Cruel Summer

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Chapter 18

Jackson

I watched the girl I loved walk down the jetty with a fierce stride like she was angry at the ex-boyfriend asshole that had invaded her space and I forced my nerves to calm. Carter had proven multiple times in little ways that she wasn’t Ruby, even with the new knowledge I had of her.

I rubbed my chin in thought and anxiousness as I lost sight of her and looked at my watch. She had twenty minutes. Fuck. The American bro. I saw him looking at Carter with something more on his face but that was common when anyone looked at her and I had put it down to the common tourist crush. He had twenty of her minutes before I came down there and introduced him to his first Australia fist.

I grabbed a trash bag and began to pick up after the last of the passengers and arranged the boat for the next load in five hours. The sound of steps coming on the plank drew my attention and I turned to the noise, a large fist meeting my face and the bright Australian sun disappeared.


A hand slapped my face violently, the force of it knocking to the side but I got the distinct feeling it was holding back what it really wanted to unleash. My eyes blinked open to an unfamiliar sight. The floor of my own cabin came into focus and I went to rub my eyes only to feel a burn around my wrist, my arm restricted from moving. I struggled against the thin rope, looking up at it, my breath picking up with the anxiousness. In the struggle, I felt the same cord at my legs.

A smooth but strong hand came to my chin and forced me to look to the side. A brown, foreign face met mine, an angry sneer looking hovering above. I squinted to see him clearly, and the face became more defined as my sight grew clearer. He looked familiar and I studied him as his face came into the direct sunlight. The ‘colleague’ leaning up against my car a few weeks ago when Garrett and his crew confronted me. But now I was looking at him in the full light, I realized I had seen him somewhere else.

On a boat, pointing a gun at Carter and taking my own bullet to his chest.

The man hovering above must have seen the look of recognition on my face because the sneer deepened and he finally spoke in a broken Aussie accent,

“Hello, Mr. Vail. Seen a ghost?”

I said nothing but instead looked up to my wrist. A tight knot secured me to the interior water pipe that lined the room and I gave it a good wrench to test it only to have it hold tight. Fuck.

The Indoensian snapped his fingers in front of my face and I looked back up, sweat starting to bead on my brow in the hot cabin.

The sneer had gone, all snappy quips left and a look of murderous somberness had replaced it.

“Where is the second load?”

I shook my head and blinked harder as if it could make his sentence any clearer. My mouth gaped open slightly and I frowned, “What the fuck are you talking about? They only ever give me the one load!” I replied with a hint of incredulity. This was insane.

He leaned back and stood, towering over me. A movement at the door and Brock came into view.

“Vail, come on, please do not make me search the entire boat. Just tell us where it is.”

“For fuck’s sake! The boat only ever gives me ONE LOAD, TEN BAGS!” I finished with a scream, at the men, volleying between their indifferent faces. The Indonesian leaned against the door, and rested his head against the wall.

“You just think that they keep all those extra bags on the boat and don’t make a second delivery after you?”

He pinched the bridge of his nose with a frustrated sigh at my confused expression. “Where’s the rest of the drugs!” he hollered down to me and I steeled my face against his anger. Christ, the boat did a second delivery after me, so if they were missing, so were the second load of drugs. Fuck me.

After a moment of tense silence, the men looked at each other, and Brock nodded like he was annoyed and left my sight to stride back down the hallway.

“How about this one, then. Where’s my brother?” he asked, looking down at me.

His brother, the man on the boat. The one who I shot and bled for the fish. I couldn’t keep the recognition off my face because he then came into a crouch by my legs.

“You fucked up, mate.” and looked down at me, all amusement now gone. His gaze swiveled around the room, and from down the hallway and out of my sight, I heard many footsteps move around on the top deck. The sound of the Revenge’s engine started up, and I tensed. The Indonesian's eyes eventually looked back down to me.

“But don’t worry, I think I’ve found a way you can make it up, financially. Or rather someone.”

I tensed as together we listened to the muffled, unintelligible voices now on deck, a softer one speaking in between the unmistakable male tones. Carter. I struggled against the binds again, harder, and with more vigor, as I slowly realized what was about to happen. Steal my boat? Okay. Take my girl with it? Over my lifeless corpse.

“Carter!” I screamed and he smiled again down at me before reaching down and wrapping something around my head, stuffing an old, vile, tasting rag in my mouth. My scream for her muffled and the other man gave the rag an extra vigorous stuff into my mouth before checking my ties one last time, leaving the room, and shutting the door behind him.

I stilled, listening to the sounds of the boat and the footsteps above. The sun shifted across the window, signaling we were leaving the harbor and heading out to sea. I rested my head back against the floor, an acute feeling of helplessness settling over me as the sun moved across the small cabin. I struggled against the ties for a few more minutes, the ropes loosening slightly but only a fraction. Not enough to give me hope before we left the harbor and other boats, people. After another burst of energy and struggling, I gave up and relaxed against the floor, thinking over my options where we would both survive this.

