The clock rolled past the dinner hour and onward toward seven, but for Garrett Blake, time had stopped three years ago when Catherine had stepped off the curb and was killed by an elderly man who lost control of his car and changed the lives of two separate families forever. In the ensuing weeks, his anger at the driver eventually gave way to plans of revenge that went unfulfilled, simply because his sorrow rendered him incapable of any action whatsoever. He couldn't sleep more than three hours a night, cried whenever he saw her clothes in the closet, and lost almost twenty pounds on a diet that consisted of coffee and Ritz crackers. The following month, he started smoking for the first time in his life and turned to alcohol on nights when the pain was too unbearable for him to face sober. His father temporarily took over the business while Garrett sat in silence on the back porch of his home, trying to imagine a world without her. He had neither the will nor the desire to exist anymore, and sometimes as he sat there, he hoped that the salty, humid air would swallow him up completely so he wouldn't have to face the future alone. What made it so hard was that it seemed as though he couldn't remember a time when she wasn't around. They had known each other most of their lives and had attended the same schools throughout their younger years. In third grade they were best friends, and he gave her two cards on Valentine's Day, but after that, they drifted apart and simply coexisted as they progressed from one grade to the next. Catherine was gangly and thin, always the smallest in her class, and though Garrett always held a special place in his heart for her, he never noticed that she was slowly becoming an attractive young woman. They never went to a prom together or even to a movie, but after four years at Chapel Hill, where he majored in marine biology, he bumped into her at Wrightsville Beach and suddenly realized how foolish he had been. She was no longer the gangly girl he remembered. In a word, she was beautiful, with wonderful curves that made men and women alike turn their heads whenever she walked past them. Her hair was blond and her eyes held infinite mystery; and when he finally closed his gaping mouth and asked her what she was doing later, they started a relationship that eventually led to marriage and six wonderful years together. On their wedding night, alone in a hotel room lit only by candles, she handed him the two valentines he'd once given her and laughed aloud when she saw the expression on his face when he realized what they were. "Of course I kept them," she whispered as she wrapped her arms around him. "It was the first time I ever loved someone. Love is love, no matter how old you are, and I knew that if I gave you enough time, you'd come back to me." Whenever Garrett found himself thinking of her, he remembered either the way she looked that night or how she looked the very last time they went sailing. Even now he remembered that evening clearly-her blond hair blowing wildly in the breeze, her face rapturous as she laughed aloud. "Feel the spray!" she cried exultantly as she stood at the bow of the boat. Holding on to a line, she leaned out into the wind, her profile outlined against the glittering sky. "Be careful!" Garrett shouted back, holding the wheel steady. She leaned out even farther, glancing back at Garrett with a mischievous smile. "I'm serious!" he shouted again. For a moment it looked as if her grip were weak ening. Garrett quickly stepped away from the wheel, only to hear her laugh again as she pulled herself upright. Ever light on her feet, she made her way back easily to the wheel and put her arms around him. Kissing his ear, she whispered playfully, "Did I make you nervous?" "You always make me nervous when you do things like that." "Don't sound so gruff," she teased. "Not when I've finally got you all to myself." "You have me all to yourself every night." "Not like this," she said as she kissed him again. After a quick scan around them, she smiled. "Why don't we lower the sails and drop the anchor?" "Now?" She nodded. "Unless, of course, you'd rather sail all night." With a subtle look that betrayed nothing, she opened the door to the cabin and vanished from sight. Four minutes later the boat was hastily stabilized and he opened the door to join her. . . . Garrett exhaled sharply, dispelling the memory like smoke. Though he could remember the events of that evening, he found that as time was rolling on, it was becoming more and more difficult to visualize exactly the way she looked. Little by little her features were beginning to vanish before his eyes, and though he knew that forgetting helped to deaden the pain, what he wanted most of all was to see her again. In three years he'd looked through the photo album only once, and that had hurt so much he'd sworn it was the last time he'd ever do it. Now he saw her clearly only at night, after he'd fallen asleep. He loved it when he dreamed of her because it seemed as though she were still alive. She would talk and move, and he would hold her in his arms, and for a moment it seemed that everything was suddenly right in the world. Yet the dreams took a toll as well, because upon waking, he always felt exhausted and depressed. Sometimes he'd go to the shop and lock himself in the office for the entire morning so he wouldn't have to talk to anyone. His father tried to help as best he could. He, too, had lost a wife and so knew what his son was going through. Garrett still visited him at least once a week and always enjoyed the company his father provided. He was the one person Garrett shared a real understanding with, a feeling reciprocated by the old man. Last year his father had told him that he should start dating again. "It isn't right that you're always alone," he'd said. "It's almost like you've given up." Garrett knew there was a measure of truth to that. But the simple fact was that he had no desire to find anyone else. He hadn't made love to a woman since Catherine had died, and worse, he'd felt no desire for that, either. It was