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Shenandoah Crossings | Chapter One

“DROP IT, TESS. This isn’t the time or the place. By this time tomorrow it will be over.”

Tess Roberts glared at her brother as she lifted the cans out of the shopping cart and banged them down onto the conveyor belt. She hated when he stated the obvious. The cashier raised an eyebrow after Tess slammed the third can of organic black beans in front of her. Tess smiled apologetically before placing the last of their groceries on the moving belt to be rung up.

She couldn’t stop thinking about the ship. She knew Andy was right, knew it was the logical thing to do, knew it was the safe thing to do, but everything inside her cringed at the idea.

“Don’t try to debate this, Tess. The cabin should have been dismantled a month ago. Shenandoah is finished for the season, and it’s time. Nothing you can say to Dad will change his mind.”

“I know, okay.” Tess felt the sting of tears and shook them off before Andy or anyone else noticed. “But what if, Andy? What if?”

“Zip it, Tess.” Andy cut her off, then glanced at the clerk.

Tess knew she couldn’t talk about Rebecca O’Neill outside of their home or office. Still, not a day had passed during the last month when she hadn’t wondered if her best friend really had traveled back in time to 1775.

She thought about Rebecca while he paid for the groceries. Her story had been too fantastical. Coming from anyone else, Tess would never have believed a person could spend a hot August night on a boat in the Vineyard Haven harbor and then wake up in 1775 Boston.

But Tess had known Rebecca her whole life. No one was more levelheaded. If Tess had said she’d gone back in time while sleeping in Cabin 8, everyone would have laughed at yet another Tess stunt. Rebecca, however, was calm, decisive, sincere, practical, and so unlike Tess that even her father, the venerable Captain Roberts, had immediately believed her, as had Tess.

When Rebecca had sat with her on the captain’s bunk last month and told her about Benjamin Reed and traveling to Colonial Boston, Tess had been captivated and convinced. And, of course, there was the incident with Melissa Smith. No one in town would ever forget when Melissa disappeared off the Shenandoah without a trace. The Coast Guard had declared it an accidental drowning, assuming she’d gone night swimming and been caught in the current and pulled under. Now, five years later, the Roberts family finally knew the truth.

Tess glanced sideways at Andy. How he could stand there calmly handing the clerk his credit card while Rebecca might someday need to come home? Didn’t he realize he was about to dismantle her only way back? What was wrong with him?

When Rebecca had told them she wanted to return permanently to 1775 to marry Captain Benjamin Reed, no one had stopped her. Tess had been eager to help her. But—a very big but—there was a huge difference between helping Rebecca leave and preventing her from ever coming back.

Tess knew that tomorrow her father and brother were going to remodel Shenandoah’s only cabin that was still completely intact as it was over two hundred years ago. In Cabin 8, all the boards were in the exact same location as when the ship was built. The cabin had carried Rebecca to Ben and Melissa to Isaiah. And if they took it apart, moved one board, what would happen if Rebecca wanted to come back? Needed to come back?

A tap on her shoulder brought Tess back to the present as she turned to find Tom Wilson smiling at her and reaching around her to shake hands with Andy.

“How’s life, Drew? You folks done for the season?”

Shenandoah is done. We’re going to start breaking her down tomorrow. Katherine still has three weekends of sunset sails. How’s the Decker house coming along?” Andy, or Drew as most Islanders called him, asked after a remodel Tom was doing on Daggett Avenue.

“I’ve got a few good weeks here. Lots of guys still on the island looking for work now that the summer people have left and the fishing derby hasn’t kicked into high gear. We might make some headway before October.”

Tom and Andy both laughed. Life on Martha’s Vineyard revolved around two things for many of the laborers: summer residents and the Bass and Bluefish Derby, which started in mid-September. Tess liked to fish, had even entered the Derby a few times, but she’d never caught Derby Fever. For many, though, it was the ultimate event of the year.

As their laughter faded, Tom elbowed Andy, then pointed past the display case of candy bars and magazines and over at Jim Hensley, a tall, rather overweight man fairly hard to miss. “Have you heard the latest?” Tom asked, winking at Tess. “Let me ask him if the rumors are true.”

“So, Jim,” Tom called across the register, “what’s this I see on your Facebook page? Did you really get married a few weeks ago?”

All eyes turned to Jim and his daughter, Megan. Jim, momentarily caught off guard, mumbled under his breath before replying, “Yup, I did.”

If Megan hadn’t been standing there, Tess would have made a few comments to Hensley. Everyone in town knew he was faking his marriage. Tess hadn’t liked the man years ago when she babysat Megan and her twin brother, Brody, and she liked him even less today.

