Seattle Debutante Sofi Andersson will do everything in her power to protect her sister who is suffering from shock over their father’s death. Charles the family busy-body threatens to lock Trina in a sanatorium—a whitewashed term for an insane asylum— so, Sofi will rescue her little sister, even if it means running away to the Cascade Mountains with only the new gardener Neil Macpherson to protect them.
But in a cabin high in the Cascades, Sofi begins to recognize that the handsome immigrant from Ireland harbors secrets of his own. Can she trust this man whose gentle manner brings such peace to her traumatized sister and such tumult to her own emotions?
And can Neil-the-gardener continue to hide from Sofi that he is really Dr. Neil Galloway, a man wanted for murder by the British police? Only an act of faith and love will bridge the distance that separates lies from truth and safety.
Seattle, Washington, June 1913
A blur of white raced along the grounds to the beach.
Sofi froze at the second-story window. Set against the tattered sky of an incoming squall, her sister’s nightgown billowed in the dark. For the past six weeks, Trina kept as much distance as she could from the sight and sound of the surf. Sofi raised a shaking hand to her throat, turned, and tore along the upper hall. “Mattie, she’s outside.”
China shattered as Matilda, their housekeeper, dropped a supper tray.
At the staircase, Sofi hiked up her black silk skirts and pounded downward.
Matilda followed close behind.
Ten minutes ago, Trina had been in the nursery, huddling on the window seat. Though nearly grown, she was always in the nursery since that night when...Trina even slept in the nursery instead of her bedroom, crying for Papa, with Sofi holding her close.
Matilda huffed. “I only left Trina to collect her supper.”
A yelping Odin found Sofi at the kitchen hallway. The Springer spaniel bounded, his cold nose nudging her hand. Thank goodness one thing in this house had stayed the same. With Odin barking, she pushed through the green baize door. The dog darted past her.
Inga, their cook, swung around to face her.
Frida, the housemaid, dropped whatever she held in her hand.
A man Sofi could swear she’d never seen before sat at the table, and shot to his feet as she hurtled through the kitchen.
She reached the outer door when the man—the gardener, she remembered now—pushed past her and flung the door wide. He charged across the lawn. The dog yowled and leapt after him. With Inga, Frida, and Matilda running behind, Sofi fled in the wake of the gardener down the trail to the beach.
The man reached the sand.
Odin bolted past, across the beach as Trina rushed along the dock.
Sofi scrambled to keep up, each ragged breath a prayer.
Matilda shrieked, and behind, Frida’s and Inga’s calls, “Trina!”
Sofi reached the beach in time to see Trina slip into the skiff at the end of the dock. Her sister pulled on the oars and made swift progress out on Puget Sound. At the edge of the dock, the dog pawed the planks, whining.
“Trina!” The wind snatched her cries as Sofi tripped over the shore strewn with rocks and driftwood. Dear God, please keep her safe. She had failed in looking after her sister.
The gardener reached the end of the thirty-foot dock and dove. It was hard to see anything other than green phosphorus as he swam toward the small skiff.
Cold brine swirled at Sofi’s knees as she waded to the dock. She ran to the end of the wooden planks. It should be her saving Trina. It was her job to look after her family.
Twenty yards out, Trina stood up in the skiff. Her nightgown streamed in the wind, a white sail against the squalling night.
Sit down, Trina. Oh, please sit down.
Swells buffeted the small craft as Trina stood, peering into the depths.
Sofi cried out, but the wind swallowed her words, until a wave nudged the boat, and Trina fell. Sofi screeched.
One moment Trina was there, the next the sea had taken her. Just like Papa.
She wrenched open the buttons of her bodice. She would not remain frozen, but get out of this wretched gown and bring her sister out of the depths.
“No, Sofi!” Matilda gripped her arm. “You’re not as strong a swimmer as Trina. She has a better chance than you.”
She thrust off Matilda’s hand. She couldn’t lose her sister. She’d swim in her petticoat if need be. But Inga and Frida had made it to the end of the dock, and now three sets of hands held Sofi, as the rising tempest droned.
Captive, Sofi counted the strokes of the man swimming to Trina. Then he dove, and the night went quiet. Sofi couldn’t breathe. All that she’d kept dammed up since Papa’s death cascaded over her.