as if part of him were dead inside. When Garrett asked his father why he should take the advice when he himself had never re-married, his father simply looked away. But then his father said something else that haunted them both, something he later wished he hadn't said at all. "Do you really think it's possible for me to find someone else who's good enough to take her place?" In time, Garrett returned to the shop and started working again, doing his best to go on with his life. He stayed at the shop as late as he could, organizing files and rearranging his office, simply because it was less painful than going home. He found that if it was dark enough outside by the time he got back to his house and he turned on only a few lights, he didn't notice her things as much and her presence wasn't as strong. He got used to living alone again, cooking, cleaning, and doing his own laundry, and he even worked in the garden as she used to, though he didn't enjoy it as much as she did. He thought he was getting better, but when the time came to pack up Catherine's things, he didn't have the heart to do it. His father eventually took matters into his own hands. After a weekend spent diving, Garrett came home to a house stripped of her belongings. Without her things, the house was empty; he no longer saw any reason to stay. He sold it within a month, moved to a smaller house on Carolina Beach, thinking that by leaving, he'd finally be able to move on. And he had, kind of, for over three years now. His father hadn't found everything, though. In a small box that sat in his end table, he kept a few things that he couldn't bear to part with-the valentine cards he'd once given her, her wedding ring, and other things that people wouldn't understand. Late at night he liked to hold them in his hands, and even though his father sometimes commented that he seemed to be doing better, he would lie there thinking that no, he wasn't. To him, nothing would ever be the same again. * * * Garrett Blake went to the marina with a few minutes to spare so he could get Happenstance ready. He removed the sail cover, unlocked the cabin, and generally checked everything out. His father had called just as he was stepping out the door on the way to the docks, and Garrett found himself remembering the conversation. "Would you like to come for supper?" he'd asked. Garrett had replied that he couldn't. "I'm going sailing with someone tonight." His father had stayed quiet for a moment. Then: "With a woman?" Garrett explained briefly how he and Theresa met. "You sound like you're a little nervous about your date," his father remarked. "No, Dad, I'm not nervous. And it's not a date. Like I said, we're just going sailing. She said she'd never gone before." "Is she pretty?" "What does that matter?" "It doesn't. But it still sounds like a date to me." "It's not a date." "If you say so." * * * Garrett saw her walking up the dock a little after seven, dressed in shorts and a red sleeveless shirt, carrying a small picnic basket in one hand and a sweatshirt and light jacket in the other. She didn't look as nervous as he felt, nor did her expression betray what she was thinking as she approached him. When she waved, he felt some familiar pangs of guilt and quickly waved back before he finished untying the lines. He was mumbling to himself and doing his best to clear his mind when she reached the boat. "Hi," she said easily. "I hope you haven't been waiting long." He took off the gloves he was wearing as he spoke. "Oh, hi. And no-I haven't been waiting long at all. I came out here a little early to get her ready." "Did you finish everything you needed?" He glanced around to make sure. "Yeah, I think so. Can I help you up?" He set aside the gloves and extended his arm. Theresa handed him her things, and he set them on one of the seats that ran along the deck. When he took her hands to pull her up, she felt the calluses on his palms. After she was safely aboard, he motioned toward the wheel, taking a small step backward. "Are you ready to head out?" "Whenever you are." "Then go ahead and take a seat. I'm going to get us out onto the water. Do you want anything to drink before we get going? I have some soda in the refrigerator." She shook her head. "No thanks. I'm fine right now." She looked around the boat before finding a seat in the corner. She watched as he turned a key and the sound of an engine hummed to life. Then, stepping away from the wheel, he released the two lines that held the boat in place. Slowly Happenstance began to back out of its slip. A little surprised, Theresa said, "I didn't know there was an engine." He turned and answered over his shoulder, speaking loudly enough so that she could hear him. "It's a small one-just enough power to get us in and out of the slip. We put a new one in when we rebuilt her." Happenstance cleared the slip, then the marina. Once it was safely in the open water of the Intracoastal Waterway, Garrett turned into the wind and cut the engine. After putting on his gloves, he raised the sails quickly. Happenstance heeled to the breeze, and in one quick motion, Garrett was next to Theresa, leaning his body close. "Watch your head-the boom is going to swing over you." The next few actions came furiously. She ducked her head and watched as it all happened just the way he said it would. The boom moved above her, carrying the sail with it to capture the wind. When it was in the correct position, he used the lines to secure it again. Before she had time to blink, he was back at the wheel, making adjustments and looking over his shoulder at the sail, as if to be sure he had done everything correctly. The whole thing had taken less than thirty seconds. "I didn't know you had to do everything so quickly. I thought sailing was a leisurely sport." He looked over his shoulder again. Catherine used to sit in the same spot, and with the setting sun splitting the shadows, there was a brief moment when he thought it was her. He pushed the thought away and cleared his throat. "It is, when you're out on the ocean with no one else around. But right now we're