For complete disclaimers see part 1.
If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
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Hannah Donnelly kept the phone to her ear, even as she knew the signal had long gone dead. Fear gripped her insides like nothing she’d ever experienced. That had been the weirdest phone call she’d ever received, and didn’t fully understand it. Hell, she could barely understand what Denny was saying. The only thing she’d gotten out of it all was that Denny loved her.
The cordless phone slid off her ear, and was tossed to the couch next to her, her brain numb. As though electricity jolted through her, the brunette was on her feet, scrambling for the remote control, hurriedly flipping through the channels to find some news. She had the feeling something had gone terribly, terribly wrong. When there was nothing to be found, she grabbed the phone book, looking up airlines.
“Conrad! Get back in here and finish your dinner.” Meredith Adams sighed heavily. This was going to be a long couple weeks with her precocious twelve year old grandson. “Conrad! Get-“ she cut herself off when her husband of forty-two years plowed into the kitchen, frantically pulling open drawers in the kitchen desk. “Walter, what are you doing? You’re making a mess.”
Walter, breathing hard, looked around the kitchen, praying what he was looking for would suddenly stand up and announce itself. Running a hand through salt and pepper hair, he finally met his wife’s eyes, once angry, now slowly melting into mild fear.
”Where’s Melissa and Mike’s flight information?” he asked, his heart pounding.
“Damn it, woman, where is it?!”
The way her husband’s voice roared startled the plump woman into action. She hurried over to the phone cubby, where she kept all her phone numbers, addresses and incoming bills. Tugging out the folded computer print out, she handed it to him. Walter took it, fingers trembling as he tried to unfold the paper.
“Walter!” Meredith rushed over to her fallen husband.
“What am I?”
Brad Schuester looked up at his boss, standing in his suite, arms straight up over his head, hands clasped, his body slowly lilting to the right.
“No! The leaning tower of Pisa!” the blonde man exclaimed, slapping Brad playfully on the shoulder. His assistant shook his head with a slight chuckle.
“You’re wanting to rub this in more an more, aren’t you, Will?”
“Absolutely.” The architect grinned big. He clapped his hands, grabbing his suit jacket from where he’d tossed it onto a nearby chair. “I’m out of his, Brad. Have a good couple of weeks with Whitley, and I’ll bring you back something good.”
“You better!” Brad called after his boss, chuckling to himself at Will’s enthusiasm.
Will Ash whistled happily as he left the firm he worked for in downtown Manhattan. He would head back to the home he shared with his partner, Dean, shower and change, then off he’d be. He couldn’t wait to see Dean in Milan the following night. The architect grinned, thinking of the new toy he’d picked up for them to use, hoping Dean would play along and not throw a fit as he usually did with something new. He also hoped that the airport people wouldn’t think he had a snake packed in his bags.
Chuckling at his own thoughts, Will hailed a taxi, trying to juggle his briefcase while he grabbed the cell phone out of his inside jacket pocket, the vibration making his left nipple tingle.
“Hello?” he said into the tiny mouthpiece as he climbed into the backseat of the waiting yellow cab.
“Naomi? Hey, sweetie. How are you? What’s the matter?” Will sat back against the smelly bench seat, crossing one finely pressed leg over another. He could hear something was terribly wrong in Dean’s sister’s voice.
“Will, have you been watching the television at all?”
“No. I’m just leaving the office. What’s wrong?” He was beginning to feel the first trickle of worry, and couldn’t help but look up into the sky. Just about every New Yorker did that at the first sign of trouble these days. Expecting to see the worst, he was surprised to see a bright, sunny day above the steel monsters around him.
“It’s Dean. Will, I think his plane is missing.”
“What?!” The architect sat up like a shot, the cabby glancing at him through the rearview mirror as he merged into traffic. Will quickly prattled off the address to him, then returned to his call. “What do you mean his flight is missing? What’s the flight number?”
Will felt his blood go cold.
Matt Frazier looked up when he heard someone approaching his desk. “Did you find her?” The hope was evident in his voice. As his friend, and fellow homicide detective nodded, Matt sighed, sitting back in his chair. He loosened his tie as he waited for the details.
“She hopped a plane, headed to Milan, Italy.”
“Italy?” Matt was stunned, reading his partner’s eyes, seeing nothing but genuine sorrow. “Shit.”
“What happened, Matt?” Burt Langley watched the younger man closely, knowing there was something he wasn’t being told.
Matt sighed, running a hand through dark hair, making it stand on end. It was time to come clean. It might help to ease his conscience. “I got caught.”
Burt studied Matt, sausage fingers rubbing a rounded chin. “Doing what?”
Hazel eyes flicked to meet piercing blue. “With Diana.” Matt’s eyes dropped, unable to meet those of the man he always respected, and wanted respect from.
“Got caught with your fingers in the honey pot, huh kid?” Burt chuckled.
“This isn’t funny, Burt! My wife left the country.”
