Cassie Brown loves her job working with sail and power boats. Loves her fiancé, Portland’s most eligible bachelor. Loves her life–except for one tiny thing. She sees the future and no one ever believes her. Handsome Pauli drives the launch at the marina. Just a short stopover on his way to somewhere else. Until he meets Cassie and everything changes. Cassandra’s Curse brings a modern twist to an old myth about love and betrayal.
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Copyright © 2018 by Charley Marsh
All rights reserved.
Published 2018 by Timberdoodle Press.
Cassandra’s Curse is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and places are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. For more information contact the publisher: http://timberdoodlepress.com/
All rights reserved
E-Book ISBN# 978-1-945856-43-3
Print Book ISBN# 978-1-945856-44-0
Cover Art: depositphoto.com
Also by Charley Marsh
About the Author
Cassandra Brown whipped her ancient Toyota 4Runner into the boatyard’s parking lot and headed for the employee’s parking area at the far end.
A collection of upscale vehicles already dotted the lot: high dollar SUVs mixed with Mercedes, Cadillacs, Audis, and BMWs, the status symbols of the boat owners who wanted to get in an early sail or time on the water before heading off to their swanky offices in the city.
Cassie pulled into the empty slot between her boss’s new Tundra and her friend Amber Day’s almost-new Volvo wagon, smirking over the mental picture of her 4Runner as the thorn between two roses.
The music cut out abruptly when she turned off the engine. Although she was already late she sat and listened to the cooling engine’s pings and pops.
She rarely listened to tunes at an ear-splitting volume, but she had spent another late evening with her fiancé and his mother and was having trouble waking up. The loud music, while irritating, helped.
Cassie swallowed the last of the still warm coffee in her travel mug and stepped out of the 4Runner. An onshore breeze hit her face immediately, bringing with it the smell of frying donuts from the small waterfront cafe that opened early to accommodate the boaters who hadn’t thought to bring something to eat or drink with them.
Her mouth watered at the smell of fried dough and sugar. She had slept through her alarm so hadn’t had time for breakfast. Unfortunately, as Jonathan had already scolded her twice last week for tardiness she had no time to grab anything now either.
Cassie pulled her heavy tool bag from the passenger seat and slammed the door. It bounced open and she slammed it again. She didn’t bother locking it. There was nothing of value inside and the 4Runner was by far the crappiest vehicle on the lot. No one would ever try to steal her car—one of the few bennies of being perennially poor.
The tool bag was a pain to lug back and forth every day, but it had been one of the first things she’d made for herself when she’d made the switch from sailmaker to canvas worker and it held practically everything she owned of value.
Constructed of tough navy blue denier on the outside and lined with heavy white canvas, the bag boasted numerous pockets and slots for everything she needed to do her job. A heavy duty zipper ran along three sides and allowed her to spread the bag flat for easy access.
It was the most deluxe of tool bags and a fine example of what she was capable of creating, if she did say so herself.
More important, all of the tools inside the bag belonged to her—not the marina—a fact she took pride in. She’d had to save for each and every tool and build her collection slowly, always researching carefully and buying the best quality tool she could find.
Cassie shifted the bag to her other hand. She could have left the bag in the sail loft each night—Jonathan swore no one would mess with it— but she couldn’t do it.
To appease Jonathan, who kept harping on it, Cassie had tried leaving the bag in the loft one night. After a sleepless night worrying about her tools she vowed never to leave it again. Pretty much all of Cassie’s net worth lived in her tool bag, so she hauled it between work and home.
And she had to admit that if she decided to leave Portland suddenly she would need the bag of tools to start a new life. She hoped that this time she could stay—she always hoped that she could stay—but something always seemed to happen that forced her to pull up whatever shallow roots she’d managed to put down and move on.
She hoped that after the last move she’d learned to keep her mouth shut. No one needed to know that she had visions. Especially not now, not when she was on the verge of forever distancing herself from her lowly beginnings.
The sight of the boats moored in the marina filled her with happiness, especially the ones wearing her canvas. Her canvas. Conceived, designed, built and installed by her own hands.
Cassie took her canvas craft seriously and was beginning to build a reputation in the Portland area as a conscientious and skilled fabricator.
It helped that she was female and treated her customers well—unlike the men who owned the area’s three other canvas shops. The demand for canvas far outran the supply and the other shops tended to be arrogant, with a “We’ll get to you when we get to you, take it or leave it” attitude.
