The rest of that day was a blur for Currie. After her nap, she functioned, she taught classes and interacted with people, but everything felt surreal. Did happiness do that to you? Could you be TOO happy? Her thoughts kept returning to Ward and spending the night in his arms.
For the first time, when she left her sisters in the evening, she walked to Ward’s cabin instead of climbing the steps to her suite. If anything, their lovemaking was more intense, both of them hungry for what they’d experienced before. But this time, when they lay spent, Ward spooned against her while she drifted to sleep. They woke satisfied and grounded, ready for the day.
“I never understood it before,” Currie told Thora while they fixed breakfast, “but I do now. I feel complete. And the thing is, I thought I already was.”
Price and Ted came to sit with Currie and Ward while they ate.
Ted grinned. “You both look happy.”
Currie swallowed wrong and coughed. Ward grinned and reached for Currie’s hand. “We are.”
Price glanced around the dining room. “I didn’t see Em yesterday and she wasn’t in her cabin when I stopped by this morning.”
“She left the island.” Currie bit into a piece of French toast. “She went home to visit her family.”
Price’s fork stopped in midair. “She’s gone? When?”
“The night before last.”
Price slammed down his fork. “Damn it! When was someone going to tell me? What did I do this time to make her mad?”
Currie hurried to explain. “Em’s been too attracted to you, and she knew it wasn’t going anywhere.”
“She knew that when we started.” Price pushed his plate away. “It was a fling, nothing serious.”
“Sometimes your head knows that, but your heart doesn’t. Em wanted more than you could give.” Now, Currie knew that from personal experience.
Price’s face twisted with anger. “So she ran? She left me!”
“Whoa! Down, boy,” Ted warned. “Romance is a crap shoot. The girl needs to recoup some of her losses.”
Everyone in the dining room was leaning forward, listening. They didn’t need to. Price wasn’t trying to keep his voice down. Saffron and Brie left their tables and came to help Currie.
“I came here to heal.” Price jumped to his feet, his hands balled into fists. “Well, screw you and your stupid island! I want to leave too.”
Brie nodded. “That’s fair. If Emeralda can run away, you should be able to too. The island hasn’t helped you like it does most people.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“That we’ve failed this time,” Saffron said. “We’ve never gotten involved with our guests before--with good reason. We can’t predict the outcome.”
“You don’t expect me to pay for my stay, do you?”
Brie shook her head. “No, we’ll refund your money. We’re sorry we’ve upset you.”
“Who’ll drive the ferry now that Em’s gone?” Price asked.
“I helped Currie take Em across last night,” Ward said. “I’ll take you when you’re ready.”
“It figures that YOU volunteered. Always the do-gooder, aren’t you? Well, I can’t leave soon enough. Give me five minutes to pack my things.”
Thora came to Currie. “I’ll cover for you until you get back.”
Currie nodded, visibly shaken. “Thanks.”
“You can’t win them all, kid,” Ted said. “Price keeps pushing his luck. He takes one step forward, two steps back. You gave it your best shot.”
“But we’ve never failed a guest before.”
Ted shook his head. “Don’t start sounding like your boyfriend here. Sometimes your best intentions and efforts can’t work miracles.”
“He’s right, dear.” Della came to stand beside Ted. “You and your sisters have given each of us the opportunity to heal. That’s all you can do.”
But Currie couldn’t help but feel guilty. Emeralda should never have gotten involved with Price. It was too risky. She reminded him too much of his Lyssa.
Ward put an arm around her shoulders. “Price knew that Emeralda wanted more from the relationship than he was willing to give. All of us saw the warning signs.”
Currie nodded. That was true, and it made her feel a little better.
Russ cleared his throat. “If you ask me, if this is the first time you haven’t been able to help somebody, the odds have been good to you. That’s almost a miracle. You can’t let one stumble keep you from running the good race.”
Della smiled at him. “I’m proud of you. Well said.”
“Don’t worry about us,” Mandy said, joining them. “We know the routine. We’ll do our thing and soak up the island’s charm until you get back.”
“And if one meal is cold cereal, we’ll all survive,” Teri said, “but LeAnn and I’ll volunteer to help Thora with the soups and sandwiches. So lunch is covered.”
Currie blinked back tears. “You’re all so nice.”
Ted gave her a gentle push toward the door. “Price would be better off if he stayed here, but since he’s going to pout, take him home. And let US be the givers for a change.”
Ward led her out of the dining room and to Price’s cabin. Price was pacing in front of it. “Ready?” Ward asked.
