The boat rocked violently.
Sea spray splashed them with each bow’s rise and fall, streaming water over the planking. Rolling waves grew three feet high while the boat worked its way further from land. Rain blasted square in the face and howling wind drowned out the hull’a groaning protests.
Clinging to her husband, Elizabeth’s fear grew every minute, and she fervently yearned for the voyage to be over. Her body shuddered and heaved the contents of her stomach across the deck. Sky spun dizzily overhead. Desperately, she fixed her gaze on the cabin, hoping to find reassurance on the captain’s face, but could no longer see through the splattered glass. Wild pitching would not let her stand up, so she dug fingers into interstices between the cabin’s planks. Overhead, the mast complained with each sway while waves pounded with increasing force against their slanting deck.
A huge geyser crashed on the port side. When the spray cleared, a six-foot piece of railing had disappeared.
“The boat is disintegrating!” Elizabeth cried.
“Hang on!” William yelled.
He looped a rope around her midsection and tied them both to a short beam at the edge of the ship's hold. Despite the lifeline, the frightened pair slid sideways back and forth to portside, then starboard, over and over.
“I'm getting sick again," she warned. Pale lips parted and she vomited. Her body wracked with convulsions, leaving her limp and exhausted.
Swells, now ten-feet tall towered on both sides. Their craft struggled up to the top of a crest and plunged down into a pit of dark foam. Each time the bow dove through a valley, timbers creaked loudly and the deck disapeared under a flood of sea.
“William, I can't take any more of this!” she pleaded weakly.
Words barely came from her mouth when a gigantic wave tore at the hull, turning the vessel on its side. Elizabeth shrieked as the wall of water smacked their bodies against the railing. When the boat righted, the cabin had vanished along with the old seaman.
“We're going to drown!” Elizabeth yelled.
Above, the mast snapped. The upper piece narrowly missed William before taking a chunk of siding into the water. Icy wind whistled harder, threatening to sweep the refugees from their lurching perch. They clutched each other, gulping for air and praying what remained of the boat would stay afloat.
With half the deck torn away, the mid-section rose again among the endless swells and gorges. Once more they plummeted downward.
“Oh, my God," William's terrified voice came above the roar as their craft dropped bow-first, from a height of twenty feet.
The impact felt like an explosion.
Elizabeth plunged deep below the surface in a swirling maelstrom of frigid gray turbulence. Current carried her further and further into darkness. Desperately, she clawed at the liquid, trying to stop the descending flow.
She slowed without sense of up or down, only cold pressure crushing the life within her. For an instant, she hung, suspended in an amorphous world of dimness. Searing pain tore at her lungs as if they would burst.
Elizabeth felt herself being pulled upward by the rope around her waist. Surroundings brightened, she found herself immersed in a cloud of foam. Higher and higher she rose through murky fluid.
Suddenly, she burst into a blast of cold air. Coughing and spiting, she gasped amid the churning water. Above, stormy skies sent a myriad of drops splattering down. She flailed at the ocean with leaden arms, body numb, trying to stay afloat through rolling tide.
A few feet away, a dark form bobbed within the swells.
A piece of boat decking pulled at the rope, still tied to the hold section. She grasped the line through the heaving current. Scrambling onto the floating section, she clung to the beam, pressing her head against dripping wood, panting with exhaustion.
After a moment, she noticed a knot of rope on the opposite side, straining as it slid over its mooring. William's line! Behind it, rope stretched into water. She jerked up to her knees. Not five feet from the deck’s edge, a bloated coat floated face down.
“William!” she screamed and lunged for his line.
Despite the pitching, Elizabeth pulled her husband’s waterlogged body onto the raft.
She turned him over and lifted his head out of the water. With rising panic, she peered at a palid face with closed eyes. Her fingers rubbed the cold, flacid skin of his cheeks.
“William, don't die! Please don't leave me!” she cried.
Desperately looking for help, she fought a feeling of hopelessness. The slanting raft bobbed halfway under water, and inches of water streamed over the portion sticking out from the waves. Her body trembled uncontrollably.
Crouched next to his side, she squeezed his chest despairingly and moved his head against her chest. Blood trickled down his neck from a dark patch of matted hair behind his ear. With her left hand, she pried open his mouth to help him breathe.
A wave crashed down on top of them, throwing their bodies against the hold. When foam subsided, he began to cough, spitting out water. Eyes fluttered open, and stared with a glazed expression. Tearfully, she pulled his shoulders to hers as they rode over the top of another swell and plummeted into a cavernous trough on the other side.
William Darmon and wife Elizabeth were powerful figures who in 1818 set society's pace from expansive grounds known as Mayfair Hall. When a family member is murdered, a mysterious pendant is found containing a long lost request by Napoleon Bonaparte for an American mission to burn down Parliament buildings. The couple sets out on an action filled pursuit of the killer. While interviewing Henry Clay in post-war Maryland about the failed mission, they uncover evidence of a conspiracy to free the Emperor from exile. The Darmons infiltrate the cadre, but a shipwreck off the coast of Scotland, a firestorm at the Darmon's Manor and a harrowing assault on the Island of St. Helena loom before the mystery can be unraveled.
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Genre – Mystery, Historical, Thriller
Rating – PG
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