Table of Contents
About the Author
Copyright © 2010 by Abigail Reynolds
Cover and internal design © 2010 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover design by Danielle Fiorella
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
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Previously published as
Pemberley by the Sea in 2008 by Sourcebook
To David, for his constant love, support, and
Rebecca, for not saying her mom was nuts, even when
she thought it
Brian, for believing in miracles
and Elaine, for believing in this book, keeping me
going when I was stuck, and uncomplainingly reading
more drafts than I care to remember
THE SEA WALL MARKED the beginning. Cassie had first glimpsed the ocean there while her jaded college friends told stories about their past vacations on Cape Cod. They didn't know she came from a place with asphalt seas, so she pretended the ocean was just as familiar to her. But she was captivated that very first day, tasting the briny sea air blowing in off the Sound. It cleansed her of the grime of the past.
Now, ten years later, the ocean was her life's work. She'd earned the right to watch the waves lap against the pitted stones of the sea wall. Place names like Sippewisset and Chapoquoit, which once sounded so exotic, were commonplace and comfortable now. The sea still held power, though it couldn't wash away guilt as easily as the pangs of adolescent shame. Today the ocean was only itself, changeable and rich with unseen life. She was on her own to do the work of forgetting.
She felt a tug at her arm. "I'm coming," she said, her eyes straying back to the dark water. The cry of gulls echoed a horn blast as the ferry from Nantucket returned to the harbor.
Erin tapped her foot, her blonde hair streaming behind her in the salt breeze. "The music's started. You can come back here later."
That was the best thing about the ocean. It was always there when Cassie wanted it. A long summer in Woods Hole stretched ahead of her, filled with time she could devote to the research she loved. She shrugged off her wistful mood and stepped carefully down to the sidewalk. "You're in a hurry to get there."
Erin didn't meet her eyes. "I promised Scott I'd be there early to help him learn the dances."
"Scott?" Trust Erin to have already found a man, even though she'd only been there a few days. "Another summer romance? You haven't mentioned him."
"I barely know him. And maybe you'll meet somebody."
Cassie laughed. "With you there? Not likely. Besides, what would I do with a man? He'd just be in the way of work." Men were usually too dazzled by Erin's lithe beauty to pay attention to Cassie, which suited her perfectly.
They followed the rhythmic lure of fiddle music down Water Street, past the library of the Marine Biological Laboratory. Inside the brightly lit Community Hall, the swirl of dancers chased away any serious thoughts.
There were some familiar faces among the dancers— other researchers from the Marine Biological Laboratory and grad students returning for the summer. Cassie spotted one of her old lab partners across the hall and waved to her grant administrator as he danced past. Since the New England folk dances were taught on the spot, anyone could participate. The contra dances were a social center of Woods Hole, one of the few places where scientists, townspeople, and tourists crossed paths.
Cassie danced first with a gangly young grad student from the neurophysiology lab, a newcomer to the MBL. The dance was a vigorous one, and she threw herself into it, enjoying the complex patterns and laughing at her partner's jokes about his inexperience. Erin, partnered with a good-looking man sporting a dazzled smile, moved past Cassie down the line of dancers.
Despite the crowded room, Cassie chanced upon Erin again when the music ended. The windows of the historic clapboard hall were wide open, and Cassie welcomed the cool sea breeze on her arms after the energetic dance.
"Looks like you made a conquest already," Cassie teased.
"Scott? I met him at the biotech lecture yesterday." Erin's faint blush gave her away. "But he invited me to have lunch with him tomorrow. Will you come, too? I told him I was going to bring a friend along."
Given some of Erin's bad experiences with men, Cassie could understand her caution. "I can come to make sure he meets my standards for your boyfriends, but I imagine I'll be a third wheel."
"Of course not. It'll be fine." Erin had a faraway look Cassie hadn't seen for some time. She hoped this time it was warranted. Erin deserved some good luck for once.
Then Erin's eyes widened. "Oh, God. Is that who I think it is?" She didn't sound happy about the new development.
Cassie craned her neck to see the entranceway where a broad-shouldered man with wavy brown hair was paying the entrance fee. She didn't need to see his face to recognize him, even after three years. Her stomach tied in a knot. What was Rob doing in Woods Hole? Did he know she was there? She clenched her hand until her fingernails bit into her palm. If he knew, he wouldn't care. He hadn't even bothered to say good-bye to her when she left Chapel Hill. "Yes, that's him," she said grimly.
"Do you want to leave?"
Erin's tentative voice provided the challenge Cassie needed. She wasn't going to let Rob Elliott's presence chase her away. "No. I'm going to find a partner for the next dance." Preferably one that would make Rob think she'd never given him a second thought in the last three years.
