An excerpt from Spindrift 2:Ship to Shore

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There are places I wouldn't openly wait to greet my lover, but this village has its own notions of what counts as odd, and a gay couple doesn't rate very highly for novelty value, not when one half is who he is. It's not perfect, mind -- there were certainly those who didn't approve of me, because I was an outsider, or because I was gay, or both. Some of them didn't mind making their opinions known about it, either, but it was easy enough to ignore them, when I had the ready support of the friends I'd made amongst some of the fishermen.

I wasn't too happy to see one such person arrive on the dock while I was waiting for Niall that day. I could ignore most of them, but William was different. If it hadn't been for William, I'd never have met Niall, and there was a tangle of emotions there that none of us cared to look at too closely. Not when William couldn't forgive us for being happy together while William ached for the woman he'd driven away. Not when William's reckless pursuit of Niall's sister had put Niall in my path, and my bed.

So I was pleased enough when William only gave me a sour look, then settled himself down on a bench far enough away that we could each pretend the other wasn't there. He wasn't someone I wanted to talk to, and the feeling was mutual, so it was better if we didn't try.

Only, after a bit, William said, "Is she all right?"

There was only one 'she' William could be talking about. "Ailsa's fine."

"I haven't seen her since ..." He paused for a moment, then went on, "They won't even tell me if she's all right."

"Niall would tell you if anything happened to her. And I thought they were talking to you again."

William, refusing to accept that the woman he loved didn't love him, had committed an act that had become a shunning offence in this village, one that could not readily be punished in any other way because in the outside world it wasn't reality but the stuff of legend.

He'd stolen a silkie's skin.

"Aye, they're talking to me. I gave it back unharmed, so they're talking to me, and Kenneth and Brian are working with me on the boat again, though they're careful about where they change. But they'll tell me nothing about her. They'll never stop punishing me for it."

I resisted the temptation to tell him he'd brought it on himself. He knew that all too well. I'd overheard his silkie friends telling him what they thought of him, when they'd finally started talking to him again. And they'd only done that because he'd returned the skin of his own free will in the end.

"Talk to her for me, would you?" he said. "It's not as if you didn't get something out of it."

I'd got something out of it, all right. I'd got love, and the pain of watching Niall terrified that he'd be trapped on land for ever, and the heartbreak of thinking I'd lost him when William finally returned his sealskin. The skin William had stolen in the belief it was Ailsa's and had refused to return when he'd realised his mistake. Without that theft, I would never have found Niall, so maybe William thought I owed him something. I owed him nothing, not after what he'd put Niall through, but I could understand what had driven him to do it. So in that complex tangle of emotions, it was pity that predominated as I said, "She doesn't want you, William."

"I know that. I've been told it enough." Then the despair broke through as he said, "But I still care about whether she's safe!"

That I could well understand. The silkies didn't officially exist, and if they died in seal form, their deaths wouldn't be recorded. Even in human form, they'd be 'Unidentified Body'. Only those who'd acquired a human identity, like Niall, could be looked up in official records. If anything happened to Ailsa and nobody chose to tell William, he'd never know for certain what had happened to her. He might have finally accepted that he'd destroyed their friendship, but he hadn't stopped loving her. And so he was talking to me, in the hope that I might be persuaded to talk to her for him. And if he was talking to me, he was desperate.

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