Whispers on the Tide Ebook--Dawn of Alaska book 2

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 Preorder Only! Book releases May 20, 2024.

She’s on a mission to save her family’s legacy, but what if doing so costs her more than she can afford to give?

Maggie McDougal is determined to save her family’s business after her parents’ sudden death

ountry to Washington Territory in search of her brother so he can claim the business, then so be it. Anything is better than watching the family shipyard she loves fall into her uncle’s greedy, conniving hands.

The trouble is, when the ship that her brother works on arrives in Bellingham, her brother isn’t on it. But Captain Sacha Amos is. And when he offers to take Maggie north to Alaska where she can meet her brother on his new ship, she has little choice about saying yes.

The vast expanse of Alaska introduces Maggie to the world of the Amos family, a resilient clan bound by unbreakable ties and shared purpose. From sisters who fiercely uphold justice in courtrooms and heal wounds in makeshift clinics, to the spirited half-siblings representing the heart of their bond, the Amos family embodies the tenacity and courage of the land they call home.

But there’s danger lurking beneath the icy waves of the Bering Sea, and when Sacha’s actions at sea put the Amos family in the crosshairs of a powerful enemy, Maggie must decide where her loyalties lie—and how far she’s willing to go to protect the things that matter most.

Set against the sprawling backdrop of Alaska, Whispers on the Tide tells an incredible story of resilience, family bonds, and one woman’s journey to carve a new life for herself.

Note: ebook delivered by BookFunnel.

Excerpt

Near Bellingham Washington, June 1887

Sacha Amos was either about to make the best decision of his life, or his biggest mistake. If only he knew which.

From his position inside the wheelhouse of his ship, the Aurora, he stared out over the calm gray waters of the straight. A thick veil of mist clung to the land and shoreline, the air so dense it could be parted with one of the cook’s knives from the galley.

It was a dangerous type of morning, with the mist shrouding not just the rocks that lay in the shallows of Rosario Straight, but entire islands and mountains.

On mornings like this, vessels found themselves colliding with each other or veering into a dangerous rock that lay just outside the shipping lane.

But not the Aurora.

If he’d sailed these waters once, he’d sailed them a thousand times.

Sacha gripped the wheel tighter, the wooden spindles familiar beneath his palms as he steered the clipper away from Sinclair Island and into the more open waters of Bellingham Bay.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to steer her, sir?” Ronnie Dubbins, Sacha’s helmsman said from where he stood to the left of the wheel. “I’ve guided her into Bellingham plenty a time.”

“But not on a morning such as this.”

The helmsman shifted his weight from one foot to another. “Truth be told, yer makin’ me a bit nervous, cap’n. No ship should be sailing on this kind of morning.”


He knew it. The sane, rational part of his brain was well aware that he should have sought harbor at one of the numerous locations on the west side of Vancouver Island when the mist had started to roll in.

Thankfully the mist wasn’t as thick over the water as it was on land. Because of that—and his familiarity with the waterways near Bellingham and Seatle—he could make out enough of their surroundings to keep the Aurora in the center of the shipping channel.

Mostly.

“Cap’n Amos,” a rusty voice called from the main deck below, followed by the clomp of boots on the stairs. A moment later, Gus Benson, his first mate, appeared on the quarterdeck and headed straight for him.

The scowl on the sailor’s weatherworn face told Sacha all he needed to know before the man stepped fully inside the wheelhouse. “The mist is only getting thicker the closer we get to the harbor. They’ll have foghorns blaring in another minute or two. You should have anchored off Sinclair Island back there.”

“We’re already a week late.”

“The cargo’ll wait a few more hours, cap’n. I promise.” Tommy’s face seemed to grow paler with each second they glided closer to Bellingham’s harbor.

Or rather, what should have been Bellingham’s harbor. Sacha couldn’t yet make out the other ships docked there, let alone any buildings of the town. It was almost as though the densest, thickest patch of fog they’d seen that morning had decided to descend squarely upon Bellingham.

“It ain’t the cargo Cap’n’s worried about.” Gus eyed him. “It’s the passenger we’re picking up.”

“We’re picking up a passenger?” Tommy looked at him.

Sacha gritted his teeth. This was not how he’d intended to bring the subject up to the crew.

“You may as well tell him,” Gus muttered. “We’ll be docking in a few minutes—iffin’ we don’t wreck first. Your brother will have your head if that happens. And it won’t be anyone’s fault but your own.”

“That’s why I took the helm,” Sacha growled.