on the Intracoastal, and we have to do our best to set a course out of the way of the other boats." He held the wheel almost perfectly still, and Theresa felt Happenstance gradually picking up speed. She got up from her seat and started back toward Garrett, stopping when she reached his side. The breeze was blowing, and though she could feel it on her face, it didn't seem strong enough to fill a sail. "All right, I think we've got it," he said with an easy smile, glancing at her. "We should be able to make it without having to tack. Unless the wind changes, of course." They moved toward the inlet. Because she knew he was concentrating on what he was doing, she kept quiet as she stood next to him. From the corner of her eye, she watched him-his strong hands on the wheel, his long legs shifting his weight as the boat heeled in the wind. In the lull of conversation, Theresa looked around. Like most sailboats, this one had two levels-the lower outside deck, where they were standing, and the forward deck, about four feet higher, which stretched to the front of the boat. That was where the cabin was located, and there were two small windows, coated on the outside with a thin layer of salt that made it impossible to see inside. A small door led into the cabin, low enough that people had to duck their heads to keep from bumping them. Turning back to him, she wondered how old Garrett was. In his thirties, probably-she couldn't pin it down any more than that. Looking at him closely didn't really help-his face was a little worn, almost windblown, giving him a distinctive appearance that no doubt made him appear older than he actually was. She thought again that he wasn't the most handsome man she'd ever seen, but there was something arresting about him, something indefinable. Earlier, when she'd spoken with Deanna on the phone, she'd tried to describe him, but because he didn't look like most of the men she knew in Boston, she'd had a hard time. She'd told Deanna that he was about her age, handsome in his own way and fit, but that he looked natural, as if his strength were simply the result of the life he'd chosen to live. That was about as close as she could get at the time, though after seeing him up close again, she thought she wasn't so far off. Deanna was thrilled when Theresa told her about going sailing later that evening, though Theresa had gone through a period of doubt immediately afterward. For a while she worried about being alone with a stranger-especially out in the open water-but she convinced herself that her worries were unfounded. It's just like any other date, she'd told herself most of the afternoon. Don't make a big deal out of this. When it was time for her to head to the docks, however, she almost didn't. In the end, she'd decided it was something she had to do, mainly for herself, but also because of the grief Deanna would have given her if she didn't. As they approached the inlet, Garrett Blake turned the wheel. The sailboat responded and moved farther from the banks, toward the deep waters of the Intracoastal. Garrett looked from side to side, watching for other boats as he steadied the wheel. Despite the shifting wind, he seemed to be in absolute control of the boat, and Theresa could tell that he knew exactly what he was doing. Terns circled directly overhead as the sailboat cut through the water, gliding on updrafts. The sails rumbled loudly as they moved with the wind. Water rushed along the side of the boat. Everything seemed to be in motion as they moved under the graying North Carolina sky. Theresa crossed her arms and reached for the sweatshirt she had brought along. She slipped it on, glad that she had brought it. Already the air seemed a lot cooler than it had when they'd left. The sun was dropping faster than she expected, and the fading light reflected off the sails, casting shadows across most of the deck. Directly behind the boat, the rushing water hissed and swirled, and she stepped closer to take a better look. Watching the churning water was hypnotic. Keeping her balance, she put her hand on the railing and felt something that had yet to be sanded. Looking carefully, she noticed an inscription carved into the railing. Built in 1934-Restored in 1991. Waves from a larger boat passing in the distance made them bob, and Theresa made her way back toward Garrett. He was turning the wheel again, more sharply this time, and she caught a quick smile as he motioned toward the open sea. She watched him until the boat was safely clear of the inlet. For the first time in what seemed like forever, she had done something completely spontaneous, something she couldn't have imagined doing less than a week ago. And now that it was done, she wasn't sure what to expect. What if Garrett turned out to be nothing like she had imagined? Granted, she would go home to Boston with her answer . . . but for now she hoped she wouldn't have to leave right away. Too much had happened already- Once there was enough distance between Happenstance and the other boats, Garrett asked Theresa to hold the wheel. "Just keep it steady," he said. Again he adjusted the sails, seemingly in less time than it had taken before. Taking over, he made sure the boat was headed up-weather, then tied a small loop in the jib line and looped it around the capstan in the wheel, leaving about an inch of slack. "Okay, that should do it," he said, tapping the wheel, making sure it would stay in position. "We can take a seat if you want." "You don't have to hold it?" "That's what the loop is for. Sometimes-when the wind is really shifty-you have to hold the wheel the whole time. But we got lucky with the weather tonight. We could sail in this direction for hours." With the sun descending slowly in the evening sky behind them, Garrett led the way back to where Theresa had been sitting earlier. After making sure there wasn't anything behind her that might snag her clothes, they sat in the corner-she on the side, he against the back-angled so that they could face each other. Feeling the wind in her face, Theresa pulled her hair back, looking out over the