Reiki masters, crystals and astrologers… oh my!
Adam McGiver is a Coast Guard EMT, on injured reserve, and thinks all of the above are an interesting waste of time. The stars are for navigation on the seas.
Melanie Cramer, third generation of psychics and healers, charts her life by the stars but prefers to spend her days with computers. She’s ready to embark on a global adventure dedicated to databases.
When Adam rescues Melanie from a boat that’s dead in the water, they are sure they’ve met before but soon hope they never meet again. These star-crossed lovers are desperate to outrun their fated attraction. But the universe, through their friends and family, tightens a romantic noose around them – before Melanie flies off to the other side of the world, and Adam sails away in the opposite direction.
Will they still be in love sometime next year? Or are they just two ships that passed in the night?
Disclaimer: It’s a novel but I used a favorite location for some of the scene settings.
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The crisp winds across the Columbia River whipped Melanie Cramer’s chestnut ponytail around her shoulders and she felt serene for the first time in weeks. She stood in a patch of noon sunlight in the back of the cabin cruiser and swayed with the boat as if totally at one with the river. She crossed her arms and tucked her hands into the warmth of her sweatshirt against the chill of early March.
“You should be standing on the bow of a Viking longboat,” Jake said. He was sprawled across the bench on the port side, his long legs stretching across the floor. Taller than her by more than a foot, Jake’s close-cropped hair and stand-tall posture had made her feel there was military training in his background.
Melanie grinned at her blind date for the day, glad he was okay with the no-potential-for-romance agreement they’d made at first sight.
“I’d need a flowing gown and bigger bosom, and if I let my hair fly free it would be a rat nest of tangles. If I wasn’t rushed this morning, I would have done the French braid like Bobbi.”
“Say what?” Bobbi asked from where she sat on the captain’s bench beside her fiancé, Ron, at the wheel. Today’s cruise was the first launch after months in winter storage. They bought their classic pleasure craft last year and were impatient for the boating season to begin. Ron had the throttle pushed forward to give the engine a good test and, since they were going with the current, it increased the sensation of speed.
Melanie winked at Jake, turned her head slightly, and spoke loud enough to be heard over the sound of the thrumming engine. “We’re just talking about your wild mane of red curls. Not plotting against your pathetic matchmaking or Bridezilla issues.”
Bobbi stuck out her lower lip and turned to snuggle against her man. “Ron, sweetie, almost husband, protect me from Melanie’s nasty name-calling.”
Ron pulled the throttle back and the boat slowed. He flipped his cap off his head and reached back to snap it at Melanie, barely grazing her shoulder with canvas. Combing his tousled black hair with his fingers, he set the cap back in place and turned to Bobbi. “Good enough?”
Jake laughed and stood up. “I said nothing about either and am fine escorting Melanie to your wedding. At least I know she won’t get the wrong idea and expect a second date.” Tall and lanky, he patted the top of Melanie’s head. “You do understand I’ll plan on dancing with all the pretty ladies taller than you.”
“You two really are made for each other,” Bobbi said as the engine settled into a quiet idle. “I don’t understand why you make a difference in height such a big deal.”
“It’s more like a difference in altitude,” Ron said. “Now I’m ready for that coffee and Bailey’s. Serve me, almost wife.”
“Kiss, kiss,” Bobbi said and slid off the bench.
“Gag, gag. I can’t wait until the wedding is over and you two return to being rational humans.” Melanie looked up at Jake. “Barely a year ago, they were calling each other profane names.”
“I remember. I’ve worked with Ron for years.” He grinned. “His mood swings were so wild we had a pool going as to when he’d announce his engagement.”
The boat floated parallel to where the trees ended at Kelly Point, a remote beach park where the Willamette River flowed into the Columbia. A maze of pilings were visible above the water surface, evidence of some long ago removed construction, now decorated with bird nests.
Bobbi glanced at the shore and the wide expanse of water. “We’re here already? The currents must be really strong. So, okay, time for treats.”
“I’ll help.” Melanie held her hand in front of her mouth and leaned toward Jake. “To make sure Bobbi doesn’t spike the coffee with some herbal potion that makes us forget we have different tastes in music and movies.”
Jake nodded. “And camping and roller coasters.”
