Giant sea swells smashed against the side of the ship as Danielle York made her way up on deck. She needed air and the last thing she wanted was to be stuck below deck at the party she was hosting along with her best friend and business partner, Susanna Cole. Escaping the confines of the ballroom was the only thing on her mind, other than questioning her choice of venues for Sanders and Ash’s annual summer bash. This was by far one of the riskiest corporate events she’d put together and the fact that she was feeling a little green around the gills proved her point.
“Danielle, are you okay?” Susanna, a petite brunette, hurried to follow her.
Another wave hit the ship and Danielle grabbed onto the rail to keep from losing her footing. Susanna was at her side, holding her arm.
“Tell me again why we chose a fantasy pirate ship party for this event?” The world swirled around her as she focused her eyes on the horizon fighting to keep down the hors d’oeuvres she’d eaten earlier.
Susanna looked her in the eyes. “This was a great idea,” she assured her friend. “Who knew you’d be prone to seasickness?” She carefully examined Danielle with a mix of what could only be described as pity and concern.
“What?” Danielle managed to squeak out. “I haven’t been on a boat in ages. I’d forgotten how much I hated it.”
“Too late now.” Susanna’s raised eyebrow and pursed lips said it all.
Sounds from the party taking place below deck wafted up to them.
“One of us should go back down there and make sure everything continues to go well. By one of us, I mean you.” Danielle gripped the ship’s rail as if her life depended on it.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” Susanna touched her arm, her voice filled with concern.
“No, but it’s nothing I can’t deal with. Go. I’ll be back down as soon as I can.” She leaned heavily on the rail. If she had to barf, this was the place to be. No one else was around to witness her embarrassment.
“I’m going to get you something to help with the nausea and a nice glass of ginger ale. I’ll be back in a few.” Susanna did a crab-walk sideways to the stairs leading down to the ballroom as she fought the rolling of the ship.
Danielle and Susanna had been friends since junior high and were now business partners whose sole mission was to plan the best corporate events around New York State. They were lauded by former party goers and their business had picked up incredibly over the past few months. This pirate cruise had been her idea. She’d pitched it to the people who mattered at Sanders and Ash, an up-and-coming real estate brokerage firm, as a fun cruise to Bermuda aboard a modern-day pirate ship. Costumed crew members gave the adventure an authentic feel. Some of the guests even got into the spirit by wearing eye patches, swords and tricorn caps.
The weather had been beautiful and the seas calm. Danielle hadn’t experienced any ill effects from the voyage until tonight when the ocean decided it’d had enough of them. It was the last night they’d be at sea, docking tomorrow morning in Bermuda where the party would continue, and then they’d thankfully be boarding a plane to return home to New York at the end of the week.
Lifting her head and gulping in the fresh salt air drifting on the breeze, she decided to make her way to the back of the boat. What did they call that? Was it aft? She knew next to nothing about boats and really didn’t care to. This would be her last voyage, of that she was sure.
Rounding the deck, she arrived at her destination. The crystal clear sky put the full moon on display. It was beautiful and she would have appreciated it a whole lot more if she didn’t feel quite so ill. Much to her delight, the ocean seemed to be calming. The ship wasn’t listing from side to side anymore. Maybe it was done and she’d manage to make it to Bermuda without getting sick. Relieved, she leaned against the rail of the ship and, as she did, she noticed that the sky appeared to have gone from deep, dark blue to an odd shade of green, which moved across the horizon and in front of the moon causing it to glow liked a colored lantern hung high in the sky.
Danielle had to share this with Susanna. She thought briefly about heading back down to the party to find her, but since she was starting to feel better, thought it a good idea to stay where she was and wait for her friend to return. The odd color of the sky reminded her of the colorful Northern Lights she’d seen once on a trip to Iceland, but they were too far south to be experiencing anything like that.
A thunderous boom sounded off in the distance. There was no sign of what had caused it or where it was coming from, but the sound continued to reverberate in the night air, getting louder and louder as it closed in on her. It hit the boat, physically rocking it back. Danielle grabbed for a handhold on the rail, losing her footing and toppling head-over-heels overboard. As she sailed toward the water below, she heard Susanna’s terrified shriek, “Dani!”
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