water. Garrett watched her as she did it. She was shorter than he was-about five feet seven, he guessed-with a lovely face and a figure that reminded him of models he had seen in magazines. But even though she was attractive, there was something else about her that caught his eye. She was intelligent, he could sense that right away, and confident, too, as if she were able to move through life on her own terms. To him, these were the things that really mattered. Without them, beauty was nothing. In a way, when he looked at her, he was reminded of Catherine. Especially her expression. She looked as though she were daydreaming as she watched the water, and he felt his thoughts wandering back to the last time they had sailed together. Again he felt guilty, though he did his best to push aside the feelings. He shook his head and absently adjusted his watchband, first loosening it, then tightening it back in its original position. "It's really beautiful out here," she finally said as she turned toward him. "Thanks for inviting me along." He was glad when she broke the silence. "You're welcome. It's nice to have some company once in a while." She smiled at his answer, wondering if he meant it. "Do you usually sail alone?" He leaned back as he spoke, stretching his legs out in front of him. "Usually. It's a good way to unwind after work. No matter how stressful the day is, once I get out here, the wind seems to blow it all away." "Is diving that hard?" "No, it's not the diving. That's the fun part. It's more or less everything else. The paperwork, dealing with people who cancel their lessons at the last minute, making sure the shop has the right amount of everything. It can make for a long day." "I'm sure. But you like it, don't you?" "Yeah, I do. I wouldn't trade what I do for anything." He paused and adjusted the watch on his wrist. "So, Theresa, what do you do?" It was one of the few safe questions he'd thought up during the course of the day. "I'm a columnist for the Boston Times." "Here on vacation?" She paused only slightly before answering. "You could say that." He nodded, expecting the answer. "What do you write about?" She smiled. "I write about parenting." She saw the surprised look in his eyes, the same look she saw whenever she dated someone new. You may as well get this over with right away, she thought to herself. "I have a son," she went on. "He's twelve." He raised his eyebrows. "Twelve?" "You look shocked." "I am. You don't look old enough to have a twelve-year-old." "I'll take that as a compliment," she said with a smirk, not rising to the bait. She wasn't quite ready to betray her age. "But, yes, he is twelve. Would you like to see a picture?" "Sure," he said. She found her wallet, took out the photo, and handed it to him. Garrett stared at it for a moment, then glanced at her. "He has your coloring," he said, handing the picture back. "He's a good-looking boy." "Thank you." As she was putting the picture away, she asked, "How about you? Do you have any children?" "No." He shook his head. "No kids. At least none that I know of." She chuckled at his answer, and he went on: "What's your son's name?" "Kevin." "Is he here in town with you?" "No, he's with his father in California. We divorced a few years ago." Garrett nodded without judgment, then looked over his shoulder at another sailboat passing in the distance. Theresa watched it for a moment as well, and in the silence, she noticed how peaceful it was on the ocean compared to the Intracoastal. The only sounds now came from the sail as the wind rippled through it and the water as Happenstance cut its way through the waves. She thought their voices sounded different from the way they had on the docks. Out here they sounded almost free, as if the open air would carry them forever. "Would you like to see the rest of the boat?" Garrett asked. She nodded. "I'd love to." Garrett rose and checked the sails again before leading the way inside, Theresa one step behind him. When he opened the door he paused, suddenly overcome by the fragment of a memory, long buried but shaken loose, perhaps by the newness of this woman's presence. Catherine sat at the small table with a bottle of wine already open. In front of her, a vase with a single flower caught the light of a small burning candle. The flame swayed with the boat's motion, casting long shadows across the interior of the hull. In the semidarkness, he could just make out the ghost of a smile. "I thought this would be a nice surprise," she said. "We haven't eaten by candlelight in a while." Garrett looked to the small stove. Two foil-wrapped plates sat beside it. "When did you get all this on the boat?" "While you were at work." Theresa moved around him silently, leaving him to the privacy of his thoughts. If she had noticed his hesitation, she gave no sign, and for that, Garrett was grateful. On Theresa's left, a seat ran along one side of the boat-wide and long enough for someone to sleep comfortably; directly opposite the seat on the other side was a small table with room enough for two people to sit. Near the door were a sink and stove burner with a small refrigerator underneath, and straight ahead was a door that led to the sleeping cabin. He stood off to one side with his hands on his hips as she explored the interior, looking at everything. He didn't hover over her shoulder as some men would have but instead gave her space. Still, she could feel his eyes watching her, though he wasn't obvious about it. After a moment she said, "From the outside, you wouldn't think it's as large as it is." "I know." Garrett cleared his throat awkwardly. "Surprising, isn't it?" "Yeah, it is. It looks like it has everything you need, though." "It does. If I wanted, I could sail her to Europe, not that I'd recommend it. But it's great for me." He stepped around her and went to the refrigerator, bending over to pull a can of Coca-Cola from the refrigerator. "Are you up for something to drink yet?" "Sure," she said. She ran her hands along the walls, feeling the texture of the wood. "What would you like? I've got SevenUp or