This spring, for the first time since she had started working at Haskell’s Marina, people came asking for her specifically. Instead of just asking Jonathan if the sail loft handled the specialty canvas items people liked to buy for their boats, they actually asked for Cassandra Brown.
She couldn’t be more thrilled.
Smiling now, Cassie stepped onto the covered walkway that ran the length of the south side of the long, cedar-shingled building and headed for the double doors that opened directly into the sail loft.
The walkway protected customers headed to the marina offices, or Mike’s Chandlery—where they could buy everything and anything a boat owner could possibly want—or to Bounty of the Sea, the marina’s popular seafood restaurant that looked out over the protected bay that was home to the marina.
The middle of June meant the boating season was in full swing. Portland’s boaters wasted no time once winter released its icy grip on Maine’s southern coast. The boating season was short and the enthusiasts were dedicated to making the most of it.
Despite being late, Cassie stopped a moment to enjoy the sight. Beyond the large marina building the bay sparkled in the morning sun. Hundreds of white hulls bobbed on their moorings. Sailboats of every size and design, power boats, and fancy sport fishing boats gently rocked and slowly spun in the gentle breeze.
Cassie saw the Boston Whaler the marina used to ferry the boat owners back and forth carefully weaving its way through the moored boats. She squinted at the helmsman. Broad shoulders and sunlight glinting off shiny dark hair told her that Pauli was working the launch this morning.
Good. She needed a ride out to a customer’s boat for a fitting as soon as she gathered her things. Of the three launch drivers she liked Pauli best. The other day driver, Amos, was very nice, but there was just something special about Pauli. He had a way about him, an ease with people that she envied since she seldom felt easy around others.
Cassie stopped just inside the sail loft doors to remove her deck shoes and tossed them to the side with everyone else’s. The entire sail loft floor was their work table and had to be carefully protected from dirt and scuff marks. Customers were allowed no farther inside than the door, a policy that was fiercely and gleefully policed by the sail makers.
It wasn’t often one of the ordinary citizens got the chance to scold and reprimand the wealthy class. They enjoyed it so much that Jonathan had been forced to create a rotation sheet ensuring that they each got a turn.
Cassie loved working in the large, open loft. Bright and airy, with windows on three sides that let in the light and sea breezes, it was a pleasant and inviting space that could easily have held four apartments the size of her own.
Constructed of plywood sheets covered with a dozen coats of polyurethane, the scrupulously clean floor gleamed in the morning sunlight. Five sewing machines were the only obstructions on the bare floor.
The stitchers sat in wooden boxes suspended below floor level, only their torsos and arms visible. The often massive projects were laid out on the floor where they could be moved around and fed through the machines with a minimum of hassle.
It was the nicest sail loft Cassie had ever worked in.
“Morning, Cassie.” A heavy-set man in his late twenties called to her from his knees where he was carefully cutting a large sheet of white dacron with a heat knife.
A black symbol stuck onto one corner told her he was working on a new sail for the J series of racing boats that were popular in the area. Most sailmakers added any lettering and numbers at the end; Stan liked to buck the trend and put his on first. He claimed they helped him tell which end was up.
“Hi Stan. How’s it going?” Cassie skated across the floor in her thick socks over to the corner that housed her canvas projects.
“Oh, you know. It’s going. Jonathan was looking for you earlier. Did he catch you?”
Cassie’s heart sunk. There were only two reasons her boss would seek her out: either a customer had a problem, or he wanted to give her another warning about being late.
“Thanks. No I didn’t see him. I have to do a fitting once I grab my stuff. Can you tell him I should be back in about two hours?”
“Can and will,” Stan replied.
The image of a bewildered Stan standing in an empty apartment flashed into Cassie’s mind. Poor Stan. He was a truly nice guy. It sucked that his wife was planning to leave him.
She pushed the image aside. Past experiences had taught her that sharing her visions would not change things. If anything, sharing with Stan would destroy the friendly working relationship that she had going with the man. People didn’t appreciate the bearer of bad news.
She forced her brain to concentrate on what she needed for the fitting. The launch operators didn’t appreciate it when she had to make extra trips because she forgot something.
Her boss Jonathan liked it even less.
“Every trip costs the marina in wages and gas,” he had lectured her the one time she had forgotten to stock her bag with a special fastener the customer had requested. “The next time this happens I’ll deduct both from your week’s pay.”
