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Shirley Hailstock

"Home is the sailor, home from the sea," Ethan Pollock shouted his standard greeting as he came through the double doors of Blythe Cove Manor. A smile as large as the Atlantic Ocean covered his wind-burned face. It always felt like home when he was on the Vineyard. "Where is everyone?"

Blythe Calvert appeared in the kitchen doorway. The owner of Blythe Cover Manor, a staple B & B on Martha's Vineyard smiled at him.

"Ethan," she whispered. Her voice not loud enough for him to hear clearly. However, he saw the surprise on her face.

"There you are, my one and only love," he said, heading for her with arms outstretched.

Ethan greeted her the same way each time he returned to the Manor. Grasping her in a bear hug, he whirled her around the room.

"Put me down," Blythe protested, her tone covering a lighthearted laugh.

Ethan steadied her on her feet and stepped back, but holding her hands at arms length. "Tell me you've got some raisin scones and coffee in there," he teased.

"Don't I always?" Blythe answered. "Sit down and I'll bring you some."

Blythe brought two cups of coffee and a plate of scones to the dining room. He wasn't sure if he was the reason she always had scones as part of the breakfast, but she'd introduced him to them and nobody made them better. Sitting next to him, she asked, "What are you doing here?"

Ethan bit into a hot, buttered scone and closed his eyes as if the food was pure ecstasy on his tongue.

"I'm here for the ceremony. At the last minute the Navy assigned me here."

"At your request, I'll bet."

"At my request," he nodded. "So is my room free?"

"Isn't it always?" Her brows rose in mock sarcasm.

"Great, I'll get my gear." Finishing the scone, Ethan went outside and returned with a dufflebag. He entered the Captain's Quarters, an ocean view room with walls the color of the sea. He'd stayed in this room for four visits, since he first came here ten years ago and found Blythe, the woman who was like a second mother to him.

The room was the same, familiar as the deck of a ship, looking out on the sea and waiting for him like an abandoned lover. The walls had been painted and the bedding was different, but everything else was in place. However, he felt something was different, something had changed. He couldn't define it, couldn't see anything out of the ordinary, but there was a different feel to the room.

Shrugging it off, Ethan unpacked quickly, taking a box from the bag and setting it on the dresser. Opening it, he checked that his gift was safe and unbroken. His other things, he put in the drawers and dropped his shaving kit in the adjourning bathroom. Then he quickly changed from his uniform into jeans and a black sweater. Neither item sported a logo or signature. Wearing a uniform all the time had cured him of labels. Everyone knew he was a sailor when he was in uniform. Wearing jeans and a sweater, he was just one of the crowd. And today he wanted that anonymity.

He needed to get outside. He'd been confined on the USS Terrance for the past four months. It was time to see the land, and get that eerie feeling about the room out of his head. Besides, he needed to check the ceremony space for the Memorial Day exercises. There was no rehearsal. They'd done that on the ship and after so many times he could go through the routine blindfolded. He also wanted to find out if any of his buddies had arrived and check out what they planned to do for the weekend.

As he headed for the door, something in the dresser mirror caught his eye. Stopping, he stared at the space, his breath suddenly coming in rapid pants and his chest threatening to explode. A woman stood in front of a chair near the bed. Jerking around, he looked at the same space in his room, expecting her to attack him. No one was there. The space was empty. Returning to the mirror, she faced him, unsmiling, unmoving. Again, he looked behind him. All he saw was empty air.

She only existed in the mirror. The thought seemed to whisper inside his head.

"Who are you?" he asked, his voice barely above a croak.


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