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Authors: Heather B. Moore

Tags: #Historical Fiction, #e Historical Suspense, #clean romance, #Suspens, #Historical Romance, #Paranormal

Heart of the Ocean

BOOK: Heart of the Ocean
2.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Cover Art by Claudia McKinney, “Peace Prayer”

http://phatpuppyart.com

 

Exterior Design by Christina Marcano

Interior Design by Heather Justesen

 

Published by Mirror Press, LLC

Copyright © 2013 by Mirror Press, LLC

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. The characters, names,
incidents, places, and dialogue are products of the author’s imagination and
are not to be construed as real.

 

Released January 2013

 

Praise for HEART OF THE OCEAN

“Multi-award winning author Heather B. Moore writes
with a new voice in her paranormal historical romance,
Heart of the Ocean
.
Meet her host of enthralling characters in a story set against the backdrop of
Puritan New England, gossip driven New York society, and nineteenth century
Europe. Experience a love that grows over time to rescue Eliza Robinson from
mortal danger and ghostly terror.”

—G. G.
Vandagriff, Whitney Award Winning Author,
The Last Waltz

 

“A
tortured spirit seeks restitution on the rocky cliffs of New England, but only
Eliza Robinson hears her voice. Eliza must solve the crime that took the
woman’s life, before she loses her own, or her heart. Heather B. Moore brings
readers a perfect blend of mystery and romance in this tale of ghostly spirits,
unsolved murders, and unwanted proposals.”    

—Lu Ann Brobst Staheli, Best of State Educator & Author,
A
Note Worth Taking

 


Heart of the Ocean
by Heather Moore is a story that
will appeal to all readers, no matter what genre you like to read. It is a
well-written historical romance, with a ghost story, heart pounding suspense,
and very strong characters. I was immediately pulled into
Heart of the Ocean
from the first page with Heather's excellent way of storytelling.”

—Mindy Holt, Book Reviewer
www.minreadsandreviews.blogspot.com

Thus sing I to
cragg’d clifts and hils,

To
sighing winds, to murmuring rills,

To
wasteful woods, to empty groves,

Such
things as my dear mind most loves.


Dr.
Henry More, 1614–1687

 

 

One

 

SEPTEMBER 1839

“Jump.”

Eliza swung around, searching for the source of the voice—a woman’s
voice. Wind tugged at her wool coat, and streaks of rain pelted her face.
Maybe
it’s the wind
. Again. It was the same voice she heard on her walk out to
the cliffs.
But that’s impossible. There’s no one here
. She turned to
face the sea and realized she was only two steps from the edge of the cliff
where the jagged rocks sloped into the surf dozens of feet below.

“Jump now.”

Eliza backed away from the cliff’s edge, heart pounding as
she peered into the gray drizzle for any sign of the woman.
I’m imagining it
. . . or it’s in my head
. She shuddered and pulled the coat tighter around
her body.

Shunning the treacherous drop-off a few steps away, Eliza
closed her eyes against the incoming storm. Waves crashed below, sending
vibrations through her body. The seagulls had long since abandoned their
screeching cries and had found shelter among the jutted rocks.
Am I losing
my mind?
With what she’d endured the past few months, it was entirely
possible.

“Don’t be afraid
.”

New cold shot through her at the sound of the woman’s voice.
Eliza opened her eyes and stared at the furious foam dashing against the dark
rocks below.

“Who are you?” she yelled into the wind.

No response.

What’s happening to me?
“Now I’m talking to myself
and
hearing voices,” she muttered. Feeling a sudden dizziness, she took several
more steps away from the edge, as the ocean surged and spat out sea spray. The
menacing clouds compressed into a deeper gloom, and the wind picked up its pace,
as a force outside her seemed to urge her forward.

Aunt Maeve had said the New England coast was not for the
faint-hearted, and Eliza understood why. Not only was September the most active
month for hurricanes, but apparently the ghost stories she’d heard in town had
just proven themselves credible.
Unless the voice is inside my head.
Then I’ve truly lost my sanity.

She turned from the cliff’s edge and hurried to the
lighthouse, clutching her coat and bending against the furious gale. Eliza had
told her aunt she’d only wanted to see the incoming storm for a moment. But by
the time she reached the crumbling lighthouse, she was panting, shivering, and
thoroughly soaked.

“Come back,”
the voice said, slicing through Eliza.
As she increased her pace and focused on the lighthouse door, she tried to
block out everything else.
Just get there
.

The splintered door swung wide before Eliza reached it, and
the wind slammed it against the wall. Aunt Maeve stood in the entryway at the
base of the stairs, bundled up in a thick cloak and heavy boots, lantern in
hand.

Her aunt was here, real and solid. Relief surged through
Eliza. She wasn’t in a horrible nightmare.

“’Bout time you came back.” Maeve glared at her. “I thought
you’d decided to take a swim.” The woman’s white-streaked auburn hair had come
loose from its customary bun, wispy across her shoulders. It looked almost
pretty.