“And books,” Melanie said loudly as she followed her best friend down into the spacious galley. “And that we will soon be on different continents,” was said for Bobbie’s ears.
“I still don’t believe you’ll be gone for a whole year. You hated all those years on the road and have been so thrilled to be working from home. Now barely a year later, you’re off to the other side of the globe? For over a year? What’s up with that?”
“You know I’m not doing the family thing, so my career is all I’ve got.”
Bobbi started to open the thermos but then stilled. Melanie braced herself for what she knew would be her own doubts being aired by Bobbi’s words.
“But you didn’t talk to anybody about this. I can’t believe you would make such a huge decision without even getting advice from the rest of us.”
“It’s a promotion, an amazing opportunity. Sure, there’s risk involved, but the benefits to my career are huge. So the only advice I sought were from people who understand the business and my professional objectives.” Melanie felt good that she sounded so confident.
“Right. But no advice from those of us who love you, the person, not the computer brainiac.”
“I knew you’d still love me, and all your attention is on the wedding.”
Bobbi returned to opening the thermos and the aroma of rich coffee filled the air of the cabin. “I thought you were past that no babies issue. What was your reason again?”
“Remember Geoff as a boy? Always running off with squirrels and rodents? That whole talking to animals talent with the men in my family?”
“Oh, right. Scary times. We had to practically keep him on a leash. That tree thing, and when he almost buried himself alive.” Bobbi shuddered with the memory.
“And I’m doomed to have twins,” Melanie continued. “Can you imagine two Geoff’s? Not taking that chance. So I’ll globe trot for a year and then be able to write my career ticket from my own living room.”
“I can’t believe you’re trusting Geoff to live in your condo while you’re gone. But your brothers are great, and you need to let that animal thing be discovered organically instead of announcing it to every guy on the first date.”
“Stop. You promised, and you also promised to stop throwing men at me.”
“No worries,” Bobbie said as she pulled mugs from the cupboard. “I’ve hung up my fairy-godmother of romance wand. It’s better if my maid of honor isn’t distracted with entertaining a date. It’s supposed to be all about me and Ron anyhow.”
“Yes, Bridezilla.” Melanie opened a brown bottle and poured a good portion of creamy liquid into each mug. “You and Ron like being two halves of the same whole so you finish each other’s sentences. I prefer my space, the challenges of my career, and finishing my own sentences.”
“Yeah, sometimes more than once and often contradicting yourself,” Bobbi said.
“Exactly.” They both laughed as Bobbi poured the coffee and they carried the mugs back up to the main deck.
Jake, now beside Ron on the captain seat, waited for the women to sit down before putting the boat in gear to navigate slowly around the point and onto the Willamette. The plan was to have lunch at Newport Bay on the water by the downtown marina. Then they’d take the channel to the west of Hayden Island and tie up at the dock directly beneath Melanie’s riverfront condo. Bobbi and Melanie settled onto the benches in the sunshine at the back of the boat.
“This boat saved your relationship last year,” Melanie mused while she sipped her coffee.
Bobbi tucked her chin into her shoulder in what Melanie often called the contented-kitten look. “No, we saved our relationship and then bought the boat to own something together.” She giggled. “One of these days you’re going to meet someone who’ll blow apart all your logical excuses. You’ll probably turn into a blabbering idiot.”
Melanie rolled her eyes. “Can’t happen. The different countries, clients, and cultures will require my total attention. You know I’m a control freak, and relationships are messy.”
“And I know you too well to believe that. You want what Ron and I have.” Bobbi laughed low. “Maybe you’ll find him at one of those exotic locales and his sexy accent will be all it takes.”
“Absolutely, a sensual sex life would be nice, but he’d have to come with his own boat.”
“Oh right, like that dream you have at the new moon. It’s a sailboat, right? After our honeymoon, I’ll have Ron check into some sailing clubs for you.”
“You just can’t quit. You’re obsessed. I’ll be out of the country,” Melanie said.
“All secure, ladies?” Ron asked. “Captain Jake’s ready to get underway.”
“I’ll take it slow and steady so we don’t spill anything.”
“Men and their toys.” Bobbi blew Ron a kiss and the tenor of the engine increased. The bow lifted as the propeller churned the water behind them.
Suddenly there was a loud bang-clang.