Price grabbed his duffel bag. “Let’s go.” He stalked off in the direction of the cove where the ferry was docked. He took the route that wandered near the shoreline, in and out of lush foliage, Saffron’s route. They passed a grove of orange trees, a bank covered in crownvetch and wild roses, and wove between patches of blueberry bushes. When they entered a thicket of pine trees, their footsteps were hushed by the fallen needles.
A blue jay landed on a low branch and called to them.
A warning. Currie stopped walking and looked around.
So did Ward. “Do you see anything?”
“No. Something’s wrong, though, or he wouldn’t be here.” Currie turned in a slow circle, but didn’t see anything.
Ward looked up into the tree branches, straining to see if someone was hiding there. Nothing.
“Maybe it just wants a peanut,” Price said.
Another blue jay landed nearby and cried a warning. Then another.
“I don’t get it,” Ward said. “What are we supposed to do?”
“I’m not standing in one spot for the rest of the day,” Price complained. “I want out of here.”
“Let’s stick together and move slowly.” Currie reached for Ward and Price’s hands, forming a human chain.
When Price took a cautious step, the blue jays flapped and screeched. They grew more agitated at his next step.
“Are they mad at me because I’m leaving?” Price asked.
Currie shook her head. “I wouldn’t know why.”
Price took another step, and the ground went out from under him. He fell into a black pit, yanking Currie after him. Her stomach hit the dirt, hard, and she almost went over the pit’s edge. Ward’s grip tightened on the hand he held, and she felt as if he’d crush her bones, he gripped so fiercely. Price screamed in agony. Currie tried to flatten herself, to dig her knees and elbows into the ground to gain any kind of foothold. Was Price all right? What had happened to him? How deep was the hole? Price dangled from her left wrist, and she felt as if she’d be pulled in half. Pain. Serious pain. Ward dug in his heels and she lay half in, half out of the gaping hole.
“There are spikes down here!” Price yelled.
“Can you keep your hold on Currie?” Ward asked.
“Are you okay?” Ward asked Currie. “You’re being pulled on both sides.”
“I’m fine,” she said through gritted teeth. “Can you use me as a rope to pull him out?”
“I’ll try. If it hurts too much, tell me.” Ward’s voice cracked under the strain of anchoring her and Price. He used both hands to get a better grip on her arm, groaned, and heaved. He gained a few inches. He took a deep breath and did it again. Little by little, moving back from the pit an inch at a time, he strained until he could see Price’s hands, clutching Currie’s arm. Ward dug in and pulled again until Price’s torso flopped onto the land at the edge of the hole. Currie shifted her body so that she and Price were face to face on the dirt. Ward released her and she grabbed Price with both hands. When they started to slide, Ward dove for her ankles.
“I can hold him until you pull him out the rest of the way,” Currie said, readjusting her weight.
Ward scrambled to Price and yanked him free of the pit. “What the hell?” Price’s upper left thigh had a jagged hole in front and was bleeding. Ward saw that someone had started to pound sharp stakes in the bottom of the hole, but thankfully for Price, they’d only had time to position a few.
“This is the path Saffron takes to circle the island when she does her weekly check,” Currie said.
“So it was meant for your sister?” Ward pulled a hankie from his pocket and wiped sweat out of his eyes. His hands and arms shook from exertion. Gathering his strength, he helped Price into a sitting position. “You need medical attention. We need to get you back to the lodge.”
“I can’t walk. My leg hurts too much.”
“Currie will take one side, and I’ll take the other. The bleeding’s not life threatening, but the sooner someone patches you up, the better.”
“Frank’s wife is a nurse,” Currie said, as she stepped under Price’s arm.
“Put most of your weight on me,” Ward said, supporting Price on the other side. “We’ll get you back in a jiffy.”
It took a lot of grunt work to maneuver the trails, and they had to stop frequently to rest. “Thank God there were only a few spikes,” Price said between clenched teeth.
Currie looked at Ward. “The night the wolf howled--it was to stop whoever was digging the pit and setting the trap.” Ward nodded, and by the look on his face, Currie could tell he’d already thought of that.
“If you hadn’t had my hand. . .” Price turned to Currie. “You saved my life. This damned island hates me. It wants me dead.”
“The island only heals.”
“Not me, but thank God you were here.”
“And Ward. And the blue jays.”
“Thank you. All of you.”
They didn’t talk for the rest of the way back. It took all of their strength just to make it. Currie’s muscles quivered, and every part of her ached. Ward looked as though he felt the same. He was shouldering the majority of Price’s weight. When they reached the meadow, Currie’s legs were close to giving out. She was relieved to see Saffron step out onto the patio and wave at them.
“We need help!” Currie called.
She didn’t think that Saffron could hear her from that distance, but Saffron could tell that something was wrong. Soon, a group of people came running toward them.
