First Page: Undertow
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The air was a tangible thing, snaking along his skin, creeping past the layers of his clothing, and permeating his senses with the tang of seawater. Alex inhaled it as he strolled down the sloping dock in the fog, savoring its flavor. The end of the dock was shrouded from view, the colors he expected- the cherry red and glossy forest green of freshly painted hulls- all turned to shades of gray. Maine was shaping up to be just as deliciously spooky as he’d hoped.
He paused a moment, letting the scene settle in his mind, picturing the swift sweep of oars bringing a skiff full of red coated soldiers towards shore. Staring into the fog, he could almost hear the curses of sailors as their woolen clothes grew damp and heavy, as they crowded close in the slim boat after long weeks crowded aboard ship, as they compared the heavy skies and tree-dark shores to the green fields of home. The rush of excitement swept up from deep in his chest, carrying the corners of his mouth up with it. This would do. This would definitely do.
A sleek sailboat appeared as he drew closer, rocking gently where it was tied to the dock. The word Leault shone on its stern, its gold script catching the muted light. Over the sound of lapping waves and distant motors he heard a gritty voice, steeped in that distinctive Down East accent. Alex was sure he heard someone say “ayuh.” Things kept looking better. Ladd’s Harbor was the ideal setting for his next book, the epitome of the Maine coast, and was even home to its very own legend of gold, betrayal, and violence.
“Mr. Donnelly?” he called out, spotting a stocky, brawny man on the deck of the Leault.
“Not me. Which Donnelly are you looking for, then?”
“How many are there?” he replied, curious.
“Well, you’ve got the Mr. Donnelly who lobsters, the father, he’s up the bay aways. Then Carl, Johnny, and Ted, his sons, they run the pub you passed on your way down,” this with a vague wave towards the sturdy brick buildings lining the waterfront, “called the Lady Cynth-”
“Don’t you dare say that name, Hank,” a disembodied voice cut in.
“But if you’re down here,” Hank continued unfazed, “I expect you’re looking for someone else.”
“Well yes, actually. I heard there’s a Cy Donnelly working here I should speak with. At the office they said he’d be working on the Leault this morning.” Alex peered into the fog hopefully, knocking a stray lock of hair out of his eyes.
“Ahh. It’s not a Mr. Donnelly you’re wanting,” Hank said, raising his eyes towards the sky.
Alex followed the man’s gaze up the tall mast, past coils of rope, where a pair of long, lithe legs dangled from the fog. Despite the scuffed sneakers and cut off shorts, those legs were distinctly feminine. He should know better than to make assumptions, and now his foot was squarely in his mouth.
“Hank, stop gabbing and find out what the man wants. And send me up a hammer, will you? The damn clevis pin’s rusted in.” That voice was trying its hardest not to be sexy, its huskiness tempered by no-nonsense delivery.
“Cynthia Donnelly,” Hank mouthed silently, wagging his eyebrows meaningfully before reaching into the tool bag at his feet. Alex studied Hank’s movements as he removed the end of a line from the mast, tied a knot around the head of the hammer, and hoisted it upward.