Chapter 1

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The Fisherman's Niece is a winner of the 2012 Watty Awards! I really love this one and am working hard to make it better so that someday I can get it published. Comments are most welcome. I welcome any chance to make it better, so don't be shy! :)

Meriel stepped from the car, and stood facing the ancient sea-worn cabin that had been her great-uncle's home. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, savoring the briny scent of the ocean and listening to the gulls call to each other overhead. The soft breezes whipped about playfully, tossing her dark hair in every direction. Smiling, she set herself back to the task at hand and pulled several bags from the back of her well-traveled, mini-SUV. The plucky RAV4 had been with her for years, but this trek from the East to West coast, loaded with all her worldly possessions, had been the most she'd ever asked of it before.

"Next time we're in the city baby, you're getting a rub down by a real professional, that's a promise." she said as she patted the spare tire affectionately.

The sun had started to drop closer to the horizon. The trip from Portland had been uneventful, and she'd only gotten lost once trying to find the private drive off the main road. It was just after six o'clock, and she figured that there was enough time to start unpacking and have a bite to eat before enjoying her first sunset here. Meriel had always loved sunsets. She believed that the very first sunset would tell you what you could expect from a place. One that was drab and uninspiring would signify a boring experience, while one that was full of life and a myriad of colors fortold an exciting new adventure. She supposed it was a little childish that she'd been lead-footing it on the highway so as not to miss it, but she'd never had a sunset steer her wrong yet, and she'd be damned if she was going to miss this one.

"Okay Lady, this is either the most brilliant thing you've ever done, or the most stupid, either way it's time to face the music." and with that she started up the stone path to the front door.

She dropped her suitcase and laptop bag on the welcome mat and dug around in her purse for the key the lawyers had given her. It was old, but still shiny and free from the scratches of use. The original was presumed lost as sea with uncle Alastar, so they'd given her a spare that had been kept on file since the purchase of the house. It had been made decades ago and never tested, so she said a silent prayer as she slipped it into the keyhole, and was relieved to hear the audible scrape and click that let her know she would not be sleeping in the car tonight.

Though the house had supposedly been shut up tight for months, the salty tang of the sea air was as fresh inside as it had been out. They had told her that no one had been out here to take care of the place, but maybe they were wrong. Perhaps there was a neighbor nearby that her uncle had left a key with for emergencies. The trees made it impossible for her to see other houses in the immediate area, but once she was settled perhaps she'd have to go exploring and see who she could find. The last thing she needed was some stranger popping by to air out the place while she was taking a shower, undressing, or dancing around in a tank top and panties, eating ice cream and singing Def Leppard at the top of her lungs. A girl had to be able to keep some things private.

There were two possible bedrooms for her to choose from. One was set off from the main hallway, guarded by a heavy wooden door that didn't match any of the others. She figured this was the master bedroom and paused for a moment before choosing another smaller, sparce room that looked as though it was ready to receive a guest. Having known so little family her whole life, a part of her ached to open that door, but she didn't think she was quite ready to know her uncle that well, not just yet. There would be plenty of time to settle in and make this place her own, so for now she put some of her curiosity on hold and went to explore the rest of the house.

It was apparent by the overabundance of nautical decor, that this was the home of someone who loved the sea. Her uncle must have loved a good storm too, because the walls were lined with beautiful oil paintings, all depicting majestic sea voyagers being lost to the wind and waves. Her fingers seductively traced the edges of an old-fashioned ship's helm that hung above the hearth. She closed her eyes for a second, and could actually see rain beating against it while strong hands held it steady. She'd been raised to fear the ocean, but she'd never really been able to give in to that fear. There was something so beautiful about this place, and she felt a sharp pang of regret that she'd never even had the chance to know the man who had lived here.

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