Eliza knew better than to believe her aunt was cross. “I’m
ready to go back to the house.”

Maeve held the lantern high and narrowed her gaze, but through
her stern Puritan demeanor, a twinkle showed in her eyes. “It’s a good thing,
too. I almost had to come for you myself. There aren’t any men near enough to send
on such an errand.” She tilted her head, motioning for her niece to follow.

No men indeed.
Precisely why Eliza wanted to come to
this Puritan farm in the first place. She’d had enough of men, and their
deceitful ways, to last her a lifetime. Maeve gripped Eliza’s arm, bringing her
thoughts back into focus. In the few seconds that Eliza had been inside the
lighthouse, the wind had multiplied in strength. She clung to her aunt as they
exited, and together they ran to the cottage, sodden skirts whipping their
legs. The distance was not far, but with the wind slicing through their
clothing, time seemed to slow, and it felt an eternity had passed by the time
they reached the front door. Once inside, it took both of them to push it
closed.

Maeve clasped her hands to her chest and fought for normal
breath as she leaned against the wall. “On my life, it’s going to be a big ’un.
Leave your wet things here. We’ll clean up later.”

Eliza stripped off her coat then removed the wool scarf
covering her head. Her hair was plastered against her cold face.

Maeve chuckled. “You look like a wet dog.”

Eliza pulled her dark blonde hair free of her face, grateful
to be inside the cottage—away from the cliff, away from the voice, and most
importantly, away from the judgments of men.

“Aye, you’re shivering as a dog would,” Maeve began.

“And so are you,” Eliza countered with a smile.

“I’ll put the tea on.” Maeve left the entryway and hurried
to the kitchen.

Eliza moved into the hearth room, knelt before the fireplace,
and threw a thin log onto the starving glow. She settled onto her heels, trembling
from getting soaked, and from hearing that strange woman’s voice. Her skin
prickled as gooseflesh rose on her arms.
Was it my imagination? Or was there
someone out there?

Here, inside the humble, yet comfortable, cottage, it was
hard to believe she’d heard a voice out on the cliffs that had commanded her to
jump.
It must be my imagination.
That was it—the wind, the rain, the
churning ocean—it had all combined to disorient her.

Eliza exhaled, feeling relieved as she looked around the
room and let the familiar calm embrace her. Aunt Maeve’s cottage was plain, a
welcome change from Eliza’s home in New York City. The whitewashed walls, a
rocker, a pair of stout chairs positioned near the hearth, and a threadbare
sofa against the wall made up the simple room.

Soon the warmth from the fire began to thaw her stiff
fingers, and when they were nimble again, she combed them through her wet hair.
A burst of wind blew down the chimney, making the fire waver. Eliza shuddered
again, thinking about the woman’s voice.
Jump . . . Don’t be afraid.
What
did it mean? Why did the voice want her to jump from the cliff?

Eliza leaned toward the fire, letting her hair fall over her
face to dry in the heat. She’d been in Maybrook for nearly a month now. Everything
about it was different than her high society life back in New York. No
complaining mother, no docile father, no stab-you-in-the-back suitors. Even
now, her stomach churned at the memory of her recent beau.

Mr. Thomas Bertram Beesley III. Even the name was repulsive.
So proper; so arrogant.
Plump
was putting it nicely.
Kind
was
overdoing it. And
filthy rich,
an understatement. He’d be mortified to
see her in such modest surroundings now. Why couldn’t the wealthy men also be
handsome, humble, and totally and completely in love with her?

Eliza smoothed her hair back and pulled her knees up to her
chest. She gazed at the flames, relishing the peace and absolute quiet save for
the crackling fire.

Her aunt lived a humble life, though it hadn’t always been
that way. Maeve had once been a young debutante in New York, but she had fallen
in love with a Puritan man and moved to Maybrook, where she had remained ever
since
. What would it be like to throw all conventions in society’s face? Live
my own life, free from the shackles of high-brow culture?
Sparks shot out
from the fire, close to Eliza’s skirt, so she scooted back, shaking out the
dancing sparks.

Maeve entered the room, two teacups in hand. “Here you are.”

Eliza turned and accepted a steaming cup. “Thank you.” Dry
enough now to sit on the sofa, she sat as the wind howled its way around the
house, sounding nothing like the voice on the cliff.

“There now, dear, you’ll grow used to ol’ Mr. Wind,” Maeve
soothed. She retrieved a bit of mending from the nearby basket and settled into
the rocking chair. After threading a needle, she began to sew even stitches
along the torn hem of an apron.

Eliza brought the teacup close to her lips and inhaled the
sweet fragrance. She sipped the liquid, relishing the warmth moving down her
throat. The wind suddenly increased its tempo, sending rapid bursts through the
chimney and into the hearth. Eliza shivered and looked at her aunt. “When you’re
here alone, don’t you feel afraid?”

