The Lighthouse Romance Anthology – Dawn Luedecke

Washington Coast, October 1895 The sea looked dark, a catalyst for the abyss and the final resting place of the brave men now surrounded in the dark waters. Davie Jones called to them, beckoned his crew to the after-life of a sailor. He was the only one left, clutched to the plank of his ship, and desperate for survival. He would live to get his revenge on the blood-thirsty pirate who did this to his beautiful ship The Justice. The sea grew angry, driven mad by the deadly storm now dominating the sky. Alex watched the waves, each one a wall of water as it reached to heights of up to 16 feet. The water was cold enough to slow his body. He looked up and saw the land and flashing light of the Lighthouse, a beacon of the night. They were close to shore when the storm, and the pirate, hit. Alex could see the dark outline of the land he had to reach, his only hope for survival. He clung to the wood, buoyant against the raging ocean force. He kicked his feet and swam against the current, ineffectively it seemed. He tried to reach the light. He struggled to keep his head up, his gaze on the horizon and swim with all he had left. His strength drained rapidly as the ocean temperature, and physical exertion, took its toll.

No matter how hard he tried, it didn’t seem to work. The land stayed out of reach, and taunted him with its closeness. There is a breaking point in everyman, he had seen it on many occasions with his crew, but had never thought he would experience it. Now he knew differently, this was his. Mere moments after he hit the ice-cold water, he wanted to give up and let God take him. He loosened his grip on the wooden plank and let his body sink. The water slid up his waist, chest, neck, and then face. Just as his head sank below the water’s surface, there was a sharp scrape against his back and he was pulled against the water’s current. Against his will, he reached the surface and glided across, to land with a thud against a wooden boat. With his back against the frame, small hands came into view and grabbed his shirt front.

He watched in a blur as he was lifted into the air, and slid over the edge of a small skiff. The rescuer placed him in the bottom of the vessel, piled thick layers of wool blankets over him and turned toward the gentle flashing light. The rower dug the oars into the merciless sea and started for shore. Unable to keep his eyes open anymore he shut them. “No! Open your eyes…stay awake,” the rower screamed over the storm. The deep rumble of waves crashed against the small boat and fought to take the occupants down to the deep. Alex tried with all he possessed to obey the command. He concentrated on the small man at the oars, with a large rain slicker that reached just below his knees. An oversized large brimmed hat pulled low, which made it impossible to see his face. It seemed to take forever for the rower to reach the relative safety of the rocks below the Lighthouse.

They pulled into a small cleft at the base of the island’s rocky cliffs. “I need your help to get you out, stand up,” his savior said, as he held onto the line securing them to land. Alex stood with great effort and stumbled to shore, with the help of his rescuer. “You have to climb the rocks, there’s a path to the right!” Alex gave a small nod and blindly moved toward the trail, stumbling as he did so. He leaned on the man’s shoulders as they traversed their way through the opening and up the rocky cliff. Within minutes they crested the precipice and stepped onto a platform holding two buildings and a small Native American canoe. The far end of the platform held a tramway for supplies to be heaved up the ever expanding cliffs, and a wooden walkway that lead to a small sandy area yards away from the plateau landing. The rescuer led Alex to the tramway and connected them both to the line in the middle. “This is the fastest way up, let’s go.” Ten minutes later, they crested to the top of the island and into a small building, positioned twenty yards from the Lighthouse.

They entered through the front door and Alex collapsed onto a wooden chair. He stared. Fascinated as his rescuer took off the rain slicker, pants, and hat to reveal one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. With hair that flowed like a dark river into the vast ocean, and eyes that glittered like the waves on a sunny day. She was perfection. “We need to get you out of those clothes and warm you up before you die,” the woman said through the haze assailing Alex’s brain. Only then did he realize that he shivered and his teeth chattered uncontrollably. She ducked her head and caught his gaze with hers. “Go to the fire.” When he didn’t move, she reached down and pulled him up by the arm.

The gentle scent of salt water and lavender filled his senses as she led him to a sitting room, and then set him in a chair next to the hearth. The fire blazed bright and hot, blessedly warm against the cold storm that raged just outside. Alex sank deep into the back of the chair, relieved to be alive. His eyes started to drift closed, until a scrapping sound interrupted his slow decent into blackness and forced his eyes open once more. “Don’t go to sleep. Take off your wet clothes. You have to get warm.” He didn’t respond so she reached for his shirt. She chatted along and talked about nothing and everything. Kept him focused on her.

When she’d stripped down to his skivvies, she turned to pull an old rusty cot near the fire. He slumped down onto the makeshift bed as she covered him in blankets once more. “My name is Sylvia Ross, what’s yours?” she asked, her voice blessedly sweet. “Ca…Captain Thom…Thomas,” he stuttered through his shivering. “Do you have a first name Captain Thomas?” “Al…Alex.” “Well, Captain Alex Thomas, it’s nice to meet you. I am the lighthouse keeper here on Destruction Island. I saw your vessel out there. You’re lucky too, ‘cause I am the only vigilance between Grays Harbor and Cape Flattery.” “S…so you do this often?” He chattered, as he made a pathetic attempt to make light of the situation.

Sylvia shrugged. “Often enough I guess. What made you go out in bad weather?” “Business.” “Business,” she repeated slowly as though she understood his hesitation to divulge his business—however nefarious it may have been. With a nod, she stood. “I need to put on some hot broth to help warm you up. Just a moment.” At that, she left the room. She was gone ten minutes before she returned to his side with a steaming cup of liquid. “Drink this.

” She helped him to sit, and then held the cup to his lips. “What is it?” “A hot-toddy. It’s my mother’s recipe. She used to make it for my father and survivors…when he would do a rescue.” “Used to make it?” he asked, already feeling warmed by the drink. What did she mean used to make it? But the sadness in her eyes told him more than words could. “They died two months ago.” “I’m sorry,” he said simply. Not wanting to pry, but a deep desperation to know the woman who’d plucked him from the ocean’s inky tentacles dominated his soul. “How? If you don’t mind me asking.

” She gave a sad smile. “I haven’t had a chance to talk about it. I’m alone up here. But my mother fell from the precipice while waiting for me to return from the mainland, and my father died trying to recover her body.” Alex’s fingers grew numb at the words. What did one say to such a confession? Instead, he let the silence stretch while she found her bearings. After a few moments, she spoke in what he could only call a forced cheerful voice, “Well then, finished?” “Thank you, it really did warm me up.” Alex nodded and handed her the empty cup, wishing he could find the right words, the right thing to do to comfort the woman who’d braved the storm outside to rescue him. A woman who may just need rescuing herself. Not that he was the man for the job.

She blushed and smiled. The back of her fingers touched his forehead and cheeks, making his skin tingle and warm where they connected. She nodded. “You should be ok. I’ll leave you to your sleep. But I will be in to check on you. Just to make sure you are still alive.” Alex voiced his thanks, as Sylvia left the room. He laid back with thoughts of Sylvia running through his mind, but in a matter of minutes he was sound asleep. His mind in the tragedy of The Justice.

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