Waves pummeled the pilings and beach.
Odin whimpered at her knee.
A moment later, the gardener came up, gasped for air, and dove again.
Sofi pressed the heel of her hand against her tight chest. Dear God, don’t take her from me.
At last, the waters broke. The gardener surfaced with Trina coughing in his arms.
Pins and needles flared over Sofi’s skin. At last, she could do something. She reached for the life ring, tossing it to the man. It landed on the waves near his head.
Trina batted at him, and he ducked beneath her. Seconds passed. He emerged to take hold of the life ring. He kicked, towing Trina with his arm across her chest. Until he lost his grip on the ring.
The wind and waves flailed at him and Trina.
Hand over hand, Sofi pulled in the rope, and threw the ring out again.
He caught it.
The tide fought to drag him and Trina, but with Frida’s help, Sofi hauled them in.
As they neared the dock, Sofi and the women reached down to lift Trina from the waves. Sofi pressed on her sister’s back to expel the water she’d taken in.
The man hoisted himself to the dock. Dripping wet, he pushed Sofi away and rolled Trina on her back.
“What are you doing?” She slapped his hands. If anyone would take life-preserving measures, it would be her.
But he shoved her and pried Trina’s mouth open. After searching her mouth and throat, he flipped Trina on her front and thumped her back.
A moment later, Trina coughed and spat, and the man stood, leaning down to lift Trina into his arms.
Sofi gave him a shove. “I’ll carry her.”
“Don’t be foolish, miss.”
“You can’t possibly carry her up to the house after that swim. We’ll carry her together.”
He swiped his wet hair out of his eyes. “It’ll be quicker if I carry her. She’s worn out and she needs—” He scooped Trina up.
“Please...hurry.” Sofi turned and ordered Matilda. “Water on to boil. Get blankets.” Buffeted by the wind, Sofi walked beside him as he carried Trina up the incline with the squall whistling.
He kept his gaze on the lights shining across the lawns from the kitchen.
She kept turning to watch the rise and fall of her sister’s chest, those pale eyelids that remained closed, that long blonde hair straggling like seaweed over the bodice of the white nightgown.
When they reached the kitchen stoop, Trina opened her eyes and looked at the man holding her.
For a moment a spark of the real Trina—sixteen-year-old Trina—shone in the depths of her blue eyes.
Inside, the kitchen was a warm hive of activity.
The gardener settled a shivering Trina in Inga’s armchair next to the stove.
“A towel,” Sofi said to Frida. She dried Trina’s arms and legs and wrapped her in a quilt as Matilda barged in with dry clothing.
Kneeling before her sister, she’d been prepared to take charge, have the man fade to the background as a servant of his standing should, but just as he’d done on the dock, he pushed her away. Ignoring his dripping clothes, he leaned close, listening to Trina’s breathing.
And Trina latched her blue gaze with his.
In rigid silence, Sofi stood.
Matilda pierced her with a look that asked if she’d lost her mind.
Sofi put a hand to her head. Was it giddiness at Trina being alive that sapped her of her usual verve? No. There was something about this man that calmed her sister like none of them had been able to do for weeks.
“Take your hands off her, ye shameless oaf,” Matilda shouted. She’d cared for Trina since she’d been a baby as if she’d been her own.
The gardener fended her off with a pained look. “Matilda, do you honestly think I’d want to hurt her?” He took hold of Trina’s wrist, as if he counted her pulse, and hunched down to examine her feet. Rocks on the beach had gashed the inside of one arch. With a tea towel, he wiped away a trace of blood.
Sofi reached out to help, but Trina shrank from her and focused on the fire burning in the grate.
Inga, Frida, and Matilda began to talk at once, while Sofi stood aside, alone in the eye of the storm. It wasn’t that Trina rejected her help—she was getting used to being rebuffed by her young sister lately.
But this stranger had taken control.
Frida and Inga submitted to his orders as if they’d known him for years instead of a month. Even the dog sat, his tail thumping as he shifted his gaze between the gardener and Trina.
Only Matilda eyed the man as though he were a hooligan.
The desire to cry crept up on Sofi, but she shoved it deep. She must be exhausted from carrying the weight of what was left of her family to let him take charge. Everything had changed since Papa’s death. She spoke to the man in a level tone. “You’ll need iodine. Bandages.”