“Yeah, she did. Might want to think about that.” Burt groaned softly as he pushed up on his meaty thighs. He tossed a pinwheel mint to Matt’s desk. “Have a mint, kid. Be happy.”
Matt glared after the older man, nearly drowning in his own self pity. “Shit.”
The detective pushed away from his desk, switching off the computer and shrugging into his jacket. Gathering his keys in his hand, he grabbed the mint as an afterthought.
The house was quiet and dark, as it had been for the past four days. Rachel’s absence was felt acutely, and the cop realized just how baldy he’d fucked up. He unbuckled his arm holster, securing his weapon before stripping off his jacket and shirt, flinging the unknotted tie into a corner, where it landed with the tie he’d been wearing the night before.
Matt flipped through the mail that had fallen to the floor from the mail slot next to the door. Nothing interesting, nothing from Rachel. Why had she gone to Italy? As far as he knew, she knew no one there, had no reason to go there. Tapping his fingers on the arm of the chair he’d flopped into, Matt glanced at the DVD player’s green clock numbers. It was seven-fifteen in Oregon, that meant it was after ten in New York. He couldn’t help but wonder if Rachel’s editor, and best friend, Reenie would know anything.
“Hello?” said the smoky female voice on the other end of the line.
“Reenie, this is Matt. Have you heard from Rachel?” The detective wasn’t sure if he should put his cards on the table or not, whether he should tell the editor he knew exactly where his wife had ran to.
“As a matter of fact, I have.”
With nothing forthcoming, and from the cold tone in Reenie’s voice, Matt knew the Ace he thought he had up his sleeve was in fact his house of cards falling all around him. He would find no allies here. Deciding to play it straight, Matt sighed. “I fucked up, Reenie. Okay? I messed things up. I need to talk to Rachel.”
Reenie fought against saying everything that was on her mind about just how badly Matthew had messed up. It wasn’t her place, and it wasn’t her place to give up all of Rachel’s secrets. “You can’t talk to her right now, Matt. She’s not available.”
“I know she’s on her way to Italy. What time did she leave? What flight?” Matt sat forward in his chair, ready to pop up and write down any information Reenie would give her.
“It shouldn’t surprised me that a cop could find out where his wife is at all times, but for some reason it does. Look, Matt, give her some time away from you. She’s hurt right now, and needs to go off on her own and lick her wounds.”
“In Italy?” Matt was incredulous. “Who the hell does she know in Italy, for Christ’s sake?” he ran a hand through his hair, feeling his anger building, but knew he’d have to keep it down.
“She went to start research on her newest novel, Matt. She was planning this trip anyway, just took it sooner than later.” The editor plucked the reading glasses from her face, rubbing her eyes with one hand as she held the cell phone with the other. She’d never been a fan of Matt Wingo, not since she’d met him two years ago.
“Please give me her information and itinerary, Reenie. I’m her husband and have a right to know.” Matt sounded tired and resigned.
“And Rachel has the right to do her own thing and she deserves her privacy. I think you walked all over your rights the moment you fucked another woman in Rachel’s bed.”
Matt grimaced, knowing the editor was right, but wasn’t about to let this woman tell him what his rights were or weren’t in his own marriage! “Who the hell do you think you are, Reenie? Give me my wife’s information!”
“No. If Rachel didn’t give it to you herself, then she obviously doesn’t want you to have it.”
“Bitch!” Matt slammed down the phone, the handset ringing in the quiet room. “Fuck!” The couple’s cat ran into the spare bedroom at the crash that followed.
“I do not understand. My granddaughter and great granddaughter are to be on this flight, no?” Paolo Vinzetti tapped the piece of paper he’d presented the ticket clerk with Milan Malpensa Airport. “Where is the flight?”
“As I’ve said, sir, I can give you more information once we have it,” the clerk said, just about as tired of the old man as she could get. The situation was stressful enough without this old geezer down her throat. Without ceremony, she turned her back on the old man, disappearing around a corner.
Paolo, shoulders slumped, walked slowly over to join his wife, Lizbeth, who waited patiently for him, shaking his head. “Nothing.” About to sit, the old man with the full mustache, turned to see a young man with short, well-styled dark hair hurrying over to him. The man was dressed in a suit with the airline logo on the lapel.
“Signore, wait, please.”
Paolo looked at the man, Lizbeth joining him at his side.
“I am Franco Lilitaly, and work for US Airlines here in Milano. Can we talk?”
Paolo nodded, just glad to be getting some information on the whereabouts of his Gloria and Mia. They were led to a room with a big conference table surrounded by chairs. Lizbeth felt her heart beginning to flutter. What was all this about?
The door was securely closed before Franco Lilitaly spoke again. Sitting opposite the elderly couple, he swallowed, fingers fidgeting as they laced together. He knew he couldn’t put it off anymore.
“We have gotten some very bad news. The flight your loved ones were on was lost.”