From some previous comments Tom had made, Tess knew he disliked Hensley even more than she did, so she didn’t give him an easy way out. “Well, congratulations, then. So, when do we get to meet her?”

Jim avoided Tom’s eyes. “She lives off island, not here very often.”

A devilish grin appeared on Tom’s face. “When are you moving in with her? Are the kids going to transfer schools? You’re going to be a busy man if you’re gonna commute every day.”

Megan cast her eyes to the floor and shook her head. Tess wanted to walk over and hug the sporty teen she’d once taught to play Crazy Eights. She’d heard the rumors and suspected Jim’s fake marriage was some sick revenge on his ex-girlfriend after she’d caught him cheating—a behavior he was well known for. His kids always ended up all too aware of their father’s deceptions. Now poor Megan was trapped in another of his contemptible lies.

Jim didn’t even seem to notice his daughter’s embarrassment. He looked around at the dozen or so people listening to the conversation. “Well, she…”

Megan lifted her head, her face flushed red, and raised her voice. “He’s not really married, Mr. Wilson. He’s lying. It’s just a sham he and Deidre are playing on Facebook.”

The checkout area grew uncomfortably quiet. Tess felt certain every man and woman standing there was torn between comforting Megan and cracking up laughing at the fool Jim Hensley had publicly become yet again.

Tom broke the ice. “Okay, then, guess the best wishes can wait for another time.” He picked up his black reusable cloth bag. “Good luck in your soccer game next week, Megan.”

“Thanks.” The five-foot-eight, fourteen-year-old freshman appeared to have shrunk six inches.

Tess wanted to scream. Andy must have read her mind. He shifted all the grocery bags to his left hand, grabbed Tess by the arm, and pulled her toward the exit.

Tess turned back, proud of Megan for speaking up and telling the truth. “Hey, Megan, well done, girl!”

Tess received a weak smile in return.

Andy placed the groceries in the back seat.

Tess slammed her truck door shut. “What was God thinking?”

“Take it easy, Tess. Everyone knows Jim’s a liar with wandering body parts. Are you really surprised he would fake a marriage?”

“Yeah, Andy, I am. It’s sick and wrong and—and what about his daughter? Did you see her face?”

For a minute, Andy said nothing, but his expression shifted. At thirty, he’d shown little desire to settle down, but he was a family man through and through. “Guy’s a jerk. Reason number 6,743 why some people should not have children.”

Tess shook her fist, barely containing her desire to smack someone or something. “How many more jerks are there like him walking around? And you wonder why I don’t want to date! Creeps—way too many of them! Can you imagine how hollow Megan must feel, telling someone her dad is lying while her father is standing there actually lying to the guy! If he’s the example of single men on the island, Shenandoah, take me away!”

“And what about Hawk? You’ve had a crush on him for the last two years. Don’t bother denying it.”

Tess snapped her head to the right, ignored her know-it-all brother, and stared out the passenger-side window. The coffee shop was closed, and the gym looked empty through the big glass windows. Only a few cars moved at a snail’s pace down Main Street, and the yellow and orange mums in front of the bank were in full bloom. She thought about Hawk, his wavy blond hair, his gorgeous blue eyes, the way he smiled when the sails were being raised, and the sound of his laughter as he joked around with the crew or her father. And then she pictured every single moment she’d wished he had talked with her or smiled at her, but all he’d done was look away and ignore her.

Tess kept her eyes on the passing scenery and spoke softly, only the slight tremble in her voice giving away her feigned disinterest. “What about him? He barely gives me the time of day. Only nice guy around for miles and two years later he still can barely speak to me, never mind ask me out. Rebecca had the right idea. Maybe Ben has a friend.”

Andy glanced in the rearview mirror, then slammed on the brakes. “Don’t even joke about it, Tess. If Dad didn’t kill you, I would. The boards are getting changed tomorrow, and that will be the end of any and all time travel from the Shenandoah. Got it?”

Tess didn’t reply. She simply turned up the radio before slouching in her seat. Arms crossed, heart saddened, Tess closed her eyes. She thought about Rebecca and considered that maybe Captain Benjamin Reed, in his Colonial Boston sailor’s suit, was a knight in shining armor. Maybe all the knights lived sometime prior to 1800.

Rebecca had been gone a month. Surely she’d have come home if she was unhappy.

Tess exhaled a long sigh. She’s probably married by now and blissfully happy. She did mention Ben had a younger brother. Wonder if she’d like a visitor?

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