Cassie had made sure it didn’t happen a second time. She needed every penny she took home.
She pulled the cut lengths of blue Sunbrella fabric from their slot and checked the customer name, boat name, and supply list she had clipped to the end.
Originally constructed from tightly woven cotton, modern day canvas was a synthetic that stood up better to the constant wear of salt and sun. Cassie would’ve preferred to work with cotton canvas, but her customers were educated and wanted the latest hi-tech fabrics.
“You headed out?” Amber Day, sailmaker and friend, called to Cassie from her sewing box. Lightweight yellow, green, and blue fabric billowed around her upper body. By the end of the day the fabric would be stitched into a complex design, taped and grommeted; a completed spinnaker soon to be seen flashing around the Casco Bay islands.
“Yeah, I have a dodger fitting,” Cassie answered. She pulled boxes of snap fittings from a cubbyhole and put them in her bag. Five boxes: two parts to the snap cap, two parts to the snap stud, and one of screw-in studs that attached to the boat. Check. Snap tool. Check.
“Little late getting going, aren’t you?”
Cassie looked up at the slight snark she heard in Amber’s voice. Since Cassie’s engagement last month to Brad Farland III, Esquire she had felt a small wedge in their friendship. She inspected her friend while she wondered how to deal with the growing distance between them.
Amber had pulled her frizzy red hair back in a tight ponytail. Her large green eyes, filled with hurt resentment, looked back at Cassie from a pale, freckled face.
The resentment bothered Cassie. She made every effort to behave as she always had, despite her recent engagement to Portland’s most eligible and wealthiest bachelor. She decided the best path was to ignore Amber’s snark.
“The wine-tasting went later than I thought it would and I couldn’t leave until Brad did. I wish you had come with us. Brad wouldn’t have minded.”
Amber snorted. “Yeah right. What about Brad’s mother? Somehow I’m sure that Portland’s most famous society dame would have minded a great deal if you brought an unapproved guest to her shindig.”
“You’re not—“ Cassie stopped. The bitter truth was that Charlotte Farland, queen of Portland society, would have minded if Cassie brought Amber with her to the charity tasting.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Amber bent her head to her sewing machine and fed the flowing fabric through with skilled hands.
Cassie hurriedly pulled the rest of her supplies together, put her deck shoes back on, and headed for the dock to catch the launch.
Being engaged to Brad wasn’t working out quite like she had thought it would. Instead of expanding her circle of friends, it seemed to be having the opposite effect—the number of real friends, a small one to start with, was shrinking.
Cassie keyed in the combination to the marina gate and carefully pulled it shut behind her. The gate prevented trespassers from accessing the long dock and the boats berthed along its twenty-four short finger docks.
Boat owners paid top dollar for the dock berths. There was no waiting for the launch to ferry them to their boats. No rowing a small skiff out to their mooring. The Chandlery and restaurant were near at hand. Even landlubbers could enjoy being aboard a boat when it was securely fastened to a dock.
Cassie walked the length of the central dock toward the large platform at the end where boaters could buy gas and ice without leaving their watercraft.
She ignored the owners enjoying coffee in their deck chairs unless they spoke to her first. That was a hard and fast Haskell’s Marina rule. It was even in the employee handbook. Rule Twelve: “Do NOT speak to the boat owners unless they address you first.”
Being the friendly sort she had questioned the rule. Didn’t it make more sense to offer a cheerful “Good morning” to someone?
Now that she had met Brad’s mother Charlotte Farland and her peers, she understood the wisdom of the rule. Some people considered themselves too precious to be addressed by the lowly working class.
She reached the gas/launch dock and set her bags down with a sigh of relief. The drawstring canvas bag that held the fabric pieces for the fitting—called “blanks”—was nearly as long as she was tall and kept getting tangled in her feet.
Fortunately she had installed the stainless steel tubing frame that would support the dodger yesterday so she wasn’t trying to juggle that as well. Sometimes working canvas on board a rocking boat felt a bit like being a one-armed wallpaper hanger.
She half-sat on one of the round-topped pilings that customers tied up to and pulled on her dark glasses and pith helmet against the sun’s glare. Like skiers on snow, anyone who spent time on the water knew how the water’s surface reflected the sun’s rays. Sunburn was an occupational hazard that Cassie tried to avoid.
She breathed in the salt-scented air and smiled. She loved the ocean.
