Disclaimer: I don't own these characters except the Cougars and the Arrows.
Thank you Michelle. I couldn't complete this story without your great help.
lost without you
It was a fine day like usual in Matavai.
Sun was shining, birds were singing, and a breeze was blowing from bay. All looked peaceful.
There was nothing different from any other day.
'It has been five years since Isabelle disappeared,' Colin thought on the way to remain of the woman's resident.
Today was the day she had dropped in the sea from onboard of the Rattler. That day a storm suddenly had attacked the South Seas and took many lives. Many boats sailing near Matavai had gathered to take shelter at Matavai bay. And the Rattler hadn't been far away from the bay.
But before she had docked, one particular person had been lost.
When thunder hit the main mast, David heard the crack despite of the unbelievably strong and howling winds. And he and the others saw the mast go down where Isabelle stood.
She was quick as usual and avoided the huge mast attacking, but unfortunately a very strong wind attacked her from the front at the same time and she lost her balance.
Everything happened so quickly. Nobody heard the splash as she dropped from onboard but everyone knew what happened.
He tried to go after her but two of his crew grabbed his shoulders from each side. Mauriri who also grabbed Tah-Mey's shoulders to stop him looked for her figure frantically on surface of crazy huge waves.
There was nothing they could do but run to the bay as quickly as possible for their own lives.
They weren't sure they could reach the bay themselves in these circumstances.
Captain Spencer watched the young woman whose eyelashes fluttered, 'So she'll stir at last.' The voyage to this area was not routine for the Cougar. And getting a woman from the sea was very odd. He and his crew found her hanging onto a drifting log two days after the storm.
She didn't have any serious injures but was sunburned, dehydrated, and exhausted. She had stayed unconscious for an entire day.
"Can you hear me? Drink some water, madam." He helped her into a sitting position and held a cup to her dry broken lips.
He could tell she was a beautiful woman from her delicately built face and elegant long neck despite her bad shape and dark cabin.
"Where am I?" she asked hoarsely.
"You are in a cabin of my ship, the Cougar. We found you drifting in the sea. There were no islands except some deserted islands near there. Can you remember what happened?"
"I…I…" she couldn't answer and seemed troubled. She frowned for seconds and asked, "…Do you know who am I?"
Her question made him ill.
'This is great. Now I have a woman who doesn't know who she is and crew who hasn't touched any women for long time on onboard the same ship.'
He hadn't found anything telling him who she was from the pockets of her clothes. She was wearing a pretty pendant with unusual designed chain but it didn't help him, either.
She didn't look ashamed to be wearing a man's shirt instead of her own shirt even though it meant someone saw her naked while changing her clothes.
Also he was aware she hadn't been wearing ordinary women's clothing even though she had a very beautiful body.
In fact, he wondered for a second if she was really a human or some creature from the sea.
She hadn't been wearing skirt but trousers. And she had some scars on her slender back.
He wondered what kind of woman they had here.
Colin found William standing in front of his sister's abandoned old stables.
Colorful wild flowers bloomed and bushes grew where the stables had been long time ago.
All horses had been sold except Isabelle's beloved Dante. William kept Dante with him in Samoa now.
He had never admitted Isabelle's death like David and Clare who had kept believing that Isabelle was still alive and searching for a way to back Matavai. So he didn't build a grave for his only sister.
And he came here on the day that he had lost her every year and prayed for her coming back.
"Dante isn't in a very good state nowadays. He needs Isabelle's care," William murmured without looked back to Colin. "I'm afraid he won't be able to wait much longer without her care. And how will I be able to explain to her if Dante isn't waiting for her when she comes back?"
Colin wanted to believe that remarkably strong woman was still alive and could be recognized as an honest woman by people or at least get repaid for her struggle through her hard life, either. But he couldn't help to think logically.
She could contact them if she was alive.
None of them had received any sign from her in five years.
But he prayed for Isabelle every day in his church. And it was all he could do for her. He sighed.
"Why don't you come with me for tea, William? You have time until you're onboard, don't you?"
Colin called to him remembering how William had seemed lost that day.
"I'll never forgive myself for leaving my little sister behind. I don't deserve my happiness. I can have my beloved family now while she'd never had. And what she can have now? She had kept fighting against cruel world all alone ever since her selfish brother had left and our mother's death and damn father's arrest. How she ended up like this? Only if I hadn't left her in the first place…"
Colin hadn't been able to find words to comfort Isabelle's only brother when he had come to Matavai to confirm the terrible news from Samoa.
And about five years after, he still couldn't find those words, yet.
"I know nothing!" She was awoken by her own cry.
She had dreamt that one again. It was horrible nightmare. She was whipped and locked in a dark cell.
"Jade, are you awake?" soft and low voice called her back to reality.
"Are you all right? Is something wrong?" Will asked her quietly.
She looked pale and sweated on her smooth forehead. "Nothing. A nightmare again. I must of had a special life if these nightmares aren't just dreams but memories," she mumbled.
She sometimes had nightmares that were so horrible.
She was almost sure about this one where she was whipped might be not a nightmare but a fact.
When she had this nightmare the first time, she had confirmed her scars on her back using two mirrors. There had been scars just like scars because of being whipped.
She always wanted desperately to remember who she was and where she came from despite having those nightmares for these five years.
"Are you able to stand watch or am I going to take your place?"
"I can. I'm going to go up in five minutes."
Will considered Grant's opinion once again. His was the one person's opinion on the Cougar if it came to medical incidents. He had been once a medical student before becoming a seaman.
He had said she might have hit her head on some driftwood or surface of wave if she had dropped from a passenger ship. But since he hadn't recognized any injuries on her head as he had cared her after Will had changed her clothes, there was a possibility that her amnesia was because of shock. And if so, her memories would come back sooner or later.
However, now after almost five years since the day, her memories hadn't surfaced yet.
Will also had taken her to see a doctor when they had docked in their homeport.
The American doctor had said he had not been able to find a way to make her memories come back, and his opinion was the same as Grant's.
"She'll remember someday but I can't say when. I'm sorry."
The American doctor who was bit famous at the field of amnesia sincerely expressed his pity for such a beautiful woman having amnesia and nightmares.
Will didn't mind if Jade couldn't remember her past, it didn't matter for him. She was his crew member and friend regardless of her past.
But he couldn't stand to see her painful struggle to try to remember.
He wanted to help her if he could. But he was no idea what he would be able to do.
-5years ago / onboard the Cougar-
She slowly climbed the ladder to the deck with Will behind her in case she fell.
She was almost on the deck when Dotty grabbed her arm and lifted her with unexpected gentleness the rest of the way.
She was blinking at the light despite it was already early evening and the light was not strong like day.
Then she looked at all the crew except Grant who had to stay at the helm.
The captain and his crew were stunned by her beauty and her impressive eyes despite of her sunburned skin.
They could see her slender figure as she stood by her own in setting sun.
Her eyes danced as she looked at dark blue sea and white waves, and felt blowing wind on her face. And they saw her eyes were pale green.
That was the first time they recognized the marvelous color of her large eyes and how beautiful a woman she was.
She had spent all her time in a bunk below the deck since they had rescued her and they always had seen her only in weak lamplight.
Someone said her eyes were like Chinese jade. Since then, they had called her 'Jade eyes' and after that it was shortened to 'Jade', even after they noticed the color of her eyes were changeable and not always pale green but also bright blue, cool gray or forest green.
'Too beautiful,' Will thought.
This beauty would cause some troubles on his ship he was sure.
Especially there was a particular crewmember, Grant. He loved a pretty face. He surely would try to have her. And Will didn't allow such things on his ship. He was sure that Grant wouldn't force too much on her, but wasn't sure whether it would stop with few kisses, some groping or more.
So it's better to get rid of her sooner.
But the next port was five days ahead.
And there were no islands where lieutenant or someone who could receive their report about missing people stayed between here and the port.
He felt hesitant to desert this woman alone on some island with unknown settlers.
Honestly he was intrigued by this nameless woman already. But his priorities were clear.
It's his Cougar and his voyage.
He had decided that he would hand over her to the lieutenant of the nearest island. But as the five days passed, she was getting along with his crew before they could arrive any island.
To their surprise, she was very good at sailing. She knew boats well. It made them wonder more what kind of woman she was.
Then the only problem remaining for Will was Grant.
Should he protect her from Grant?
At least she was a woman who didn't flinch or become embarrassed when she found herself in men's shirts instead of her own clothes.
'Yes, I should. Because I am the captain and Captain needs his crew to not be distracted by a woman on board. Yes, I should, because,…because…I don't want Grant to touch her.' It's the true reason. He knew it and sighed.
But his only problem was soon removed.
She proved that she could take care of herself even around Grant.
Soon after she got off the sick bed, Grant tried to catch her attention and seduce her. She ignored him. Will was careful to not let Grant and Jade be alone. But Grant found the time.
How surprised Will was at what happened then. But Grant was the one who was the most surprised and embarrassed.
As Dotty who always cooked their meals called them to supper and asked where Jade was, Will figured out suddenly realized she wasn't with Dotty in the galley.
Will hurried below deck when he found Grant was the only person who wasn't on the deck then, except Jade.
When he burst in the cabin following Dotty, his eyes met an unexpected sight.
Grant was on the floor unconscious. Jade rubbed her tiny right fist.
Will didn't hand her over to the lieutenant when they arrived at the port five days later. He just reported about her to the lieutenant in the island.
They picked up their cargo there and kept sailing with her onboard.
All crew including Grant who didn't have any grudge to Jade agreed her stay.
She became one of his crew that day.
David was always searching Isabelle. He and Mauriri asked about the missing woman at all ports they visited in the South Seas.
They couldn't find anyone who had seen Isabelle Reed after the storm.
But Mauriri knew well that David would never give up and would keep searching for her for the rest of his life.
There was no way that David's soul would rest except finding out whether Isabelle was dead or alive.
Or he would never feel peace again if he would find her dead…
-5 years ago in the South Seas-
While they were loding their cargo, Isabelle went to the market place alone.
She didn't need Mauriri or Tah-Mey coming with her when she went to those small markets where there were no people who spoke English or French.
She was a fast learner of languages and eager to learn.
Learning something always could fill the desire for a girl who had never been able to go to school properly since she had been nine-years-old and who had been working in factories almost her whole childhood.
Mauriri and Tah-Mey were her teachers on the deck.
Mauriri was enjoying it in secret. And he often joked to David if he were like Isabelle, their business would have been much easier and often would have been stayed in the black many years ago.
So that David ran away before Mo's lesson seemed to start on the deck.
Tah-Mey who admired Isabelle - Mauriri wondered when and why the crew had started looking at Isabelle in such a different light - was the first one to start to teach her some native islander's languages before Mauriri had come back to the Rattler.
Isabelle who got one more teacher could have more language lessons during her spare time on their voyage.
Now, she was shopping in the islander's market place alone with a cart to help her carry her purchases instead of Mauriri or Tah-Mey.
The cook on the Rattler was always Mauriri or Isabelle. She expected she would take her turn of cooking twice or three times in the rest of this voyage.
"If I cook that Lavinia's chicken dish in one of the turns, David will be so surprised." Isabelle thought to herself and smirked.
She was again thankful that Lavinia had generously given her the recipe with a knowing and teasing smile on her pretty face.
Who could imagine that Lavinia would teach her recipe to Isabelle?
Their relationship somehow had progressed a bit by bit after Jenny's incident.
Isabelle had acknowledged Lavinia's beauty and independence from the very beginning if she told the truth. However she had never imagined that Lavinia would have some kind of feeling like friendship for her one day.
"Thank you Lavinia," she murmured remembering Lavinia's elegant dark hand that had written down the recipe.
In the harbor, the loading was finished earlier than David and Mauriri had expected.
Leaving Sparrow to watch, the crew went out to the village by themselves.
Mauriri and David walked down to the only bar in the island. David found a small shop on the way.
"Ah…um, Mo." He suddenly stopped.
"What? What's wrong?"
"Nothing wrong. …I need a little time to do something alone, so you're going to go to the bar. I'll catch you up soon after."
Mauriri had already noticed the shop while David was speaking nervously.
"All right. You don't need to hurry, whatever you want to do 'alone', David. I'm going to waiting at the bar." He smirked and walked away.
David dove into the shop a second after Mauriri's big figure disappeared into the crowd.
It was a very narrow space but there were many good quality small articles by native's hands and accessories from Europe mainly in the shop to his surprise.
David had been on the island before but had never noticed this shop before.
There was only one keeper in the shop.
She was small old islander and had greenish eyes. She might have European origin too, David thought, and wished she could speak English because he's not with Mauriri now.
Fortunately, like most shop keepers and bar maids on the island, she spoke English fluently.
"May I help you?"
Her voice was lively and younger than her looks, and her smile was bit mischievous like she knew what the tall white man was seeking.
"I'd like to see some small thing for young lady, and I prefer it'll be something to be able to wear." - always, he added in his mind.
The keeper showed him several beautiful pendant heads, elaborate chains and lockets.
"These were brought from Europe."
David touched the locket in his pants pocket as the keeper showed him some lockets. For the past few months he had always had the locket with him
He wondered if Isabelle had found out he'd never returned it after they had rescued her.
As she started to line up some pretty chains, he eyed one of them.
It was an exquisitely designed sterling silver chain with a small oval plate, which was elaborately engraved with small flowers and leaves, surrounded by some tiny silver balls around the oval frame. One rose was engraved on the clasp.
He immediately imagined the chain was around Isabelle's graceful neck and the small oval pendant on her pale shadowed cleavage.
He smiled. Yes, he had found what he was seeking.
And the keeper noticed it according to his expression.
"I'm going to put this in a small pretty silk bag," she said with wide smile.
"What is this for, David? It's not my birthday for another two months."
Isabelle's huge silvery green eyes turned to aqua now and opened wide. She had just opened the green silk bag from David.
"Mmm, this is for a job well done, Isabelle. Honestly I hadn't expected you'd be able to handle this job so soon. And I also never imagined you'd cook Lavinia's chicken!" David laughed.
Isabelle felt her cheek blush.
Had he ever given a compliment to her except about her fighting skill?
David took the chain from her hand and went behind her.
He gently lifted aside her long soft curly hair and put it on her long smooth neck.
She turned and faced to him. Her eyes were twinkling.
Was it just his imagination that some emotion flushed across her lovely face?
"Thank you, David. This is very beautiful."
"It suits you well." He kissed on her cheek and felt her smooth flesh on his lips.
She wondered if he changed his mind but immediately tried to dash the hope.
Haven't I decided months ago?
She had decided that he would never love her in return, but she could live as a good friend and a business partner.
But she thought that she saw some emotion in his hazel eyes just now.
Is it possible he's changed his mind? She looked up his face again. And found his irresistible smile as always.
He seemed to say about something as Mauriri called Isabelle to her turn of the watch.
David let her go to the watch with a tender smile.
After she left, he said to himself. "One of these days, I'm going to surprise you, Isabelle. I only hope you'll give us a chance."
Isabelle walked to the lookout pressing the pendant over her shirt and confirming by her fingers that it was really there. David had really given it to her.
She thought this pendant was her treasure and decided to wear it always instead of placing it in her jewelry box - now almost empted.
She had sold all of her jewelries except for a few small earrings that couldn't be big money when she had sold one of her precious stallions to save the Rattler.
She had never regretted doing it.
And she was sure she would never regret it the rest of her life.
Isabelle pulled the chain out of her shirt and looked at the oval plate once again in the lookout.
This pendant was more precious than any very expensive jewelry for her.
While toying with the pendant, she suddenly remembered about her locket.
Where is that locket now?
She wondered if even David knew where it was.
He might not know either.
He might have dumped it on his rumble bookshelf or desk in his cabin and had forgotten about her locket already.
David wouldn't have dumped it if the locket held Lavinia's photo instead of hers, she bitterly supposed. But soon she tried to put aside such opinion.
I feel happy now, and I won't ruin it with unpleasant thoughts. David gave a compliment to me. That is all that matters and I should savor it fully.
They both didn't know how this voyage would end.
Dotty was the first one who got along with Jade. She seemed calm when she was with him somehow, too. The crew who's missing two his fingers on his left hand felt strangely comfortable when he was talking with her about nothing special but common chores on board or idle funny things.
He was usually a very quiet man. But somehow the woman made him talk willingly. They just seemed to have a similar sense of humor.
Also it was him who had found out that Jade could speak French quite fluently.
Dotty was half Italian, half French, and he sometimes talked to himself in French when he was cooking.
One of those times, she had suddenly started laughing as he had said seamen's joke in French. Since then, they often joked about the other crewmembers in French.
Grant didn't like it always when they started to speak in French because he was well aware that he often became their victim according to Jade's wide grin.
The cheeky woman didn't keep unreadable face like Dotty on purpose. She enjoyed irritating Grant. He knew it.
He usually thought himself an impressive man to women.
But not to Jade.
He also knew he would never have the upper hand with her.
The expert sailor sighed.
Jade abruptly stopped her helping hands as Dotty was explaining an exotic recipe in the galley.
Her cheeky smile faded.
She slowly looked up his face and said, "I know a recipe that is very similar to this. But how…?"
They looked each other's face in silence.
After the incident of the exotic chicken recipe, Dotty suspected she was from the South Seas, not a passenger boat from Europe to the South Seas or the reverse.
According to Dotty's theory, Will had decided silently they would voyage to the South Seas again and started to arrange for it.
He used all of his connections to get many contracts for trading or freighting to islands in the South Seas.
He tried not to think about the time Jade would find her family.
It's one possibility that she was someone's wife or even that she might have children.
