And almost 2 weeks later, here’s Sunday’s Child.
Sunday’s Child on life seas is tossed, awaiting the lifeboat that rescues the lost…
Hattie Steele feels like the world is passing her by. Her entire life revolves around the guest house she runs in Headley Cross with her overbearing twin brother. He even attempts to undermine her friendship with a handsome guest. Not that famous ex-footballer, Callum Trant would ever give her a second glance. Hoping to regain control of her life, Hattie takes a well-earned holiday with her aunt on Penry Island.
After retiring from football, Callum Trant divides his time between the family business and volunteering as helm officer on a lifeboat. Danger is nothing new for him. But when he’s called out on a shout and finds the beautiful innkeeper from Headley Cross on a sinking vessel, Callum realizes his heart is in danger.
But could Hattie ever forget his womanizing past and feel the same way? Or will a dangerous rescue end the relationship before its had time to grow?
His navigational skills had let him down after he left the map on his bed. He’d taken a left instead of a right somewhere and got hopelessly lost. He just prayed that the lads back at the lifeboat station never found out about this. He was the helm officer after all and he’d never live it down. Still, he’d found the church in the nick of time and took a seat on the end of a pew on the back.
And ended up sitting right next to Miss Steele. He felt rather than saw her glance at him during the first hymn. He turned his head towards her and smiled; the smile fading slightly as she blushed and looked down at her hymn book.
That was a reaction he hadn’t seen in a while and had hoped he’d never see again. The ‘Oh-Wow-I’m-Sat-Next-To-Callum-Trant’ look that he hated so much, which had followed him around for so many years. Yes, adoring fans came with being famous, and most of the time he didn’t mind. It was just women. He thought, hoped that Miss Steele was different, but maybe all women were the same when it came to the adoring fangirliness. Unfortunately, all they would see would be the fame and fortune and not him. He turned back to the hymn, focusing his mind on his reason for being here.
As the children left after the first twenty minutes, he noticed a few of the older boys look at him twice and he smiled, flustering them. A few of the parents recognized him and nodded or smiled and he returned the smiles. Then he immersed himself fully in the service, finding the teaching speaking to him.
After the service, he sat in prayer for a moment. He straightened, reaching for the sheet, he’d tucked into the pew in front.
“How did you find the service?” Miss Steele’s voice made him grin.
“Almost didn’t,” he said, playing on her words. “I got lost on the way here.”
She giggled. “Oops. I’ll have to put a better map on the leaflet.”
“The map was fine—or it would have been. Except for the fact the leaflet it’s on the back of is still on my bed.”
“Ah. It’s not much good there.”
“No, not really.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “But the real answer to your question is the service was good. Your pastor is a gifted man.”
She smiled. “That he is. He’s always full of joy and love and zeal for the Lord, no matter what is going on around him.”
“Excuse me, sir?”
Cal turned. A kid of about fourteen stood there, several others partway down the aisle looking at him with anxious anticipation. He must have been elected spokesman and had hands shoved into his pockets, hopping nervously from one foot to the other.
Cal smiled to put him at his ease. “Hi.”
“Are you Callum Trant?”
“Yes, I am.”
The kid beamed and did a thumbs up at the others. “Told them you were him, but they didn’t believe me. Can I have your autograph please?”
“Of course.” Cal pulled a pen from his jacket pocket. Soon he had a whole gaggle of children there, but he kept signing, offering each one a smile and friendly word. After they left, he sat for a moment to compose himself.
“You could have said no.”
He almost jumped, but caught himself in time. He’d forgotten she was there. “I could have, but that wouldn’t have been the Christian thing to do. Jesus never turned anyone away when He was recognized.”
“You’re on holiday.”
“Technically so was He, when He went across the lake to be alone. The crowds followed Him everywhere He went, but He still welcomed them.”
Miss Steele nodded. “And He even fed them.”
“All five thousand of them. So I can’t begrudge a few kids an autograph. Besides, it doesn’t happen as often now as it used to.” He stood as rain started to pound against the church windows and laughed. “Another typical summer’s day in England.”
She nodded. “I’ll see you at dinner. Don’t forget it’s an hour early tonight so I can make the evening service. Five o’clock rather than six.”
“I’m looking forward to it. Oh, and before I forget, thank you so much for the extra tea in my room. I noticed last night you’d replaced the coffee with teabags.”
“You’re welcome. It makes sense as you don’t drink coffee. Have a good day.”
“You, too.” He pulled his collar up and headed out into the storm. Lightning flashed and thunder roared shortly afterwards. The rain bounced off the pavement, splashing his legs. He walked the short distance to the café he’d planned on visiting for lunch. Storms here seemed almost tame by comparison to the ones he was used to at home. Yes, there was wind, driving rain, thunder and lightning, but with no twenty foot waves and his feet planted firmly on solid ground, there really was nothing to fear.
Was there anything on land that could rattle him?
Falling in love came the unbidden response. This was why he wasn’t going to do it. He’d seen the fear in the eyes of the wives, girlfriends, and husbands as he and the others left parties, dinners and functions to go to sea.
He couldn’t, wouldn’t ever do that to anyone. Especially not to Miss Steele.
Cal turned the boat and headed into the heart of the storm, keeping the bow of the boat into the breaking waves. Visibility was down to five feet.
“There’s another flare,” Sam yelled. “But doesn’t look the same direction.”
“Radar’s got something.” Cal squinted at the screen.
“There. Two o’clock, there’s a light.”