“What the hell was that?” Ron jumped off the seat as the boat settled again to float on the surface, even though the engine continued to thrum.
“It sounded like it was behind us.” Bobbi twisted and leaned over, staring at the motor in the water. It seemed fine. The boat floated with the current, engine idling.
Jake pushed the throttle forward but, while the engine rumble increased, the propeller remained still.
The men tried adjustments to the controls but nothing made a difference.
“You girls get out of the way,” Ron demanded, and Bobbi and Melanie quickly moved from the seats at the stern to the entry of the galley.
Ron and Jake pulled up the large section of floor to expose the engine, which appeared fine—everything attached. On request, Bobbi pushed the throttle and the engine rumbled with power, but the propeller remained idle.
“Turn it off,” Ron snapped, and silence descended as he grabbed the manual from under the seat. “It has to be the drive shaft. Shit, we’re dead in the water.”
They all looked around the wide expanse of water. Not one other boat in sight except a huge cargo ship in the distance.
“This current could take us right into the channel,” Bobbi said softly.
“Find that tow stuff,” Ron snapped. He and Jake set the floor cover in place over the now silent engine. Both men took out their cell phones, looked at each other, and shook their heads.
Ron shoved his phone back in his pocket and lunged toward the marine radio. “What’s the emergency channel?”
Bobbi pointed at the brightly colored sticker on the console. “Channel 16.”
Static flowed from the radio.
“Jake, the antenna’s down. Get it up.” Ron pointed to the thin rod attached to the side of the boat.
Jake leaned over to release the catch, and as the antenna slipped into place the radio static cleared.
Melanie went down into the cabin and pulled out the cell phone she’d got last week. The latest and greatest. No signal in the cabin. She ran back up the ladder and checked the display. Only a weak signal. She tucked her phone into her jeans pocket, and then swung over the side of the boat, shuffling along the ledge to the wide bow. Balanced on the bow, she took her phone out and checked again. “I got signal. Do I call 9-1-1?”
Ron shook his head. “Get that number for our boating insurance.” Then he returned to adjusting the dial while calmly repeating into the microphone. “Mayday, Mayday. Busted drive shaft. Request assistance.”
Jake opened the window to the bow. “9-1-1 services use trucks.”
Bobbi removed a boldly colored card from the console pocket and yelled out numbers as Melanie dialed.
A voice came through the radio, and Ron began relaying location information when Melanie heard her call answered. The number was for towing insurance coverage. Sure, they could give her numbers for marine rescue services. Did they need that?
Ron’s voice was loud and clear as he looked at Melanie but spoke into the radio. “We’re already drifting too far from the pilings and into the channel. I can’t see the name on the cargo ship. It could be anchored. I can’t tell if it just looks bigger because we’re staring at it.”
Melanie cupped her hand over the phone to block the wind. “We’re getting a tow set up. What else should we do?”
“Just send the paperwork to us for reimbursement.”
“Well, that’s a lot of help,” Melanie muttered as she slipped the phone into her pocket and then carefully made her way off the bow.
Ron still held the silent radio microphone in his hand, staring into the distance downriver at one of those huge barges with a tiny top deck high above the water.
“Maybe it’s anchored,” Jake said.
“It’s under power,” Melanie said.
Ron turned to her and his attention was intense. “Is that all your psychic skills can tell us? A warning would have been nice.”
“I’m not precognitive, dweeb. I can see the wave disturbance around the hull.”
“You’re psychic?” Jake asked.
She shook her head. “No, I just see extra colors sometimes, but I haven’t figured out how to control it or what to do with it.”
“Ron, honey, it’s her grandma that is psychic, and her mom is a healer. Mel connects with computers, not time and space.”
Ron knelt down and reached under the bench seats. “This is all we’ve got.”
They all stared at the single oar.
“It’s not even as tall as Mel. What’s that going to do?” Jake asked.
Ron threw it down. “Nothing. I’m going to drop anchor before we get in the channel.” He swung onto the side of the boat as Melanie had done only minutes before. At the front of the boat, he opened a small hatch, secured the end of the rope, and dropped the anchor into the water while controlling the speed at which the thick rope slid over the bow.
“I bet he gets a power winch after this,” Bobbi murmured.