Coke." "SevenUp's fine," she answered. He stood and handed her the can. Their fingers touched briefly as she took it. "I don't have any ice on board, but it's cold." "I'll try to rough it," she said, and he smiled. She opened it and took a swallow before setting it on the table. As he opened his own can of soda, he looked at her, thinking about what she'd said earlier. She had a twelve-year-old son . . . and as a columnist, that meant she probably went to college. If she'd waited until after then to get married and have a child . . . that would make her about four or five years older than he was. She didn't look that much older-that much was certain-but she didn't act like most of the twenty-somethings he knew in town. There was a maturity to her actions, something that came only to those who had experienced their share of highs and lows in life. Not that it mattered. She turned her attention to a framed photograph that hung on the wall. In it, Garrett Blake was standing on a pier with a marlin he'd caught, looking much younger than he was now. In the photo he was smiling broadly, and his buoyant expression reminded her of Kevin whenever he scored a goal in soccer. Into the sudden lull she said, "I see you like to fish." She pointed toward the picture. He stepped toward her, and once he was close, she felt the warmth radiating from him. He smelled like salt and wind. "Yeah, I do," he said quietly. "My father was a shrimper, and I pretty much grew up on the water." "How long ago was this taken?" "That one's about ten years old-it was taken right before I went back to college for my senior year. There was a fishing contest, and my dad and I decided to spend a couple of nights out in the Gulf Stream and we caught that marlin about sixty miles off shore. It took almost seven hours to bring him in because my dad wanted me to learn how to do it the old-fashioned way." "What does that mean?" He laughed under his breath. "Basically it means that my hands were cut to pieces by the time I was finished, and I could barely move my shoulders the next day. The line we had hooked it on wasn't really strong enough for a fish that size, so we had to let the marlin run until it stopped, then slowly reel it in, then let it run again all day long until the thing was too exhausted to fight anymore." "Kind of like Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea." "Kind of, except that I didn't feel like an old man until the next day. My father, on the other hand, could have played the part in the movie." She looked at the picture again. "Is that your father standing next to you?" "Yeah, that's him." "He looks like you," she said. Garrett smiled a little, wondering whether or not it was a compliment. He motioned to the table, and Theresa sat down opposite him. Once she was comfortable, she asked: "You said you went to college?" He met her eyes. "Yeah, I went to UNC and majored in marine biology. Nothing else interested me much, and since my dad told me I couldn't come home without a degree, I thought I'd learn something that I might be able to use later." "So you bought the shop. . . ." He shook his head. "No, at least not right away. After graduating, I worked for the Duke Maritime Institute as a dive specialist, but there wasn't much money in that. So, I got a teaching certificate and started taking in students on the weekends. The shop came a few years later." He cocked an eyebrow. "How about you?" Theresa took another drink of the SevenUp before she answered. "My life isn't quite as exciting as yours. I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and went to school at Brown. After graduation, I bounced around in a couple of different places and tried a few different things, eventually settling down in Boston. I've been with the Times for nine years now, but only the last few as a columnist. Before that, I was a reporter." "How do you like being a columnist?" She thought about it for a moment, as if she were considering it for the first time. "It's a good job," she finally said. "A lot better now than when I started. I can pick Kevin up after school, and I have the freedom to write whatever I want, as long as it's in line with my column. It pays fairly well, too, so I can't complain about that, but . . ." She paused again. "It's not all that challenging anymore. Don't get me wrong, I like what I do, but sometimes I feel like I'm writing the same things over and over. Even that wouldn't be so bad, though, if I didn't have so many other things to do with Kevin. I guess that right now, I'm your typical, overworked single mother, if you know what I mean." He nodded and spoke softly. "Life doesn't often turn out the way we think it will, does it?" "No, I guess it doesn't," she said, and again she caught his gaze. His expression made her wonder if he'd said something he rarely said to anyone else. She smiled and leaned toward him. "Are you ready for something to eat? I brought some things in the basket." "Whenever you are." "I hope you like sandwiches and cold salads. They were the only things I could think of that wouldn't spoil." "It sounds better than what I would have had. If it was just me, I probably would have stopped for a burger before I went out tonight. Would you like to eat down here or outside?" "Outside, definitely." They picked up their cans of soda and left the cabin. On their way out, Garrett grabbed a raincoat from a peg near the door and motioned for her to go on without him. "Give me a minute to drop the anchor," he said, "so we can eat without having to check the boat every few minutes." Theresa reached her seat and opened the basket she had brought with her. On the horizon, the sun was sinking into a bank of cumulus clouds. She pulled out a couple of sandwiches wrapped in cellophane, as well as some Styrofoam containers of coleslaw and potato salad. She watched as Garrett set aside the coat and lowered the sails, the boat slowing almost immediately. With his back to her as he worked, she again noticed how strong he looked. From where she was sitting, his shoulder muscles appeared larger than she had first realized, amplified