“Hot water too.” He smiled his thanks when she brought him the basin. “She’ll be fine, stop your worrying.” His voice flowed in rhythmic Irish cadence.
With a calm Sofi did not feel, she retrieved the tin box, opened the bottle of iodine, while Matilda ripped a clean white cloth into strips. Sofi would let him see to Trina’s superficial abrasions. He obviously had first-aid training. But more than simple medicine was needed to heal her sister’s mind and heart. To think...only a few months ago, Trina had been at the yacht club, laughing, challenging the young men to a race. Her sister’s teeth chattered. But her gaze was clearer than since the day they’d brought her home without Papa. “Leave me...alone. It’s my…”
The man’s eyes crinkled with a smile. “You’re all right. Your few wee cuts and bruises don’t worry me at all.”
Trina moaned as her shivering eased and pulled the quilt around her. Then that heavy curtain came down behind her eyes. It seemed she grew smaller, shrinking away from them all. At least Trina was safe for now.
Sofi pressed a hand to her stomach.
A frown replaced the gardener’s smile as he scrutinized Trina. “Is any tea ready? She needs a cup. With plenty of sugar and milk.” He cupped Trina’s chin, but she avoided his eyes. “It’ll do you good,” he murmured, “whether or not you want to talk to me.” His brows creased at Trina’s lack of response, and he cupped her shoulder. “You’ll be fine, so I’m handing you over to Matilda’s care before she tears me limb from limb.” His smile matched the lilt in his voice.
Matilda needed no further encouragement. She, Frida, and Inga began to cluck over their one chick, Matilda’s Scottish r’s rolling, the two other women elongating their Swedish vowels.
For now, Sofi would leave Trina in their capable hands.
Her sister was locked away in one of her moods. Later, tonight, Trina would need her.
Setting her jaw, Sofi studied the gardener in an attempt to remember his name. She and this man had hardly spoken until tonight.
Inga laid out his duties from the time he arrived on their grounds just days before Papa...
Emptiness swelled inside. With Papa’s drowning so shortly after this man started to work for them, she’d not had the heart to get to know him. She dammed up the memories of her father again, before grief sluiced through her—a grief she had no time to indulge. Not now when Trina needed her so much. And Mama too.
This gardener’s name was...Neil Macpherson. And his manner, his confidence...too controlled to be a mere laborer. His abilities hinted at some training, but he was still the gardener. A man who thought he knew what was best, as Charles thought. But then, Charles, as Papa’s business partner, always thought he knew best.
Her voice shook. “You’re quite handy at first-aid, Mr. Macpherson.”
“Sure anyone could do this. Even me, hired to trim the grass and prune the shrubs.” He flinched, so slight, she almost missed it.
Matilda held a cup of tea to Trina’s lips.
Trina sipped and leaned her head against the back of the chair, her eyelids drooping.
Sofi felt Neil Macpherson’s gaze. “You don’t look so well yourself, miss. Take that cuppa that Frida’s bringing you.”
She rubbed her arms and shook her head. Her soaking clothes clung. Weariness of heart must be spurring this unfamiliar perversity within her. This need to fight, to protect Trina and Mama.
“Well, if it’s not a cup of tea you want,” he said, “then perhaps coffee, as long as it has plenty of sugar to counteract the shock.” He led her away from Trina, and for a second she wanted to lean against him, like Mama used to lean against Papa.
But this was her family. She must rally herself.
“It’s plain your sister’s suffering from a prolonged sense of trauma,” he said, lowering his voice.
“It’s nothing more than a nervous malady.”
His brow winged upward. “It’s far more than that. She needs help.”
She turned away from his all-too-inquisitive eyes. Of course her sister needed help.
Trina just didn’t need the kind of help Charles was suggesting.
Inga and Frida whisked away the first-aid materials, and Matilda raced upstairs for an item of Trina’s clothing she’d forgotten.
Sofi hunched down in front of Trina. She traced a finger down her sister’s cheekbone, along the delicate line of jaw. She turned the young face toward her, only to be met by Trina’s vacant stare. Sofi choked back a sob. “Where are you, älskling? Where are you?” No response came from Papa’s favorite endearment. And really, there was no need for Sofi to ask. She knew exactly where the soul of her sister lay. Six weeks ago, it floated downward with Papa’s body to the dark and sandy bottom of the Juan de Fuca Strait.