Paolo’s thick brows drew. “Lost?” He couldn’t understand. The man nodded.
“Yes. Lost at sea. They are searching now, however, it is most likely not a rescue search.” He stared into both sets of eyes that stared openly at him. His heart broke as he saw the woman crumble, grabbing onto her husband’s arm. “I am so, so very sorry.”
A lone figure sat out on her front porch, staring up into the night sky. As she watched the stars twinkle down at her, she had to wonder if one of those was her mother’s smile.
Something tickling. Itching. Stop!
Blue eyes opened, seeing a very up close and personal view of something pink and ugly. Gasping, Denny flew to her knees, the small crowd of crabs scattering and burying themselves in the sand.
“Oh, fuck,” she moaned, hands coming to her head, which was pounding like a twenty piece marching band. Even her neck got into the action, veins vibrating with the pain. Taking several deep breaths, the brunette blinked open her eyes again. Sand. All around her, sand. Behind her the pound of the surf added to the fury in her head.
“Where the hell am I?” she whispered, getting to very shaky legs. She was drenched, her clothing sticking to her like a second skin, made even stickier by the salt water of… what body of water is this, anyway? She did her best to tug her long hair out of her face, jumping with a small scream as another of those damn crabs fell to the sand at her feet, almost instantaneously disappearing into a hiding hole. “Little bastards.”
Looking out to sea, Denny saw nothing but water, as far as the eye could see. That is, other than the piece of something bobbing in a shallow pool. She wondered if that was what she had sailed in on. She remembered swimming, trying to pull herself out of the sinking plane, grabbing onto anything that would hold her weight. Finally, out in the bright, sunny day, she’d found… what had it been? Studying, having to squint as she’d lost her contacts in the ocean, the white piece of something over in the shallow pool, she realized was part of the wall or floor of the airplane.
Squinting further, Denny shielded her eyes, staring out into sea. Where did the wreck go? It was almost as if the brunette had been dumped onto the sand from the skies above. She smirked, realizing that was basically exactly what had happened. Turning, she decided to try and figure out where the hell she was. She needed to find some civilization, and just prayed it was friendly.
“Kick, kick, kick, kick…” Dean had been repeating the mantra for what seemed like hours. Something in his head told him that if he followed the waves, he’d end up drifting to land. Maybe he’d heard that on one of Will’s Discovery Channel shows or something. Either way, he was following it, though was tiring quickly. It was hot, and he was beyond thirsty. The irony wasn’t lost on him that he was surrounded by endless gallons of water, and yet it was for nothing better than taking a piss in.
Dean had paddled back toward the wreckage, snagging himself a choice piece of floating debris. The guy who had been buckled to it was dead, anyway. He held on for dear life to the seat cushions, lying across them on his stomach, only his feet in the water, which he lifted from time to time when too many images of sharks popped into mind. Damn Will for watching that damn Shark Week on Discovery.
The attorney tried to focus on the mental image of his partner, thinking of the thick hair on his chest that Dean always loved to run his fingers through. He thought of his partner’s smile and wit. Dean couldn’t help but smile at that. The night they had met had been amazing, and totally unexpected.
Dean had been a second year law student, and was invited to a kegger, which ordinarily he wouldn’t have been caught dead at, but a gorgeous little piece of frat boy tail had changed his mind. He’d spent all night following Ken around, when he’d seen the tall, dark drink of water standing in a corner, charming Maria Kasdan. Will’s piercing eyes had caught Dean’s own over the girl’s head, and had scarcely been able to let go.
That night they had spent anointing every surface in Will’s tiny apartment with man juice, into the wee hours of the morning. Dean had class two hours after he’d finally had his last orgasm, nearly having anther in Ethics as he thought of his lover the previous night. Dean had no intentions of getting with Will again, already enjoying the chase and kill. Intentions are good and all, until he ran into the young architect at a deli a week later. They’d spent the entire rest of the day talking, and the night having more mind-blowing sex. Thirteen years later, Will was the one bright spot in Dean’s life. He loved him completely.
This last train of thought stabbed Dean in the heart, realization dawning that he’d likely never see his lover again. His feet faltered in their paddling as he broke down, face crumbling as it was buried in his forearm. I can’t die out here all alone.
Rachel didn’t want to seem like a bitch, but she was getting tired of hearing the girl cry. Yes, she understood she’d lost her mother, but they’d all lost something, if not just a beloved person.
“Mia,” she finally said, her head pounding from the dehydration. “you’re going to make yourself sick, crying out all of your moisture.” The blonde cracked open an eye to see the teenager sniffling and looking back at her. Rachel tried to give her an understanding smile. She hoped she was successful.