In truth, he wanted to keep her on the Cougar but he well knew it was selfish and not fair to her. If he could help her to regain her memories, he ought to do so.
And he would.
A few months later, they were sailing on long voyage to the South Seas.
Will made contracts with many companies in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and islands of Tahiti using his all connections. He hoped they would be able to find who Jade really was on this long voyage.
Jade didn't feel like this port was new, either.
Since she came to the South Seas, she felt something familiar and comfortable very much...like she was in her own place.
And she felt it even stronger here than other island ports where they sailed this month.
The news was brought by Jack McGonigall as he came back from Papeete bay.
He heard one sailor say that he saw a woman very like Isabelle and possibly her age if she was still alive onboard a ship from America that ported Papeete now.
David and Mauriri took one of their crew with them to watch and immediately went to Papeete by the Rattler.
Mauriri was afraid if this news turned out to be wrong once again.
They had had wrong information several times these five years and that defeated David badly each time. Besides they had been searching for her so long time, so many places, and was it possible that they were going to find her in 'Papeete!' of all of ports where so close their home port?
So he didn't want David to have too much hope about this news.
But Muriri himself couldn't help anticipate because the sailor who saw the woman was actually knew Isabelle.
'This time…' he felt small glimpse of hope in his own heart.
They found the Cougar easily.
She was docked in front of them now. She was beautiful and bigger than the Rattler, and was built for long voyages.
It seemed to have already finished loading.
They visited the boat by dinghy and called up to the crew.
A very tall man with long red hair appeared on the deck and signed for them to come onboard.
They noticed the sailor was taller than they, had an unusually beautiful face, and on his left hand had only three fingers as he helped them onboard.
The sailor named Dotty was listening to them silently.
After that he said that there was a woman who matched their description, and it made sense why she hadn't wore women's clothes and had been able to handle to work onboard.
Dotty wanted to go to find Jade and his captain but he couldn't because he was the only watch now on the Cougar.
The tall sailor quietly suggested some places where his captain and crew were suppose to be to the two newcomers who seemed to tell truth.
They immediately got off the Cougar and separated to seek her.
David was running towards a bar where Dotty had told them and Mauriri went to another.
His mind was filled hope and fear.
The captain in a hurry bumped someone's side on the way to the bar. The slender person fell down to ground.
The person cursed angrily. He was going to help up the person whom he had bumped into and was stunned by her voice.
He stared at the woman.
The sight didn't change after the blink.
There was that beautiful face. He couldn't find his voice.
She angrily brushed a curly strand off her face and looked up at him.
Their eyes met.
They continue to watch each other.
Jade felt a strong emotion floating up in her and didn't know what the emotion was.
She knew that she knew him.
David couldn't move yet.
After the fact sank in, he tentatively reached for her again like she would disappear at his touch and helped her to stand.
He hesitated to hug her despite the fact that he had finally found his Isabelle.
She was staring at him with those beautiful eyes that had haunted him in his dreams for all those years.
She didn't look battered or wounded but something wrong with her. He couldn't believe that she couldn't recognize him despite Dotty warning beforehand.
She finally found her voice as he just started to touch her cheek.
"Do I know you?"
The question made him halt again.
"God! Isabelle! You don't remember me?"
Her eyes were opened wide and filled with anxiety and hope at the same time. She wanted to say something to this tall handsome man. But she didn't know what she should say.
"Jade!" Two tall men ran towards them following Mauriri.
The captain of the Cougar already knew what was going on according to Mauriri and Dotty who had come to follow two men soon after one crewmember had been back onboard.
As she moved involuntary towards the two men and away from David, he felt slight pang through his whole body.
"David Grief of the Rattler. This is my partner, Mauriri Lepau."
"William Spencer of the Cougar. This is Donatello Pierangeli, you've already met."
They moved to onboard the Cougar now and introduced each other.
While they observed each other, David couldn't take his eyes off Isabelle.
Mauriri noted that both men were striking.
Especially when they stood together.
Both men had sky blue eyes.
The captain was ragged and tall just like David and had very dark hair.
His crewmember who had met them first had an unusually beautiful face and looked too slender, unlike most seamen.
But Mauriri knew this type well; they didn't look masculine but their muscles beneath their smooth skin were very, very strong despite their slender looks. Isabelle had the same type of muscles, he thought and looked at her slender figure that seemed definitely unchanged from five years ago.
Mauriri was bothered that one of them was involved with Isabelle.
The two men's faces were unreadable.
He knew that David needed her.
His best friend couldn't lose her again.
And Mauriri now knew he had wished for her to come back much more than he had realized.
He really wished Isabelle would come back to their Rattler not only for David but for himself.
He missed her presence on the Rattler so much.
'Who could have imagined a former defendant of murder would be so precious for us when she came to Matavai in the fast place.' Mauriri looked at her beautiful face.
Will carefully watched the handsome newcomers and his precious female crewmember. She looked calm now and her challengeable eyes stared at the new men.
"So my real name is Isabelle Reed."
"It suits you," Dotty replied.
"Isabelle Reed, now you found the cue to seek your past," Will said in calm voice like always but his mind was uncharacteristically troubled.
He was glad for her but felt pain expecting her leaving even though he stayed poker faced.
The two men from Matavai stayed onboard of the Cougar over night to tell what had happened five years ago and about some part of her past.
They now learned that she had been a business partner of Captain Grief and Mauriri Lepau and also owned her stables in Matavai of Tahiti, and she had come to Tahiti as a defendant in a murder trial almost seven years ago.
Will wondered if Captain Grief and his partner knew about the scars on her back.
None of them could have good sleep that night.
The next morning David found Isabelle on deck.
She was watching down the port where horses were brought out just then but noticed his presence on deck.
He knew her keen sense had found him already, so he went behind her without hesitation. "Good morning, Isabelle."
"Good morning, David."
She was surprised at how easy it was for her to call him by his first name.
The handsome man had suggested that she call him David, not Captain Grief last night. And soon she was used to it despite the fact that they had just met yesterday.
On the other hand, all the crew including herself and Captain of the Cougar couldn't get used to her new name very easily.
When they were about to call her, 'Jade' came to the tip of their tongue.
"Do you want to go closer to watch the horses, Isabelle?" David asked.
She surprised how he read her mind. In fact she was going to get dinghy to go to watch the horses.
"I'm ready to go. Are you coming?"
"Yes. I'll let Mo and Captain Spencer know that we're going to go. Just a minute." His knowing smirk made her feeling cheerful but she didn't know why.
Just when they had reached the animals, one stallion suddenly was starting neighing and slashing his head like a mad wild animal.
The other horses were influenced by its act.
Some seamen and traders immediately tried to hold the others and succeeded.
But the seaman who pulled the horse, which became wild first, couldn't keep the animal. And worse, his wrist was caught by the rein.
The big black horse ran into the crowd at the port. It still dragged the seaman who couldn't help because the rein was still coiled tightly around his wrist.
To people's surprise, a slender figure blocked the horse's way.
She carefully kept a safe distance and cooed, "Easy, easy boy."
David didn't have time to stop her. She was so agile and naturally ran towards the animal.
He was so anxious but could see the old Isabelle in her bold act.
"Everyone, keep your distance. Don't make him afraid," she warned the people and continued to talk to the horse and tried to get the horse's attention.
David wasn't sure the mad horse could hear her gentle soothing voice.
But the horse heard.
"Good boy. Calm dawn. Good boy."
The animal's mad movement became slower bit by bit.
Isabelle slowly and carefully made her way towards the horse.
The horse stopped slashing madly and found the woman in front of him but his hooves didn't stop hitting the ground yet.
It looked unable to decide how it would treat the small human.
David's heart came to his throat.
Also Mauriri, Captain and the crew of the Cougar who were watching from the deck, were going to die of worry for her.
She looked very calm.
In fact, she was sure that she would be able to handle this.
"Poor boy, you must have been surprised by something. It's all right now."
She reached and took hold of the bridle of the horse who now stopped all movement except it's ears and tail, in one smooth movement.
Then she padded his nose gently.
She called David in low voice. David immediately knew what she wanted him to do and he carefully went towards the now half unconscious seaman to untangle him from the horse.
While David was doing this, she kept the horse's attention just on her and she kept cooing at the poor nervous animal.
"How could she do that?" Will exclaimed with heavy sigh.
"She was born to be a horsewoman, not only an adventuress of the sea. Now you see." Mauriri replied with a proud smile for Isabelle. 'That's our girl!'
Dante she couldn't understand why the name came up in her mind again as she saw the horse, now calm and standing with the others.
There was a time the name had popped up in her mind when she had seen horses before.
She kept trying to remember, trying to catch one picture of what appeared in her head.
"What's the matter, Isabelle?" David found she was looking through the horses and appearing to try and remember something.
"Dante…" she murmured.
"You remember Dante?" David exited.
"No. This name came to me when I saw horses before and again now. I couldn't have a clear picture in my head. But the name popped up suddenly. I suppose the name belongs to a horse, doesn't it?"
"Yes, Dante is your beloved horse. You would sell us for him anytime." David laughed. His hope grew.
"He's in Samoa with your brother William now."
If she'll see her Dante again, she'll be able to remember who she is. If she'll see her stables, see Matavai, see Clare-. Yes, it may work.
Clare wanted to go to Papeete with them, or contact Isabelle's brother William in Samoa soon. But she had to wait until David and Mauriri confirmed the news was correct.
If only Jack had had a time.
But the boat that Jack had been working on had been just about to depart when he had gotten the news at Papeete.
She couldn't just stay here and wait to see Isabelle again. It was unbearable for her.
If her husband Jack could have confirmed about the woman, she would be able to send the news to Samoa soon. David and Mauriri wouldn't have had to go to Papeete with worry and fear.
Clare sighed a hundred times.
Jack wasn't as calm as he appeared. He was nervous. He was afraid the woman wasn't Isabelle.
At least he was the one who brought the news to Clare and the others this time.
How much he had wanted to go to see the woman by himself in Papeete beforehand but he hadn't had enough time back then.
He hadn't wanted to let anyone be disappointed but there was nothing he had been able to do other than to bring the news to Matavai.
Now all he could do was pray.
Uncharacteristically Lavinia wasn't calm.
She could remember clearly Isabelle's face and her hesitation in asking David's former lover for a recipe.
Lavinia had already known Isabelle hadn't needed such recipe to catch the particular person's heart even then. But…no, Isabelle hadn't tried to catch his heart anymore. She had just wanted to please him.
Lavinia had been almost sure that Isabelle had really given up trying to catch him in her web.
It was ironic.
She had seemed just to not know that he had had feelings for her, even hadn't believed he had been interested in her while David had obviously become sure of his feelings for Isabelle in Lavinia's view. Isabelle had seemed to decide to live just as his good friend and business partner for some reasons Lavinia could only guess.
She often was caught thinking that if she had told her opinion about David's feelings to Isabelle, or had told David that he ought to behave according to his feeling or he might lose something very precious to him, would that have changed something?
The two had never had a chance to know each other's feelings.
It was unbearable to see David so hurt after Isabelle's disappearance.
Now, she could do nothing but only prayed that the woman onboard the American boat was Isabelle.
If the woman was really Isabelle and she came back to here, she would give all her all the recipes, which had been David's favorite dishes. She swore.
'Isabelle, please be all right, please come back to us' Lavinia prayed again.
-5 years ago in Lavinia's-
"My god! You are saying the Lady Jane won't make it?"
Clare who was standing in front of the native tavern owner was up set that she had to bring bad information to her friend.
"What's happening to the two of you?" curious Isabelle asked.
She remained in Matavai while David and Mauriri went to their trading voyage without her because she had her own horse business in Matavai at this time.
She had succeeded in selling a good stallion and had got big money just like she had planed.
Isabelle came to Lavinia's for an early supper with good wine to congratulate herself and saw odd sight there.
The young horse woman hadn't often seen the dark beauty in a panic.
"Oh, Isabelle, I'm all right. It's Lavinia who's in trouble." It was Clare who answered her question with worry in her tender brown eyes.
"So what's happened, Lavinia?" Isabelle asked the obviously upset beautiful tavern owner.
Lavinia saw the other woman's face and knew she was genuinely worried for her, not ready to tease her for her misfortunate.
"I'm really afraid, this time. I'm going to attend an old friend's son's birthday party this Saturday."
"You mean the day after tomorrow?"
"Yes! And I present a children's book with beautiful pictures to him every birthday. Kaipo loves beautiful pictures so much. And I'm sure he anticipates it this time, too. But… But the boat that would bring the book hasn't arrived yet. It' the Lady Jane."
"And the Lady Jane had broke down and stayed for maintenance at Tonga according to what I heard fifteen minutes ago at the bay," Clare added.
"She was expected to arrive here three weeks ago and I would have been able to get the book, even if the ship's schedule changed a bit! Oh, but she'll never be able to make it this time!" Lavinia declared.
They all knew it was very difficult to find such books in Matavai or even Papeete.
They could find some children's books but not one as beautiful and new like Lavinia had planned.
If people in Matavai wanted special books, they had to ask shops in a much larger town by letter and waited until the book was brought by ship for long time.
Lavinia had always prepared for it taking enough time. She had never failed –until today.
Isabelle considered for a few seconds and said, "Well. …Don't worry, Lavinia. I think I can help you."
Not only Lavinia was surprised, but Clare either and they stared at the horsewoman's bright face.
"I'll be back soon. I'm sure I can handle this, Lavinia. So don't be upset anymore and ready your special dish and best wine for me." She walked away in a hurry saying only those words and left the two puzzled women.
Isabelle was back soon as she had promised and she had something in her bag.
Lavinia and Clare's eyes opened wide in surprise.
They were looking at a beautiful book, which Isabelle gently placed on the counter.
"Where did you get this, Isabelle?" Clare was the first one to ask aloud their question.
"This is mine. I think you can make it your present for Kaipo, Lavinia."
"Isabelle, thank you sooo much! You really helped me! Honestly I almost gave up on getting a book in time and thought I'd have to make it up to him afterwards. Oh, thank you, thank you, Isabelle." Lavinia hugged Isabelle and it startled her and made Clare laugh.
"Now, where's my dinner? I'm starving." Isabelle pretended to be casual but was very pleased at Lavinia's odd behavior.
Lavinia had never been so friendly to her. And of course, she knew why.
After the dinner Lavinia came to ask Isabelle if she could help her to wrap the book.
Isabelle, a little bit puzzled but pleased, went upstairs with her leaving Clare and one young waitress who were serving a few patrons and preparing for busy nighttime.
Before wrapping the book, Isabelle turned over some pages gently.
She had bought this children's book for herself as she had found some beautiful books in a shop in Auckland last month. She hadn't been able to help it because she had wanted to own the beautiful book that she had never had in her childhood.
Lavinia looked at quiet Isabelle. She had already figured out that Isabelle hadn't answered Clare's question. She couldn't guess why Isabelle of all people had children's books but could sense Isabelle didn't want to explain.
'She is definitely quite a person.' Lavinia admitted.
Also she admitted that she liked Isabelle and she would have liked her earlier if she hadn't been jealous. But she had been jealous.
Lavinia had never been jealous seriously when some woman around David had flirted with him…until Isabelle.
Lavinia almost had contented their relationship and had been sure David had loved her.
She had known there had been a particular space in him where nobody had been able to reach and he would never share with someone. She had thought she would be able to live with that.
She hadn't believed every couple could have everything of her or his lover, even if they were in love very much. Beside he had loved her and she had loved him. It had been enough. At least it had seemed enough back then.
But since she had seen Isabelle the first time, she had been afraid Isabelle Reed would be able to reach where nobody had in David.
It had been her intuition. She was sure now she had been right.
'Well, our love has gone and it remains only our friendship. And I feel so right and peaceful with it at last now.'
"Isabelle." She called softly and looked straight into her large gray eyes.
Isabelle looked up at her quizzically a bit from where she was sitting.
"Thank you," Lavinia said. "I wanted to say that again when I'm alone with you and tell you how important it is for me."
"It's nothing, Lavinia, really. But I'm glad that I could make you feeling something owe me."
Isabelle tried to hide her embarrassment.
She wasn't used to people appreciating her like this and she had always avoided these rare situations with a shrug of her slender shoulders.
But now they were alone in Lavinia's cozy living room and she was looking at her with those earnest dark eyes.
Isabelle had no idea how she could do with this.
Lavinia saw Isabelle blushed slightly and was aware for the first time that Isabelle wasn't much older than Clare.
She was one particular person but also just a young European woman like Clare. Lavinia smiled.
"Could you press here and there, Isabelle?"
Lavinia cut the peace of pretty paper while Isabelle was pinning it on the table.
Isabelle watched while Lavinia was wrapping the beautiful children's book. She sighed involuntary wondering if someone had given a beautiful book to her in her childhood. She had only owned just two or three old thin books in her childhood. They had been given to her from a church during Christmas. All of them had been used books and not like this book that had many beautiful drawings in there.
"He is a very lucky child." Lavinia heard a slight envy in Isabelle's small voice. She glanced at Isabelle's delicately boned profile and stunned by her expression. It was so tender and so gentle but a bit lonely and sad.
Lavinia had never seen such expression on anyone's face.
"I'm sure Kaipo's going to be so pleased with this present. You made it for him, Isabelle. What can I do for you for this? Can you think of anything? I want to repay for you."
Isabelle was a bit surprised by her offering and paused a few minutes, then slowly asked with great hesitation.
"This is nothing really, Lavinia. …but if I could ask you something …, would you give the recipe of your special chicken dish?"
She was kicking, screaming, and trying to bite her attackers.