What the gardener said was true. She didn’t need anyone to tell her that her sister suffered from trauma, but there had to be a way to bring her sister back to health other than what Charles was arranging.
Neil Macpherson’s officious manner wasn’t what angered her. As a simple laborer, he must only mean well.
But as for Charles...she would fight him with everything she had before she’d allow her sister to go to a hospital for the mentally insane.
Question 1: In Chapter One Sofi doesn't want anyone else taking care of her sister but herself. Why do you think that is?
Answer 1: Sofi is like many people--she is the rescuer in her family. Rescuers are compulsive, often uninvited, helpers who cannot resist the temptation to jump in and try to fix other people’s problems. Also known as “Fixers” or “White Knights,
Question 2: In Chapter Three Sofi's mother is at what stage in her grief?
Answer 2: Denial and isolation--a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. Hiding from the facts is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.
Question 3: In Chapter Four Neil says, “I’ve seen this type of illness before, in veterans coming home from war—a prolonged reaction to a traumatic event.” What would we call this in today's terms?
Answer 3: Frightening situations happen to everyone, and we react in a variety of ways, feeling anxious, suffering from insomnia, or replay the tragedy in our minds over and over. This anxiety usually decrease in time and people get back to normal. Post-traumatic stress disorder lasts far longer and seriously disrupts a person’s life.
Question 4: In Chapter Six Neil ponders the new medical topic of psychoanalysis--when did modern-day counselling begin in N. America?
Answer 4: Counselling as we know today was birthed in Vienna by Sigmund Freud. Between 1907 and 1913 a number of other doctors in the field developed their own theories, but this was the beginning of psychology and psychiatry as we know it.
Question 5: In Chapter Eight Sofi shows a touch of delayed trauma as well. What grief stage has Sofi remained in that has kept her from healing?
Answer 5: Anger--This intense reaction redirects our grief. We may aim our anger at inanimate objects, friends or loved ones, or even complete strangers. Sofi has used her anger towards Charles but in a positive way by saving her sister.
Question 6: In Chapter Nine we see that Rosella is not just at the denial stage of grief but she has become dependent on laudanum. It was normal back then for doctors to prescribe this, but is this drug dependency a weakness in Rosella from before?
Answer 6: Losing someone we love is one of the most painful trials in life, producing a myriad of emotions—denial, anger, despair. We all go through the stages of grief in unique ways. However, some will turn to alcohol or drugs to blot out the pain which can lead to substance abuse, not something they would ordinarily choose.
Question 7: In Chapter Eleven we see Trina blamed herself for her father's death. What stage of grief is this?
Answer 7: Guilt is a normal stage of grief, for things we’ve said or done. We may also feel guilt for living when our loved on is dead. As in Trina’s case we may feel the added guilt of having been part of the accident that took the life of our loved one. There comes a time when we must forgive ourselves.
Question 8: In Chapter Thirteen we find out that Neil didn't kill Robert Crawford but that his brother Jimmy did. How is Neil's grief over his father's death affecting him?
Answer 8: Like Sofi, Neil is a rescuer or white knight personality. Generally, these well-meaning people pursue careers in professions as medical doctors, teachers, nurses, psychologists, etc. Often trauma can set up a rescuing personality to go the extra mile. In this case, Neil broken over his bad example takes on his brother’s guilt.
Question 9: In Chapter Sixteen Sofi and Trina have reached a good stage in their grief. They're talking and sharing about their emotions and understanding themselves better for it.
Answer 9 The stage of acceptance is not the feeling that everything is all right. Most people will never feel all right about the loss of their loved one. Acceptance is knowing the reality that our loved one is physically gone, and we must live in this world where that loved in is missing. Often this will include reorganize roles in our family, re-assigning tasks to others or take on new roles ourselves. We can never replace the one we lost, but we can make new connections, new inter-dependencies.
Question 10: In Chapter Twenty-Seven Neil learns that he can never be the savior or rescuer of his brother or anyone he loves. Who is the only one who can save us?
Answer 10: Acts 4:12 (NIV) Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Jesus