Rachel closed her eye again, her head resting against the padded sides of the raft/slide. She couldn’t help but find the irony in the fact that she’d lost far more on dry land than she had in the middle of the ocean somewhere. She didn’t even have any idea which ocean, though the mental map before her eyes pointed to the Caribbean. The sun beat own on them, her skin already burning. She wasn’t sure how long they’d been adrift, her watch having stilled at exactly 2:30. She considered tossing the ruined timepiece into the ocean, but decided against it. Maybe she’d be able to get it fixed when she returned to Oregon.
Dr. Pam Sloan was grateful the blonde had said something about Mia’s crying. The girl lay in her arms, the older woman thinking of her own daughter back home, little more than ten years older than Mia. What was Tracy doing right now? Was she tending to the horses? Sitting on her front porch, as she did every night? Was Tracy star-gazing? Daydreaming?
Pam’s smile was bitter-sweet, and she felt her own tears stinging behind closed lids, which she didn’t let fall. She had to survive this and return to Tracy and Pam’s grandson, Luke. She was so damn proud of him, only six and already able to ride, just like his mother. Tracy had mounted a horse before a set of stairs on her own two legs. She glanced at their silent companion, all curled up at the other end of their raft. A young woman, in her twenties, no doubt. Her short blonde hair was dry now, tough the salt water had acted as good mousse, the strands plastered to the woman’s head. The vet couldn’t help but wonder if the woman had a mother out there somewhere, wondering where her daughter is. Maybe she even had children of her own.
“Do you think they know we’re gone yet?” Dr. Sloan asked, her voice soft. Green eyes met her gaze.
“I thought about that, too.” Rachel shook her head. “I don’t know. I imagine they do. Looking up into the sky, it’s got to be late afternoon.” All three looked into the heavens. The sun was clearly on the other side of the sky from where it had been when everything had begun.
“I’m so thirsty,” Mia said, her voice a mere murmur. The older women looked at her, both feeling their own throats parched.
The metal had become hot, Michael splashing water over the smooth surface of the wing part to try and cool it down. The mechanic sprinkled water over his forehead again, wincing as the burnt skin stung with the salt.
Sighing heavily, he patted his wife’s leg. “Hot day, honey. Too hot.” He glanced at her; she hadn’t moved in… he couldn’t remember how long. She lay on her side, back to him. “Mel?” Carefully moving over to her, the wing bobbing, making him uneasy. “Honey?” He laid a hand on her shoulder, gently tugging her onto her back. Melissa’s head fell to the side, eyes heavily hooded, sightless. Michael gasped, noting the dried blood smeared on her head. “Baby?” He brought up a hand, holding it in front of her nose and mouth. Nothing. “Melissa?”
Michael felt the panic he’d been trying to subdue hit full force. He touched Melissa’s face- cold.
“Oh, god! No, no, baby, no.” He gathered the woman up into his arms, noting she was becoming stiff. He’d never cried in his life, the sting and wetness feeling foreign and strange, but unstoppable. “Oh, Mel,” he cried, rocking her against his chest. His thoughts roamed to their kids, staying with Melissa’s parents until they returned. Oh, guys. I’m so sorry.
Blue eyes squinted shut as Denny spit out the bit of water she’d taken in. Salt water. Damnit! Getting to her feet, she looked around the small crops of trees and tropical flowers, just beyond the beach. There was a natural pond no more than fifteen yards in from the ocean. Denny had hoped that maybe it was fresh rain water. No such luck.
Getting to her feet, the brunette glanced at the shoreline to get one last measure of her bearings, then headed into the foliage, which was thick and quite prickly. Within five feet, Denny knew she’d be lost within five minutes. Looking around dumbly, knowing damn well there was nothing useful anywhere in sight, the brunette fingered the edge of her tee shirt, which had almost dried, but was stiff from the salt water. Chewing on her lip, she glanced back onto the beach, looking for anything, any source of water that she may have missed before. Looking back over her shoulder into the deep, green shadows of the dense jungle, she knew she had no choice. Dehydration was already upon her, her throat dry and scratchy, the skin of her face and arms burned badly from the exposure to the sun. She needed to find water and some sort of shelter, and quick.
She grunted as she tried to tear the hem of the shirt, hunger and dehydration making her feel sluggish and weak. She never ate before flying, and now it was biting her in the ass. Finally the cotton ripped. Denny carefully tied the first strip around a branch closest to the beach, then with a sigh of resignation, headed deeper into the jungle. She hated tight spaces, so was doing everything she could to keep her mind on the problem at hand- staying alive.
Rachel groaned softly, trying to turn to her side, but the sting came again- pee, pee, pee. Gotta pee! Green eyes opened, the author looking around her. She couldn’t tell where the sky ended and the sea began, the darkness was so complete. Glancing up, Rachel wondered if it was heavy cloud cover that kept the stars away. Funny how earlier in the day, floating aimlessly in a would-be slide, she’d thought about the stars, thinking that they’d probably be magnificent out here in the middle of nowhere.