The first mate clamped his jaw shut. He’d surely seen stupider things in his thirty years on the sea, but at the moment, Gus was likely drawing on every last bit of that experience to keep himself from arguing further with his captain.

Sacha couldn’t blame the man for wanting to argue either. He wasn’t just captain of any ship, he was captain of the Aurora. A masterpiece of naval architecture that his older brother had designed after spending three years in school studying naval architecture. Built for the sole purpose of cutting through arctic ice, the Aurora wasn’t made of six-inch-thick oak boards and an iron frame like most ships.

Oh no, the entire hull was double lined, first with oak and iron like any other ship, but then with an outer hull of Australian ironwood. Tough and durable, the Aurora could travel places few other ships could.

But a rock could still put a hole in its double hull, and a collision with another vessel…

Sacha’s stomach dropped. Maybe he was being a fool, sailing the ship through such dangerous conditions. But he had to reach Bellingham. Today.

He only hoped the man he was supposed to meet hadn’t gotten tired of waiting so long for the Aurora to arrive.

Only hoped Dr. Torres had stayed in Bellingham and waited for him rather than gone back to Washington DC. Never mind that the Aurora was running eight days behind schedule.

“If the mist doesn’t let up by this time tomorrow, can we wait to leave port?” Tommy asked. “Or do we have to be in a rush leave too?”

Sacha blew out a breath. “Getting to port is the part that can’t wait, though if the mist lifts this afternoon, we’ll set sail before sunset.”

Now both of his men looked at him as though he’d lost his mind.

Sacha sighed. Could he spare a night in port, even if the mist lifted?

“Land ho!” A voice rang out from the lookout.

Sacha glanced at the top of the mast where Eric was perched.

“The wharf is just off starboard.” Eric called down. “Can you see it?”

Sacha peered through the thick mist to where he could just make out the long, flat outline of the wharf, and the looming masts of a ship docked uncomfortably close to the Aurora’s bow. Fortunately the space on the opposite side of the ship was empty.

He gave the command to slacken the sails—not that there was much wind to fill them on such a morning—then he guided the ship toward an open space on the wharf, waiting as it slowed to a near crawl.

Usually shouts would ring out from the shore about now, the dockworkers realizing that a ship was approaching and preparing themselves to unload cargo.

But not today. The wharf looked completely deserted with nary a person to welcome them.

Sacha just hoped Dr. Torres was waiting for him somewhere in Bellingham, even if he wasn’t standing on the wharf to greet the ship.

~.~.~.~.~

The Aurora would arrive today. It had to. Maggie McDougal stared down into her nearly empty coin purse. When she’d left Wisconsin six weeks ago, it had been full. But now only two dollars and a handful of coins remained, and she didn’t want to spend a cent of it to stay in their dirty hotel room for another night.

“Are you sure you want us to pack everything?” Ainsley, her seven-year-old sister, asked from where she stood beside the sagging bed, stuffing the few clothes they’d brought into their carpet bag.

Beside her, their younger brother Iain lay curled on the bed, staring out the window.

“Yes. Check under the bed too, just in case something fell.” She couldn’t afford to spend money replacing stockings or a hairbrush, not when they’d need to spend every last bit they had left on food.

Her younger half-sister did as asked, though the room was too dim for Ainsley to be able to see anything that might have fallen under the bed.

It wasn’t that the curtains beside the windows blocked the light. No. They were thin and dingy and in need of a good scrubbing—just like the floor and the bedclothes. But the sun had forgotten to shine that morning, coating the street outside in a mist that seemed to grow thicker by the moment. And the small lamp in the corner gave off so little light that it didn’t even reach the shadows on the opposite wall, let alone the space under the bed.

Maggie sighed. She wasn’t going to complain about leaving this place behind.

It was not having anywhere to go that terrified her.

She looked down into her coin purse once more, then pulled the folded bills out, just to make sure she hadn’t actually missed a dollar—or maybe mistaken a one-dollar bill for a ten.

But no. She hadn’t miscounted. The money was exactly the same as it had been a few minutes ago. Two dollars and thirty-six cents.

She shoved the money back, a sickening sensation swirling in her stomach. Was this how the widow with no oil in the Bible had felt? Had she looked down into her empty jug with a sickening sensation filling her belly? Had she uttered rushed, hectic prayers to God, asking Him to spare her from what was sure to be a disastrous end?

Or maybe she prayed not for herself, but for her son, that God would provide for him.