Several hours later, I had nothing. The ropes loosened somewhat more but not enough to yet squeeze my wrists. The boat was rocking significantly, and the Revenge felt like she was running under engine and wind power. And after several hours of both, with the sun on my side, I guessed we were at least far enough to see Cairns at least. The sun was going down and the boat was starting to slow. I eased a sigh of relief, the idiots were not going to try and sail at night among a reef that was constantly changing with the tides.

For the first time, I heard voices, her soft voice standing out among the deeper ones. A few minutes later, Carter screamed, her voice coming closer and suddenly the cabin door opened up, and there she was, held closely by Declan, a gun in his hand that opened the door. She didn’t look like she was hurt besides the red ring around her own wrists from the thin cord.

Declan gave me a smile that curled my insides into something hateful that wanted to see his face mashed up against the side of my fist and I began to violently thrash against the binds, blood starting to swell and drip down my wrists finally feeling the rope starting to give. She said my name right before he closed the door and separated us, and I began to thrash violently against the rope, now feeling like it was about to slip away when the door opened once more.

Brock sidled against the doorway, folding his arms in front of himself like he was watching an amusing game. I ignored him and continued to thrash when he suddenly pulled out a large gun from behind his back and I stilled. Seeing that I had actually freed myself from the pipe but still had the rope securing my wrist together, he didn’t bother entering but gestured to me to stand. I did so, feeling the pointed tip of his gun in my back as I looked to the other door and heard a woman’s muffled scream behind Cabin 3’s door.

I unconsciously stopped mid-stride and was about to go back down the hallway. The gun stabbed me with force, pushing me back into the main cabin space, when around the corner, the slightly familiar face of the American frat bro, now known as Carter’s ex came into view.

I stopped and squared up on the man sitting at the table with a rueful expression over his features. But of course he was involved in this some way. When he had first boarded my boat, I had only gotten a slightly skeezy feeling from the man, like oil on the top of water. Only a hint and quickly gone. Now it looked like he was carting a barrel of crude around with him as I spied that he was constrained to the kitchen table by an ankle.

Brock forcefully pushed me to sit beside him, and he shuffled slightly so our bodies didn’t touch. The interior of the living space had been trashed, Brock had done a thorough job. Even in the cubby beneath me, my personal wetsuit and gear were strewn around the floor and thrown into the middle of the room. The man with the gun looked down at the two of us with a grim look over his face. Another muffled scream from Carter echoed down the hall and I stiffened, feeling the ex next to me do the same. Brock noticed our reaction and spoke,

“Don’t worry, mate. If I know anything it will probably be a minute long thing, maybe two.”

I narrowed eyes at him at the promise of only a minute long rape but he ignored my fiery stare and from the top of the table, threw a zip tie my way. “Now, tie your ankle to the table, would you?” I was about to tell him what he could tie off when he cocked the gun and blatantly pulled it up to my face. Reluctantly, I grabbed the tie and hooked it around the ankle, not making it as tight as it looked with my strained ankle.

Brock seemed satisfied though and walked over the base of the stairs, talking to someone up the top and out of sight at the wheel. The man next to me began to speak when another muffled sound from the back cabin echoed down the hallway and my muscles clenched. Opposite us, the window showed the last remnants of a sunset, maybe a sparkle of a far off light, perhaps a lighthouse. Meaning we were pretty far out on the reef, at least an hour’s sail, and definitely too far to swim unless there were reefs and sandbanks in between

“Hey, man…” Carter’s ex next to me began to whisper and I quickly cut him off.

“Shut the fuck up.” I clipped out, and I inspected the steel pole that our ankles were constrained to. The table hadn’t been updated last week, and I knew a few of the screws had loose threads. A strong kick to the base would loosen it up.

Another thunk came from down the hall and I watched Brock while his attention was elsewhere. With my free foot, I raised it and fiercely kicked the bottom of the pole. It tilted slightly as I had guessed. Brock looked back into the cabin with the sound and I feigned nonchalance. Someone from above called his name and seeing the two of us contained, he walked up the stairs. Another final kick and one of the screws was pushed up, the pole coming loose. After a few more wiggles, I reached down and lifted the pole an inch off the floor, sliding the zip tie under.

American Frat Bro next to me did the same with his own ankle and I slid off the seat quietly, peeking my head around the stairs. A set of hips and legs swathed in long khakis was at the wheel, the shape of a gun in the waistline, and I guessed it was Garrett. On deck, I heard the scuffle of a few sets of feet and guessed Brock and ‘Budi’ were trying to figure out how to stow a sailboat in the dark so they didn’t drift into a reef and sink us.