She smiled at her own slight disappointment. Rachel thought back to her childhood, her sisters, all three of them, would lay out on the grass in the backyard, gazing up at the stars. They inevitably fell into their game- Veronica, the oldest, would pick an area of the sky. Daisy would pick the grouping, and Danielle would say what she thought it looked like. Three pairs of eyes would look to the youngest, waiting for Rachel to weave a tale of the stars, maybe make up some ancient god, or just some crazy explanation of why a giant rabbit made of stars was gracing their night sky.
Before she realized it, she had a full out grin on her face. She could hear her closest sister in age and friendship, running inside.
“Momma! Momma! Rachel said a snake slithered up a tree and into the sky! Is it true?”
A year and a half. Maybe Daisy was watching the blonde from the very sky she studied. Maybe she’d be joining her sister up there, looking down on the other two. Rachel had learned the hard and very painful way just how short life can be. One day she got a call from a very upset Daisy about the return test result from her gynecologist. The next, Daisy lay dying in Rachel’s spare bedroom.
Tears glisten on pale cheeks as the moon peeks out, only a teasing look, from heavy clouds. Rachel shivers as one rolls down into her ear; she doesn’t bother to wipe them away. No one is awake to see them. She wasn’t able to write a single word for the six months she’d cared for her sister, paying for all of her treatment. Everyday, Rachel had sat with Daisy, talking with her, crying with her, holding her and praying like she’d never prayed before. Danielle and Veronica had come as often as they could, their parents long gone. The four Holt girls were all that was left, and they stuck together.
That last night, something had been terribly wrong, Rachel had felt it. It was the one night Matt hadn’t argued with her for sleeping in Daisy’s room, and not in their own bed. The blonde had tossed and turned on the day bed that had been brought in next to Daisy’s bed, finally waking up, the echo of a nightmare still fresh. Sitting up, she had looked over at her sister, fear and dread gripping her heart.
“Daisy?” No response. Rachel had gotten out of bed, her bare feet sinking into the thick carpeting, just installed three months before Daisy’s arrival. “Daisy?” The author had carefully placed a knee on the mattress, crawling over to the stick-thin body that lay at the center of the big bed. Daisy lay on her back, head rolled to the left side, facing away from Rachel.
Rachel could still feel that coldness, nothing like it in the world. It was that feeling of fake, rubber skin, almost hard to the touch. The tears came faster now, Rachel’s grief of losing her beloved sister suddenly turning into the very real possibility of her own imminent death. Would it be weeks? Days? Hours?
Deciding that this vein of thought was going to help anything, Rachel pushed herself up into a sitting position, swiping at her eyes and sniffling quietly. She could barely make out the shadowy forms of Pam and Mia huddled at the other end of the raft. They were all so dehydrated and hungry, they’d tried to sleep away their hunger pangs and discomfort for the majority of the evening and into the night. Rachel wondered what time it was, then remembered why she’d woken in the first place.
“Shit,” she muttered, trying to decide what to do. She could jump over the side for a couple minutes, do her thing then climb back in. What if she lost her grip and fell? Neither Pam nor Mia would know. She could hang her butt off the side of the raft and pee all over herself. Scrap that idea. She began to contemplate just peeing in her pants when something caught her eye.
The raft rocked gently as she moved, turning to face behind her. The moon was playing peek-a-boo once more, and something caught her eye. No matter how much she squinted, it was just out of her visual grasp. Then, almost as if a beacon from above, lightening split the sky.
“Land!” She nearly fell out of the boat in her excitement, turning to her boat-mates. “Pam! Mia! Wake up! Land!” The blonde turned back, making sure it wasn’t simply a mirage to an emotionally overwhelmed mind. Nope, it was still there. She could feel her tears anew as relief washed over her.
The raft rocked violently as an extremely excited vet crossed to kneel next to the blonde.
“Oh, sweet Jesus,” Pam whispered, her arm wrapping around Rachel’s shoulders.
Sandy-colored brows drew, then flinched along with a wrinkling nose. Dean raised his head, crying out at the crack of his back, stuck from lying in the same position for hours on end. When he realized what was different, the attorney nearly fell off his tiny life raft in order to turn over, his back cracking again. No matter.
“Rain!” He raised his face to the heavens, opening his mouth and squinting his eyes shut as the sweet water fell upon him. He stuck his tongue out, desperately trapping every drop he could. Realizing that wasn’t working all that well, he cupped his hands, lapping at the deluge that gathered as quickly as it fell. He wanted to cry in relief, his throat finally opening, his chilled body responding to the stimulation.
Once Dean had had his fill, he looked around, wondering if by some miracle Florida had magically appeared. No such luck. His relief of water was short-lived as he realized just how hungry he was. What he wouldn’t do for a giant platter of lobster. He could feel his mouth watering at just the thought.