Her scream mingled into sound of heavy rain. Nobody could hear either her scream or those men's loud vulgar cheers in a shed where she was dragged by four unknown French seamen.
They told her as they were pinning her on dirt and ripping her blouse, that they would never be caught after they had some fun with her. They knew that they all would be fired soon after this voyage and once they were back in France nobody would be able to make claim about a rape in foreign place, especially in this unfamiliar port.
Rough hands crawled all over her body. Some disgusting hot lips pressed her inner thighs. "Nooooooo!"
Strong hands touched her shoulders.
"Jade! Jade! Wake up!"
She snapped opened her eyes. She was in her bunk and covered in sweat.
"You had a nightmare again. Drink this." Will's strong hand helped her into a sitting position and brought a glass of water to her lips.
She had had many nightmares. She couldn't say which was the worst.
But this one was certainly placed highest on her nightmare list. And she felt it wasn't just a nightmare but a part of her memory.
Both of them hadn't noticed he had called her Jade. They hadn't used to the new name, Isabelle, yet.
"Go back to sleep. I'm staying until you are asleep." Will wiped her forehead with a wet towel.
She laid herself down again and forced her eyes closed wishing to dream her favorite one where she was laughing with someone whose laughter made her heart warm.
They were standing somewhere surrounded by the sea and felt the breeze on their faces. She was so content. But she had never been able to look at the man's face.
In her dream she knew she loved this man.
Isabelle wished the existence of the man. She wished the dream was real, not just a dream.
When she fell asleep, she saw herself. This time, her figure was a small child.
She was standing alone in a cold living room.
She wanted to see her brother.
She wanted to be with him.
Will heard her small cry in her sleep as he was stroking her hair to sooth her.
There was a time that he had wondered if she had been dreaming about him. And that thought had made his heart warm.
But now he was certain that then and now, she had dreamed about her brother.
Isabelle decided to go and stay alone in Matavai, while the Cougar's made the long trip to Australia and back to Papeete.
It was the last trading in the South Seas that Will had planned beforehand.
But the captain planned to find other contracts on the way to back to delay the day that the Cougar would go back to America.
It would give Isabelle her time to decide her future.
Will had said nothing but had just nodded as she had asked it last night.
However he was in a longboat, which brought Isabelle, David, and Mauriri to the shore, and came with his crewmembers.
Before they got in the longboat to return to the Cougar, Dotty squeezed her hand and said her in a low, gentle voice. "Not need to rush, Jade…Isabelle. You have been waiting for almost five years to find people who know you and now you have found them. You should relax a bit and enjoy this tropical weather. Your memories will come back bit by bit."
All crew touched her shoulder or slapped on her back before they left.
She felt herself nervous. She had always been with those older or younger brothers for these five years.
Will sensed it. He stared into her eyes. His sky blue, almond shaped eyes were saying that she always had her place on the ship whenever she wanted it.
"Be a good girl. Stay away from troubles until our return. Okay?" He winked at her. She just nodded. She knew they would stand by her not whether her memory returned or not.
Isabelle stood on the shore until the Cougar became a small black object beyond the waves.
She wasn't aware of David and Mauriri looked her from distance.
Isabelle was on the deck of the Rattler to Matavai.
It was strange. She felt so right, so excited and so peaceful at the same time.
She wondered how she had been spent time on this beautiful boat and Matavai.
"Did you remember something?" Mauriri asked gently.
"…No. But I feel like she is familiar. I feel like the Rattler knows me."
"Definitely. She knew you as one of her crew and we knew you loved her, too."
David said nothing.
He looked at her remembering how she had come alive on every voyages of the Rattler and how often he had felt great pleasure with her on the Rattler.
Thank God! She is alive! And I'm with her again now!
However he was also afraid if she wouldn't be able to remember them and would sail for America with the Cougar. Or worse…she would remember but would choose her life on the Cougar.
No. I don't want to think about it now. I just want to enjoy staying with her again. At least she is alive. It's enough.
"You can stay onboard the Rattler if you like while you are in Matavai. Your bunk has remained same. If you want to be in the village, you can stay at Lavinia's. You can ask us anything you need, Isabelle." Mauriri glanced his partner.
David smiled back to his best friend but his eyes soon returned to his long sought woman.
"Oh, sorry, I should explain. It's the only tavern in Matavai. Also Lavinia is a friend of ours," Mauriri answered, watching her closely.
'She is still so beautiful. Yes, more beautiful than before. There are slight lines by her eyelids and her high cheekbones are more obvious. But it didn't ruin her beauty. She looks like a woman in an old European picture I saw once in France. And those magnificent eyes haven't changed a bit,' Mauriri mused silently.
"Please tell me what kind of woman I was in Matavai and during voyages, Captain Grief," she asked David, aware of his eyes on her.
She wanted more communication with him. She wanted to hear his voice more.
"You always kept us to a tight schedule and you had a damn good knack for business, Isabelle," he said it gently… so gently.
Her heartbeat skipped a beat.
"Sounds very good. I was a woman who could handle Captain Grief and his best partner. Now tell me more."
They laughed together.
She hadn't lost her sense, both men felt amused and felt relieved.
Clare was waiting on the shore about one hour before the Rattler would come. She couldn't write anything.
She couldn't prepare for her printing.
She had broken two dishes as she had been washing after lunch with Jack and their children.
At last Jack had said laughing, "Clare, you can go to the shore with my binocular if you want. I'm taking care of the rest. But you'll have to wait much longer if you go now. Don't forget I warned you."
"Oh, thank you, Jack. Honestly I can't do anything today until I see Isabelle!"
She had quickly prepared for going out and had left behind her smiling husband after a quick kiss.
Jack watched at his beloved wife until he could no longer see her, remembering young Clare and Isabelle.
He had liked watching the usually unfriendly young horsewoman was chatting with his beloved young woman and laughing like two naughty school girls.
He had liked Isabelle.
He had known Isabelle hadn't been the heartless, untrustworthy, greedy woman whom many people in Matavai had believed her to be, and they had not been sure her innocence of murder of her former lover.
Jack could easily imagine how hard life had been for her.
She had had to live among those people always.
Just like himself. Cannibal Jack's rumor had never let him alone.
Jack had always admired her strength and he had liked her cheeky smile.
He prayed Isabelle's memories would be regained one of these days.
He prayed Matavai would make her whole again.
The man who was called Cannibal Jack sighed heavily and started to wash the rest of the dishes.
Clare's gentle eyes opened wide and stared at the figure anxiously as Isabelle got off the dinghy.
"Isabelle!" she cried out and ran towards the slender figure.
However when she arrived in front of the woman she had been anticipating for so long, she didn't know what to do or say.
She tried to stop her urge to hug the woman who looked at her with those familiar marvelous eyes. The woman appeared to not know who she, Clare, was.
Isabelle was hiding her embarrassment.
Oh, again! I'm going to disappoint another person.
The blonde woman looked very kind and anxious.
"I am so sorry. I can't remember you. Miss…" Isabelle's voice trailed off.
"Isabelle, it's Clare. We're best friends." Clare felt hot tears stinging her eyes.
"I am so sorry. I really wish I could remember everything, but-" Then Clare cut off her apologize, "Oh, don't! Don't apologize me, Isabelle. This is not what you think. I'm sorry. I'm not crying because I'm disappointed. I'm crying because I'm so happy. I had kept believing you are alive and now you are here! In front of me! Thank God."
Clare slowly tentatively reached for her hands and squeezed them. Isabelle looked surprised but a little soothed.
She squeezed back gently and smiled at Clare shyly.
Isabelle felt something familiar about this woman. She liked her from the first sight.
"I can't remember anything about Matavai yet but I feel this place is familiar somehow and -you, Clare."
"Why don't you come to our house, Isabelle? I want you to see our children, and Jack wants to see you, too," Clare eagerly offered.
"Oh, I'm sorry! I shouldn't say that before I ask you two."
Clare found David and Mauriri behind Isabelle suddenly and blushed.
She had only focused on Isabelle for those minutes.
Two tall seamen's eyes were warm and understanding for her.
"It's okay with us, Clare. Anyway we want to take Isabelle some places where she used to spent a lot of time. Your office is one of them. So we'll be at Lavinia's." David smiled at their embarrassed lovely friend.
They saw off the two women waving good-bye towards them and heading towards Clare's former office that had been rebuilt as her office as well as her family's residence.
"Well." Mauriri looked at David.
"Well, let's go to Lavinia's."
He carried Isabelle's bag since Isabelle asked them to allow her to stay in the village so that she could see a lot of Matavai.
Mauriri followed him wondering if Clare would have any success restoring Isabelle's some memories in Matavai.
Isabelle didn't feel uncomfortable with this gentle woman.
She was strangely familiar and sweet.
Clare was describing Matavai as it had been before, describing the relationship of Isabelle and herself on the way.
Isabelle sensed how this sweet woman was trying not to force her and not show her own desperate need to make her remember.
She smiled at her with thanks and asked something about her own past.
The news that Jack had brought to Matavai had already become known throughout Matavai. Even new people who had moved to here in the past few years knew who Miss Isabelle Reed was now.
David and Mauriri hadn't told many people when Isabelle would return since some of them hadn't cared for her or were just curious about the woman who had many rumors.
The only exceptions were Clare, Jack, Mauriri's wife Lianni, Lavinia and Colin.
People in Matavai were going to know about her arrival since the Rattler had docked this morning anyway. But keeping her arrival quiet beforehand would give a little time for Isabelle.
They knew there were some people who wouldn't welcome her in Matavai yet.
And they wanted to avoid making Isabelle nervous, especially about people whom she couldn't remember.
David and Mauriri believed others who had cared for her would be able to understand their worry that Isabelle might be confused and tired if she would see so many people directly upon her arrival.
They would be able to see her after she became more comfortable in Matavai.
When they arrived at Lavinia's, to their surprise they found Paiku who had been one of Isabelle's stable boys and the one who had been most loyal to her.
David hadn't forgotten that Paiku had openly cried and had been angry when Lieutenant Morlais had stopped searching for the missing woman officially.
The stable boy had stayed with the stable until the last horse had been sold.
He was working on a farm now after he had lost his mistress and his job in the stables.
They hadn't seen him often here since the farm was far from both the port and the central of the village.
"Paiku! How've you been?" Mauriri called out to the younger islander.
"Hello, I've been fine. Thank you. …I heard the lady, Miss Isabelle came back already. Did she…?" his voice trailed off and his eyes filled with a mixture of anxiety and anticipation.
David and Mauriri glanced at each other.
David wondered what Isabelle could have imagined how many people cared for her if she hadn't had amnesia.
Isabelle might have never believed what many people thought of her.
But it hadn't been true during her two years on this island. Some people had had to come to know Isabelle Reed and care about her.
And loved her.
"Yes, she's here in Matavai. And she's with Clare now. You can wait her here with us, Paiku."
The young islander's dark face brightened as David answered.
"But we have to tell you something in case you hadn't heard yet." David started. Paiku looked at his face soberly.
"I know about Miss Isabelle's memory loss."
"I didn't want you to be shocked when you see her and she doesn't recognize you. In fact, she didn't recognize Mo and me. She hasn't recognized anyone including and Clare so far."
"I'm fine with it if I can only see her face again," Paiku said sincerely and nodded.
Jack didn't tell Clare that the former stable boy of Isabelle's often hung around their residence since he had come back with the news.
He could imagine how Paiku felt and why he often lingered here.
The young islander might have figured that Clare would be the first one to know about Isabelle's arrival.
Jack glanced out of the window and knew Paiku was already gone.
He wondered if Paiku had gone to the port.
When Clare came back with Isabelle, she didn't say anything about Paiku.
He wished the loyal stable hand would go to Lavinia's. If so he would be able to see his mistress soon.
Colin found Paiku had gone into Lavinia's. He knew the reason why the young man had come there.
The Reverend was ashamed of himself. He had not been able to see the true Isabelle in the very beginning.
He should have known that people weren't always as they appeared.
Isabelle certainly had taught him that.
He was almost certain that Isabelle hadn't known some people really cared about her in Matavai.
'We all miss you, Isabelle. I pray that your memories will be regained for you, and for us'
Isabelle who had heard about her own past from Clare was taken to Lavinia's by Jack.
Jack wondered, glancing at Isabelle's delicate profile, if she was uncomfortable seeing other people whom she 'didn't know'.
She looked calm and smiled at him when she caught his glance.
He smiled back wondering that she had ever been so friendly and gentle to other people in her past. The amnesia might show a part of her that had been hiding.
'Even if she would turn back into tough Isabelle again after she regained her memory, we'd still prefer to keep her with us.'
It wasn't certain that Isabelle would stay in Matavai if she would regain her memories.
He couldn't suggest this possibility to Clare, who was so eager to be with Isabelle again and more than willing to do anything for that.
But he could say that he knew Isabelle's life more than Clare to a point.
He, Cannibal Jack knew well it would never quit until the day he died; and even then, people would continue gossip about him.
He had earned a good reputation with a few people who loved reading after he had started writing a small column in the Matavai Messenger. Clare had eagerly given him the small space - while he had helped at the paper when he was away from the sea.
He had taken almost five years to reach that point with Clare and his friends' help.
Isabelle Reed had lived here for less than two years and her reputation had been terrible among European settlers in Matavai in the first year.
Isabelle hadn't looked to care about those people. But there might have been a time that those rumors had cut her heart no matter how tough she was.
Even though she might have felt their moral ridiculous, and even though she had been always free from their narrow society.
He could easily imagine how hard she would have to try if she wanted to settle here again.
He would do anything to help her.
When they entered Lavinia's, some of old patrons eyed Isabelle in surprise and new patrons did same because of her beauty.
He led her quickly upstairs before they got involved in any troubles.
He expected Paiku was there, and he was right.
There were David, Mauriri, Colin, Lavinia and the Paiku in Lavinia's cozy living room now.
All of them welcomed her warmly except Paiku who was too nervous to do anything.
Isabelle's eyes moved from one to another and she tilted her head a little as if she were trying to remember them.
She came towards them without hesitation and stood in front of Lavinia.
"I assume you're Lavinia." Her eyes sifted to the man next to Lavinia "-and you're Colin."
They smiled. All of them could imagine how clearly Clare had described about them.
Isabelle moved to in front of a young islander. She tilted her head again.
The young islander stiffened in front of her. His dark eyes filled with a mixture of joy and anxiety.
"You're Paiku, am I right?" She smiled at him. Paiku's dark face was brightened with joy all of sudden.
"Yes-," he couldn't find wards to say but just stared his mistress.
"I am sorry. I can't remember all of you yet. Clare told me about my life on Matavai. And the people, of course. She was so good at it. I can guess who you all are," she said causally.
Lavinia's keen sense realized that Isabelle was trying to lighten the atmosphere despite that she was the one who had the trouble.
"Now, you should take a little rest, Isabelle. I'm going to show you your room." Lavinia led Isabelle to her guest room.
David who also sensed Isabelle's mind thanked his former lover with his eyes.
Isabelle didn't miss it.
David Grief was in a bathtub. Isabelle smiled a little in her dream. But soon the smile faded as she saw dark smooth arms wrapped around his naked shoulders from his behind.
Lavinia kissed his forehead. They were smiling each other.
They looked so intimate and so used to each other.
A stray tear ran down from her closed eyelid to the white pillow.
Isabelle woke up with heartache in Lavinia's cozy guest room. The vision was still vivid.
What was this? Was this a memory or just a dream? Had I played a peeping Tom before? No! I don't think so, or I just don't want to think so? But why on the earth would I imagine those two, especially with David in the bathtub of all places?
She had no idea why she had dreamed that Lavinia and David had been together.
However the huge disappointment, the feeling of strong sadness, and the fact she was crying now surprised her. She practically felt a pang as she recalled the scene again.
Were David and Lavinia lovers?
Clare hadn't mentioned it.
But a proper lady like Clare probably wouldn't talk about other people's love life, she thought.
Isabelle had suspected or had hoped that Grief and herself had been intimate or that he had been interested in her five years ago.
But David's lover had not been her. It had been Lavinia.
It seems many nightmares are the facts in my past and some nice dreams are not facts. Isabelle sighed.
She tried to sleep again and hoped for no dreams this time.
You really need a rest. Isabelle Reed. Sleep. You are too tired.
A short dark hired woman was standing at edge of the deck.
The woman held a gun in her hand.
Isabelle shot her. The woman dropped into the sea.
David dived after her.
Isabelle woke up in shock. She wiped sweat on her forehead. Her hands were trembling.
What was that? Who was that woman? Did I kill someone in my past? And why was David there?
Isabelle felt her heart still pounding.
That's enough. I had two nightmares in one night. But why is it nightmare that David and Lavinia…? Oh hell! I have to talk with David. He'll be able to tell me if some of those dreams are true or not.
…And about David and Lavinia, she would be able to get an answer from Clare if she wouldn't be able to ask him, she thought and tried to sleep again with the help of some brandy Lavinia had left for her.
David's heart skipped as he saw Isabelle rowing a dinghy by herself towards the Rattler.
"Good morning, Isabelle. You're very early this morning." He helped her onboard and relished her fresh scent like a wild flower and strand of her curly hair that brushed his arm.
Her eyes were now pale green just like Chinese jade in a morning sunray.
He enjoyed the view for a while but soon acknowledged her somber expression.
"I'm going to ask you something," she said in a serious tone.
David paused a second, then led her to the deck with two mugs of coffee.
There was no one on board except the two of them. It was a nice morning. The Rattler rocked gently and a cool breeze swept through the deck.
Isabelle suddenly felt something familiar and it nearly appeared clearly --if she could concentrate more. But she had to concentrate on other things right now.
