As Bethany Colburn completes her apprenticeship and dodges unwanted suitors, a mysterious man arrives in her village. He brings charm Bethany has never encountered and illness the Land has never known. She will need more than her heightened intuition to uncover the truth about life in the Land.
Just when Everett Foster finds the courage to confess his love for Bethany, a stranger threatens his future with her—and their whole society. Everett must protect the Land, run a farm, and win back Bethany’s heart.
Book Three in the Uncharted series, Uncharted Inheritance weaves heartbreak and hope while delivering long-awaited answers in this suspenseful story of life in a hidden land.
Uncharted Inheritance is available now in paperback, ebook, and audiobook
Bethany Colburn panted as she ran down the forest path away from the shore. Her heels sank into the loose sand between the fallen gray leaf twigs, and her legs burned from the weight of her boots. Ahead, a wisp of smoke rose from the chimney of her family’s home. She was almost there. The cramp in her side demanded she stop running, but shock compelled her forward.
As she rounded the medical cottage and rushed toward the Colburn house, Connor stepped out the back door. She nearly ran into him and sucked in a breath. “You won’t believe what I saw at the shore! Come quickly!”
Connor held up a hand, exuding the calm of a man used to her demonstrative announcements. “Slow down. Take a deep breath. Okay?”
Bethany hummed an exhalation and hoped that proved the composure he requested. “Okay,” she replied, using his vernacular.
Connor nodded. “What did you see?”
“Some big metal thing from the outside world. I think it’s a machine. It’s not like anything we have in the Land.”
“A big metal thing? Does it look like the space debris we found last year?”
“No.” She caught her breath, but her pulse was still pounding in her ears. “It’s old and rusted.”
“Out here?” Connor pointed east.
“No. Farther south—below the bluffs.”
“On the shore?”
“Yes, well, in the shallow caves below the bluffs. I went down there at low tide because I need potash to make the black glaze for all the orders I have at the pottery yard, and I went farther back into the clefs of the rock than I normally go and that’s where I saw it. It’s buried in the rock.” She bent to rub her aching calf muscle. “It’s in the sediment beneath the bluffs.”
“An old, rusted machine?”
“Yes, and it has a window and I think I saw bones inside it. Most of it is buried in the rock, but it’s huge whatever it is.”
“Keep your voice down.” Connor patted the air as if that would allay her. “Show me where it is, but be cool about it.”
He nodded then glanced at the road when a wagon passed by. After waving at the driver, Connor put his hand on Bethany’s back and shepherded her toward the path to the beach. “Stay calm so you don’t raise suspicion. If it’s been there awhile, we aren’t in any danger. Right?”
“I guess not.”
“Right, so be cool.” He looked behind them as they stepped onto the path toward the shore. “How far is it?”
“About a mile.”
“A mile? What did you say you were doing down there?”
“I went at low tide to the caves where Mrs. Vestal and I get the minerals we use in pottery recipes, but the waves must have eroded more of the bluff since last time I was there. I couldn’t find potash in our normal spot, so I went back into the caves a bit and that’s when I saw it—”
“The machine with a window and bones inside it?”
“Right.” Bethany stayed on the hard packed sand as she and Connor walked along the shore below the bluffs. The roar of the waves echoed off the rock, making it sound as though the ocean were on both sides of her. With the tide still out, the shallow caves and murky pools below the rocky cliff face made her feel small. If they were trapped there when the tide came back in, they would be caught in the current and swept out to sea—just like Luke and Walter had been. The three-year-old memory made the skin along her spine crawl as she looked out at the waves. “It won’t be long until the tide turns.”
Connor glanced at her. “We’ll be fine. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Bethany mustered a grin, grateful for his reassurance. As she walked close to the rocks, an eerie feeling made her belly sink. She wanted to turn back and run home. Instead, she folded her arms over her chest and kept walking.
Connor’s brow furrowed. “Are you all right?”
Bethany couldn’t answer. She bent to pick up the pail and trowel she had dropped in her panicked flight when she first saw the machine. Then she pointed at the dark clef behind a section of coppery brown rock. “It’s in there.”
