Perchance to Dream - By Holly Newman Page 0,1

the Earl of Rice's sugar cane plantation. Each night added a piece more to the dream; and each night that damn black wave also came and pushed him out of the water and out of the dream.

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. The repetitive aspects of the dream were not something he wished to contemplate. To do so would make them real, and he was not ready for that reality. To do so questioned his sanity. And he was sane, dammit! He may well be the disreputable villain his father claimed him to be; however, he was sane!

They were just . . . dreams.

Otis Reed licked his thin lips and shuffled forward another step. "The islanders say they have marked you."

Andrew snorted as he turned to refill his port glass.

"The Merfolk, sir. The islanders say you've been marked by the Merfolk."

"I've heard the tales, Reed." He paced the room. "Merfolk?" He dismissively shook his head at his manservant's fears; yet he wondered, and feared, and hoped. "Superstitious fools!" he said instead. "We are Englishmen. We do not listen to babbling superstitious people."

"But, sir!"

"There is no but, Reed." Again he absently massaged his shoulder, then he sighed. "Dawn is not far away. Since I'm awake I might as well start the day. Fetch me a tray."

"Certainly, sir." Reed bowed then edged backward out of the room, pausing by the massive tiled hearth to light a branch of candles before shuffling out.

As the door closed behind him, Andrew set down his port glass on the sideboard. He pulled off his night shirt, flung it down on the bed, then backed up to a mirror hanging between two windows to see if he could see anything wrong with his left shoulder.

The shoulder was purpling in places as if he had fallen against rock. Gingerly he reached across his chest to touch the afflicted area with this right hand. His fingertips traced scraped skin and a smattering of new scabs. The area was tender to the touch, as one might expect from a new injury.

He glared at his own flesh, willing the scrapes and bruises to disappear. When they didn't he lowered his arm.

"Damn. 'Tis not possible!" he breathed. "Merfolk!" He turned abruptly from the mirror. "Bah! Superstitious nonsense!"

He walked back to the sideboard to pick up his port glass. This time he noticed a fine tremble in his hand.

Andrew steered his sailboat toward the secluded cove. He'd sailed by the cove many times in the past and each time he'd felt drawn to its sheltered waters. But he'd not dared approach the cove for he knew a coral reef with jagged spikes that could rip the hull of a boat protected the area. He still wouldn't have ventured here if he hadn't fallen into conversation with an island fisherman mending his net. They discussed the island's shoreline, its sailing pleasures, and its dangers. When Andrew mentioned wanting to sail into this cove the old man told him of a break in the coral large enough for a small craft to pass through. But he warned that the coral was not the cove's only danger.

"Merfolk, they live around there. Best you sail on by."


He hadn't had the dream in a month, but not a day went by that he did not remember it, relive parts in his mind. Sailing into this cove where the locals believed Merfolk existed would surely break the dream's hold on his mind.

It was almost dawn. He had just enough light to find the landmarks the old man mentioned and line up his boat with them. Looking into the clear water he saw the coral reef and found its break. A small craft could fit through, though barely.

He sailed cleanly into the cove. He looked back toward the coral fortress walls he'd passed between, then turned to look at the cove.

And found her!

Dreams and reality collided. She sat in the shallows, combing her hair with long methodical strokes, hair that fell about her like a veil. Her hair glowed where it floated in the water.

She looked up at him, her pink bow-shaped lips lifting in a brief smile, a shy recognition of his existence, then she returned to her task. Her eyes remained downcast, but he knew she was as aware of him as he was of her.

He gripped the boat's railing. In the soft dawn light her pale beauty ethereally shimmered, reminding him of fairy tales and legends and why knights fought for their ladies.