Grenville rarely had dessert. That's probably why he was still as lean as he'd been ten, eleven years ago, Jamie thought. His erect, commanding posture gave the appearance of being younger than his years. The lines in his face had deepened but not multiplied; in repose his face was grave, almost severe. His hair had gone a dark iron gray, with a strange sheen to it. Still a handsome man, formidable, aristocratic.
Jamie ran a hand through his own hair. It had darkened to a caramel color but was just as thick and plentiful as ever—you could count the gray hairs on one hand. The mustache he'd grown a few years ago had come in one shade darker.
It was nice to have something left to be vain about. He was well aware he was putting on more pounds each year, he'd needed glasses to read the menu.
Sighing, Jamie ordered coffee instead of pie.
"Please, no more landscaping talk."
"No, not that. I just liked the way you introduced me to Mr. Graystone."
"Jamie, I know of no more appropriate appellation than 'my friend.'" Grenville signaled for the check. He glanced around the room. Nervously, he drummed his fingers.
Jamie stirred the second spoonful of sugar into his coffee.
"Meant the 'James' part."
"Oh," Grenville said.
Jamie kept his eyes down. Grenville hated to be laughed at. There was only one thing he dreaded more...
"Don't worry," Jamie said. "I'm not going to cry."
It was silent on the way back. A peaceful silence. Once they got off the interstate onto the two-lane highway to Hawkes Harbor, they rarely passed a car.
The clouds had parted—the light of the half moon reflected from the snow. Between the dark fells of woods, the drifts of white snow were oddly reminiscent of the ocean, like swelling, immobile billows.
It made Jamie remember nights, far out to sea, standing at the railings, smoking, feeling the wind, watching stars, sky, waves, listening to the pulse of the engines, the rhythm of the water. It was like that now. Grenville, going over his contracts in his mind, would probably not say a word until they reached Hawkes Hall.
Jamie thought briefly of the book, gift-wrapped, in the trunk, then started planning how he'd insulate the pipes tomorrow ... he'd start in the kitchen...
The windshield suddenly went black and shattered like a bomb had hit it. Badly startled, driving blind, he lost control of the car and felt it shoot off the road. He knew they were headed straight for the tree line ... he made a desperate stab at the brakes—
The goose-down quilt was surprisingly heavy. It weighed down on him so much it almost hurt.
Jamie turned his head, trying to see the time.
Grenville was looking down at him. Jamie just stared back, surprised.
"Please lie still, Jamie. Another driver stopped a few minutes ago, he's gone for help. There should be an ambulance soon."
Jamie realized the weight was Grenville's heavy coat. And somewhere, Jamie was in pain. For a moment, he almost panicked.
Jamie was still terrified of pain; he couldn't tolerate it in the least. But this was different. More like a heavy pressure, really, like being caught in a giant vise.
Damn, he thought, if I've messed up my other shoulder...
"We're not near the shoreline, here?"
"No, it's miles away."
"Funny. I thought I heard ..." Jamie tried to figure out what had happened.
"You hurt?" he asked, pulse jumping—there was a trickle of blood on Grenville's temple, another on his chin. "No. Just shaken."
Slowly, the world took shape. The winter night, the snow, the cold. The car, crumpled into a tree, the driver's door thrown open, the body of the deer limp across the hood.
The massive oak he lay against. Stars. Lots of stars.
Jamie shifted, feeling a pain somewhere.
"Jamie, you must be still."
You don't control me anymore, Jamie thought. I'll do what I fucking want.
But he lay still.
Jamie could remember cold like this only once before—lying on the floor of a secret room in a long-forgotten cave ... But this time he wasn't afraid.
This time there was a source of warmth somewhere. He realized Grenville was clasping his hand tightly. He tried to return the pressure. "Your hands are warm these days, Grenville."
It seemed impossible that the dark eyes that met his could be the same ones that had glared up at him from the coffin....
"It's been a strange trip, huh?" Jamie said drowsily. Maybe he could sleep until the ambulance got here. "A long way from where we started."
Jamie looked at the car. It hurt to see that car like that. Totaled. Grenville would finally have to spring for a new one. Bet that would piss him off...