She didn't know how to ask about her nightmares.
Some of them were embarrassing her and some of them might make David upset if they weren't just dreams.
She breathed deeply the sea air.
She looked up into his warm hazel eyes and was trapped by an unfamiliar emotion. Had she felt something for him five years ago like she felt now? She felt her cheek redden.
She sipped coffee and began.
"I need your help, David."
Her voice was uncertain and weak.
"Say anything. What can I do for you, Isabelle?"
She paused a second, then started.
"Were we close friends five years ago? Did you know me well?"
He considered her question. He was sure that they had been good friends and good business partners, but did he know her well if she meant her past? Did anyone know her well? Even her brother didn't know her times without him. His absence in her life had been too long.
So who knows about her past? David was silenced by the realization.
Isabelle misunderstood his pause.
"I think I was wrong to ask you. Forget it. I-"
"No. Sorry if I made you upset. I didn't mean it." David interrupted her hastily.
"We were very good friends." He added with warm smile, "-and still are."
"We were good business partners also. But what made me need to think about the answer is that I don't know about your past. And I thought I knew you but at the same time you often appeared different."
David struggled to find the right words to explain how they had been.
"We didn't used to talk about our pasts to each other. In all honestly, I didn't want to talk about my past to anyone, even Mo, so I didn't ask anyone else about theirs either, including you.
That's why I can't say we opened up to each other about our pasts, you know. We knew each other at some points but nothing at some points.
Does it mean I won't be able to help you right now?"
David looked really worried if he would fail her.
She felt that she could trust this man and that he would help her as much as he could.
"I'm…I'm going to ask you about my nightmares." Isabelle slowly started.
"Do you have nightmares often?" He concerned. He knew she had had many experiences that might become the source of nightmares.
She had been a prisoner and had been accused of the murder of her French lover when she had arrived Matavai in the first place. She had been tortured badly to force her to reveal where the gold coins her former lover had hidden were. And she had spent most of her childhood as an orphan according what he had heard only a little from her and her brother.
"I considered asking Clare but she seems to not be the right person for some, I thought. And if you know me well, I thought you could tell me whether my nightmares are real or not. I mean if they are just nightmares…or if they'd happened to me in my past."
"Why don't you ask me, Isabelle? If I know about some of them, I can tell you about them. And even if I can't figure out some of them, I'll just shut my mouth with others. Your secrets will be safe with me."
His eyes were sincere and somewhat emotional.
"Okay, then." Isabelle wondered why she could trust Captain Grief so easily.
"This is the one you definitely can answer. -Am I a murderer?"
David stunned by her first question.
"What? What makes you think a such thing? What did you see in your nightmare, Isabelle? I don't know before you came to Matavai. But I believe you are not a murderer.
You were accused once, but I think Clare might have already told you about it, and that you were innocent."
"David, I 'm not asking about that murder, I'm not asking about …the murder of my … my former lover. I had a nightmare that I shot a woman on the deck. And you were there.
She had dark, short hair and dressed like a man. She dropped from the deck."
David's eyes widened. She thought she had already gotten her answer.
"Was that Jenny Duval? Clare told me that you were the one who had shot her -but it was me, wasn't it? I murdered her?"
It wasn't a question anymore. She was sure.
God! I am a murderer.
Despite his agony at recalling that horrible memory, David responded immediately when he saw the shocked expression on her pale face.
"You shot her to save me, Isabelle! You tried to save me. You thought she was about to shoot me."
His hand touched hers involuntary.
"You said… 'You thought'…. you mean you weren't sure that she really was about to shoot you?"
Isabelle felt something coming back to her. A scene where David was diving from the deck and searching for his lover…
She looked so pale and her eyes didn't seem to be seeing anything surrounding her.
After short minutes she came back to reality as worried David squeezed her hand in his large warm hand.
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah, - I have another questions still." It was difficult to gather herself but she managed.
I need to know.
She continued asking and getting answers about her nightmares, including the one in which she was whipped badly.
But she couldn't bring herself to ask about the fight against the four men. She was almost sure that was in Sydney according to landscape where she had got out the shed and had started to walk back to somewhere in her nightmare.
She had sailed to Sydney on the Cougar and seen that landscape.
She had never been attacked while she had been crewing the Cougar.
That's why it must have been happened before the Cougar.
She might have come to Sydney by the Rattler.
Isabelle wasn't sure that David knew if she had been raped in Sydney. How could she ask him such thing? No, she couldn't ask it to him.
"Anything else, Isabelle? Did you have another nightmares that I could help you figure out?"
David felt that she wanted to ask more.
However she said, "Nothing, so far. Thank you, David for listening and answering me."
"Are you sure?"
Can I ask about Lavinia now?
He sensed her hesitation.
"Come on, Isabelle!" He pushed her casually and tried to lighten the atmosphere surrounding them now.
She still hesitated to ask about Lavinia and him a second.
Why did she need courage to ask it? Why did she need to confirm it?
"Were Lavinia and you lovers?" Her voice was weak and anxiety betraying her effort to ask casually.
Isabelle immediately regretted asking.
"Oh, I'm sorry! It's none of my job, of course. You don't need to answer."
However he answered finding her embarrassing and wondered if she had dreamed Lavinia and him.
"We were lovers once."
Her feeling sank quickly but tried to hide it from him.
"But why did you ask it? Did you remember something, Isabelle?"
"…I, …I dreamed something that looked like Matavai's life. And she and you looked lovers in that dream. That's all. Nothing important. I still can't remember about myself yet. -Sorry, you and everyone have helped me so much but…" Her low voice faded out and she looked out the sea.
David wanted to clarify his relationship with Lavinia to Isabelle as he found she felt somehow uncomfortable.
He didn't want Isabelle to have the impression that he was exclusive to any women.
It had been her who had captured his heart five years ago. And who still held his heart now.
But he let it go and tried to comfort her instead as she mumbled about her unsuccessful attempts despite her friend's efforts.
"Isabelle, you shouldn't be in such a hurry. You've just come back. And you already feel somehow that Matavai is familiar, don't you? You will remember everything eventually."
David touched her hand again.
Isabelle liked the feeling of his touch. She wanted to stay just like this for a while. However she withdrew her hand as Lavinia's peaceful dark face and the dream flew up in her mind.
David was disappointed as Isabelle withdrew her hand from his. He tried to concentrate to a way to help her remember.
"How about a little trip to Samoa, Isabelle?"
She came to the Rattler again next early morning by herself.
It pleased David, even though he would surely go to see her at Lavinia's every day if she didn't come. Still that was something special for him that herself came to see him.
She liked to stay onboard in the morning, and told in truth she wanted to be with the handsome captain.
Samoa…where my brother lives? Her eyes twinkled. "Samoa, yes, I'd like to go. What's the cargo?"
"We'll bring some recurs and medicines to Samoa and load some spices at Samoa. And while we're loading, you'll be able to see your brother, William, his family and Dante. I know William can't wait to see you anymore. If you won't go to Samoa, he is going to come to Matavai, I'm sure of it."
"-David, you arranged this contract for me, didn't you? You made a chance for me to go to Samoa with you on the Rattler, so I wouldn't need to go alone."
Isabelle stared into his warm hazel eyes. He didn't look away.
"I'll go with you to Samoa with or without cargo. I'll do anything to get back your memories. I do this for not only you but also for me. I honestly want you to remember about me…us, all of us."
He reached for her cheek. Isabelle didn't withdraw but leaned towards him. Her face tilted into his warm large palm. They looked into each other's eyes.
There were alone on the Rattler. There no sounds other than waves and their own heartbeats.
His wards were cut short by Sparrow calling aloud from a dinghy. Both of them hadn't been aware of the dinghy coming.
"Captain, I bring a telegram to you from the old lieutenant."
"Old lieutenant? Lieutenant Morlais, you mean?"
"Aye. Mrs.McGonigall brought this and asked me to bring it to you."
Sparrow passed the telegram over to David and waited to see if his captain would order something after reading the letter.
"What on earth did Morlais write to me?" David murmured.
"Is that the lieutenant who arrested me seven years ago?" Isabelle had strange feeling like the letter brought something about her.
"Yeah. I have no idea why I would get any message from him."
Puzzled. David read it in front of her.
His expression warned Isabelle, while he read the letter.
David looked being shocked and it made Isabelle more worried.
"-Good news too late."
He handed her the telegram that said Morlais had received a letter from a lieutenant of Cook Islands who had heard about a missing woman in Matavai. Despite having been sent five years ago, the letter had just reached Morlais. It had arrived in Matavai five years ago just after Lieutenant Morlais had moved to his next post. A proxy Lieutenant who had been there for a few months had sent to Morlais without confirming its contents and somehow Molais had gotten the letter so long after.
The old letter, reported about a European woman who had rescued by an American ship.
"Very funny." Isabelle commented without any expression on her face.
Sparrow felt uncomfortable in the bitter atmosphere that his delivery had made.
If that proxy lieutenant hadn't been such a careless fool. Or if that lieutenant of Cook telegraphed instead of sending a letter.
David sighted heavily recalling his years of agony.
Her brother was a very tall, lean man with red hair and blue eyes like Dotty.
A native woman holding a baby was standing behind him.
He anxiously called her name.
"Isabelle. It's me, William-" He couldn't find his voice so he just greeted her without more words and waited her response.
My brother… Isabelle, a little girl had been always seeking him in her dream but had never found him, had never seen his face.
She saw someone with red hair like an old picture in her memory suddenly when she saw him. But it faded as fast as it flew up.
She didn't want to see him and David disappoint when she couldn't remember -again. She wanted to remember her brother and tried desperately, but she failed. The vision didn't resurface.
"I'm so sorry. I can't remember." Her voice sounded full of shame and guilty.
It hurt William and David.
William was disappointed, but he attempted to hide his feelings and smiled gently at his long missed girl.
"Oh, don't. It's enough just to know you are safe and here with me now. Besides I'm sure you're going to remember bit by bit. -Now, this is my wife, Alea and your nephew, Isaac."
Alea smiled gently and anxiously. Isabelle smiled back and touched very lightly and gently the small dark hand of her nephew.
William looked at Isabelle with her sister-in-law whom Isabelle had seen her several times before and her nephew whom she was meeting for the first time.
She looked softer and a little sad.
'Yes, you should be glad and thank god for seeing her again. You had deserted your little sister such a long time ago. How could she remember such a selfish brother who had been with her only during her childhood and less than two years at the South Seas?'
William tugged her arm gently and led her outside.
"There's someone who wants to see you."
There was a stall behind his house.
And he was there; once a strong and beautiful but now weak and spiritless horse.
He neighed lively for the first time since his mistress had disappeared.
He was a horse for only one master. His loyalty belonged to only Isabelle.
Loss of Isabelle's presence had worsened his condition despite William's gentle care.
The horse knew his mistress's presence and immediately recognized her when she entered his stall.
"Dante. Your princess is finally back," William called out to the horse gently from outside.
Dante was so excited. It made David anxious a bit –what if the horse would hurt Isabelle accidentally?
He looked at William.
William nodded at the younger man. It eased David's concern. William Reed knew horses as well as Isabelle.
Also David should have known Dante would never hurt his mistress.
Isabelle felt something bubbling up surface of her mind as she embraced the neck of the horse.
Dante was still. He bowed his head to her and confirmed his mistress was finally back as she touched him.
"Dante." Isabelle called his name more clearly and looked over her beloved horse, caressing his mane and nose.
She could imagine so vividly how a breeze while running on the beach.
She could see the vision perfectly and knew it wasn't just an image but a memory.
"Oh, I know you, my beautiful boy. Dante, my beautiful. I'm so sorry, I left you."
Dante was listening to Isabelle's cooing in contentment now. He nudged her hands and chest.
Dante looked almost lively.
"I know how much I love you. And how much you love me," she whispered to Dante.
The two men wished that she would be able to remember how much they loved her, too, one of these days.
David corrected himself -he had never told her about his feelings for her. She had never imagined how much he loved her.
He wondered if she had ever sensed his feelings for her five years ago.
Several years ago, even before Jenny's incident, she had stopped to try to seduce him.
He wondered it because she hadn't been interested in him as a man anymore simply, or there had been another reason-like he had hurt her without knowing.
She had just stayed as his friend and a business partner.
Yes, she had been my friend even during, and after Jenny. She had seemed only his friend back then.
David had realized Isabelle had never given up on him or hadn't been able to hate him. He had never thought of the reason of her generosity and loyalty for him, except Mauriri and he had rescued her many times in their past. But there were times their roles were reversed.
What have I done to deserve it?
Despite those her behavior, he couldn't stop to wish they would have their chance yet.
He had sometimes had seen or felt her eyes had held some emotions as she had stared at him when she had thought he didn't notice. Even though she had stopped to seduce him or flirt with him.
Had that just been his imagination?
He hoped it wasn't.
David wasn't disappointed Isabelle couldn't remember her brother.
He thought he could wait.
At least she had recognized her Dante.
And she seemed to have often had dreams about her past.
Well, she will remember everything. I can wait how ever long it takes if only she will stay with us in Matavai.
The Rattler had completed loading on the first day but had stayed in Samoa for two days for Isabelle's sake.
David asked Isabelle if she wanted to stay with her brother instead of reboarding the Rattler.
"I think it's better to go with you if you don't mind. It'll have a better chance if I spend time the same as before," she hesitated to continue for a second, "-and I really don't want to say this, but I should face the fact that there is a possibility that I'll never…never remember who I really am."
She inhaled the sea air deeply that had often cheered her up in past and fought the loss that suddenly flew up.
"So I should try and see what I can do here. William said he kept the money from accounting of my horses five years ago. I need to consider if I can handle things like before, like all of you say I did," she completed. Her lips were straight and tight with determination.
David exhaled a breath that he had involuntary stopped until he had heard her answer.
He had known there was always a possibility that she would leave the South Seas with the Cougar. But her actual answer held a big possibility that she would stay even if she wouldn't be able to shake her amnesia at last.
From the beginning of this voyage he had also noticed that she was already starting to work like she had on the Rattler before.
"If Mo and you don't mind I want to check our…your cargo like I had done before."
"I'm sure Mo will agree with it that you are going to check 'our' cargo, Isabelle. We are still business partners unless you want to quit," he assured earnestly.
"Thank you, David. I really hope I'll be able to remember everything even bad things of my life."
David remembered how she had tossed in her bunk. When she had had a nap on the deck of the Rattler, she had cried out and abruptly awoken by her nightmare the first day of this voyages.
Since then David had often checked her bunk worrying if she had had a nightmare. Mauriri worried over her loss of sleep; she had sometimes appeared with dark circles under her large eyes- had started to make some herbal tea for her every her turn to rest.
She had said once to David that he and she were the same.
But he knew now that was wrong. They weren't the same.
He had been running away from his past.
Isabelle never ran away or withdrew.
She had always faced them. She had been always a fighter and a survivor. Even now, under these circumstances she continued to go on.
No, we aren't the same, Isabelle.
Isabelle stared towards Samoa recalling her brother's face as she had kissed him good-bye.
She had to remember her past not only for her sake. It wasn't difficult to imagine how much herself had loved those people and the South Seas.
She sighed in hundred times.
William Reed stood for long time at the port after the Rattler had left Samoa.
He had told his Isabelle that she had enough money by selling her horses to start over at the South Seas.
However he wasn't sure his beloved sister wanted to do start all over again.
He wished she would settle at the South Seas, near him. But he knew it was his selfishness.
'But such a loss if she won't be back-,' he thought about the way David Grief looked at her.
He touched his cheek where his sister had kissed him goodbye.
Mauriri wondered when Isabelle remembered everything, she would insist to go with him and somehow gain the upper hand against those native chiefs; the woman was born to be a negotiator.
He missed so much her spirit and the smirk on her lovely face when she had gotten what she wanted.
He shook his head before heading to a negotiation with a chief of a tribe.
The crew had gone to lunch. Mauriri had gone to a negotiation.
David remained with Isabelle as the watch onboard since he couldn't understand any words the chief spoke.
So they were alone on the Rattler surrounded by the South Seas.
Isabelle felt contentment and peace.
I'm familiar with this feeling, aren't I? Why? What's this feeling?
David looked back over his shoulder.
"I can say that Mo's missing you at the negotiation right now, despite he had always tried to stop you coming with him when we had to negotiate with islanders." He laughed.
His laughter made her heart warm.
His boyish grin and the twinkle in his mischievous eyes made her heart skip a beat.
Then the dream flashed through Isabelle's brain.
It was like heavy doors were opening suddenly to reveal colorful sights behind them.
His laughter had always made her feel warm.
The twinkle in his eyes had always made her heart skip a beat.
It's him! It's him! It's him! Her mind was screaming.
She had always loved this man. She still loved this man, Captain David Grief.
Memories crashed into her like huge waves; a cold winter in Europe, other orphan's faces, looking for food in gavages in snow, French men, gems, Marcel, -David kissing her below deck, a dark prison, whipping, -sunshine, the vivid colors of Matavai's flowers, David arguing with her, Dante's nuzzling, racing with her tall red haired brother, chatting with Clare, the Rattler, Mo teasing her, David's laughter 'This is for a job well done', and the huge storm… she was collapsing on the deck.
David caught her before she hit the wooden deck.
"David," she muttered. It was almost a sigh.
"Are you alright? What's happened?"
He was pale and his heartbeat was racing. Isabelle sat up slowly on the deck, feeling his strong arms around her.
She involuntary searched for the pendant on her chest over her shirt with her shaking fingers.
David couldn't make his arms let go and just loosened his grip on her small waist.
"Isabelle?" His voice was hoarse.
