "He said I was here?" She was silent as she remembered the exact words. "Actually, he told me you were at the docks. I just assumed that meant you were here." He nodded. "I was at the other boat-the one we use for diving." A small fishing boat blared its horn, and Garrett turned and waved to the man standing on the deck. After it had gone by, he faced her again and was struck by how pretty she was. She looked even better up close than she had when he'd seen her from across the marina. On impulse, he lowered his eyes and reached for the red bandanna he had in his back pocket. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. "You did a wonderful job restoring it," Theresa said. He smiled faintly as he put the bandanna away. "Thanks, that's kind of you to say." Theresa glanced toward Happenstance as he spoke, then back to him. "I know it's not any of my business," she said casually, "but since you're here, would you mind if I asked you a little bit about it?" She could tell by his expression that it wasn't the first time he'd been asked to talk about the boat. "What would you like to know?" She did her best to sound conversational. "Well, was it in as bad a condition when you first got it as the article implied?" "Actually, it was in worse condition." He stepped forward and pointed to the various spots on the boat as he mentioned them. "A lot of the wood had rotted near the bow, there were a series of leaks along the side-it was a wonder she was still afloat at all. We ended up replacing a good portion of the hull and the deck, and what was left of her had to be sanded completely and then sealed and varnished again. And that was just the outside. We had to do the inside, too, and that took a great deal longer." Though she noticed the word "we" in his answer, she decided not to comment on it. "It must have been a lot of work." She smiled as she said it, and Garrett felt something tighten inside. Damn, she's pretty. "It was, but it was worth it. She's more fun to sail than other boats." "Why?" "Because she was built by people who used her to make their living. They put a lot of care into designing her, and that makes sailing a lot easier." "I take it you've been sailing a long time." "Ever since I was a kid." She nodded. After a short pause, she took a small step toward the boat. "Do you mind?" He shook his head. "No, go ahead." Theresa stepped toward it and ran her hands along the side of the hull. Garrett noticed that she wasn't wearing a ring, though it shouldn't matter one way or the other. Without turning, Theresa asked: "What kind of wood is this?" "Mahogany." "The whole boat?" "Most of it. Except for the masts and some of the interior." She nodded again, and Garrett watched as she walked alongside Happenstance. As she stepped farther away, he couldn't help but notice her figure and how her straight, dark hair grazed her shoulders. But it wasn't only the way she looked that caught his eye-there was a confidence in the way she moved. It was as if she knew exactly what men were thinking as she stood near them, he realized suddenly. He shook his head. "Did they really use this boat to spy on the Germans in World War Two?" she asked, turning to face him. He laughed under his breath, doing his best to clear his mind. "That's what the previous owner told me, though I don't know if it was true or if he said it to get a higher price." "Well, even if it wasn't, it's still a beautiful boat. How long did it take you to restore it?" "Almost a year." She peeked in one of the round windows, but it was too dark to make out much of the interior. "What did you sail on while you were fixing Happenstance?" "We didn't. There wasn't enough time, not with working in the shop, teaching classes, and trying to get this one ready." "Did you go through sailing withdrawals?" she asked with a smile, and for the first time, Garrett realized he was enjoying the conversation. "Absolutely. But they all went away just as soon as we finished and got her out on the water." Again, she heard the word "we." "I'm sure they did." After admiring the boat for another few seconds, she returned to his side. For a moment, neither of them spoke. Garrett wondered if she knew he was watching her from the corners of his eyes. "Well," she finally said as she crossed her arms, "I've probably taken enough of your time." "It's okay," he said, and again he felt the sweat on his forehead. "I love to talk about sailing." "I would, too. It always looked like fun to me." "You sound like you've never gone sailing before." She shrugged. "I haven't. I've always wanted to go, but I've never actually had the chance." She looked at him when she spoke, and when their eyes met, Garrett found himself reaching for the bandanna for the second time in a few minutes. Damn, it's hot out here. He wiped his forehead and heard the words coming out of his mouth before he could stop them. "Well, if you'd like to go, I usually take her out after work. You're welcome to come along this evening." Why he'd said that, he wasn't exactly sure. Maybe, he thought, it was a desire for female companionship after all these years, if only for a short time. Or maybe it had something to do with the way her eyes lit up whenever she talked. But no matter what the reason, he had just asked her to come with him, and there was nothing he could do to change it. Theresa, too, was a little surprised, but she quickly decided to accept. It was, after all, the reason she'd come to Wilmington. "I'd love to," she said. "What time?" He put the bandanna away, feeling a little unsettled about what he'd just done. "How about seven o'clock? The sun begins to drop then, and it's the ideal time to go out." "Seven o'clock is great for me. I'll bring along something to eat." To Garrett's surprise, she looked both pleased and excited about going. "You don't have to do that." "I know, but it's the least I can do. After all, you didn't have to offer to bring me along. Are sandwiches okay?" Garrett took a small step backward, suddenly needing a little breathing space. "Yeah, that's fine. I'm not that picky." "Okay," she said, then paused for a moment. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, waiting to see if he'd say anything else. When he didn't, she absently adjusted the purse on her shoulder. "I guess I'll see you tonight. Here at the boat, right?" "Right here," he said, and realized how tense he sounded. He cleared his throat and smiled a little. "It will be fun. You'll enjoy it." "I'm sure I will. See you later." She turned and started down the docks, her hair blowing in the breeze. As she was walking away, Garrett realized what he'd forgotten. "Hey!" he shouted. She stopped and turned to face him, using her hand to shield her eyes from the sun. "Yes?" Even at a distance she was pretty. He took a couple of steps in her direction. "I forgot to ask. What's your name?" "I'm Theresa. Theresa Osborne." "My name's Garrett Blake." "Okay, Garrett, I'll see you at seven." With that, she turned and walked briskly away. Garrett watched her retreating figure, trying to make sense of his conflicting emotions. Though part of him was excited about what had just happened, another part of him felt that there was something wrong with the whole thing. He knew there wasn't any reason to feel guilty, but the feeling was definitely there, and he wished there was something he could do about it. But there wasn't, of course. There never was.