"Look in the trunk," Jamie said suddenly. "Before it gets towed. There's a book ..."
"Yes. I will."
(But he didn't. Grenville forgot all about it. When the auto-salvage delivered it to Hawkes Hall one week later, he stared at it for a full minute before he realized what it was. When he read the inscription, he cried.)
The vise seemed to tighten a fraction, and Jamie caught his breath. The handclasp tightened, too, and Jamie thought: I'm okay. It don't get any worse than this, I'll be fine.
Then, for the first time in many years he had a memory of his childhood. He and Colleen, they were on the ferry to Stanton Island, just to ride it. It must have been his birthday ... yeah, it was June, they were eating ice cream. He remembered her flat white shoes, polished carefully over the scuffs on the heels and toes. He was jumping around, pointing at the different boats, the ones he'd like to sail on.
"You mustn't go off and leave me, Jamie."
"But I'll be back."
"And you mustn't make promises you can't know you'll keep."
He'd looked up at her, puzzled, she so rarely scolded ... he saw it different, now. And not long after she'd broken a promise of her own ... how angry it had made him...
Then it seemed like his life collapsed like a folding telescope, from that moment to this, there were only seconds in between....
It goes so fast, he thought, they don't tell you that, how fast it goes...
He seemed to see Grenville in a rising mist. He blinked, felt the hot streaks on his face turn to cold. He saw him so clearly now. "No regrets, Grenville," he said. Grenville didn't, or couldn't, speak.
A twisting pain shot through Jamie's arm, exploded through his chest. Before he could cry out, he felt a finger brush his forehead ...
Jamie realized he should have been surprised to see Kellen Quinn, but somehow, he wasn't. "Kell?"
There was Kellen, tall and jaunty, looking like he had in the old days, full of energy and plans and the promise of great things just around the corner.
He was happy, brimming.
"Yes lad, it's me, I've come for you. There's extraordinary places waiting, a fortune beyond explaining."
He reached for Jamie's hand, and pulled him to his feet.
Jamie braced for the pain but felt none. In fact, even the small ripping pain that had plagued every breath he'd taken for the last few years was gone.
He and Kell hugged each other tightly for a moment.
"So you finally made it big?" Jamie laughed.
Kell looked great, entirely without the shifty, hunted look he'd sometimes worn before.
Kell's face sobered for
a minute. "I went through some perilous times, lad, very dark weather indeed. But somehow, love of God, I made it through. And now I've come back for you."
"I appreciate that, Kell, but..."
As good as it was to see Kellen again, Jamie would not get mixed up in more of his scams. He was through with that stuff.
"No, Jamie, no cons this time, no tricks, it's the real thing. The real, legitimate thing."
"Yeah?" Jamie said, wonderingly.
He could see Kell was telling the truth. It felt natural to fall in step with Kell, felt good to hear his voice.
"Yes, the candles in Hawkes Hall worked fine, lit with a sincere prayer, they were just as good. It was clever of you to think of it, lad, I owe you."
Jamie felt a tug of some kind; he turned to see Grenville kneeling in the snow beside a body.
Not another one, Jamie thought in dismay.
"And I've come on a fine ship, Jamie, the best you've ever sailed. We'll pull anchor soon. Come, Jamie, it's time."
Jamie looked forward and saw what Kell had promised—a clean ship anchored on a gently rocking ocean, light glittering on the water.
"A schooner, Kell?"
"Yes, and I believe you know our captain. We're promised smooth voyages, the wind at our backs all the way. You've had your stormy weather, Jamie. It's clear passage for you."
The ship was a beautiful sight, and Jamie picked up his step. The sunlight was pleasantly warm, and he shrugged out of his coat. He didn't need it now.
I bet I can swim to that ship, he thought, with overwhelming joy.
From far behind him, he thought he heard a strangled cry. "Jamie!"
He'll have to do without me, Jamie thought, not looking back. And then clearly, as if he'd been told, he knew Grenville could do without him. There was somewhere else he had to go now, somewhere else to be.
He had never seen such a soft golden light.
It lay like a path on the sea.