Lying down again, which allowed him to feel much steadier, Dean stared up into the sky, barely able to keep his eyes open as the drops fell. He looked at them, lightening making the sky glow every few moments, and Dean felt like he was stuck on the Millennium Falcon in that Star Wars movie, moving at light speed, or warp speed, or whatever the sexy Han Solo called it. It was like that with snow. He remembered driving at night and turning the headlights on bright, watching as the snow pelted the lights and windshield, just like the rain, at warp speed.
As Dean listened to the lapping water around him, he had never felt so alone, yet was surrounded by God’s creations. How could something be so beautiful as the ocean, yet so incredibly unforgiving? How many ships had gone down in these very waters? How many people had died where he lay? Would he be one of them? Would anyone back home, other than Will, care? Would anyone from his firm come to mourn his passing? Crying at an empty casket, as no doubt his body would never be found.
Dean felt anger course through him once more at the unfairness of it all. He hadn’t even wanted this damn trip! Why was he being punished? What, was it the pilot’s time to go, or what? How had he, one man, survived that awful crash? And basically without a scratch. Dean wasn’t bleeding anywhere, wasn’t hurting anywhere, other than his back and stomach from hunger pangs. He’d released his bladder several hours ago. Was he meant to survive this ordeal? Turn into Tom Hanks and talk to a volleyball, too?
Maybe if he survived he could have a TV movie made about him or something. How cool would that be? Maybe Collin Ferrell could play him. Dean grinned at that idea.
A life together- three kids, a nice spread and happiness. Gone. All gone in a blink of an eye. Michael stared up at the falling rain, the cool wetness easing the sting of his sunburned flesh and ravishing thirst. But even the rain couldn’t ease his torn soul or broken heart. He could feel the solid form in his arms, the coolness of Melissa’s skin, could still smell the shampoo she’d used that morning.
Not sure what was rain and what was weeping, Michael held tighter to the only woman he’d ever loved. He smiled, thinking of the bright-eyed woman his Mel was. The way she wouldn’t let him get away with anything. She’d give him that look that made him stop whatever he was doing, guilt immediately filling every fiber of his being. Why had she stayed with him through the years? She had put up with his drunk tirades, losing jobs and years of fighting. Never did she falter in her love for him. Finally one day he’d woken up and realized that all his searching, all his bastardly escapades were for naught; everything he could want or need had been by his side the whole time. He’d left his beer untouched on the bar, dropped a few bills, and hurried home to make love to his wife.
Michael smiled, thinking of his three kids, two boys and a girl: Alan, Jenny and Conrad. What a handful they all were, and yet every day Melissa handled them with grace and aplomb. What were they going to do without a mother?
“I’m sorry, guys,” he told the rain.
“Pull it, come on!” Pam ordered with a groan, using her full body weight to try and tug the raft onto shore, flanked by Mia and Rachel. Finally the three women managed to get the heavy inflatable slide out of the water, all three collapsing to the hard-packed sand.
Rachel had never been so glad to touch land in her life. Grabbing fistfuls of sand, her head hung, hair falling into her eyes in wet strands. Taking deep breaths, Rachel allowed herself to be helped to her feet, then nearly lost her footing again as she was pulled into a monster hug filled with Pam’s profound relief, Mia joining the excitement.
Mia ran her hands along her hair, pushing it out of her face, noting the blonde woman running off into the bushes.
“Help me, Mia,” Pam said, tugging on the raft again. “We need to get this flipped. We’re going to need shelter from the rain.”
“Shouldn’t we let it gather water?” the girl asked, glancing around the tiny beach they’d landed on.
“I think right now we need shelter more.” The veterinarian glanced up as a streak of lightening split the sky, thunder growling through the heavy clouds. “We’ve got to get dry.”
Rachel had never been so relieved to pee in her life. She shivered as the mass amount of hot liquid left her body. Her skin was cold, body chilled, and beyond wet. The author didn’t think she could be as wet if she were standing under a shower spray!
Hurrying back to the beach, she grabbed a side of the heavy raft as Mia and Pam tried to turn it over. It finally flopped over, propped up on some thick foliage.
“Get underneath it!” Pam instructed, yelling to be heard over the thunder, the rain coming down in an even harder deluge. The three woman huddled together, watching their new world from the relative dry safety of their fort. Once again Mia was in Pam’s motherly embrace, the girl feeling numb, her body and mind in shock, unable to handle the fact that she’d just survived a devastating plane crash, lost her mother and was now stranded on some piece of rock with two strangers, and was most likely going to die. Her brain somersaulted over these facts as she shivered violently, wishing she’d gone down with her mother.
Pam noted the trembling of the young girl, and studied her with drawn brows. She was worried about young Mia, knowing that all this was a lot for a teenager to handle, considering everything else a teenager had to handle during that time in their life. She was afraid the girl was in shock, and knew she had to keep a careful eye on her. She looked over at the blonde, meeting her eyes for a moment, shaking her head to signify her worry.