Cal aimed the boat at the faint light he could see between the towering waves. As he grew closer he could see the hull of the boat with a figure clinging to it. “Phil, toss the rope to him. If he catches it, bring him in that way. If not rope up and go get him.” He touched the mic button. “Penry base this is Ray of Hope. Found the Petunia Bay. We will need assistance to tow the capsized boat out of shipping lane. One in the water.”
“Roger that, Cal. Will send out the RHIB.”
Cal brought the boat around, bringing it in closer to the wrecked cruiser. He watched the figure on the boat catch the rope. Then he brought the lifeboat right alongside the upturned hull.
Phil and Sam grabbed the man and pulled him into the safety of the lifeboat.
“Is there anyone else with you?” Sam asked.
“Harriet. Where is she? Did you pick her up, too?”
Hattie’s out here? A stab of fear filling him, Cal turned in his seat, hoping he was wrong. The soaked figure was as unmistakable as his clipped posh accent. He wanted to berate the man for being stupid, but now wasn’t the time. “Where did you last see her, Markus?”
“Didn’t you find her yet?”
“We barely found you. Where did you last see her?” Oh, God, keep her safe out here.
“Before we capsized. The boat flipped over so fast. When I came up she was gone.”
Trevor turned the searchlight on the water around them.
“Sam, check Markus over.” Cal yelled, fear twisting his gut.
“I’m fine. Harriet was hurt before she went into the water. She hit her arm on something, and couldn’t use it.”
“You’re being checked over regardless. Trevor, rope up in case you need to go in. If she’s hurt she won’t be able to hold onto the rope.”
Did he imagine a faint call for help carried on the wind? “Aim that light over to the right.” The search light caught sight of something yellow floating on the waves in the distance. Cal turned the boat around on a dime. Please let it be her.
“There!” Sam yelled.
Cal nodded and accelerated the boat towards the small yellow shape the light picked out. He came in close to the figure and Trevor dived over the side into the maelstrom. Waves crashed over and around them, spray threatening the stability of the boat.
Aunt Laurie came in and flicked on the radio. “You should listen to this,” she said quietly. “The storm is making the national news.”
Dinner was eaten in the lounge with the radio still playing. Reports came in from up and down the coast of damage to power cables, phone lines, and some flooding on the other side of the island. Rain pounded the windows, blurring the distant lights of the mainland. They spent the afternoon playing scrabble and Pictionary.
The lights went out at four and Aunt Laurie lit hurricane lamps and candles. It gave the cottage an almost Christmassy feel to it, with the storm raging outside. All they needed was fairy lights and carols, but there was no electricity to power the lights or the stereo.
Just before five, Hattie moved closer to the window. She blinked hard, not sure if she was seeing things or not. It looked as if the bridge was moving, but surely that wasn’t possible. “Cal, look at this.”
He came over to her side. “Look at what?”
“The rail bridge.”
“What about it? Is the train trying to cross?”
“I don’t know about that. The bridge looks as if it’s moving.”
Cal frowned. “Can’t see from here, as the light isn’t good enough and the rain’s obscuring the glass.”
Hattie ran to the front door and flung it wide open. She stepped out into the porch, the wind and rain buffeting her instantly. The creaks and groans of the bridge could be clearly heard above the tumult of the storm. Waves crashed against the sides of the ironwork sending spray high into the air.
Cal pulled his phone from his pocket, dialing fast.
“Who are you calling?”
“The station master. See if he can stop the train from crossing from the mainland.” He paused. “Answer the phone, will you? Finally. Jake, it’s Cal Trant. Has the 503 left?” He froze. “Seriously? Call him back, the bridge is moving in the wind.”
Hattie grabbed the binoculars from the shelf by the door. Her uncle had always kept them there and her aunt had never moved them. She scanned the bridge and pointed. “Look, see those lights almost at the far end of the bridge? That has to be the train.”
“Call him back!” Cal yelled into the phone. “I’m telling you the bridge is moving!” He paced as he spoke. “Then try again.”
“It’s too late,” Hattie whispered. She pointed to the slow moving lights on the bridge and watched mesmerized. They kept moving until they were half way across in what the locals termed the high girders. Maybe he’d make it.
The whole bridge shuddered, visibly moving as a huge wave knocked against it. Metal screeched and twisted with a loud creak, swiftly followed by a noise unlike anything she’d ever heard before. A long metallic groan, a whoosh of water that shot up almost in slow motion into the sky as the wind howled and moaned.
As the spray cleared, Hattie’s eyes widened and she rubbed them, not wanting to believe what she was seeing. The central span of the bridge, along with the lights of the train, was gone.
For a moment Hattie stood there, too shocked to speak or think. Then she looked at Cal. “It’s gone. Cal, the bridge has gone. Where’s the train?”
“I don’t know.” He reached for the binoculars from her motionless hand and searched. “It’s not there.”
“Oh no…Oh, Lord, God, please help them…” she whispered.
Cal reached for his coat. “Dial 9-9-9. I’m going down to the lifeboat station before they page me. Laurie!”
Aunt Laurie came running out. “What is it?”
“The bridge has gone. The 503 was on it. I have to go.”
Hattie grabbed the phone, dialing with trembling fingers. “The line’s dead. I’m coming with you. I’ll call from your mobile on the way.”
“What can you do?”
“I don’t know.” She grabbed her coat. “But I can’t sit here and do nothing.” She took the phone from his hand and dialed as they ran to his truck.
“Operator, which service do you require?”
“All of them,” she had to yell to make herself heard over the storm. “The Penry Island rail bridge is gone. So’s the train.”