"Yes! I'm Isabelle. Oh, David!"
She hugged him abruptly to his surprise and encircled his torso tightly with her arms.
He felt something wet on his neck.
So she was crying now. His arms tightened again, and he gently touched her forehead with his cheek.
He didn't know what was going on right now but just held her shaking body until she was calm again.
He felt her heart beat on his chest. One hand caressed her soft, curly hair as his other arm still wrapped her firmly.
They didn't know how long they stayed like this.
She didn't want to move out from the safety and warmth of his embrace.
She slowly parted her body from his but still stayed in his arms and looked up at his worried, pale face.
"What?" David didn't understand what she meant.
"I remembered, David. I remembered who you are. I remembered Matavai. And who I am. I remembered my past, and …oh, god! The storm…"
She hugged him again.
David hugged her back tightly.
"You remembered? You remembered! Oh, thank God! You remembered!"
Exited, David jumped up and spun her around on the deck.
"She remembered!" he exclaimed to the sea with joy.
Isabelle felt that she had finally become whole again and was very content.
"How are you feeling now?"
She smiled at David with that dazzling smile, the smile he had dreamed of many times in those long years.
"I feel okay, now. You can stop worrying about me, now," she chuckled.
"Then why don't we go to go Mo and the others and tell them? Let's go!" David took her arm.
"But the watch…" her logical protest trailed off as they both saw the longboat had almost reached the Rattler already.
"Mo!" David shouted from the deck unable to wait, "She remembered!"
Everyone heard it. A loud cheer rose from the longboat.
As soon as he had come onboard, Mauriri ran towards her and gave her a bear hug.
"Finally! Welcome back, Isabelle!"
Tah-Mey stared at her. "I knew you would come back. You are the strongest person and nothing can defeat you." His eyes were sincere and filled with joy and awe.
"Thank you, Tah-Mey." Isabelle gently smiled at the native seaman.
David and Mauriri wondered at Tah-Mey's loyalty and admiration for her, as they always had before.
They had no idea why she was so special for Tah-Mey.
Isabelle dreamed many dreams of Matavai and a good part of her past during the night.
She woke up for watch at midnight and remembered her dreams. She thought about Dante.
She wanted to take Dante with her on the Rattler, but she knew it wasn't a good idea yet. She didn't know yet what she would do after all of this.
Until making sure her ability, Dante wouldn't be able to come with her.
She had whispered to him that she would come back to take him as soon as possible.
We'll meet again soon, Dante, my beautiful.
The Rattler stopped in Tongatapu and loaded their cargo for Matavai.
There was only one other cargo boat in Tongatapu bay. The boat was infamous. Some of crewmembers were troublemakers especially about women.
David and Mauriri warned Isabelle when they saw the boat in the bay.
They knew that she could handle those things well. She always had been able to take care of herself.
But one particular crew member of that boat bothered David and Mauriri.
He was huge and strong like some mythic creature, and there were many stories about him around the South Seas. David and Mauriri were sure there were some people who wished him dead.
The landing and loading of the cargo had gone very smoothly, so they gained about one and a half days in their schedule.
They would be able to depart early the next morning. There were some time to wander around before the sun set.
The crewmembers headed for a bar leaving Sparrow on watch.
Isabelle, David and Mauriri headed for a very small market place, just to look around.
It was Mauriri who heard the muffled cry in a bush on the way to the market place.
And after a second all of them heard some men's laugher and a woman's cry for help.
They went quietly but quickly towards the noises. They suspected what they might find there.
David and Mauriri confirmed immediately that the huge notorious one wasn't included among the four seamen who were attacking a native girl.
In truth, if the monster were there, they would never let Isabelle get involved and make her leave there at all costs.
They weren't sure if even the both of them together would be able to defeat the monster. And if they lost, beautiful Isabelle's fate was what they didn't want to even imagine.
Fortunately the monster wasn't there.
Even as they jumped they saw that Isabelle had already attacked one of the rapists from behind with a fallen branch.
She pretended to be unconscious as the second huge man pressed his body on her and roughly touched her breasts with his large hands. Three men who had been pinning her on the ground released her arms and legs as she had stopped resisting.
Despite these circumstances, she knew that she would fight until her last breath.
Survival had always been her fate since the very beginning of her life.
She waited until all four men seemed not to care about her escape.
The second man's breath was on her bare breast now. She fought against her feeling of disgust and stayed still. Her eyes checked her situation under her thick lashes and her keen sense desperately looked for a chance.
The four men were completely unaware of her knife laying on the ground near her left side, which had been knocked from her hand as she had been fighting nearly an hour ago.
Suddenly, Isabelle kicked and shoved off the man on her with her knee and both hands and quickly rolled towards to her knife before they could react.
She grabbed the knife from the ground and stabbed the nearest man's thigh. She thrust at another man's abdomen next.
Now two men were screaming for agony.
She kicked hard the man on the ground who was pressing his bleeding abdomen with both hands.
Her huge eyes blazed with cold green fire.
Four men included two very large strong men were big problem to her. After removing the two, the rest was nothing for her: besides she was the only one who had a knife now.
She knew they wouldn't prosecute her because if they did so, they would have to tell what they had been trying to do in the first place. Anyway, they were going to quit crewing, so she would never see them in any ports again.
She smiled predatorily.
The dark memory was floating up in her mind while she was beating the man.
She had thrown away the branch at some point and had started beating him with her own fists.
She couldn't stop beating and kicking the man who was crumbled to the ground half unconscious.
David and Mauriri who had been fighting the rest of them saw what she was doing.
"Isabelle! You've done enough! Isabelle!" David caught her bruised fists and hugged her. Isabelle's behavior scared him.
David and Mauriri so hated the men, they would kill all of them if they didn't restrain themselves. And Isabelle had been able to control herself like them always when she had involved with any bad. At least, when they had been together.
But now she couldn't help but attack the miserable man in front of them.
"Isabelle, look at me! Look at me!" David continued hugging her and tried to make her face him and calm down.
She stopped abruptly. Her huge eyes stared into his for a while. "-I, I'm alright."
Mauriri looked at the girl with worry. He wanted to kill those bastards for her sake.
The girl was so frightened and he thought it would be better to let Isabelle take care of her, but he wasn't sure Isabelle herself was all right.
"Are you okay, Isabelle?" he called out to her and his eyes met David's worrying look.
"Yeah, I'm fine." She looked up at David and said again more clearly, "I'm fine."
David let her go reluctantly.
She silently walked towards the girl and pulled off her shirt to cover the girl thinking the girl might not want to touch any men's shirts. David and Mauriri gathered the fruits and the vegetables that had been scattered into a big basket.
"Can you stand?" Isabelle touched the thin arm of the girl.
She didn't want to let anyone see the girl in this state, so they had to move as soon as possible.
The girl's eyes were blank. Isabelle couldn't get any response from her.
"You need to tell me where your house is. We need to move, now," she told her again gently but firmly, holding the girl's small dark face in her palms.
Isabelle's gray orbs caught the dark orbs. The girl blinked and pointed towards one direction.
Isabelle helped her to stand slowly and started to walk half carrying the girl. David and Mauriri walked after them a little distance behind.
For David, Isabelle who was clad her camisole looked fragile, despite the fact she had just defeated a seaman.
When they reached her house, nobody was there.
The girl told Isabelle in small, weak voice, "My parents are working in our farm now."
Isabelle didn't say anything and just looked at her.
"I, I don't want to tell…to my parents," the native girl said in a trembling voice.
Isabelle helped her to take care of her bruises while David and Mauriri waited outside the house.
"Do you want me to stay with you for a while?"
"-Thank you. -If my parents see you they would ask something. …I won't be able to pretend well, I think. You have to go. …I'll tell my parents that I'm just feeling bad since I fell down badly on the way back. -Thank you…Miss…"
Isabelle praised the girl's quick recovery in her mind.
She knew well that the girl would never been the same. She was going to live with her wound. She had to be strong.
Isabelle hesitated to leave her.
Then the girl proudly raised her small chin and said again "Thank you."
Isabelle went out the house and headed back to the Rattler without a ward, even when David handed his shirt to her.
She never looked at David's or Mauriri's face the entire way.
They were seeking the girl because Isabelle demanded to see her before they left the island. Since they hadn't reported it anywhere, none of villagers seemed to know about the incident.
Truth be told, she wanted to see the girl alone but there was not enough time to find her by herself. Their departure time was coming soon. And the boat that the bastards crewed seemed to have depart ed already.
"I'll kill them next time," Mauriri cursed.
"I won't stop you," David replied.
They knew this wasn't the first time that boat had brought horrible trouble to the islands.
In fact, they had seen the trouble, which the crew had caused in Matavai a few years ago.
Just was Mauriri who found the girl.
Now Isabelle could see the girl stranding by herself on the shore.
They walked towards her. However, David and Mauriri hesitated a few feet away from her.
Isabelle walked to her alone. The two men remained where they were. But they could catch Isabelle's low voice in the cool, silent morning air and amid the sound of the calm waves.
"I know," Isabelle began, "-you're feeling dirty and like you will never be clean again. …You're feeling like you don't know how to continue living." Isabelle's low voice got the attention of the girl.
She faced Isabelle very slowly.
"I don't know why we have to continue to live. But I feel we have to keep living and trying until the end of our time," she murmured.
David suddenly realized she was talking to herself as well as the girl.
The girl seemed to sense it, too.
She looked deep into Isabelle's transparent gray eyes and recognized the slightly glisten of tears forming.
The girl abruptly collapsed in Isabelle's arms and finally could cry. She hadn't found a place to cry during the long hours since the horrible incident.
Isabelle kept hugging her small body, holding back her own tears while the two big, strong men couldn't help but just stand there.
David suspected and was afraid that Isabelle might have had the same experience of the girl or worse, not only once in her past. It shocked him and cut his heart.
However it seemed nothing to be surprised about if he considered her childhood and background.
And she was such a beauty.
It wasn't difficult to imagine that she had been a beautiful girl. And she hadn't had anyone to help her since a very young age.
She might have had horrible experiences because of her looks but then again she had survived using the looks in the past.
He looked at Mauriri and found sadness in his friend's deep dark eyes.
They looked each other and were sure that they had figured out another part of Isabelle's past that she might not want them know.
But …, David thought again, she wasn't afraid of revealing her past to us if it's for the girl's sake.
Besides she had never hidden that there had been times she survived using her body… but that was another story. She had chosen that way by her own decision to survive back then. It was completely different from being abused.
She had said the things for that girl even though it would let Mauriri and him to know about one of her dark past.
She is much stronger we can imagine. How can she stand so strong alone?
His heart sank for cruel world around Isabelle and admired her unbelievable strength at the same time.
Then an idea suddenly struck him.
The idea –the hidden reason for Tah-Mey's respect.
He couldn't point out when it had begun.
Tah-Mey's unusual respect for Isabelle hadn't been obvious at first. Back then, for David, his own hell that had been created by himself with Jenny Duval had made him too preoccupied to see it.
He had been oblivious about anything that had happened around that time.
He tried to remember if something odd had happened during an earlier voyage with Isabelle and without Mo.
Oh, odd things had happened around her quite often.
She had succeeded in getting that big contract with one major company, which Mauriri and David once had failed in procuring.
She had gotten the attention of a French officer while she had been working in men's cloth with dirt and sweat as a crewmember of the Rattler in a port. And the officer had proposed to her so quickly, so that David hadn't known what had happened until she had told it to him a day after.
He could remember many odd things about Isabelle. …She had injured herself once when they had stayed one night in Sydney. David found it when it in the logbook. That had been the third voyage after Isabelle had become his partner.
Only Tah-Mey had been onboard at that time.
He had reported to David, who had come back from porker games late in the night that Isabelle had fallen from the top of a ladder so she wouldn't be able to work next the day.
David immediately had gone to her cabin to see how badly she had injured herself. But Isabelle had said she just had some bruises and was tired, she would be okay if he would leave her alone, and she had shooed him away.
David remembered. He hadn't been able to see her face well in the dark cabin then. But he had just believed what she had said.
Of course, he had wanted to confirm. But her irritated tone had shooed him away.
And he had been tired of all of things. He had been tired – of existing, - of living.
So he had left her alone feeling there was nothing he could do for anyone.
An old rumor popped into his head.
That some French seamen had been badly injured or had nearly died while attempting to rape a woman.
That someone had defeated them as he had rescued the woman. But nobody had known who he had been or the woman had been.
And there had been another story about it -that the woman who had been raped had fought back and defeated four seamen by herself.
This story had sounded some exaggerated like many stories they often heard around any ports.
He had heard different variations of that rumor a few times in long time ago in Sydney.
…they had had a voyage to Sydney.
Now he was afraid if that rumor was true and the time Isabelle had gotten hurt was then … he hadn't noticed for nearly five years! If that was so, he had already let her down a long time ago!
"What can you remember about the day Isabelle fell from the top of the ladder?" David's eyes didn't leave Tah-Mey's.
They were alone at the stern.
Tah-Mey's expression was unreadable.
"I haven't forgotten about that day, Captain."
"Was it true -she fall from the ladder?" David pressed.
"What do you mean?"
"Didn't something happen to her? Are you sure she was hurt falling?"
"I'm sure, Captain." Tah-Mey stared back his eyes.
"She fell from the top of the ladder. But she was all right. She was … is the strongest person." His voice was quiet but firm.
"David! You're going to go to the helm! Mo hasn't had lunch yet!"
Both of them were jumped by Isabelle's voice from distance.
She looked at them puzzled.
David had completely forgotten to relieve Mauriri until Isabelle said.
It's very odd. Isabelle frowned.
"I'm coming right now." David immediately went away from Tah-Mey and Isabelle.
Was he embarrassed about what he had heard this morning? Isabelle wondered a little sadly.
When she shrugged her shoulders and looked at Tah-Mey, the islander was already gone.
Mauriri was thinking about the question Isabelle had been asking before she regained her memory. It had bothered him since she had badly beaten the rapist in Tongatapu.
"Did we run cargo to Sydney often? Had anything particular ever happened then?"
"We didn't have many long voyages. And we had only a few voyages to Sydney while you were with us. Twice I think. And particular things always would happen when you came with us anywhere." He had laughed.
But his mischievous grin had faded soon as he had seen her slight frown.
"Tell me about the particular things, Mo." She had pretended to continue her casual banter. He was sure that it hadn't been so casual.
Mauriri had wanted to ask her what was wrong but he had kept his concern to himself. It had been very clear if he would have pressed, Isabelle would have withdrawn.
He had told her about a big contract she had gotten in Sydney without any connection. But about the first voyage to Sydney, he had had no idea because it had been before his return to the partnership with David.
'What did she want to know? Why Sydney?'
He hadn't decided yet if he should talk about this issue with David.
If anything had happened to Isabelle in Sydney during Mauriri's absence, David surely didn't want to remember it now and if he did remember, he would certainly be ashamed about it again.
But if something had happened to her, David would have never forgotten and would blame himself for it, Mauriri reconsidered.
So this was something David didn't know. And it had happened in Sydney.
Mauriri feared that Isabelle's horrible experience had been like the girl's in Tonga.
Isabelle remembered last time she had been abused.
When she had reboarded the Rattler, the crew and David hadn't been back yet.
She had hoped that the crewmember on watch wouldn't see her state before she hide in her cabin.
Unfortunately, Tah-Mey's keen eyes had seen her coming back immediately.
They had looked at each other.
Had that been only two or three hours? -Since she had gone out the Rattler to join their captain.
His dark eyes had quickly confirmed she wasn't badly injured or bleeding except that her clothes had been torn.
He had been startled by dark marks of blood on her torn blouse.
"They aren't mine," she had said plainly.
It had felt like hours for both of them until he had asked what he could do for her.
Isabelle's answer had just been that she was all right.
"I'm going to go with you if you want to go pay someone back," he had said low, firm and concerned voice as he had noticed the almost violently gleam in her eyes.
"I've already done so- that's okay now," she had said quietly and had withdrawn to her cabin.
The rumor had spread surprising speed as usual. Tar-Mey had already heard it before they had left the Sydney port, and had come to know what Isabelle had done.
Isabelle had wondered if he had pitied her but it had seemed to be another feeling.
His behavior had been so strange, so unfamiliar for her. It had been like a kind of respect, the kind you show to some elder islanders.
She had never figured out what had been going on in his mind.
She had never known that Tah-Mey hadn't seen Isabelle as just a smart, tough woman. Or the woman, who had saved his captain and the boat from the debt.
For Tah-Mey, she had been like a noble wild animal; beautiful, strong, and a natural survivor.
He had respected some seamen including Mauriri and had felt awe for only one man in his life until Isabelle. Now he had felt those feelings for a woman for the first time in his life.
And before Isabelle had been able to figure it out, the storm had made her leave the Rattler and had taken away her memories.
Next day, they arrived in Matavai with the good news.
Clare who hadn't known the news that Isabelle had regained waited the unconfirmed arrival of the Rattler playing with her two children on the beach like yesterday and the day before yesterday.
Isabelle jumped off the longboat running towards her and calling out her name.
Clare abruptly figured what was going on right now.
She cried openly in front of her children.
Isabelle hugged her old best friend.
Two women were laughing and weeping at the same time in each other's arms.
It was a usual evening in Matavai for many people.
It wasn't a usual evening for some people who knew and cared Isabelle Reed.
The people and Isabelle were cheerful and happy in Lavinia's throughout the night.
David watched her happily and wondered what exactly made her remember at that time.
He noted to ask her when they had their time alone.
Isabelle went out from Lavinia's guest room where she was going to stay for a while again.