She stayed back while Connor walked between the walls of jagged rock. He wiped away sand, exposing more of the window and rusted metal. “Whoa!” He smiled as he glanced back at her. “Yep, you found a skeleton.” He reached out for her trowel. Gripping the tool with both hands, he scraped along the metal of the machine. “This plane is called a Hellcat—”
“No, wait,” he retracted his assessment as he chipped away more flaky sediment. “It’s a Wildcat. See the wing would have been up here—higher than the Hellcat—but the wing is missing.”
“The wing?” Bethany stepped closer. “That machine is an airplane?”
“Yeah, it’s an old fighter plane from the Second World War.”
“How many have there been?”
“Including the current war—three. I taught about that in history last year, remember?” He kicked sand away from the bottom of the airplane and pointed to a faded insignia on the metal. “Looks like it was Royal Navy. What was a Martlet doing way out here?” He curved his hand and peered through the window. “The pilot is still wearing his helmet. Wow, look at those old gauges and the radio. He’s got a portable transmitter in there. Man, I would love to know his story. What a relic!” Connor’s voice was muffled against the glass. He pulled away. “Do you want to take a look?”
“You are enjoying this, aren’t you?”
When he only wiggled his eyebrows, Bethany touched the window and looked inside the darkened capsule. In front of the skeletal remains of the pilot was a panel indented with several circular instruments. A black rod protruded between the pilot’s knees. Crusted straps covered his decayed clothing remnants. Her stomach lurched when she saw the curve of his neck bones. She backed away. “How long do you think he’s been here?”
Connor put his hands on his hips and glanced around the rock. “These airplanes were retired in nineteen forty-five, so at least eighty years. He must have crashed into the ocean and floated here. The wings are gone, at least the one on this side. Somehow, the fuselage remained intact and was washed into the cave. The sediment helped seal him in.” Connor looked back at the sea then motioned to her pail. “Did you get your soil?”
“The minerals you needed for the pottery?”
He handed her back the trowel. “Go dig some up before the tide comes back. We’ll have to get out of here soon.”
Bethany stepped around the shallow pools of water that were fed by the runoff from the bluffs above. The minerals from the decayed vegetation would provide the potash she needed. Connor stayed by the old airplane and looked in its window while she stepped into an open cave and bent to the ground. She glanced over her shoulder continually, unable to focus on the soil. After only gathering one scoop, she picked up her pail and hurried back. “What are you going to do with the airplane… and with the pilot?”
Connor was still staring in the airplane’s window. “I would like to remove the window and get inside the cockpit, but the tide will come in soon. He is sealed in there really well, so I don’t want to open it until I’m prepared to get everything out and take it to higher ground. I’ll have to come back with Levi—maybe tomorrow. We’ll bury the pilot’s remains, of course, but we may leave the aircraft here. It hasn’t hurt anything by being here all these years, but I don’t want people down here.” Connor brushed the dirt off his hands and ushered her away from the rocks. “Listen, Beth, you have to keep this to yourself.”
The find was unsettling, but it didn’t seem like something to keep secret like a hurtful indiscretion or a sinful longing. She glanced back at the yellowed glass of the window and shuddered, knowing a dead man was inside. “Why can’t I tell anyone?”
Connor took the pail and carried it for her. “We don’t want kids playing on it and getting hurt or curious villagers getting trapped here when the tide comes in. Plus, there may be weapons onboard or equipment that could put the Land at risk.”
“Can I tell Father?”
“I’ll tell him.”
“What about Lydia?”
“Let me decide who to tell. Okay?”
As they reached the grass that mingled in the loose white sand, Bethany looked back at the bluffs and the wreckage, which was now obscured by the crenulated rocks. No one ever went there but her. No one would know about the old airplane, except whomever Connor chose to tell. She could trust him. “Okay,” she whispered as she turned her face toward home.
* * *
Uncharted Inheritance is available now in paperback, ebook, and audiobook