Maggie’s breath shuttered in her lungs. Perhaps she should focus her future prayers on Ainsley and Iain. Maybe God would look more kindly on the plight of children.

Because God sure hadn’t looked kindly on her own plight.


“I’m hungry,” Iain whined from where he still lay curled on the bed beneath the grimy window. He’d spent most of the week they’d been in Bellingham in that very spot, watching the busy street that was so very different from the lonely road that ran past their dairy farm in Wisconsin. But this morning, the fog was too dense to make out anything more than the occasional shadow of a horse or passerby.

“Can I have a biscuit?” Iain pulled his gaze away from the window and looked at her.

The sickening sensation already curled in her belly gave a sudden lurch. It didn’t matter that Iain was ridiculously hungry all the time or that he seemed to eat more than she and Ainsley combined. No, all that mattered was that her younger brother was in her care, and at that exact moment, she didn’t have any food.

And while they could go to the food cart down the street and purchase biscuits and sausage today, she wouldn’t have the money to do so in another week.

The Aurora would arrive in Bellingham before that. She sunk her teeth into her bottom lip. It had to.

But if it didn’t… if it was lost at sea… if she somehow couldn’t manage to find her older brother…

“Sissy, did you hear me?” Iain climbed off the bed and headed toward her. “I said I’m hungry.”

“I’m sorry. We’ll get biscuits as soon as we leave. Enough to tide us over for the whole day.” Could they survive on just biscuits and no meat, or would that only make the boy hungrier?”

“I still don’t understand why we’re leaving the hotel.” Ainsley threaded the leather strap through the buckle on the carpet bag, sealing it tight. “The Aurora might not come today, just like it didn’t come yesterday.”

“Will the Rora come today, sissy?” Iain tugged on her hand, his blue eyes round with all the hope a four-year-old boy could muster. “Will it?”

“Yes.” She spoke with a ridiculous amount of confidence. Never mind that out of the past week they’d been in Bellingham, today was the most unlikely day for the Aurora to arrive. Surely there would be no ships coming into or leaving port until the mist faded.

“I get to meet brother! I get to meet brother!” Iain cheered, then started prancing around the cramped room.

Ainsley, on the other hand, let out a huff, her wits making her too smart to be fooled—even if she was only seven. “I still don’t understand why we’re packing. Even if the Aurora does arrive today and Tavish agrees to come to Wisconsin with us, won’t we need somewhere to stay tonight before we leave town?”

Maggie drew in a breath. She wasn’t going to let her sister know how little money they had left. The past four months had already given Ainsley more burdens than any child her age should be asked to carry. She didn’t need another one.

Besides, maybe Tavish would actually arrive on the Aurora today. Or maybe his ship had docked last night before fog shrouded the city. Maybe God had heard her prayers after all.

Maggie moved to the bed, where she picked up the carpetbag that felt far too light to be holding three people’s possessions. “Once Tavish arrives, I’m sure he’ll treat us to a nicer room. Maybe we can even stay in the large hotel in the center of town.”

Ainsley’s eyes widened, filled with excitement rather than sadness for once.

During the time they’d spent in Bellingham, they’d walked from one end of the town to the other. It had been hard to miss the pristine, two-story hotel with a wraparound porch and giant white columns flanking the entrance to grand wooden doors.

Maggie hadn’t been able to afford such accommodations, but Tavish had been working as a sailor for eight years with no family to provide for. Surely he both had the fund and would be willing to splurge—once he finally reached Bellingham, that was.

“Put on your coats. It’s time to leave.”

Ainsley and Iain did as asked, not complaining about needing to wear coats in June, even though they’d never need to do such a thing back in Wisconsin.

Maggie opened the door and stepped into the dimly lit hallway, only to be greeted with the scents of sweat and grime. Her fingers tightened around the room key as she led her siblings into the open space that marked the entrance to the hotel, where the proprietor sat behind his desk.

She wordlessly set the key on the desk and took a step back.

“You’re leaving then? You sure you don’t want to stay another night?” The man wheezed out, his shirt and trousers just as stained and grimy as the quilt and curtains in their room. “I can give ya’ a discount, seein’ how ya’ already been here a week.”

“I’m sure.” She met the man’s gaze evenly, resisting the urge to clasp the top of her coat shut with her hand. He had a way of running his eyes down her that always made her want to shrink against the wall.

“Ain’t got news that the Aurora’s arrived yet.” He tapped the end of his pencil on his ledger. “And no ships’ll be coming in or leaving on a morning like this.”