There were remainders of the party, three glasses which Lavinia and her girls missed to remove on the porch.
She washed the glasses quietly. It was still very early morning. It was so quiet.
She wanted to feel the sand of Matavai beach under her bare feet.
Isabelle stood on the beach alone.
Some large stars stayed slightly yet in blue gray sky of between dawn and midnight.
She just kept standing there and looking the sea that she loved so much until the stars disappeared.
I remembered. I remembered finally.
She stared the Rattler.
She was floating in the morning glow so beautifully.
"I'm back." She called out to her.
They saw a young woman going to the upstairs of Lavinia's when they returned from a one-day trip and came there for their treat.
"Who's that lady?" David asked Lavinia soon.
"She is Miss Tyler came from England with her chaperon to see her brothers this morning. They are going to settle in Matavai, I mean only the brothers."
"And where are they?" Mauriri asked.
"They are on business trip and on the way to back from New Zealand now. The ship will come to Matavai this weekend. I'm going to rent rooms until their house complete." As soon as Lavinia's explain finished, the woman who was told in their conversation appeared again.
New settlers… David frowned very slightly and his eyes followed a petite young woman.
Isabelle felt abandoned as David seemed intrigued the new woman.
He had involved women in front of her before. But this was the first that she felt this way so strong.
When do I became so naïve? Or am I weaker than before?
She was a young, small woman with gorgeous blonde hair.
"Oh, Miss Tyler. I introduce you to Captain Grief and his partners, Miss Reed and Mr. Lepau."
"Hello." Miss Tyler smiled coyly at them.
David returned a smile to her. And all three of them saw what they had sometimes seen in their past.
A young woman was charmed suddenly by a smile of handsome Captain Grief.
'Not again!' Lavinia and Isabelle thought.
Mauriri rolled his eyes and asked Lavinia their beers. The three went to the bar counter leaving David and Miss Tyler.
"So, Miss Tyler, I heard you came to see your brothers."
"Yes. Unfortunately I arrived here before their return. But then, I shall have time to get to know people in Matavai, won't I, Captain Grief?"
"I'm sure, you shall." David flashed his second best smile at her.
"And what do your brothers plan in Matavai? Trading business?" Don't say the horse business, Miss, he added in his mind.
"My brothers are planning to plant some crops for the textile dyeing. I don't know well about any business, but their plan is new around here, I have heard."
"Yes, I'm not familiar with that kind of business around here. Must be new." Thank God, they won't threaten Isabelle's future business in any way. I really don't need any more reasons to make it difficult for her to settle here.
While lovely Miss Tyler asked something about Matavai and the handsome captain to himself, Isabelle and Mauriri finished their glasses.
Isabelle hadn't said many wards while they sipped from their glasses.
Lavinia and Mauriri noticed that she glanced once at Miss Tyler and David.
Then she abruptly voiced, "I'm going to go to my stables- I mean where my stables were.
I know there is nothing there anymore. But I feel like to remember more details when I'm in there..." Isabelle's voice faded as she noticed Lavinia's worried pretty dark face.
"Lavinia, I'm fine, really. But I don't think I could get all of my memories including details yet. I want to remember completely. It's nothing to worry. So- see you later." Isabelle was about standing.
"How about a company, Isabelle?"
Isabelle's expressionless face since Miss Tyler had been with David turned to bright with her famous dazzling smile.
"Thank you, Mo. I'm feeling like to need a company."
Lavinia remembered that Clare once had described the big smile -like a rose blossomed- sending off the two from the porch.
She had never seen any English rose actually, but since then rose and Isabelle connected in her.
True, people in European society in Matavai would laugh if someone described Isabelle as a common elegant English flower. That reckless, wild woman in men's work, that she was.
-But Isabelle had the smallest waist in Matavai; Lavinia knew it was something important for European women, and that smile, not mention that beautiful face. Even though she hadn't worn pretty dress once since she had been back to Matavai. And above all, Lavinia could recognize a glimpse of her gentleness.
'Funny. She really caught me.' Lavinia smiled briefly.
She heard David was calling out.
Lavinia backed to her counter table where she usually was.
"Where are those two? While I had a little talk, they disappeared." David puzzled.
It's the only answer he could get from the slender tavern owner.
Isabelle rowed the dinghy to the Rattler.
At last both Lavinia and I couldn't catch David. No, It's not true, it's only me. I've never been able to catch David. Lavinia had his heart once.
She wouldn't be surprised if she found David getting married with Lavinia after those five years. Of course, she would have gotten huge disappointment but it would have been expectable at least.
All Matavai had known how good they had been. –until-until what? Until I came? Oh, no. It's not true. Don't flatter yourself.
There had been a time if she had played a big role for their break up. But even after their break up, David hadn't fallen in her. Instead he had involved other women – and Jenny Duval.
Now she could believe she was not his type.
But why not Lavinia? she thought.
She didn't have feeling for him anymore? Is she dating with someone now? '
Isabelle found her not know any gossips in Matavai now.
Matavai wasn't a large village. People usually knew who he or she was and what he or she did, etc.
She didn't know people's relationships now. She didn't know new settlers.
It made her a bit feeling be a stranger.
She noted to ask Clare let her read old Matavai Messengers since five years ago to now.
Isabelle knew Clare stored all series. –Clare.
She had told Isabelle that she had wanted Isabelle to be bride maid at her wedding. Isabelle had known Clare had said truth and she had been regretted that she hadn't been able to attend her best friend's wedding. However Clare had named her first child, Isabelle-Anne, from her name. It had eased Isabelle's heart.
As the Rattler came in reach, her thought returned to David.
Despite her thought that he had never had feeling for her back then, she couldn't help but remember his face when he had given the pendant.
Her hand involuntary touched the pendant over her blue men's like shirt.
He said it's just for good job. It's not anything other than that…
How many women has he involved for these five years? Has there been anyone whom I know in those women? Isabelle wondered.
At least she knew who was going to involved currently.
Miss Tyler who had come with her chaperon to Matavai to see her brothers was so interested in David.
She had heard Mauriri tell Lavinia as he had thought Isabelle hadn't heard since she had talked with old patrons in Lavinia's.
He had asked Lavinia if she had thought that Miss Tyler looked like Miss Grey whom David had involved with after their break up. For Mauriri, Miss Tyler looked the mini version of Miss Grey with blonde hair.
Lavinia had agreed with a snort. And had added Miss Tyler had looked alike that archeologist but much younger, and she hadn't been independent in any meanings.
Then they had changed conversation smoothly when Isabelle had joined them.
Yeah, Miss Tyler is very young, much younger than me. May be she looks fragile and very helpless for David. And David always loved to help a helpless woman, didn't he?
The Rattler went out to the sea with sunrise. The wind was very good therefore they could earn much time in this voyage.
Isabelle remembered more details everyday as she did something usual things that she had used to do before, like checking account of the Rattler or arguing with David about small things.
David felt content about it even during he was arguing with her.
She seemed to remember much more her past including many details.
The thing that David Grief bothered most now was her decision for her future.
He wished she would stay and almost believed she would. But could he be sure of it?
He knew how she was on the Cougar.
A thought that he had tried to not think came to surface suddenly.
How could she choose life of Matavai that she had spent less than two years, even though her only brother lived near island?
Besides her all horses weren't there and she didn't have her stables there anymore.
It looked nothing to make Isabelle to stay other than friendship.
Clare was her best friend. But she had had her own family long time ago. There was a possibility Isabelle thought that Clare might not need Isabelle's presence close in Matavai.
And she had spent long five years on the Cougar, all crewmembers loved her, she loved them in return.
Haven't she talked with him often for these days? Is that mean she hesitates to choose life of Matavai?
A huge cold fear grabbed him.
Now he could find reasons of her leaving Matavai endless.
God! Please don't let me lose her again!
One certain thing was that he wouldn't know how to bear that pain again.
Nobody asked her about her decision.
Nobody told each other about the issue around Isabelle.
But she felt people's worry again and how much they cared and how much she missed them. She had her beloved horse that needed her care.
The other hand leaving the Cougar was unbearably hard for her.
However her decision was quick despite of her heavy heart.
It's irony, isn't it? she murmured in her mind.
When she had wanted to get trust from people even from her friends, she had had to struggle in her life of Matavai five years ago.
But now when she had her family named the Cougars, she could found how people really felt for her in Matavai.
On the Cougar as she had been a woman who hadn't had shabby past, it hadn't been difficult to gain Will's and his crew's friendship from very beginning.
Even now their friendship with her hadn't swayed after they could have known rumors about her while they had docked and stayed Papeete after the appearance who she was.
Yes, she loved all of them, but…she loved David. She loved the man who would never love her in return.
"Oh, hell!" She slapped the rail of the deck.
Sparrow looked towards her quizzically.
"Nothing," she said aloud to him and shrugged her shoulders.
Sparrow left to the watch.
She loved both the Cougar and the Rattler and the both crew, but she loved David Grief more than anything. She would never get over him.
Isabelle looked far away beyond the South Seas.
She knew now where she belonged.
David Grief would never love her but she would have to live with it and she belonged to this sea.
She was a woman of the South Seas.
She had thought if David had had some feeling for her until her amnesia had gone.
She remembered her life of Matavai.
She remembered her betrayal to David, his betrayal to her, his rejections despite he had been intrigued her at the beginning.
She remembered that after those months she had decided she had been wrong what she had said to him long time ago, 'We make sense.'
She had found him would never been interested in her as a woman even after break up with Lavinia.
He had found another women instead.
He had involved many women in front of her.
And he always couldn't resist to involve with a damsel in distress.
So that's it.
She had been his damsel in distress for these few months.
That's the only reason he had so cared about her.
She hadn't known who she was. She hadn't been able to recognize her only brother and the closest
friend. She hadn't been able to remember own past.
Now she knew that she was wrong. He hadn't had any feeling for her.
David Grief would never have any interest in Isabelle Reed as a woman after she got to stand on her own feet.
He was going to less interest again now, as he knew she got back herself. She was sure of it.
…But may be I should think it's still lucky that he care and trust me as a friend and a business partner despite my so long absent.'
Only the reason she hadn't told her decision to anyone was she wanted to tell it to David the first.
She had tried to tell him a few times but every time there had been an intruder named Miss Tyler.
She remembered bitterly about those two days that she hadn't gotten a chance to be with David alone before they had gone out this short voyage again.
David's voice pulled her back abruptly to the reality.
She didn't know how long she had been standing there alone.
Isabelle looked up his face.
She had been sought the time to be with him alone and told him her decision until this voyage.
"David-" she hesitated.
Her urge to tell David the first had already faded.
David looked her back in worry but just let her know that they were going to arrive at the port within half an hour.
One European called her name aloud from distance at the port.
He ran towards her.
"Miss Reed! I can't believe my eyes! I thought you…" excited man's words faded out.
"You thought I died," Isabelle completed his phrase for him searching information about the man in her memories.
"Honestly it's hard to believe you could survive that storm, Miss Reed. But of course, I'm glad to see you again."
"Thank you Mr.Smith. I introduce you my partner, Captain Grief and Mr.Lepau of the Rattler."
"It's pleasure to meet you two. I've ever seen your boat a few times. I was an old fellow trader of Miss. Reed." The man introduced himself without waiting Isabelle's and shook hands with the two men.
Isabelle didn't miss he said 'I was-'.
"We were good competitors."
Isabelle got him mean that she was no longer his competitor or a businesswoman.
David and Mauriri had same impression this time and frowned.
Isabelle couldn't decide how she ought to behave. She wasn't sure that she would be able to handle the business still now, and she didn't have her stables now in fact.
She bit her lip.
However Isabelle Reed had never been one who had been withdrawn. And even now.
"We were? I think I'm still capable at the business," she said looking back straight into the man's sharp eyes.
"Oh, I didn't mean it," he said hastily. "I'm the one who wasn't capable at the business here anymore."
"What do you mean? I don't believe you to quit your business. Are you saying-"
"Yes. I quitted. I gave up."
David and Mauriri just stared at the two talking in fast pitch.
Isabelle looked really surprised.
"I'm quitted. There's a time I was so good in the business, but -at last I couldn't success at the South Seas. May be you don't believe I say this, but I admire you honestly, Miss Reed. You're a good horsewoman. I admit you are better than me at this business at least in the South Seas."
He took Isabelle's hand for shake hand.
"I'm going to left here and go back to England."
"I'm sorry, Mr.Smith. I wish you'll get your luck in England."
She said it sincere. She meant it. And the former competitor knew it.
It was strange. They had been in same competitions so many times and always had hoped to surpass the other.
"Oh, by the way, I'm going to leave here therefore you could take some things that I need no longer if you like. You know we can't get what we need often around here.
I think you would like my books and some goods for stables, wouldn't you?
I want to present you for our last time."
David and Mauriri had to bring the burden for Isabelle to the Rattler.
She got a large set of china that Mr. Smith had brought from England long time ago but never had had a chance to use such a large set in his life here.
She imagined how wide Clare's gentle eyes would become when she figured what Isabelle brought for her.
Well, David and Mo bring them actually, she smirked glancing two tall men in corner of her eyes.
Clare had asked Isabelle to stay at her home after this voyage until Jack came back from his voyage.
She knew it was just a convenient reason to invite her for avoiding that if it would harm Lavinia's feeling.
Both Lavinia and Isabelle had known it but they hadn't told about it each other.
Isabelle was surprised about the fact that Lavinia and she sometimes thought things on same way despite they seemed so different individuals.
A pretty lamp was for Lavinia. She could imagine herself that she would little embarrassed when she would hand it to Lavinia. May be she would just leave it on a table in Lavinia's living room with a plain note.
Also she took some English and French books, and many small things for stable for herself.
David thought if she already had decided to stay in Matavai because she thought she would need those things that were for stable.
His tension for those days eased a little suddenly. He felt that he could bring much more baggage.
Mauriri smiled at his friend with sympathy and two men glanced at Isabelle who was hugging her treasures in her arms happily.
On the return trip, everyone was in good mood.
For Isabelle she could get many presents and not only it, she had gotten a compliment from her former competitor that was really something for her.
For David he could hold hope that Isabelle would stay in Matavai and stay as their partner.
For Mauriri he had same view with David and it made him glad but not only that. His worry that David would lose Isabelle again was almost vanished.
For the crew they were happy because all three looked in very good mood and wind was good. They seemed reach to Matavai much earlier than their first plan.
Their longboat reached shore. It was still early noon.
Isabelle sighed as she tried to move her huge bag and looked at David and Mauriri pleadingly.
"It's leave to you, David." Mauriri eyed at David with a knowing smile and walked away to his home waiting delicious lunch his beloved wife cooked for him.
"Now, you know, Isabelle, you should be nice to me because I'm going to bring your treasures for you." He smirked.
"I know you expect a lunch for it." She smirked at him back.
She looked absolutely same woman he had been so familiar with in a flash moment.
But her cheeky grin was gone as they heard Miss Tyler called David from distance.
She reached at them soon despite David's wish.
Miss Tyler dressed pale yellow blouse with white lace and same color skirt neatly and her hat with white ribbon well suited her bright blonde hair. Her blue eyes looked up David, coyly. However they weren't appareling to him a bit.
He silently wished Miss Tyler wouldn't say anything to disturb their time and would go away soon. But his wish failed again.
"Hello, Captain Grief, -Miss Reed. I'm afraid if I'm interrupting anything," she said looking at only David.
"You aren't, Miss Tyler, "he greeted her kindly.
Isabelle glanced at him and lovely Miss Tyler.
She felt familiar pang through her body and looked at her toes.
She wanted to laugh about that she felt this so familiar, Yeah, I'm certainly starting to remember details of my Matavai life.
"Captain Grief, I'm in trouble to bring my things from there to Lavinia's. Am I rude if I ask you a little help?" She threw her brilliant smile at him.
"Then, see you later, David." Isabelle walked away with her heavy bag before David could response.
"How's your voyage, Captain Grief?" Miss Tyler led David towards the barge.
He looked back over his shoulder on the way to the barge just when Isabelle resettled her heavy burden to her other shoulder on the way.
"Isabelle! Wait there!" David raised his voice. But she didn't stop or look back.
He took Miss Tyler's little baggage easily from the barge and wondered how this nice day ruined like this.
Mauriri surprised to find David in Lavinia's after his lunch with his family.
"David! What are you doing in such a place?"
Lavinia arched her eyebrow at Mauriri.
"No offence. I'm not talking about your nice bar."
She shrugged her slender bare shoulder and went away to new patrons with two beers.
"I thought I gave you some chance to be with Isabelle alone! So what's happened?"
"I had an interrupter again."
"Miss Tyler?" Mauriri asked but it didn't sound like a question.
"How do you know?"
Mauriri shrugged his broad shoulders and muttered, "It's so obvious."
David gave a sour smile and sighed.
"Go on, David. What did happen then?"
David was still frowned but continued, "Miss Tyler asked me to bring her damn baggage to here. It's like a feather comparing to Isabelle's."
"Why didn't you get someone to do that and made Isabelle waiting for a while?"
"If I had a chance to do so. She left so quickly even before I could speak one word, Mo." David sighed.
"How could she bring such a damn burden by herself? I can't believe that she could walk with that bag even several feet."
"You know her, Mo. She did it. She'd never put down the damn bag on the ground while she was in our sight." David sighed again.
He could imagine that she got off the burden from her slender shoulder soon as she had gone out of their sight and put it on the other shoulder again and do same several times until her arrival at Clare's.
He just hoped if someone had found her and helped on the way.
Mauriri and David came back to Lavinia's again after early supper with Mauriri's beloved family.
Mauriri knew they were coming not because of card game in truth.