“We need Frank’s wife,” Currie said when Saffron was close enough.
Saffron nodded and streaked across the meadow to get her.
Ted and Avery rushed to take Ward and Currie’s places, and Ward sagged onto the ground, exhausted. Currie wasn’t in much better shape.
“Are you all right?” Brent asked. “Want to share a crutch?”
Ward grinned. “Thanks. I’m all right, just worn-out.”
“And you?” Brent asked Currie.
“Muscle spasms, but they’ll go away in a little while.”
Ward quickly explained. “There was a deep pit that someone had camouflaged. Price went in. He almost took Currie with him.” His voice choked, and he reached for Currie’s hand.
“Who the hell is doing all this crazy stuff?” Brent sank onto the ground between them. “Price got lucky. If I were in trouble, I’d want you two to come to my rescue. You guys know a little bit about everything.” A frown started to pull on Ward’s brows, and Brent said, “Stop that. You’re the first person to tell Price that he couldn’t save Lyssa. I’m the person to tell you that you can’t rescue everybody, even if you are a fireman. You’re the best man I’ve seen in a pinch. Don’t sell yourself short.”
Ward stared at him.
“Speechless, huh? Didn’t know I had it in me to sound astute once in a while, but we’re all full of surprises, my friend. And I’m here to tell you that every time there’s been an emergency, you’ve handled it. Give yourself some credit.” That said, Brent pushed himself back to his feet. “Give me my crutches, will you?”
Ward handed them up.
“You know, love’s a wonderful thing, but even Claire couldn’t save me from myself. Currie here can make you happy, but first you have to forgive yourself.”
“Is that what you did?” Ward asked.
“Yeah, I finally gave myself permission to be happy.” Brent reached down a hand to help Ward to his feet and almost lost his balance when a crutch slipped.
“Steady there. Thanks.” Ward did the same for Currie, then they started for the lodge.
“Let’s get you two to the kitchen and get you tall glasses of water,” Brent said. “You look dehydrated.”
“Water sounds good.” Ward watched the others carry Price into the lodge. Saffron hurried close behind with Frank and his wife in tow.
By the time Ward, Currie, and Brent went to the kitchen, washed up, and joined the others, things had started to calm down. Ward and Currie gratefully sank onto a sofa and let the others take control.
Frank’s wife glanced up at Ward. “I’ve dressed the wound, and Price is going to be all right. He was lucky you two were with him.”
“I’m no nurse. I’m glad you’re here,” Ward said.
“So am I.” She smiled. “Thanks for bringing me.”
“The kid’s decided to stay here while his leg heals,” Ted told them. “He’s pretty shaken up.”
“Who can blame him?” Ward asked.
“Care to tell me about it?”
Ward repeated the story of the pit.
Ted frowned. “Who’d want to hurt Saffron? It doesn’t make any sense putting the trap there.”
“I’m not the only one who uses that trail,” Saffron said. “You guys used it when you were working on the ferry, and Emeralda uses it a lot.”
“And where Em went, Price went.” Ted scratched his head, thinking. “Maybe the exact right person landed in that pit.”
“You think it was intended for Price?” Currie asked.
“Then who set it?” Ward asked.
“Maybe your friend doesn’t believe in the old saying ‘forgive and forget,’” Ted said.
“Em?” Saffron asked.
Ted shrugged. “If it was, she’s gone, and so is the trouble.”
“IF,” Ward said. “We don’t know who dug the pit.”
Ted looked around the room. “Who else looks like a time bomb ready to blow?”
Currie scanned the faces of Avery, Leann and Teri, Mandy and Trisha, Russ and Della. Brent stood close to Thora. Frank planted himself by his wife. Everyone looked concerned, but all right. Not one of them looked like a person with a need to kill or maim. But it couldn’t have been Emeralda. Currie would never believe that.
“We still need to be careful,” Currie said. “Looks can be deceiving.”
“True enough.” Ted went to help carry Price to the patio and called over his shoulder, “But if nothing happens for the rest of our stay, I’d ask your friend some serious questions.”
IF, Currie repeated to herself. Whoever dug the pit wasn’t trying to hurt some small, furry creature this time. He purposely meant to damage a fellow human being, and that scared her. When she had a minute alone with her sisters, she intended to suggest that the blue jays warn them if anyone wandered off alone--not just to protect the guests, but to keep an eye on them. Or better yet, could she ask the animals who had dug the pit? She shook her head. The animals knew when someone was doing something unusual, but they couldn’t judge if it were dangerous or wrong. For right now, she’d content herself if she could just think of a way to protect everyone.