No one said anything else but watched Ron as he seemed to be making the anchor swing along the riverbed. Finally, he looped the rope around the cleat. Then he turned around and shouted, “Current is too strong. We’re just dragging it. All we can hope is it catches on something.”
The radio squawked. Bobbi spoke to their rescuer. On his way. Half an hour or less. Hopefully that would be soon enough.
Adam McGiver cleared the marina at St. Helens and slammed the throttles forward as open water spread before him. He knew where he had to be and that no one else would make it there before him. The cargo ship crew would not deliberately run down a 26 ft. SeaRay Sundancer, if it was in their line of sight. If. If they were monitoring the emergency channel and the Sundancer with the name Clown’n Around sent out a distress call in time. If his dispatch found a way to notify the barge. Even worse, the cargo ship could be headed toward St. John’s on the Willamette. The captain would be focused on the turn and not have time to power back when the drifting boat came into view. Adam knew he may have to slip past the ship on the wrong side, the narrow space between shipping lane and shore. Catastrophe procedures ran through his head as he controlled his jet-propelled craft with care and attention for deadheads and debris. It would help no one if he got hung up. The high levels and fast current this time of the year hid dangers that could be spotted at other times.
He ignored the grip in his gut. Sometimes bad things happen to good people who weren’t doing anything wrong. They were just boaters enjoying the day and didn’t deliberately put themselves in the path of danger. Shit happens. He knew the risks to take, by choice, to maybe make a difference. Adam also knew the limitations of his craft and the crunch of time. He planned for the worst. He’d hope for the best but doubted he’d see it.
Melanie grabbed Bobbi’s hand, then grasped Jake’s. “You, too,” she said, and Bobbi quickly grabbed Jake’s other hand so they stood in a circle.
“What are you thinking?” Bobbi asked.
“Those association games to call the nature spirits your mom had us play when we were kids.”
Bobbi giggled. “You can’t be serious.”
“You got a better idea? I do this when I’m up against something at work all the time. Come on. Close eyes, deep breaths.”
Jake choked. “Are we doing magic or something?”
“Only if you’re a dolphin in disguise. I just want us to all get clear and calm and see if a solution comes to us. So, chill. Close your eyes, deep breaths.” She kept her voice soothing, relaxing into a familiar comfort zone of peace, then deeper as she felt the connection with Jake and Bobbi. Melanie counted down from ten, and then they all took another deep breath.
“Any images that you see in your mind’s eye? Tell us.”
“I see an umbrella,” Bobbi said. “Or maybe it’s a jelly fish. It’s floating.”
“I see an oar,” Jake said.
“I’m sensing wind,” Melanie said, “but I’m not feeling it.”
“Now I see a spinning top,” Jake said.
“That’s it.” Melanie dropped their hands, opened her eyes, and clapped her hands together. It was the same sense of euphoria she felt when she came up with a solution at work, but it was also very different today, since she wasn’t at work and there were no computer codes running through her head.
“We need to turn this boat around so it will catch the wind. Jake, tell Ron to get that anchor up and get ready to throw it off that side, maybe around the center of the boat. Bobbi, close that front window so we get a bigger sail potential.”
Jake laughed. “I doubt it’s going to work.”
“Then we’ll just have fun trying. The current is pulling us forward, and the wind is slowing us down. Let’s get the wind on our side at least.”
It was such a simple idea. They all yelled directions back and forth to each other. None of them believed it would work, but it gave them something proactive to do. Melanie climbed over the back of the boat and stood on the small ski deck. Holding the small oar, she tugged her ponytail free and let her hair give them the direction of the wind.
Adam raised the binoculars to his eyes as he approached the stern of the cargo ship. It was putting out a good wake but not going too fast. He saw nothing on the narrow strip of water between the starboard side and the shore. Nothing. He set the binoculars down and adjusted to cross the wake and speed down the port side of the huge ship, where he should be out of the channel.
Where was this boat? He picked up the radio. “Clown’n Around, I’m passing the Louis St. Laurent on the port side. What is your location?”
“We’re in front of you, green canvas. Woman on the ski deck with an oar.”
Setting down the radio mike, Adam grabbed the binoculars again and spotted them. How did they get there? He lowered the binoculars and pushed the radio button to verify the crisis was averted. As he felt the tension release, he almost sagged in relief. But he couldn’t relax yet. He had to stay alert. He couldn’t chance getting the shakes. He snapped himself to attention, to duty, and raised the binoculars to his eyes again. What was that woman doing?