Several minutes passed before she heard the gentle drone of the approaching launch’s outboard engine. She saw that Pauli had two passengers with him and moved her stuff off to the side where they couldn’t possibly trip over them and then complain that it was her fault.
Pauli cut the engine and the launch drifted toward her. The launch’s hard rubber fenders bumped softly against the platform’s edge. He tossed her the bow line and she quickly secured it, then walked aft to catch the stern line.
A middle-aged couple holding travel mugs sat in the boat waiting for Pauli to give them permission to disembark. Cassie could smell the enticing aroma of hot coffee rising from their mugs and wished she had some too.
The woman, trim and gray-haired, smiled at Cassie and wished her a good morning. The gentleman smiled at her as well as he gave his wife a hand up to the dock. They wished Pauli a good day and hoped they’d see him when they returned from a trip into Portland and headed up the dock.
They had barely reached the midpoint when a trio of teenagers came racing down the dock and nearly knocked the wife into the water.
“Wait! Wait for us!” yelled one of the boys.
Cassie had been about to hand Pauli her tool bag. She started to pull it back.
“Give it here,” he said, grabbing for the bag. “Those rude kids can wait a minute or two.”
“Oh, but the customer always comes first,” Cassie said in a whisper, trying to pull the bag back without much success.
“Those young pups need to learn some manners.” Pauli managed to get her bag and set it at his feet. “This is the third time this month they’ve come running and shouting down the dock, expecting me to drop everything to accommodate them.”
Cassie glanced back at the three. The two young men looked like brothers. Dark hair, same athletic build, nearly identical attractive faces. The slim blonde with them was obviously not related.
Skipping school? “Shouldn’t they be in school?” she asked.
“Probably. I have a feeling Daddy doesn’t know they’re sneaking girls out on his cigarette boat. That’s the third different girl they’ve brought out this month.”
“Oh. Huh. I hate those cigarette boats. They’re so loud and obnoxious.”
“Yeah, well that pretty much describes the males in that family. The boys come by it naturally. Hand me your other bag and step aside—here they come. They’ll knock you into the water if you don’t watch out.”
“Pauli, my good man,” said one of the brothers. “Take us to our boat. We don’t have much time, so chop chop.”
Chop chop? Cassie rolled her lips to hold in a laugh. The kid was doing his best to act like a big man and impress the girl. She cut her eyes toward Pauli, watched his eyes go flat.
Expressive eyes, Cassie noted. Pauli had the most beautiful blue eyes. A deep, clear blue that currently reminded her of the cold waters of Casco Bay on a sunny winter day.
“I am no one’s goodman,” Pauli said, his deep voice deceptively mild. “Help your friend into the launch, please.”
Both brothers reached up and grabbed the blonde’s hands and pulled her into the launch. She landed on the younger brother’s lap and giggled when he wrapped his arms around her.
Cassie refrained from rolling her eyes although she really, really wanted to, and untied the stern line. Pauli restarted the motor as the stern floated away from the dock. She untied the bow line and tossed it into the launch, then leaped lightly after it, landing next to the older brother.
He immediately put his arm around her and pulled her down into his lap. His hand slid over her breast. “Good thing I caught you or you would have gone right over.”
Cassie glared at him as she pushed to her feet. Customer or not, the boy had no right to grab her like that.
“I know how to get in and out of boats,” she said coldly. She curled her hand into a fist to keep from slapping him. “I don’t need your help. Lay a hand on me again and you’ll be sorry.”
The blonde tittered and the boy flushed red. Cassie made her way to the stern and sat next to Pauli.
“You okay?” he asked. He had watched the brother pull Cassie into his lap—and watched him cop a feel of her breast while doing it. The trio now had their heads together and were oblivious to Pauli and Cassie.
“Yeah. Arrogant idiot,” Cassie said quietly. “My least favorite kind of fool. I’d like to dunk him in the bay, but hey, you know, customer.” She smiled.
Pauli smiled back. He liked Cassie. He liked women in general, but he was learning that Cassie stood a cut above the average female.
She had it all as far as looks went; thick, chestnut colored curls that were presently tied back and bouncing below a very stylish woven pith helmet, and warm large brown eyes with golden highlights that fairly glowed when she was pissed—like now. He liked that her wide full mouth tended toward smiles more than frowns.
She might be on the small side—petite was the term short women liked to use—but she had plenty of curves packed onto that tiny frame.
But that wasn’t the best part about Cassandra Brown. She was not only intelligent without having to show it off, she was kind and compassionate. Pauli was a sucker for kind and compassionate.