Rachel’s gaze left Pam’s and moved to Mia. She knew the girl was devastated, and could relate, knowing exactly how she felt. Reaching out a cold, trembling hand, Rachel took Mia’s in her own, meeting the girl’s brief gaze. The blonde smiled when she felt a slight squeeze of Mia’s hand.
As the women watched, to their astonishment, as quickly as the rain had started, it stopped, trickling to a few drops before stopping altogether, only the sounds of water dripping from plant life filled the night. Until they heard it.
“What is that?” Rachel said, straining her ears. “A beat. Like a,” she listened further, “drum.”
“Oh god,” Pam muttered, eyes wide as she tried to take in all with her hearing alone. In her overwhelmed state of mind, it almost sounded tribal. “Have we landed on Easter Island, or something?”
Rachel said nothing, only tried to listen. “Maybe someone is here.”
“Maybe they have food,” Mia said quietly, peeking out from the overturned slide.
“Maybe we’d be the food,” Rachel supplied, her overactive imagination already whirling. Part of her wanted to go explore, and part of her was terrified at what she’d find.
“Damn it, bastard.” Denny growled, turning the cocoanut around, again, trying to see if she had made any progress. Another growl deep in her throat, she turned back to the rock and continued to pound the stubborn shell against the sharp edge. Suddenly after another half dozen poundings, she squealed in delight as liquid burst from the small crack. “Yes!”
The brunette raised the cocoanut to her mouth, swallowing down the cloudy water-like milk, almost moaning in pleasure. The rain water had been wonderful, but her stomach was revolting, craving sustenance. The milk drained, Denny began to tear the shell apart, piece by stubborn piece, until she was able to scoop the pure white cocoanut from the inside, greedily sucking it from her fingertips.
As she ate, Denny looked out from her shelter in the thick foliage, managing to stay dry during the deluge, which was trickling down to nothing more than a simple rainstorm. For the first time since she first knew there was trouble on the flight, Denny felt halfway good. She was relieved to be safe and out of the water, and relieved to have found some sort of food, even if minimal. Tomorrow, in the light of day, she’d explore the island and see what else she could find. If she were really lucky, there would actually be civilization, but she had serious doubts about that. For tonight, she’d stay in the little niche she’d found and try to get some sleep.
Dean was awoken abruptly as a huge wave rushed under the tiny raft he lay on, toppling him into the ocean. Bubbles and a smothered cry erupt to the surface, Dean sinking further down until his ruined Gucci shoes come into contact with something hard. Instinctively, he pushed off the surface, and shot back to the surface, gasping and clawing blindly for the seat cushions. They were gone.
Bobbing in the water as the sun began to break the horizon, Dean tried to gather his wits about him, and figure out he was going to do. The flimsy life preserver from the airplane was already deflating, and he couldn’t tread water forever. Then something occurred to him. Ducking his head back under water, he realized he did in fact see something solid. Shooting back down, his feet hit the surface maybe seven feet down. Breaking through the water again, Dean looked around him, swishing in the water. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing!
With a cry of triumph, Dean began to frantically swim toward land, maybe one hundred yards away. I can do this! I have to do this. He was exhausted, hungry and in desperate need of dry clothing, but it didn’t matter. Land! The muscles in his arms and legs were burning as badly as his lungs, but the attorney pushed it all to the back of his brain, doing his best to not think about it. Once he hit solid ground, other than just a reef, he could collapse and let his body rest.
Dean was breathing dangerously heavy as he crawled up onto shore, his legs finally giving out and he fell to his knees and finally to all fours. Shoulders heaving with his sobs of relief, Dean leaned down, pressing his face into the wet, cold sand, then looking up into the sky, just beginning to paint color across the horizon.
“Thank you,” he whispered, not a religious man, but this seemed like a blessing if he’d ever seen one. “Oh, thank you, God.”
“Amazing, isn’t it?”
Dean screamed, shocked to hear the voice of another person. He sprang to his feet, stumbling back as a wave crashed onto shore, taking him with it. He splashed in the receding water, spitting out a mouthful of salt water. The woman walked over to him, a smirk gracing her lips. Holding out a hand to him, he eyed her, stunned and even more relieved, as he took the help, gaining his feet.
“Are you okay?” Denny asked, amused by just how big around the man’s eyes were. He nodded dumbly. “Were you on the plane?” Again he nodded. “Me, too. Welcome to paradise.” She opened her arms, indicating the island, still shielded in the blue light of pre-dawn.
Dean was suddenly overwhelmed yet again, so relieved to not only find land, but another living person. He grabbed the woman with long, dark hair and crushed her to him, feeling her stiffen in surprise, then wrap her own arms around his back. The attorney couldn’t control his tears, feeling like a fool crying in this strange woman’s arms, but to her credit, she said nothing, just held him and let him cry it all out.
Denny wasn’t entirely surprised by the man’s reaction. Her own emotions had gotten the better of her more than once since she’d found herself lying on the beach. In truth, she was beyond glad to have him there. Two heads were better than one, and maybe they could combine their skills and knowledge to figure out a way to get home.