Maggie slid the key farther across the desk, stopping just shy of reaching the man’s dirt-encrusted hand. “I’m certain. Thank you for the accommodations.”

“Are ya’ out of money?” The man slowly drew his gaze down her, and something about the look made her suddenly wish for a bath. “I know a place that might hire ya. Might even provide someone to watch yer youngin’s while ya’—”

“No, thank you. I’m not looking for work.” Or at least not that kind of work.

Thank heavens her siblings were too young to understand what the man meant—or what type of clientele the hotel so close to the docks catered to.

Maggie had realized it on their first night in Bellingham, but letting a more appropriate room would have only drained their coffers faster.

“Come along Ainsely, Iain. It’s time to leave.” She turned her back on the proprietor and opened the door for her siblings, the hinges squealing in protest.

“Can we please get food now?” Ainsley asked the moment the creaky door swung shut behind them. “I’m hungry too.”

“Of course. That’s first on the list.”

The salty tang of the sea and the pungent odor of fish hung thick in the air as they ventured across the deserted road. The harbormaster’s office sat just a block down the street, and a vendor wheeled his food cart there every morning, making it the closest place to eat.

Usually the road by the harbor was alive with activity too—gulls soaring overhead, ships bustling in and out of the port, and sailors and dockworkers calling to each other. But today it was as if the town had been abandoned under the cover of night and shrouded in a thick, eerie blanket.

“Sissy, where’s the food?” Iain’s grip on her hand tightened. “I want a biscuit.”

“It’s just up…” Maggie’s words trailed off as they approached the wooden office building, which appeared just as deserted as the wharf. Even the little patch of road in front of the harbormaster’s office, where the vendor always parked his cart, was vacant.

It made sense. Of course it did. Why would the vendor be here when there were no sailors or dockworkers to buy his food?

“The cart’s not here.” She gave Iain’s hand a gentle squeeze, willing her brother to understand. “We’ll have to walk back into town to eat.”

“But I’m hungry now!”

“Yes, but we’ll have to go the opposite direction for food, and since we’re already here, we should check the ships.” Maggie looked down the long row of ships docked at the wharf, their hulls shrouded in thick shadows. “Just to make sure the Aurora hasn’t come.”


She tried to tug Iain down the wooden planks, but the boy’s feet rooted to the wharf, his face twisting into a stubborn frown.

She crouched down and met her younger brother’s eyes. “We’ll go uptown and get a nice warm lunch as soon as we’re done here. I promise.”

Their lunch would likely cost more than she could afford, but without any street vendors open, she had little choice about where they ate.

Iain’s lower lip protruded, his chin quivering. “I want a biscuit.”

“I know.” She patted his hand. “I want one too, but this won’t take long, and we’ll get that biscuit as soon as we finish, maybe even some flapjacks to go with it.”

“With syrup?”

“With syrup.”

Her promise seemed to appease him, at least for a few minutes, and he started walking again. They continued past the harbormaster’s office, the echo of their footsteps against the wharf and the creaking of the ships the only sounds.

They passed one ship, then a second and a third, taking time to read the names painted onto each hull, since they had no idea what a “three-masted clipper” actually looked like.

When she started to approach the fourth ship, Iain pulled back against her hand. “Are you sure the ’Rora is going to come today? No one’s here.”

Ainsley made a scoffing sound. “The Aurora isn’t—”

“It could have arrived last night before the fog rolled in.” Though she didn’t want to think about just how small of a chance there was of that happening.

Ainsley sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. “Will we at least be able to go home once we find Tavish?”

“I want to go home now.” Iain stomped his foot against the dock.

“Me too.” Ainsley surveyed the shadowed ships towering around them. “I don’t much care for Washington Territory. It always smells of salt and fish.”

“Can we go home tomorrow?” A ridiculous amount of hope tinged Iain’s voice.

Maggie sighed. “I hope so.” And she did. Because if they weren’t on a train home before their money ran out…

Oh, how did one explain to a four-year-old that if they didn’t find their brother, there would be no home for them to return to? That the uncle who’d worked side by side with them for the last twenty-five years was trying to steal their family’s dairy farm?

That was why she had to find Tavish. Why she’d collected the small savings her mother and stepfather had kept in the bank, told her two half siblings to pack their clothes, and headed West to the coast.

And it was why she needed the Aurora to arrive.

If it didn’t, if she had to wire her uncle and ask him to send money so they could return home—then the three of them would lose everything.

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