She was crouched on the narrow ski deck at the back of the boat moving an oar back and forth in the water. Was she sculling? Is that how they got there? Impossible, the boat was too big. As he watched, a woman with red hair leaned over the back of the boat and the other woman stood, lifting the short oar from the water. She looked in his direction and waved the oar.
“Don’t fall in, chick.” He picked up the mike. “Got you in my sights, Clown’n Around.”
As he sped toward them, Adam saw the woman hand the oar to her friend. Then she stood there to put her hair in a ponytail. “Get on the boat, chick.”
She had her hand on the ladder when her feet flew out from beneath her. She flopped like a rag doll and bounced on the corner of the ski deck. One hand still gripped the ladder. Legs splashed in the water. Her body banged against the corner of the boat. Good thing.
A man jumped onto the ski deck and pulled her up. She rubbed her thigh and buttocks before finally getting onto the boat. Adam throttled back as the man also returned over the side to the safe and dry area. A few minutes more and their boats bumped together, gently cushioned with the round buoys attached on his starboard side specifically for this type of situation. Neither woman was in sight. The two men reached across to grab the rails on his boat and hold them together.
The three introduced themselves and Adam temporarily secured the two boats. “I’ll just get you a little farther out of the path of the big boys, and then we’ll set things better for the trip to Gleesons ramp.”
Adam noticed The St. Laurent was turning onto the Willamette and may have missed their boat by a dozen yards or more, even if they’d been where he expected them to be. It took ten minutes before he throttled back and cut power.
Both women were on deck now and there were more introductions.
“We’ve met before, haven’t we?” Melanie asked.
Adam was glad she said something so he could look directly at her. “You are familiar, but I don’t remember knowing anyone named Melanie.” But he knew her face, the line of her jaw, and the shape of her eyes and mouth were memorable.
“How long will it take to get us back to the launch ramp?” Ron interrupted Adam’s thoughts. He forced his attention on the boat owner, the one paying the bill for his time.
“We’ll do a straight tow, so probably less than two hours. I’ll get lines on both sides of the bow and pull you in my wake. Then when we’re close, I’ll tie up like I just did and get you to the dock.”
“Sounds like a plan. Let’s get started.”
“Two hours? And you’ll be doing nothing but hauling us in your wake?” Melanie’s hands fluttered toward his boat. “Sounds dull for you as we’ll still be having our party on board. It’s too bad we haven’t figured out how we’ve met before.” Melanie’s words cut right to Adam’s gut. Yeah, he wanted to know.
“I want to get this done, and I know how you get, Melanie,” Ron said. “If you can’t let it go, ride on his boat. You’ll have two hours to figure it out, and we won’t have to listen to you wonder about it the whole time.”
“Oh, okay with me. That okay with you?” she asked.
Adam wasn’t sure if that was a good thing but heard himself say, “It’s okay with me, but I usually work alone.”
“I won’t get in your way. Give me one minute. I’ll get some snacks.” Then Melanie turned her back on him and disappeared below. What had she said?
“Will your wife or significant other have issues with Mel being on your boat?”
Adam considered Bobbi’s question. “No one cares who’s on my boat. I’ll like having someone to talk to but . . .” What was going on here? Bobbi raised her eyebrow and her mouth thinned. Oh. “No wife, no one.”
“Good enough. You can have her, otherwise she’ll drive us nuts trying to figure out how she knows you, and you’ll be too far away to answer.” Bobbi stepped closer. “That’s your boat, right?”
“Yeah, it’s mine.”
“Good luck,” Bobbi said. “I’ll be watching.”
Adam nodded once, confused again like when this boat was farther east than where it should have been. “I’ll get started.” Adam turned away when he heard “I’m ready.”
Melanie sat on the side of the boat and swung her legs onto his. She was wearing baggy sweatpants and water socks. He grinned, knowing these were dry clothes stowed onboard and replaced what she’d been wearing earlier. He stepped beside her and held out his hand. She set her hand in his and jumped onboard. She was close enough he could see the color variations of her hazel eyes. There were tiny freckles on her nose.
“Have a seat,” he said.
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