by his small waist. She couldn't believe she was actually sailing with this man when only two days ago she was in Boston. The whole thing seemed unreal. While Garrett worked steadily, Theresa looked upward. The breeze had picked up now that the temperature had dropped, and the sky was darkening slowly. Once the boat had stopped completely, Garrett lowered the anchor. He waited about a minute, making sure the anchor would hold, and when he was satisfied, he took his seat next to Theresa. "I wish there was something I could do to help you," Theresa said with a smile. She flipped her hair onto her shoulder the same way Catherine used to, and for a moment he didn't say anything. "Is everything okay?" Theresa asked. He nodded, suddenly uncomfortable again. "We're fine right here. But I was just thinking that if the wind keeps picking up, we'll have to tack a bit more often on our way back." She put some potato salad and coleslaw along with his sandwich on his plate and handed it to him, conscious of the fact that he was sitting closer than he had before. "Will it take longer to get back, then?" Garrett reached for one of the white plastic forks and took a bite of coleslaw. It took a moment for him to answer. "A little-but it won't be a problem unless the wind stops completely. If that happens, we'd be stuck." "I take it that's happened to you before." He nodded. "Once or twice. It's rare, but it does happen." She looked confused. "Why is that rare? The wind doesn't always blow, does it?" "On the ocean it usually does." "How come?" He smiled in amusement and set the sandwich on his plate. "Well, winds are driven by differences in temperature-when warm air rushes to cooler air. For the wind to stop blowing when you're out on the ocean, you'd need the air temperature to exactly equal the water temperature for miles around. Down here, the air is usually hot during the day, but as soon as the sun starts to set, the temperature drops quickly. That's why the best time to go out is at dusk. The temperature is changing constantly, and that makes for great sailing." "The sails empty and the boat comes to a halt. You're absolutely powerless to do anything to make it move." "And you said this has happened to you before?" He nodded. "What did you do?" "Nothing, really. Just sat back and enjoyed the quiet. I wasn't in danger, and I knew that in time the air temperature would drop. So I just waited it out. After an hour or so, a breeze picked up and I made it back to port." "Sounds like it ended up being an enjoyable day." "It was." He looked away from her intent gaze and focused on the cabin door. After a moment he added, almost to himself, "One of the best." Catherine scooted over in her seat. "Come here and sit next to me." Garrett closed the cabin door and made his way to her. "This is the best day we've spent together in a long time," Catherine said softly. "It seems like we've both been too busy lately, and . . . I don't know . . ." She trailed off. "I just wanted to do something special for us." As she spoke, it seemed to Garrett that his wife wore the same tender expression she'd had on their wedding night. Garrett sat beside her and poured the wine. "I'm sorry I've been so busy at the shop lately," he said quietly. "I love you, you know." "I know." She smiled and covered his hand with her own. "It'll be better soon, I promise." Catherine nodded, reaching for her wine. "Let's not talk about that right now. Right now, I want to enjoy us, just the two of us. Without any distractions." "Garrett?" Startled, Garrett looked at Theresa. "I'm sorry . . . ?" he began. "Are you okay?" She was staring at him with a mixture of concern and puzzlement. "I'm fine. . . . I was just remembering something I have to take care of," Garrett improvised. "Anyway," he said, straightening and folding his hands over one raised knee. "Enough about me. If you don't mind, Theresa . . . tell me something about yourself." Puzzled and a little unsure about what he wanted to know exactly, she started from the beginning, touching on all the basic facts in a little more detail-her upbringing, her job, her hobbies. Mostly, though, she talked about Kevin and what a wonderful son he was and how she regretted not being able to spend more time with him. Garrett listened as she spoke, not saying much. When she finished he asked, "And you said you were married once?" She nodded. "For eight years. But David-that's his name-seemed to lose heart in the relationship, somehow . . . he ended up having an affair. I just couldn't live with that." "I couldn't, either," Garrett said softly, "but it still doesn't make it any easier." "No, it didn't." She paused and took a drink of her soda. "But we're on friendly terms, in spite of everything. He's a good father to Kevin, and that's all I want from him now." A large swell passed beneath the hull, and Garrett turned his head to make sure the anchor would hold. When he turned back Theresa said: "Okay, your turn. Tell me about you." Garrett also started from the beginning, talking about growing up in Wilmington as an only child. He told her that his mother had died when he was twelve, and because his father spent most of his time on the boat, he pretty much grew up on the water. He spoke about his college days-omitting some of the wilder stories that might provide a misleading impression-and described what it had been like to start the shop and what his typical days were like now. Strangely, he said nothing at all about Catherine, over which Theresa could only wonder. As they talked on, the sky turned to black and fog began to settle in around them. With the boat rocking slightly in the waves, a kind of intimacy descended upon them. The fresh air, the breeze in their faces, and the gentle movement of the boat all conspired to ease their earlier nervousness. Afterward Theresa tried to remember the last time she'd had a date like this. Not once did she feel any pressure from Garrett to see him again, nor did he seem to expect something more from her this evening. Most of the men she met in Boston seemed to share the attitude that if