And if all that wasn’t enough, what really intrigued him was the sense that Cassie was hiding something. Something big that she didn’t share with others. A secret that he meant to dig out if he got the chance. Truth was one of his cornerstones.
He watched Cassie without seeming to as he headed toward the outer ring of moorings.
Cassie watched the water as Pauli guided the launch skillfully through the moored boats to the southern end where the motor boats were kept. The two boys were noisily vying for the blonde’s attention, but she had finally noticed the handsome launch driver and she couldn’t take her eyes off Pauli.
And who could blame her? thought Cassie with an inward grin. Pauli was an incredible specimen of the male half of the species. His navy blue Haskell’s Marina polo shirt stretched across his broad chest and brought out his blue eyes.
His khaki shorts exposed his tanned, well-developed legs and hugged a very nice butt. And his face, his face looked like it had been chiseled by angels.
She tore her thoughts away from Pauli’s physical attributes when the launch pulled up next to a long, low cigarette boat painted fire engine red.
The boat was exactly what Cassie had expected—a giant phallic symbol painted so nobody could miss it. She jumped up and grabbed the edge of the cigarette boat’s hull and pulled the launch close. The rubber bumpers hanging off the sides of the launch prevented any damage to the hull paint while the boys and their guest crossed from one boat to the other.
“We’ll need you to pick us up at eleven sharp,” the older brother said. “Don’t be late.”
He hurried to the helm and switched on the big engines. They came to life with a powerful roar.
“Fool,” Pauli said angrily. “He was in such a hurry to impress the girl he didn’t even take the time to empty the bilge of built-up fumes. He could’ve blown us all to kingdom come.”
Cassie stared at the cigarette boat while the launch pulled slowly away. In her mind she saw the blonde leaning over the side sicking up. The boys were not going to have the fun they expected this morning. Their passenger would soon be seasick.
“I suspect you’ll be picking them up well before eleven,” she said without thinking.
Pauli looked at her, curious. “Yeah? Why do you say that?”
“I, uh, I just meant that the girl doesn’t look like a boater to me.” Why had she spoken her thoughts aloud? This was how she always got in trouble. She looked around for a new subject.
“I’m headed to Jerry Fowler’s sailboat, the Sea Maid, mooring number four seventy-six. I figure two hours to do the fitting. Will you tell whoever’s driving the launch to pick me up then?”
Pauli narrowed his eyes at Cassie. A small spark of knowing tugged at him. There was something there. Something vague and undefined in the background, but something. She had sounded so sure about the kids coming back early.
He wanted to dig deeper but suspected that Cassie would clam up on him so he kept silent. One lesson he’d learned well was how to bide his time.
“I’ll still be on,” he answered. “I’m running a double today so Amos can pick his wife and daughter up from the airport.”
Cassie pictured the tall, skinny Amos who always had a smile and a joke for her. “That’s nice of you. Where did his wife go?”
“Visiting her family in the midwest. Fly over country.” Or it would be if his older brother Zee hadn’t just married and settled there.
Zee’s marriage was partly responsible for Pauli’s presence in Maine. The brothers were close and had always traveled and hung together, played and dated together.
Without Zee, Pauli felt off. Not quite himself. He had stopped dating and was driving the launch—a mindless job—while he figured out what he wanted to do next with his life.
Cassie was a nice distraction from his personal problem. She gave him something new to think about. A puzzle to unravel. Pauli enjoyed puzzles.
“That’s the one.” Cassie spotted the gleaming stainless frame she had installed on the Fowler’s boat. She pointed and Pauli set the launch against the boat’s hull.
Without her asking, he tossed the heavy tool bag onto the sailboat’s deck as if it weighed nothing while Cassie held the boats together. Her bag of canvas blanks followed.
Grateful for the help, she grabbed the Sea Maid’s deck rail to haul herself aboard, but before she could Pauli placed his large, strong hands under the cheeks of her ass and boosted her onto the deck as if she were a child.
“All set?” he asked as the launch drifted away from the sailboat.
Cassie swallowed and lowered her head so the pith helmet hid her flushed face.
“I’m good. Thanks,” she called with a wave. She waited until he was lost amid the boats before she let herself sink to the deck.
Holy Crap. Her bottom still felt the heat of his hands through the thin khaki fabric of her shorts. His touch had sent an unexpected zing through her body that still had her shaking.
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