“I’m sorry,” he said at length, stepping back from the brunette. “I was just overcome.”
“It’s okay. I understand.” Denny kept a hand on his shoulder, adding just a bit more silent understanding as he wiped his face clean of tears, though left smears of wet sand. The coffee shop owner smile, bringing a hand up to gently swipe at the sticky grains. The man smiled in gratitude. “I’m Denny.”
“Dean.” The attorney was able to make out some of the woman’s features, but only just. He could tell her hair was dark and her eyes light. Judging by the splotchy light and dark on the woman’s face, her skin was no doubt as sunburned as his own. “How long have you been here?” he asked, noting that she was dry, her hair and clothing.
“I’m not sure. I think I woke up some time late afternoon, over on the beach,” she pointed to the spot where she’d awoke. Dean glanced over his shoulder, seeing she pointed further down the beach. “Come on, Dean.” Turning, Denny led the way back to her shelter. She’d heard something, which had woken her, and she’d run to the beach, her hopes of finding a search boat or plane dashed. Instead she’d found Dean, trying to make his way to land. The level of disappointment had nearly brought her to tears, but she was glad to be able to help a fellow survivor.
Dean followed, gasping as a branch of some sort of plant smacked him in the face as it slipped from his grasp. Glaring at the offending foliage, he shoved it aside, trying to keep up with his guide as she led him deeper into the jungle. He noted bits of material tied to branches, which looked like torn shreds from something.
“Are you hungry, Dean?” Denny asked, folding her body to her bed of leaves. She could no longer see his face, but heard an eager yes. “It’s not much, but it’s something.” She handed him one of the precious baby bananas she’d managed to find when she realized the cocoanut wasn’t going to be near enough. The fruit was tiny, but it was better than nothing.
Dean snatched the banana from the woman’s hand, almost growling like a rabid dog as he tore into the skin. Humming in delight at the slightly bitter taste, he chewed thoroughly in between bites, nearly turning it completely to mush first, wanting to prolong every bit of the tiny banana.
Denny listened, understanding all too well. She handed the man a leaf, cupped in her hands and filled with rain water. Muttering his gratitude around the last bite of banana, Dean took the leaf, careful to keep it cupped as he drained the fresh, clean liquid inside. Still hungry, but feeling immensely better, Dean leaned back against a thick cushion of foliage, the first smile of the day gracing his lips.
Rachel groaned softly as she turned over, something in her back pinching, waking her up with a start and soft cry. Green eyes opened and she looked around, seeing light of a new day slowly creep in under the edge of the overturned raft. Pam and Mia were sound asleep. The author decided it was time to get up, stretch, and explore. She couldn’t help but think about this time yesterday, early morning sometime. She had still been at Reenie’s tiny apartment, lying on her couch and trying to decide what to do. Torn between staying for another few nights or going home, Rachel had decided to do neither.
Crawling out from under their shelter, the blonde looked up into the sky, still dark blue, but the edges of the world were on fire, the light leaping up into the clouds to paint them orange and pink. It was truly beautiful. Rachel stood at the water’s edge, committing the sight to memory so she could reproduce it in a novel somewhere.
The blonde looked around, amazed at how much the scenery had changed over night. They had landed on a tiny beach, shrouded by rocky cliffs on either side, which waves were crashing against, white foam flying up into the air, and backed by lush, thick greenery, which looked like it would take a hatchet to make any headway. No matter, Rachel knew it had to be done. If they were going to survive and get home, she’d have to see what they were up against, or what resources they had to draw from.
Taking a deep breath, Rachel shoved her hands into the back pockets of her jeans, wishing she hadn’t lost her baseball cap in the ocean. It would be nice not having to worry about things crawling in her hair. She climbed up the small hill that led to the jungle, slowly picking her way through the first layer of growth, eyes looking every which way, unsure of what type of wildlife would be roaming in these trees and vining plants. She was also trying to stay mindful of dangerous spiders, bugs or snakes.
Taking it slow, Rachel couldn’t help but marvel at her surroundings. She’d lived in Oregon her whole life, and had been surrounded by the wooded beauty of it. She’d traveled all around the world in the past five years, researching her novels and exploring all there was to see in every place- France, Israel, Rome and Greece, and even Japan. In each place she was awed all over again, and this place, regardless of the circumstances, was no different. The colors that jumped out at her were startling and inspiring. What she wouldn’t do to sit up against a tree with her laptop and write.
Rachel found it amusing, and slightly disturbing, that even though she was in a dire situation, which could possibly prove to be mortally damaging, she couldn’t help but think with her pen instead of her head.
Chuckling at that analogy, Rachel didn’t see the figure until she’d nearly run her over. Gasping in shock, a hand going to her beating heart, she looked up, meeting equally startled blue eyes.
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