they went out of their way to have a pleasant evening, then something was owed in return. It was an adolescent attitude-but typical nonetheless-and she found the change refreshing. When they reached a quiet point in the conversation, Garrett leaned back and ran his hands through his hair. He closed his eyes and seemed to be savoring a silent moment for himself. While he was doing that, Theresa quietly put the used plates and napkins back into the basket to keep them from blowing into the ocean. When Garrett was ready, he rose from his seat. "I think it's about time we start back," he said, almost as if regretting that the trip was coming to an end. A few minutes later the boat was under way again, and she noticed that the wind was much stronger than it had been earlier. Garrett stood at the wheel, keeping Happenstance on course. Theresa stood next to him with her hand on the railing, running through their conversation again and again in her head. Neither of them spoke for a long while, and Garrett Blake found himself wondering why he felt so off balance. On their last sail together, Catherine and Garrett talked quietly for hours, enjoying the wine and dinner. The sea was calm, and the gentle rise and fall of the swells were comforting in their familiarity. Later that night, after making love, Catherine lay by Garrett's side, skimming her fingers across his chest, saying nothing. "What are you thinking?" he asked finally. "Just that I didn't think it was possible to love someone as much as I love you," she whispered. Garrett ran his finger down her cheek. Catherine's eyes never left his. "I didn't think it was possible, either," he answered softly. "I don't know what I'd ever do without you." "Will you make me a promise?" "Anything." "If anything ever does happen to me, promise me that you'll find someone else." "I don't think I could love anyone except you." "Just promise me, okay?" It took a moment to answer. "All right-if it makes you happy, I promise." He smiled tenderly. Catherine snuggled into him. "I'm happy, Garrett." When the memory finally faded, Garrett cleared his throat and touched Theresa's arm with his hand to get her attention. He pointed toward the sky. "Look at all this," he said finally, doing his best to keep the conversation neutral. "Before they had sextants and compasses, they used the stars to navigate the seas. Over there, you can see Polaris. It always points due north." Theresa looked up into the sky. "How do you know which star it is?" "You use marker stars. Can you see the Big Dipper?" "Sure." "If you draw a straight line from the two stars that make up the tip of the spoon, they'll point to the North Star." Theresa watched as he pointed out the stars he was talking about, musing about Garrett and the things that interested him. Sailing, diving, fishing, navigation by stars-anything to do with the ocean. Or anything, it seemed, that would enable him to be alone for hours on end. With one hand, Garrett reached for the navy blue raincoat he'd left near the wheel earlier and slipped it on. "The Phoenicians were probably the greatest ocean explorers in history. In 600 B.C. they claimed to have sailed around the continent of Africa, but no one believed that they had done it because they swore that the North Star disappeared halfway through their voyage. But it had." "Why?" "Because they entered the southern hemisphere. That's how historians know they actually did it. Before then, no one had ever seen that happen before, or if they had, they'd never recorded it. It took almost two thousand years before they were proved right." She nodded, imagining their faraway voyage. She wondered why she never learned such things growing up and wondered about the man who had. And suddenly she knew exactly why Catherine had fallen in love with him. It wasn't that he was unusually attractive, or ambitious, or even charming. He was partly those things, but more important, he seemed to live life on his own terms. There was something mysterious and different about the way he acted, something masculine. And that made him unlike anyone she'd ever met before. Garrett glanced at her when she didn't respond and again noticed how lovely she was. In the darkness her pale skin looked ethereal, and he found himself picturing what it would feel like to lightly trace the outline of her cheek. He shook his head then, trying to push the thought away. But he couldn't. The breeze was blowing through her hair, and the sight of it made something tighten in his stomach. How long had it been since he'd felt this way? Too long, for sure. But there wasn't anything he could, or would, do about it. He knew that too as he watched her. It was neither the right time nor the right pace . . . nor was it the right person. Deep down, he wondered if anything would ever be right again. "I hope I'm not boring you," he said finally, with forced calmness. "I've always been interested in those types of stories." She faced him and smiled. "No, it's not that. Not at all. I liked the story. I was just imagining what those men must have gone through. It's not easy to head into something completely foreign." "No, it's not," he said, feeling as if she'd somehow read his mind. The lights from the buildings along the shore seemed to flicker in the slowly thickening fog. Happenstance rocked slightly in the rising swells as it approached the inlet, and Theresa looked over her shoulder for the things she had brought with her. Her jacket had blown into the corner near the cabin. She made a note not to forget it when she got back to the marina. Even though Garrett had said he usually sailed alone, she wondered if he had brought anyone out besides Catherine and herself. And if he never had, what did that mean? She knew he had watched her carefully this evening, though he'd never been obvious. But even if he was curious about her, he'd kept his feelings well hidden. He hadn't pressed her for information she wasn't willing to give, he hadn't questioned her about whether she was involved with someone else. He hadn't done anything this evening that could be interpreted as