He knew David was waiting Isabelle.
They joined a table where seamen from Sydney were playing, chatted, and gossiped.
They continued the games for a while.
Then David and Mauriri stopped their hands as one man started to talk a rumor at Sydney port.
The rumor said some woman had been raped but defeated her attackers by herself.
Mauriri felt his blood was drained and he knew so did David without looking at him.
When Isabelle appeared at Lavinia's, she didn't look in bad mood.
She eyed her two partners at the card table and nodded towards them.
"I'm coming for getting some of my things."
Lavinia offered a cool beer to her, "After one drink," she smiled.
"Thanks. -Mmm, this is heaven."
David was staring her smooth throat arch from the card table.
The view, it had intrigued him very often.
She looked cheerful and beautiful. She never looked some victim.
Mauriri nudged him. "Why don't you offer her to take her things to Clare's, David?"
He was abruptly pulled back from his daydream.
"I will." He left from the table.
Isabelle glanced the bar and confirmed pretty Miss Tyler wasn't around.
May be her chaperon doesn't allow her to stay down stair's bar in the evening. Miss Tyler's an English proper lady, of course. She snorted lightly and left to the upstairs to collect her things and leave the lamp for Lavinia.
David was waiting for her when Isabelle came back to the downstairs with her bag.
"I'm going to escort you to Clare's," he announced.
"I can go back by myself, you know."
"Humor me." He took her bag from her hand.
David's actually trying to be kind with me. Isabelle was bit surprised but pleased.
She warned herself to not be pleased too much.
He just tried to make it up for her that he hadn't brought her bag for her in this afternoon.
He just tried to be kind 'as a friend'.
Lavinia and Mauriri send them off waving hand.
They were walked to Clare's.
David glanced at her profile if she wasn't angry for not helping her to bring heavy presents from Mr. Smith.
"Did you get luck today? I mean the card game." She sounded very casual.
"I just played for short time this evening, so I couldn't lose -a lot."
Truth in told, he had lost all games he had played in this short time because his heart hadn't been everywhere but at Isabelle.
He found that she had never looked at his face since they had left Lavinia's.
He abruptly stopped. She went a little ahead from him and stopped too, noticing his stop and looked at him over her shoulder.
"Look, Isabelle. I'm sorry for not bringing yours in this afternoon. But I really intended to do it if you were waiting for me a bit," he hastily added "I would've come for you soon after I found somebody to bring Miss Tyler's little baggage. You didn't need bring that damn bag by yourself."
Isabelle looked at his earnest face. She wondered about his intension.
"I'm not angry with you, David. Besides Tah-Mey helped me, so I didn't need bring it by myself after all."
David hesitated to grab this chance to ask what he had been bothering after the incident in Tonga. But finally he couldn't help but asked her.
" Tah-Mey. He awfully respects you. He almost awes you, Isabelle. He doesn't have many people for that."
"I don't surprise you wonder how I earned that respect of him-"
"I didn't mean you aren't worthy of it. You know, I know you are a marvelous person. But I mean it isn't usual of Tah-Mey, we both know." David interrupted her immideatly.
He was searching right words. He didn't want to let her feeling any wrong way or misunderstand.
In their past David had behaved wrong with her.
There had been wrong times that he hadn't been shown his appreciation for her help and had looked like if he had taken it for granted.
He hadn't taken Isabelle proper like he had been with other women.
What had happened after those wrong times? She had quitted to flirt with him.
He had been afraid if she hadn't been interested in him already back then. Even though he had been ready to forward for her. But the storm had taken all his hope that day.
David shivered by the memory.
He cared her and respected her. She had to know it.
But before he started again, Isabelle's voice came to his ears gently and hesitantly.
"I know you cared me, David. I didn't get you mean to insult me. In fact, I have no idea either."
"-Don't you know the reason?" His voice was quiet and sounded different.
She had never heard his voice like this. It wasn't right. She couldn't pin point what was wrong. But it wasn't right and good.
She could understand if Tah-Mey pitted her but he really seemed awing her in her view, either.
"I feel it, either and wonder always." She shifted her look towards to Clare's house from David.
She started to worry where this conversation was going to go. She didn't want to let David knew about the incident in Sydney. But her instinct told her it's too late.
No. I won't let David to feel some guilty about a thing in not his responsibility.
He started walking again with her bag wishing the bag were much heavier like the bag he hadn't brought for her this afternoon.
She followed him wondering what he would broach next.
"These men I played with in Lavinia's, their home port was Sydney."
"They told a rumor which I've heard long time ago."
She silently prepared to mask a trembling in her mind and waited his next words.
David stopped again and saw her face. She looked very calm and not uncomfortable.
He continued. "The rumor was about an incident attacking a woman in Sydney harbor. The rumor said four seamen had abused a woman but she had defeated back her attackers alone."
"I think I've heard it, either, before, somewhere. What on the earth you are telling me such a rumor now? I can't understand what you are thinking, really, David," Isabelle said adding irritate expression on purpose.
He stared straight into her eyes.
"Was that you?" David's face was paled and showed agony he felt.
Isabelle was in perfect control. She tried to keep her musk using her all strength.
"You're kidding! I don't think I could defend myself against four men, David. And I think the rumor is just rumor. I don't think any women can fend for herself from four seamen, even me. It's ridiculous," she quipped with a snort.
He couldn't read her face. She was too good at lies to fail pretending.
"Is this the reason you're coming with me? To ask me such a ridiculous thing, David?"
She sounded little angry. But she wasn't angry in fact. It was only way she could find to hide her pain and embarrassment.
"No. I'm coming because I wanted to walk with you, Isabelle."
His mind waved among feeling for her and worrying for her and agony by his suspect.
Isabelle stared into his eyes and said, "I know you– and other people really care about me. But- I want you to notice that I owe responsibility to my life. And it's ONLY ME. Nobody could owe somebody's instead, David. You worry me too much." She hesitated but added in a small voice "-but thank you."
David's heart wasn't released but he decided to not press it anymore.
He couldn't recognize she told truth or lie about the rumor of Sydney for his sake.
He just knew that she stood strong alone always and now even if she was with such incident in her past.
He knew he couldn't find the truth this time. So he just wanted to let her to know that he really cared her. And it was only thing he could do now.
I really care, Isabelle.
He gentry took her hand in his.
They walked slowly chatting to Clare's like nothing happened. David held her hand in large his all the way.
Isabelle wondered how much she could felt genuine happiness for just plain things like David holding her hand in his.
But she didn't know how much he felt happy for holding her hand in his, either.
Both two felt the rest of the way was so short when they arrived Clare's.
"Penny for your thoughts." Isabelle quietly approached the tall captain from behind.
They were onboard again for a short trip to Papeete.
To her surprise, he seemed neither surprised nor startled.
He had become so keenly aware of her presence nowadays. He could sense her almost anywhere, anytime.
"I wondered… What made you come backed to us? I mean I have no idea. You suddenly remembered who you are on the deck that day." His calm eyes quizzically looked at her.
His hair was rustled by the ocean wind. His tanned, handsome face was gentle.
Isabelle's heartbeat skipped a bit like always when she saw his handsomeness closely alone.
"It's a dream."
She stared into David's hazel eyes.
"I had had a same dream many times," she sifted her eyes towards shining water from David's face and continued, "in those five years, I had had nightmares but had some good dreams too. And my favorite one was-, I was so content with someone on the deck. We were listening to the sound of waves alone.
The man's laughter always made my heart warm.
-But I'd never been able to see the face of the man in my dream. –I'd never been able to call his name."
She became silent for seconds.
David kept looking at her delicate profile and waited for her to continue.
"That day, I felt something familiar, that contentment. The sound of waves and shining sun…and your laughter made me feel so."
His heartbeat was skipping and he was forgetting to breath.
"Then, I could see the face of the man finally. -It was you."
Her huge translucent eyes were shining with the reflection of the sunshine and her tears.
"And it happened," she finished.
David's heart filled with happiness and untamed love for her.
He couldn't speak.
He couldn't breathe.
"Say something, David." Her voice was weak and small.
Isabelle was embarrassed by her version of declaration of love for David.
She didn't do it on purpose and now she wanted to run away from the man, whom she loved, from the man who would never love her as a woman.
As she was about to flee from him, David grabbed her and his mouth covered hers.
The kiss was long, warm, heartfelt, and passionate.
The kiss stopped her all her thoughts. She just clung to him and felt his lips on hers.
It felt so delicious and delightful, even if it was only his compassion for her, Isabelle thought as they finally parted.
Tah-Mey was on the deck became a witness accidentally. When Isabelle found they had a witness, she quickly walked away, towards the helm leaving a smiling David.
Later, Mauriri recognized that David and Isabelle had some atmosphere that hadn't been there before. He could tell what that was.
His eyes met David's.
"I knew it would happen eventually, David." Mauriri slapped David's shoulder.
David didn't protest or pretend despite Mauriri's expectation.
"So- you know, Mo. You were right when you said there's some strange connection between Isabelle and I. I'm sure now what was it." -and Isabelle, too?
"I'm really happy for you two."
"Thank you, Mo."
They both eyed the woman whom they were talking about.
Isabelle was at the railing.
She was so lively. So beautiful.
"Yeah, I'm really happy about you two," Mauriri said again and thanked the God of the South Seas.
Two big surprises were waiting when they arrived at Papeete.
The Cougar anchored in Papeete bay.
And the infamous boat The Arrow was there, too.
David and Mauriri immediately recognized the faces they had defeated in Tongatapu as their longboat reached shore.
The seamen did, too.
David and Mauriri found the monster with them, this time.
One of the Arrow's crew mentioned something to the monster who appeared from behind the crowd.
Then he looked at a tall ragged captain and islander, and found a nice female by them.
His expressionless pale colored eyes stayed on her too long.
David moved in front of Isabelle and cut off his view.
Their eyes met.
David felt he would have to fight the monster one of these days.
Tah-Mey's keen sense didn't miss the tension and it made him nervous. Also he saw a gleam of hatred in Isabelle's impressive eyes.
'What is this all about? We won't be able to keep her on the Rattler out whole time in Papeete, even though the monster eyed her. And she won't like to hide from the mad monster. Of course, I know it,' he thought. He didn't doubt having to fight against the huge infamous seaman if necessary. Even if he would have to risk his own life.
He didn't know what caused this tension between his captain, Mauriri, Isabelle and some of the Allow's crew.
But for Tah-Mey, it was enough reason to fight; Miss Isabelle Reed had to defeat them if necessary.
Isabelle was happy to see the Cougar again.
Even the existence of the Arrow couldn't ruin her mood. She realized how much she had missed them all over.
However she knew that she would have to leave them. But for now, she just wanted to be happy for their reunion.
Will found Isabelle was different, not only getting her memory back but also having different atmosphere.
She looked more beautiful.
She looked content and in kind of deep calm like if she anchored in her harbor finally after long voyage.
He looked at Captain Grief.
He found what had happened as their eyes met.
'So she's going to leave us finally,' he thought.
Isabelle spent the night on the Cougar to tell her decision to Will and spend the last time in 'her' cabin on the Cougar.
Jack and some men often came to Lavinia's expecting the infamous crew's bad manner.
Some of the crew might come to even Matavai when it became long time anchored in Papeete.
A few years ago when the ship had stayed in Papeete for few weeks, three crewmembers of the Allow had come to Matavai and caused big trouble.
Also there were some troops around Lavinia's since yesterday.
It was the Lieutenant's order.
Lavinia eased a little because of that. She hoped she wouldn't lose too many glasses or have too much damage this time.
Lieutenant hadn't forgotten the crew of the Arrow's behavior when they had been in Matavai last time.
He decided if necessary if his troops would have to shoot one or two of the crew, especially that monster.
The next morning, Isabelle, Will and some of his crew headed to a big tavern where David and Mauriri with their crew had breakfast.
She immideatly sensed something wrong when they came in the tavern. It didn't take but seconds before she found the reason.
There were some crewmembers of the Arrow.
The mood in the tavern was tense.
It didn't take long time for the tension between the Rattler's and the Allow's to turn into a big fight despite David and Mauriri efforts at avoiding the Allow's crew members for Isabelle's sake.
From the beginning the captain of Allow obviously knew what was going on but didn't do anything or even try to keep own crew calm.
Since the Rattler's had some of the Cougar's by their side, the numbers were almost even. But the Rattler's entire crew, who had sailed in the South Seas for long time, knew there was one who could count as four or five men or more in the Arrow's.
When the fight started, the rest of customers who were still there despite a dangerous atmosphere in the room run out from the tavern.
Every member of the Arrow was used to fighting very much.
David knew whom he had to deal with while some crew of Arrow were attacking him.
David knocked out one sailor quickly and Will took on the rest of them.
The monster sent a powerful punch to David as his eyes caught him.
He dogged it and avoided the big blow in time.
David punched the monster in stomach hard. But he grabbed David and threw him away to the wall hard before he send next blow.
Mauriri kicked his abdomen and Tah-Mey charged also from behind the monster.
He punched Mauriri in the face and slammed his own back into the wall to crush Tah-Mey.
Before the three men tried to charge him again, he went into another fight with members of the Cougar.
Dotty quickly got rid off two of the Arrow's men and helped Sparrow who was in trouble against a young, powerfully built man.
David and Tah-Mey tried to keep their eyes on Isabelle as much as they could during the fight. But it was too difficult and Isabelle moved so agilely.
Either of them didn't see that Isabelle got one blow at her head by huge strong hand.
Nobody saw that a huge figure carried limp Isabelle like a rag doll on his shoulder and ran towards the entrance of the bar except Tah-Mey. He caught a glimpse and run up to tackle the monster. But two of Arrow's crewmembers blocked his progress.
"Captain! The bastard's taking her!" he cried out.
Before the warning of Tar-Mey, David sensed Isabelle's sudden absence somehow.
He furiously got rid of his blockers on his progress with powerful punches and sought his Isabelle.
"Out side! She's out side!" Tah-Mey continued screaming to David while still fighting an Arrow's man.
David broke out of the tavern. He frantically sought Isabelle and the monster.
The monster was holding half unconscious Isabelle in his left arm and had been ready to rip her shirt with his huge right hand as David burst into a storehouse of the tavern.
He recognized her bruised face from the fight in the tavern and the dangling pendant that he had given her five years ago hanging from her neck.
"Get away from her, you bastard!" he growled. He felt his blood boiling.
He was surprised by the captain of the Rattler.
He had expected that the captain was agile and a good fighter however hadn't expected he would have much trouble with him.
He had never met a man who had been able to fight against him for more than ten minutes.
He knew he was born special.
Nobody could defeat him.
But the captain was much tougher and stronger than he had expected.
David couldn't think of anything but saving Isabelle.
Only the thought made him still fight.
He could move faster than usual.
He could be more powerful than usual.
David didn't know even some bones of his were cracked several minutes ago. He didn't feel pain.
David took a piece of lumber that was leaning against the wall of storehouse and hit the head of the monster.
The monster went down his knees with a gasp as David stepped in for one more blow.
But he didn't see the monster took a jackknife from his pants pocket.
Suddenly he felt sharp pain at his side before he sent next blow to the monster.
The monster had a bloody knife in his huge hand.
David only narrowly avoided as the monster's next thrust.
The move was strong and fast, as if the lumber blow had been nothing. David failed to avoid the next thrust.
The tip of knife cut his shirtfront and belly and his blood spilled.
His body was screaming with the pain. But he kept fighting.
The blood loss drained his strength bit by bit.
David felt he was losing strength finally.
He couldn't resist much when the monster straddled on him and choked his throat with one hand.
Now the monster came to finish with him with the knife in his other hand.
I can't die…not yet for Isabelle's sake! God! Not now…please…
No guns. No knives.
The bastard looked so huge like a real monster and so strong like a creature from hell.
She had no option but had to fight against the monster with her teeth and nails in literally. She could anything for saving David.
Suddenly she heard Grant's talking to her in his velvet voice in her mind.
Yes, yes, Grant. I can find the weapon.
She sought around and soon found wooden boxes at the corner of the storehouse.
She broke one of them and took the nails by her bare hands. One of her nails half peal off in the way to removing the nails but she didn't notice. She was frantic.
The monster was about to kill David now. She rushed out the storehouse.
Just the out side, the huge seaman was straddling half unconscious David and was going to cut his throat.
Isabelle jumped on the monster's back.
He was surprised by the unexpected intruder. But quickly he stood with her still on his back and slammed his back into the wall of the storehouse.
Isabelle didn't have time to stub his thick neck with the nail and fall down on the dirt. But soon stood up and faced the huge cruel man.
Her green eyes gleamed with hatred and filled brutality like a wild cat.
When he came to catch her with an indecent smirk on his cold, expressionless face, she kicked his groin hard. He bent down with a groan and was stunned for a second.
Isabelle didn't waste the time and kicked his head hard again.
He cried out in pain and lost his balance but didn't fall down.
"I got new idea about you, bitch!" He came quick despite his huge body and caught Isabelle by her both wrists before she could respond. He laughed and squeezed her both wrists until she dropped the nails with cry of pain.
He punched her stomach twice. Isabelle coughed and small amount of blood came from her mouth. She slid down slowly along the wall.
He grabbed her wrist again and pulled her up by one hand, and pinned her arm high on the wall. His other huge hand had a nail.
He stabbed the nail in her palm slowly and deeply until it pierced.
David regained conscious by Isabelle's scream. And found what was going on.
The monster pinned Isabelle on the wall with one hand and opened the front of her shirt with force. All the buttons spilled all over the ground.
David could see blood dripping from side of her mouth to her chin and blood in her palm.