"Good for you."
Cassie looked around quickly. Most of the dancers were already partnered for the next dance, but she spotted a tall man standing alone in the shadows by the front of the hall. She set out purposefully toward him. He didn't look like a scientist, given that his clothes matched and had the air of being recently purchased. Even in chinos he gave off the air of being formally dressed. Not her type, but still, one dance with a tourist wouldn't kill her, and it was better than letting Rob see her being a wallflower.
As she came up to him, the man's classic good looks gave way to a certain ferocity of expression. Cassie hesitated for a moment, but Erin was watching, and she wasn't going to admit to losing her nerve. Although the man seemed oblivious to her presence, she asked, "Do you have a partner for the next dance?"
For a moment he said nothing, and had Cassie been more timid, she would have been cowed by the look he gave her. "I'm not planning to dance, thank you." His lips barely moved when he spoke.
She was suddenly conscious she was still wearing her lab clothes and no makeup. But she hadn't gotten where she was by giving in to her insecurities. "If you've never tried it before, it's easy to pick up. Everyone here was a beginner once."
"I don't think so." He scanned the hall as if looking for someone.
His refusal stung, leaving her with the unpleasantly familiar feeling of having been judged and found wanting, even if
was the one violating the unspoken rules of the contra dance by refusing her. She hadn't done anything wrong. She was tempted to make a response as curt and rude as his had been, but she had higher standards for her behavior. "Never mind, then."
He turned piercing dark eyes on her for a moment, and then looked away, apparently dismissing her existence.
Something about his eyes struck her, but she had no intention of exploring what it was. One rejection was enough, and she still needed a refuge from Rob. There was one place she'd be safe from any of his nasty comments. Rob wouldn't try anything in front of Jim Davidson, her old grad school advisor. He was sitting out the dance, looking a little winded.
He would welcom
e her company.
"Hey, stranger." She slid into the folding chair next to his.
"Cassie!" Jim said warmly. "I was hoping you'd be here. I have something to show you." He rummaged around in his pockets and handed her a folded paper with a flourish. "It's the latest spawning data. We just got the numbers in."
"Finally!" Cassie unfolded the sheet and ran her finger down the columns of figures, glad to have a distraction. She whistled silently. "Are you sure of these?"
"We've double-checked everything. In case you've forgotten, the results you came up with four years ago are on the back."
"Forgotten? I still see those numbers in my sleep. But this is worse than you expected, isn't it?"
"Much. I'm not happy about it, but it's going to make a hell of a research paper. It may even show up on the mainstream news, for the five minutes most people can bring themselves to care about species we're fishing to extinction."
"It's impressive data." It had been years since she had worked on the project as one of his grad students, but the excitement of it still touched her. She did a quick calculation in her head. The ramifications would be farreaching. But it wasn't her project anymore. Reluctantly, she handed the data sheet back.
Jim gave her a pointed look. "I'm looking for someone to write it up for publication."
The temptation was so strong she could almost taste it. "Me? Jim, that's sweet of you, but shouldn't this go to one of your students?"
"They have their own projects, and you
this study. You were there at the beginning. You want to, I know it." So Jim still knew how to play on her passion for her work.
"But you deserve the credit."
"I have plenty of publications." Jim glanced around the hall and lowered his voice. "It could help you, Cassie."
"I still have plenty of time to get my publications in. I can make it, even if I didn't get publishable results last summer."
Jim patted her arm. "I didn't mean it that way. I know you can do great research. You wrote the best dissertation I've seen in years. But anybody can run into a string of bad luck, like last year's floods, and the tenure clock doesn't stop ticking. An extra paper could give you some leeway."
It was charity, and she knew it. But so much depended on her getting tenure, and she'd love the chance to work with Jim again. "All right. Thanks."
"Don't thank me. I'm getting a top-notch author out of it."
"You old flatterer. I'm going to tell Rose you were flirting with me." She elbowed him in the side.
Jim's devotion to his wife was well known. "You do that."
But a familiar figure was approaching them. "Jim, I finished the initial set-up, if you…" Rob's voice trailed off when he saw Cassie.
Cassie plastered a pleasant smile on her face. "Hi, Rob. Welcome to Woods Hole." This was her turf, and she wasn't going to cede it to Rob.
He looked as if he didn't know what to say. "Uh, hi. Want to dance?"
How typically Rob—at least typical of him since their breakup. No pleasantries, no, "Nice to see you. How have you been?" She couldn't imagine he really wanted to dance with her. She put on her best professorial look and said, "Not now, thanks. Jim's filling me in on his spawning project."