being more than casually interested. Garrett turned a switch, and a series of small lights came on around the boat. Not enough to see each other well, but enough so that other boats would see them approaching. He pointed toward the blackness of the coast-"The inlet is right over there, between the lights"-and turned the wheel in that direction. The sails rippled and the beam shifted for a moment before returning to its original position. "So," he finally asked, "did you enjoy your first time sailing?" "I did. It was wonderful." "I'm glad. It wasn't a trip to the southern hemisphere, but it's about all I could do." They stood beside each other, both seemingly lost in thought. Another sailboat appeared in the darkness a quarter mile away, making its way back to the marina as well. Giving it a wide berth, Garrett looked from side to side, making sure nothing else would appear. Theresa noticed that the fog had made the horizon invisible. Turning toward him, she saw that his hair had been blown back by the wind. The coat he was wearing hung to midthigh, unzipped. Worn and weathered, it looked as though he'd used it for years. It made him seem larger than he really was, and it would be this image of him that she could imagine remembering forever. This, and the first time she had seen him. As they moved closer to shore, Theresa suddenly doubted that they would see each other again. In a few minutes they'd be back at the docks and they would say good-bye. She doubted he would ask her to join him again, and she wasn't going to ask him herself. For some reason it didn't seem like the right thing to do. They made their way through the inlet, turning toward the marina. Again he kept the boat in the center of the waterway, and Theresa saw a series of triangular signs marking the channel. He kept the sails up until approximately the same spot he'd first raised them, then lowered them with the same intensity he had used to guide the boat all evening. The engine kicked to life, and within a few minutes they had made their way past the boats that had been moored all evening. When they reached his dock, she stood on the deck while Garrett jumped off and secured Happenstance with the lines. Theresa walked to the stern to get the basket and her jacket, then stopped. Thinking for a moment, she picked up the basket, but instead of grabbing her jacket, she pushed it partway under the seat cushion with her free hand. When Garrett asked if everything was okay, she cleared her throat and said, "I'm just getting my things." She walked to the side of the boat, and he offered his hand. Again she felt the strength in it as she took it, and she stepped down from Happenstance onto the dock. They stared at each other for just a moment, as if wondering what would come next, before Garrett finally motioned toward the boat. "I've got to close her up for the night, and it's going to take a little while." She nodded. "I thought you might say that." "Can I walk you to your car first?" "Sure," she said, and he started down the dock with Theresa beside him. When they reached her rental car, Garrett watched as she fished through the basket for her keys. After finding them, she unlocked the car door and opened it. "Like I said earlier, I had a wonderful time tonight," she said. "So did I." "You should take more people out. I'm sure they would enjoy it." Grinning, he answered, "I'll think about it." For a moment their eyes met, and for a moment he saw Catherine in the darkness. "I'd better get back," he said quickly, slightly uncomfortable. "I've got an early morning tomorrow." She nodded, and not knowing what else to do, Garrett held out his hand. "It was nice to have met you, Theresa. I hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation." Shaking his hand felt a little strange after the evening they'd just spent, but she would have been surprised if he'd done anything different. "Thanks for everything, Garrett. It was nice meeting you, too." She took her seat behind the steering wheel and turned the ignition. Garrett shut the door for her and listened as she put the car into gear. Smiling at him one last time, she glanced in the rearview mirror and slowly backed the car out. Garrett waved as she began to pull away and watched as her car finally left the marina. When she was safely on her way, he turned and walked back up the docks, wondering why he felt so unsettled. Twenty minutes later, just as Garrett was finishing up with Happenstance, Theresa unlocked the door to her hotel room and stepped inside. She tossed her things on the bed and made her way to the bathroom. She splashed cold water on her face and brushed her teeth before undressing. Then, lying in bed with only the bedside lamp on, she closed her eyes, thinking about Garrett. David would have done everything so differently had he been the one who had taken her sailing. He would have tailored the evening to suit the charming image he wanted to project-"I just happen to have some wine, would you care for a glass?"-and he definitely would have talked a little more about himself. But it would have been subtle-David was good at anticipating when confidence crossed the line to arrogance-and he'd have made sure not to cross that line right away. Until you knew him better, you didn't know it was a carefully orchestrated plan designed to make the best impression. With Garrett, though, she knew right away that he wasn't acting-there was something sincere about him-and she found herself intrigued by his manner. Yet had she done the right thing? She still wasn't sure about that yet. Her actions seemed almost manipulative, and she didn't like to think of herself that way. But it was already done. She'd made her decision, and there wasn't any turning back now. She turned off the lamp, and once her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she looked toward the space between the loosely drawn curtains. The crescent moon had finally risen, and a little moonlight spilled onto the bed. Staring at it, she found herself unable to turn away until her body finally relaxed and her eyes closed for the night.