He crawled with his last strength towards the monster.
He didn't know what he could for Isabelle.
He knew that he didn't have any strength to help her anymore, but he couldn't stand to lie down there and see his Isabelle being hurt.
David clung on the monster's leg with both of his hands.
The monster let her dropped and turned to him.
He looked down at David coldly and kicked his shoulder hard with a cruel laugh.
He followed to where David was kicked away and kicked again at the wound in his side. He laughed aloud as he heard David's painful gasp.
David was still trying to crawl towards him again, but his limbs didn't obey his order.
The monster felt great pleasure and triumph; it's much more enjoyable having this pretty tramp in front of her man.
Then he was surprised to find a triumphant expression on Isabelle's face when he looked at her again.
He felt something wrong. He had thought he turned to her quickly but instead his body had only half turned to her slowly and was horribly unbalanced. He felt dizzy, but soon he didn't feel anything.
He toppled down onto the dirt and he couldn't move even one of his fingers.
A slight thin red line ran from his thick neck where the nail protruded.
It was enough time for Isabelle to pull out another nail from her skirt pocket and stub the right place.
She knew the point that connected a nerve which manages movement.
Grant had taught her many things in the past five years, and she had been told once of this special spot a long time ago.
"Thanks Grant," she murmured and slid along the wall.
Isabelle pulled out the nail in her palm with a small gasp, and hurried to go to David.
She couldn't stand. So she crawled towards David. Her whole body hurt like hell and she tasted blood in her mouth.
David immediately knew what she was trying to do. No, no, no! "Isabelle, don't move. Stay there."
His hoarse voice didn't stop her.
She continued to crawl towards him.
I have to tend David. I have to stop that bleeding. Ignore the pain. David needs me.
He watched Isabelle's painful progress with tears in his eyes. He wanted to go to her but his legs didn't respond.
When she finally reached him, her breath was heavy and he could see the blood at left side of her mouth.
She took her shirt which had already lost all of its buttons and tore it with unbelievable strength.
She pressed the cloth from her blouse on him and tried to bandage his belly with her trembling hands while he reached his hand to her mouth and wiped away her blood carefully, and caressed her face and soft, unruly curls.
She finished the bandage with her last strength and nestled close to him.
"Isabelle…" he called to her in a whisper. He wanted to convince her now about his feelings for her for long time.
He had fallen in love with her a long time ago.
He hadn't kissed her on the Rattler because he had fallen in love with her in the past few months, or simply because she had almost said she loved him.
She looked up at his face with that look that he had thought he had seen before, a look that was filled with deep, helpless emotion for him.
"I love you," he said it as clearly as he could. It was hoarse but wasn't a whisper. It made Isabelle certain of his feeling.
Isabelle's huge eyes widened.
Big tears slid down her bruised cheeks to her bruised jaw.
"David-" She coughed suddenly and tasted blood again. Her world slowly faded into deep blackness.
When Mauriri, Will and both crewmembers of the Rattler and the Cougar came to rescue them, David was crying as he hugged Isabelle's limp body.
Immediately Grant went down to them and examined her. He looked up at Will but said nothing. Will and Dotty paled, sensing what Grant meant.
Grant examined David, too.
"A couple of ribs cracked, these knife wounds didn't hit any organs luckily, a fracture of the right leg and the ankle, a sprain of the left wrist, and-," he looked at the ground colored dark with David's blood, "you lost a lot of blood. But you saved her, Captain Grief," Grant said to miserable David.
"No. She saved me," he murmured without looking away from Isabelle.
"This beast's still alive," growled Sparrow who was checking the unconscious huge man.
Grant spotted the monster and soon saw what had happened.
"My! It really worked!" Grant shook his head. His face became pale.
"What're you talking about?" Will asked him bit a irritated.
"Uh, -nothing. He won't die. He just won't be able to move for a while. Let's tie him for now. Lieutenant's troops will get him after, Captain."
David hadn't let her go until Mauriri had gently took her from him.
Before they brought them back to the tavern, Grant had to say that his wounds were not very deep but he had lost much blood and would need a long rest to David who didn't care about himself but only Isabelle. He didn't say anything about Isabelle's condition in front of David.
He had discovered that she had an internal injury and didn't want to move her. But they had to bring her to the tavern where they would be able to call a proper doctor. They had no options.
David, on the makeshift stretcher, couldn't help but ask Mauriri many times if Isabelle was conscious on the way.
Both were brought to the tavern and treated by a doctor of a French passenger ship which was staying in Papeete.
Isabelle stayed unconscious.
Grant often came to check on their conditions.
David who rested on a cot in same room with Isabelle didn't sleep and just kept looking at her.
Two hours before, David had been defeated with huge fear that he had been losing her.
Nobody had been able to breathe until the French doctor had finally said that she would survive. "Amazing lady she is. She is much stronger than she looks. I guess she'll get well after a long rest."
Mauriri had held David's hand tight and cried out, "That's our girl!"
However David couldn't ease his nerve until Isabelle had awaken.
At midnight he became aware that Isabelle was coming around. Her eyelashes fluttered slightly.
And he watched her open her eyes slowly.
"Isabelle," he whispered.
She didn't respond. She closed her eyes again.
He tried to get up with pain like hell at his side but managed to keep from screaming.
When he got off the cot finally, Isabelle's small, weak voice ordered, "Stay there. You aren't in any condition to be out of bed."
He turned his face to her immediately and felt a sharp pain again. But he ignored it.
She was looking at him with those marvelous eyes.
"Hi." The voice he had waited to hear long, the eyes he had waited to see were weak but mischievous like 'Isabelle Reed' and twinkle like 'Isabelle Reed'.
There was the woman whom he had been so familiar.
There was the woman whom he had loved deep and helpless.
His heart fulfilled with happiness he hadn't felt for a long time despite of his feelings of guilty. He realized how deeply he loved this woman, how desperately he needed her all over again.
"Are you in much pain?" His voice was filled with concern and guilt. "I am so sorry. I wanted to save you -but failed again. I wasn't able to save you from the storm five years ago. -And I failed today again. It was you. You saved me instead," David said looking at her.
Isabelle couldn't bear his anguished look.
He had always been trying to save her --not only today but since they had met. Why couldn't he see how much he had done for her?
"You have saved me, David. You've never failed. If it weren't for you, I'd not be here now," Isabelle couldn't move but managed to face to him.
He was unconvinced but smiled at her.
Her focus moved to around her from his face slowly. "Where are we?"
"We are in the upstairs of the tavern. The Cougar's going to bring us to Matavai the day after tomorrow. Grant's going to take care of us on board."
He hesitated to continue for a second, then said, "I truly want to protect you, Isabelle. I want to be with you. I don't know what I would do without you," his voice was hoarse and still with guilt but firm and sincere.
Isabelle looked at his face with those eyes.
"You have saved me many times, David."
She added hastily with a grin, "and of course, I saved you many times, too. So- we are even?"
In her eyes David could see that she still trusted him after all those incidents.
He smiled back and slowly laid himself back onto the cot.
However next moment he was worried again as one small tear ran across her face to a white pillow.
"Isabelle, are you okay? Do you want me call Grant?"
She shook her head slightly.
Her reply was hoarse and intermittent. "This is not for pain. I'm too happy now. Funny, I'm in such a bad state. But my feeling is so happy …because of you, David," she said with a small laugher and soon grimaced with pain.
But still her smile remained around her bruised lips and twinkle eyes.
Their eyes locked and knew they were really reached at each other.
It had taken long – so long way. But finally they were together.
Grant, who was about to enter the room, silently closed the door and went back down stairs. He jointed the table to play cards again wondering if he ought to confess about the issue of nerves that himself hadn't been sure. It had been one of the opinions he had heard from a Chinese doctor so long ago.
'Would you get angry or roll your eyes once you know? I'm going to miss you, Jade. That's for sure.'
While they stayed in the tavern, people in Matavai had heard about the incident from a seaman who had recently sailed from Papeete to Matavai.
Immediately Clare had insisted on going to Isabelle by a boat that departed for Papeete just in time.
Jack and she had left their children with Lianni and had come to Papeete without anything.
Clare openly wept at the bedside of Isabelle. She couldn't move but soothed Clare with a shy and a little embarrassed smile like she sometimes had done in their old days of Matavai.
The sight made David, Mauriri and Jack remember those days and confirm that they really had Isabelle back again after all those difficult long years.
Jack told David that he had offered to crew on the Rattler until David got completely well.
David was content despite his current state.
Isabelle was going back to Matavai with him. They both have many marvelous friends.
And he noted in his mind that he would thank Will and his crew before their departure.
"Mo, there's one thing I want to ask you."
It was early morning. There were only three of them. Peace and quiet.
"Say anything." Mauriri crouched beside his cot.
David glanced at sleeping Isabelle and started in a low voice.
"What do you think if the vanilla we're going to buy in very reasonable price from Beart-"
"I agree with you."
David was surprised by Mauriri's quick answer.
"I haven't finished asking anything yet."
"I know what you want to say and you don't need to ask. I've thought the same thing, David," Mauriri said seeing Isabelle.
"'We' want to thank the Cougar."
They looked at each other and smiled.
"Besides we're going to be in black soon when Isabelle gets well and makes us work in like workhorses again." Mauriri added with a silent laugh.
Both men looked the sleeping woman in bed and smiled again.
They were sleeping in bunks in the same cabin of the Cougar. David awoke early in the morning.
He turned his face to the other bunk. He could see that Isabelle was sleeping.
To remember the horrible time, that had felt like an eternity when he had been able to do nothing but bandage her bloody hand with his shirt sleeve, and had had to just wait for the others, had worried about losing his Isabelle, holding her limp body in his arms.
He let his battered body off the bunk slowly and knelt down at the other bunk.
Her face was peaceful. "I can't survive if I lose you."
Her dark tresses spread over the white pillow. Her long thick lushes slightly curled on her cheeks. There were bruises and small cuts on her delicate boned face. No women looked like an angel or an elf from some beautiful picture with bruises on her face except Isabelle Reed.
"Isabelle- Isabelle," he murmured and kissed her forehead.
He watched her face for a long time. It was never enough. He had believed this day would come. He had never dreamed of quitting the search her.
And now, he had finally caught her, his only woman.
He would never let her go and would say so to her when she woke up.
During their rest in Lavinia's, David often went to the room next to his pressing on his heavily bandaged belly, limping, stealing Lavinia's warning eyes.
Isabelle who was in bed in the room really needed a long rest.
However she looked stunning.
Because she was so content with David in the comfortable bed.
Because she was herself and in Matavai again.
Because she found her home, she knew where she belonged.
She smirked after their long kiss.
"What?" David asked caressing her face with his large hand.
"I told you so- 'We make sense', didn't I?"
"Yes, you did. And you were right." He kissed her again.
The Cougars was sailing again for vanilla. They would be able to make a small fortune when they went back to America with it. And Isabelle would be well enough to stand on her feet when they would stop by Matavai.
And after that they would have to say good-bye for a long time.
Every crewmember knew it but nobody voiced it during the voyage.
Every crewmember had own memories with Jade, and still nobody could get used to voyages without her. They couldn't remember how their voyages were before Jade.
'Sometimes, I hate being a grown man who never cries over women,' Grant thought.
"The owner and the captain of the Arrow had never fired Victor Hill. Hill had been the only witness for his crime. The former captain of the Arrow had been pushed by the captain from the deck to the dark ocean three years ago. The captain, Edward Banks is the younger brother of the former captain, Christopher Banks."
Matavai Messenger would have big news in the newest copy. Clare was scribbling on a piece of paper.
The rebuilding of Isabelle's stables were making smooth progress. It would be almost finished when she would be well completely. And Dante would be able to come with her brother.
Clare and Isabelle sighed happily having tea in Lavinia's cozy guest room.
Clare finished asking about the incident for her paper, utterly content with the information, which wasn't only Isabelle's experience but some tips that Isabelle had gotten from the lieutenant.
She knew Isabelle would give her a lot of information, and she didn't need to hesitate about asking her. She was sure that Isabelle was proud of her friend's paper as much as Clare herself. Isabelle had been always her supporter and she was now still.
It was so nice to have her most loyal supporter and friend here with her again. She thanked God a hundred times.
Isabelle had told almost everything for Clare's paper except the incident in Tonga that had caused this nightmare in the first place.
She would never talk about it to anyone.
"The monster was really like a monster, huge, strong and had no feeling except hatred. I believe he came from hell," Isabelle mumbled.
"What made him so?" Clare asked aloud to no one.
"What?" Isabelle asked quizzically.
"I mean Hill was like a creature from hell, but … he must have been just a baby like everyone else when he was born, wasn't he? So I wondered." Clare tilted her blonde head.
Isabelle was silenced.
She had never thought about things like that.
She herself had been a thief once. But it hadn't been her choice. That had been her survival.
Suddenly she thought about Jenny Duval.
She had never regretted shooting her. In fact, she was sure that she would shoot her again if it meant saving David.
However, now she felt something which she had never felt before. - It was impossible that the woman had been evil since the moment she had been born.
Jenny must have been just a baby.
Victor Hill must have been just a baby.
What had made them evil?
If David and Mauriri hadn't saved Isabelle, what would she be doing now? She involuntary shuddered.
Long time ago in the time of the Mo's language lesson, Mauriri had said that Isabelle wasn't the woman he had thought in the first place.
He had said she was a good woman in the bottom of her heart.
Isabelle could guess he would answer firmly that Jenny and she were completely different in their bottom of heart if she would ask.
However she couldn't convince herself now that she wasn't completely different from that woman.
If Jenny had met someone who had showed her the right way before she had lost her heart, couldn't she have changed?
Wasn't there the possibility that if she had met David much earlier, she would have chosen another way?
Nobody would be able to answer this question.
It was good she hadn't killed Hill despite what he had done to David and her. At least the judgment would come from the law or somewhere, but not from her, Isabelle thought.
We survived together again. That's all matter.
She watched her best friend's sincere profile.
You're really an amazing woman. What's made you so, Clare? She shook her head.
"Grant said there are some naturally viciousness and cruel people because of their heredity.
He said those people would never change. They have something wrong in their blood. We can't say the man was that sort. Who knows?" Isabelle said casually contrary to her feeling.
Clare shivered imaging those people and said, "I really glad you are here with me now, Isabelle!"
They embraced each other.
Two children looked up their mother and her friend puzzled.
Isabelle hugged each of the men of the Cougar.
When she embraced Dotty, her eyes finally filled with tears.
She was fighting a losing battle to not let those tears drop.
Dotty's tall figure almost covered her fully. She buried her face in his lower chest but pulled herself apart with great determination.
"I'll miss you," she whispered.
He bent closer and dropped a kiss on her cheek.
Isabelle turned to Will from Dotty. She hugged him tightly and then backed arms length. "Thank you, Will." She kissed him on his lips.
'So I wasn't as good as Dotty at hiding my feelings,' he thought and nodded lightly at her.
He wiped her tears from her cheek and cupped her face in his large hands.
"Thank you, Isabelle Reed. We were lucky to have you on our ship. We'll meet again in some port, some day. Until then…"
The captain of the Cougar winked at his former crew and nodded at Captain Grief, and got into his longboat with his crew.
Her friends in Matavai left the shore when the Cougar was just a small black object. But Isabelle in David's arms continued to watch it.
Finally the Cougar disappeared beyond the horizon. However, Isabelle still didn't move.
David kissed the top of her head and buried his lips in her soft curly hair.
He knew she was crying without looking at her face.
He also knew she didn't regret her choice even a bit.
He gently but firmly hugged her and felt her body lean into his. They stood there for long time, alone.
"I knew this day would come," the captain of the Cougar murmured.
Will and Dotty were alone at the helm of the Cougar.
"She looked come alive so mach when we came this South Seas even from the first day," red haired seaman mumbled. "You -care her, don't you, Will?"
"Yes, and you, Dotty?" was his reply. "It's funny. We've been involved with many women, as we both knew, even while she was with us. We are experienced men, aren't we? But both of us couldn't help but just looked at her, this time." The captain chuckled.
"Do you envy me?" he teased his best friend and best crewmember, tapping his lips. He could feel her still.
Dotty smiled at him.
'She made me realize that I still have a heart to be able to love someone somewhere within me. I had thought it was lost a long time ago when I lost a lot of things … with my fingers.'
"No, I also got a gift from her."
Will raised one eyebrow at him but said nothing.
"She is special," Dotty whispered, un whether he was saying it to Will or to himself.
"Yeah… You know, Dotty, I changed her clothes the first day we found her. She was so beautiful. I thought she was a creature from the sea.
And I had always known someday she would leave us and back to 'her sea'. …Yeah, I'd always known it would come."
Two seamen gave one last look towards direction of Matavai.
The Cougar gently went to her way, leaving behind the island in the South Seas.
Mauriri was building a new stall for the horse that they would bring for Isabelle next week.
Paiku was brushing Dante.
David was watching Isabelle.
Isabelle was-, she was scolding David about some trading document, which David hadn't corrected as Isabelle had ordered yet.
He was looking at angry Isabelle.
Funny. She's scolding me, angry with me. And I'm feeling bliss! …What a lovely lips she has!
"David! Are you listening to me?" Isabelle raised her voice angrily.
She stomped closer to David. Then he grabbed her and kissed her on her lips.
Mauriri expected David to get a bite on his lip or a kick in his shin looking at the two from distance.
He shrugged his broad shoulders and looked back Paiku.
The younger islander was laughing but didn't stop his working hands.
"Now, everything goes back to fine." Mauriri shook his head and went back to his task.
Only Paiku could see the content smile on the big islander's face.