Chapter One

The SS Neptune cut through the waves with cold indifference, barreling towards a sun-streaked horizon. The sea, bathed in a pinkish glow, frothed in its wake. Gulls swooped overhead, dancing silhouettes cast against the fiery backdrop of a falling sun. Night was approaching, but the guests who dotted the cruise liner's outer deck seemed not to notice. In the quickly-dawning night, the ship seemed to be nothing more than a noisy shard of light making its way over the waves. The SS Neptune—in day two of its five-day Bermuda honeymoon voyage—was all that had been advertised.

Indeed, it seemed to Will Turner, maybe even more.

From his position, seated quite comfortably on a sprawling deck chair, he could see almost the entire starboard deck. He turned his head left to right, and then—unbeknownst to even himself—let out a deep sigh. He was the only one, he noted with a wry grin, without a date. He glanced up at the far end of the deck, where a large sign pointing towards the cabins read "Newlyweds Enter Here," and wondered at the irony of it all.

The daggum ugliest bachelor to ever sail the seas, right here on a boat to Bermuda. That's me, Will Turner. Single for two-and-a-half decades—but hey, I'm in a newlywed suite. That's got to count for something, right?

He drained his wine glass in answer, then leaned his head back and closed his eyes.

He hated being the third wheel.

This all started, he mused, because of an accident. His brother, the Robert Turner of Turner Estates, Inc., had made the first mistake of his life and purchased one-too-many tickets for his honeymoon cruise. And though he had attempted to cancel the purchase, his efforts were met with stern refusal. All deals final. No refunds.

Will smirked. Rob had only himself to blame. After all, it was in the fine print.

But Robert had offered the ticket to him.

Will's smile disappeared. Rob had always been that way. His mind raced back to high school, when Rob had saved his ass Will's sophomore year. He had been failing math class, but a special deal with the teacher allowed him a chance to pass. His success hinged on a perfect score on a massive take-home test.

He was doomed.

Though he had been given a week to complete the exam, Will knew it would take a miracle to even score in the eightieth percentile. He would just have to cut his losses.

Will Turner knew when to accept defeat.

And so he left the exam untouched on his desk, mentally preparing himself for next semester's make-up course.

But when Will awoke on the dreary Monday morning that would see him to his ruin, he found on his desk a stack of notebook paper. Confused, he flipped through the pages, and when he realized what it was he stood for a full minute before showing any reaction.

Rob had done it.

His older brother had come to his rescue.

The thought of it still put a frown on Will's face, and in the now deep-set night, he found himself muttering, "Of course he did."

Robert had been the valedictorian of Oak High School, a star student whose passion for academics was only overshadowed by his love for his little brother.

To Will, Rob's love had long been a source of frustration. Whenever something went wrong—whenever he found himself backed into a corner—it seemed to Will that his older brother would swoop in and fix everything with the flick of a magic wand.

Will knew that his brother's magic was really an excellent combination of brains, looks, and innocent charm that far overshadowed his own. Rob was perfect in every way, and this perfection was an axe to his brother's pride and confidence.

If Rob knew, he didn't show it. That was one of the many reasons Will loved his older brother. Jealous as he was, he could not begin to hate the boy he had grown up with—the boy who shared his last name. When all was said and done, Will just felt insignificant compared to his brother. He figured it would be that way forever. A deep part of him knew that Rob would be a step ahead of—and behind—him for the rest of their lives. Rob was just that kind of guy. He would never slam on the brakes, but he would also never go so far that he couldn't see his brother in the rearview mirror.

Will knew it bothered Sandra, Rob's long-time girlfriend and recently-wedded wife. The couple had met in Atlanta, only a few months after Rob had moved to set up his firm there. After some early successes and a few short years, Rob's firm had grown into the Turner family's greatest triumph.

Stuck in their hometown of Oak, Georgia, Will had not had many opportunities to see his sister-in-law, but it hadn't taken him long to understand how she felt about him.

Not everyone could be Rob.

Whenever the three went out together, Will could almost feel the intensity of her unforgiving gaze, a gaze that said, "Don't you know how hard your brother works for you? Why are you so useless?"

Will never talked about it with Rob.

Instead, he always listened patiently as his brother told him of the many reasons Sandra Williams—now Sandra Turner—was the most perfect being in existence. He never argued the contrary.

It was the least he could do…

Will opened his eyes and blinked. He hadn't expected to see stars. He turned his head; only a few straggling couples still milled about upon the deck. Most, Will realized, had retired to their cabins, where Rob and Sandra had gone long hours before. The band, who had gotten under Will's skin with their slow jazzy croons, was nowhere to be seen. The only sounds he could hear were the rush of waves and small, distant chatter.

None of it interested him.

"Well," he muttered, sitting up in the deck chair and stretching his arms behind him. He felt a rush of euphoria as his cramped muscles pulled back and expanded, and when he moved his arms back to his sides, he found he was out of breath.

Come on, Old Boy, you can do better than that.

He grinned at the thought and scanned the deck a final time before turning his head to the cabins. Empty.

Misewell head to bed.

To my bed. Where I'll sleep.


But what was that?

Will thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye. A flicker of motion so brief he could have imagined it.

Probably did.

But Will was at his nature a curious man, and once a question entered his mind, he couldn't rest until it was settled. Like an animal on the hunt, his hunger could not be abated.

So he turned back to his right…

And caught his breath.

He had seen something.

Will was out of his seat and on his feet in the time it took to utter a single phrase

("Oh my gosh")

and before he knew what he was doing, he was running across the deck. He could see the end of the ship in the distance, could see the railings on either side of the vessel slope into a point. And there on the railings a girl, one leg hoisted above the other.

Prepared to jump.