Glancing up from her sewing, Maeve said, “When my husband
was alive, I never gave the storms a second thought. After he was gone, I found
I didn’t mind the weather, even being alone. I believe this old house protects
me.”

Eliza gazed about the room—the glow of fire reached to the
far corners, making the place look cozy. She understood how her aunt felt secure.
But what about the voice on the cliff? Had her aunt experienced something of
that sort?

“What did your mother say in her letter?” Maeve asked. She
set down the apron and reached for her cup of tea.

“She’d like to come and visit.” Looking again at her aunt, Eliza
took in the woman’s now carefully arranged hair and twice-mended pinafore.

“That would be nice,” Maeve murmured, with a slight lift of
her brow.

Eliza refrained from letting out an exasperated sigh. “I
don’t want her to come. I don’t want to hear about the latest dance, or what
everyone wore,” she said. “It’s hard enough to read her letters, but at least I
can put them away and forget about the things that don’t truly matter. Having
her here—that would be . . . it would be unbearable!”

Maeve nodded before taking another sip. “I had the same
feelings once. Felt I was drowning in an ocean of greed.” She hesitated then leaned
forward on the rocker. “When I met Edward, I saw my escape. It was probably an
extreme choice to leave everything behind, but I loved him, and I’ve been happy
here.”

The nostalgia in her aunt’s voice enveloped Eliza like a
soft blanket, calming her spirit. “Maybrook is so unassuming,” Eliza said. “As
long as you’re an upstanding citizen, no one cares which house in Paris made
your dress, or how many people attend your coming-out party.”

“You’re guaranteed none of that here,” Maeve said.

But there were other things here, things Eliza hadn’t
encountered in New York City—like a ghostly woman’s voice. “Do you believe in
ghosts?” she blurted, immediately regretting such a foolish question.

Maeve’s forehead creased. “Have you been listening to the
village stories?”

“No.” Eliza wished she could take back her question. Her
parents had specifically told her to ignore the superstitious tales among the
Puritans. It was one of the agreements Eliza had made before coming.

“It’s true that Maybrook is nothing like New York City.” Maeve
lowered her gaze. “But things around here are not always what they may seem.”

“What do you mean?” A slow chill crawled up Eliza’s neck.
The same chill she’d felt at the edge of the cliff. She placed her tea cup and
saucer on the floor beside her.

“As I said, in this house, I’m protected.” Maeve lifted her
gaze.

Eliza nodded and folded her arms. The room remained cold in
spite of the fireplace.

“But what I’m about to say . . . your parents would have me
hanged for.”

Eliza inhaled. What could Maeve possibly tell her that would
have her parents so upset? “I won’t say anything.”

“You are nineteen now, a grown woman, and it’s time you knew
about such things,” Maeve said in a slow voice. “To answer your question,
Eliza, yes, I do believe in ghosts.” Her eyes seemed to glow as she took up the
mending again. “The woman who lived in this house watches over me.”

Flinching, Eliza clasped her hands together. “Oh . . . I . .
.” Her aunt’s response did not bode well, not after the voice, not after the
order she’d heard on the cliff less than an hour ago. She wanted to tell her
aunt what had happened, but no words would come.

A smile tugged the corners of Maeve’s mouth. “You think I wouldn’t
believe in ghosts?” She gave a long, slow look toward Eliza, then continued, “Everyone
dies and leaves their body. We just don’t talk about what happens when a spirit
refuses to leave our world.”

“Have you . . . seen or heard the ghost?” Eliza practically
whispered.

“I didn’t say that.” Maeve tied a knot in her stitching.

Her aunt hadn’t actually seen or heard anything, so maybe it
was Eliza’s imagination too? Relaxing her tightly gripped hands, the blood
returned to Eliza’s fingers, creating a sharp needle-like pain. Just then,
something banged on the window. Both Eliza and Maeve jumped.

“Only a falling branch.” Maeve tied a second knot and snipped
the end of the thread.

Questions whirled through Eliza’s mind. Her aunt’s words
were far from comforting, and with such a wild storm outside, it took
everything in her not to start at every sound. She retrieved her cup with
trembling hands and took another sip of the tea, hoping the hot liquid would
put some calm into her. Another piece of debris hit the window, and the cup
shook in her hand.

“She was about your age, and her name was Helena Talbot,”
Maeve went on, oblivious to the tempest outside.

“Who?”
The ghost?
Eliza’s mind added the second
question. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear this story on such an awful
night. She couldn’t very well excuse herself. And do what, stay awake in the
dark? Listen to the frightful storm alone?

“His name was Jonathan Porter,” Maeve continued. “Some say
he was ten years her elder. I suppose he could have been even older than that,
for all the places he’d seen.”

A shrill whistle knifed its way through Eliza’s chest as the
wind vibrated the clapboard walls. She huddled against the sofa, wishing that
the fire were brighter and the storm had already passed.

BOOK: Heart of the Ocean
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