If I was lucky, they wouldn’t hear or come to investigate as I murdered Declan with my bare hands. With soft feet, I padded back to the cabins, rage and worry swelling in my chest. There were no more sounds of a struggle coming out, and I opened the cabin door, prepared for the worst. The door hit something on the floor, and from across the room, Carter staring out the window spun, pointing the gun in my direction and holding it awkwardly.

She saw me coming through the door and slumped her shoulders with relief, mimicking my own, and let her arms drop. I looked her over, still clothed, then down at the floor to see Declan’s unconscious face staring up at me, his hands already bound. I sighed in relief and a little bit of regret. “Probably better that you did that,” I grunted to her and she nodded in agreement.

Carter turned back to the window, looking out at the dark night of the Pacific Ocean. “Do you have any idea where we are? If we could swim somewhere?” She looked back to me, “I gotta tell you, baby, I don’t think these guys are going to just give the Revenge up if we ask them nicely.”

I walked across the hall and looked out the other side, so close to the waterline. There wasn’t much to see but occasionally through the wave's swell, a bright faint light flashed, as if it was a plane about to land. Lighthouse Cottage, right outside of Cairns on a towering island. If I could see that, no matter how faint, it meant there were many little islands between us and the coast we could use.

I left the window, meeting Carter in the hallway. “We’re near Cairns,” I said, speaking above a whisper. “Lots of places to swim to, go, and put on your wetsuit,” I told her, and briefly thanked whatever higher power that Carter could swim like a fish and I wouldn’t have to worry about her. She nodded her head again when her ex came tiptoeing up the back hallway. I had totally forgotten about this piece of extra baggage.

Before he could speak, Carter, who seemed to ignore his presence, grasped my arm. “Jackson, do you still have that Absinthe onboard?” I quickly frowned at the timing of the request, when a memory of Carter walking towards me with a bottle of Jack and a lighter flashed in my brain and I huffed out a sigh at her likely plan. I swiveled my head to the boat around me, trying to think of a way out of this one without ruining the last of my life. Nothing came to mind. We might be able to make it the far coastline, but with no moon, and a chance of a current, there was very little chance.

I gestured down to the front of the boat, the sound of footsteps running above us, the three men above head yelling incomprehensible, trying to figure out a sailboat. “I saw it laying on the floor.”

Deciding he had had enough of being a bystander, the ex interjected himself in an angry whisper, “Woah, would someone please tell me the fuckin plan?” My eyes volleyed to Carter who had pursed lips and a glare that might have cauterized some of his internal organs. After a moment of Carter staring him down and clearly wondering if he was worth saving, she nodded to the cabin, still in a whisper,

“Go and get a wetsuit quietly, and quickly,” she emphasized and I kept my passive stare. In general, I did not like the thought of an ex but leaving one to die was a bit extreme, even for one who seemed as much as a douche as this stalker. He seemed to hear the aggressiveness in her tone and frowned slightly before nodding and tiptoeing back to the living space, picking up a wetsuit. I went to follow him, thinking over how to make my very own ship explode and burn for maximum flames, enough to alert the coastguard when Carter grasped my arm.

I looked back to her, a look of concern on her face as well as something she wanted to say. Her mouth gaped open, “Jackson...I…,” she left the sentence hanging, her mouth snapping close. I grabbed her hand and pulled her in for one last, deep, kiss. It seemed to be what she needed to say because Carter’s hand wrapped around my neck. All too soon, she pushed us apart,

“I’ll find our wetsuits.”

“I guess I’ll go and light up my own engine,” I finished and turned to quietly walk to the front of the living space, my bottle of green Absinthe lying on the floor in front of my personal cupboard. I peeked up the stairwell. The set of hips and legs in khakis no longer stood at the wheel and I paused in thought. Brock hadn’t been back down in a good five minutes, and even incompetent fools had to have stowed the sail by now. There wasn’t much time to haul ass and throw ourselves over the back of the boat.

Peeling off the bottle cap, I began to pour the 70 proof liquor where I stood and walked across the living space and to the little door at the end of the kitchen, leading to the engine room. Flipping the small light, I walked inside, continuing the pour and ended at the quiet engine. They might have shut off all the power but it would still explode if something was lit inside.

Opening the fuel port, I poured the rest of the liquor inside the gas reservoir and snagged my towel hanging to the edge of the cramped space, and shoved it inside. I leaned back and looked it over as I pulled out my lighter from the deep pocket of my jeans. Fuck yeah, that would do the job, if it didn’t blow the ass of my boat off first, the flames would then wind their way into the living space. After I lit that towel, there would only be probably a minute, at most.

Saying goodbye to my business and probably everything else I knew, I lit the towel, making sure the flames took to it before backing out of the space and coming back into the cabin where I was stuck still.

Standing behind a wetsuit-clad Carter and the ex, was Brock and Budi, the latter’s hand clutching around her throat with her arm wrenched painfully behind her back. Brock had the American in a similar grip but he was struggling against his hold. At the stairwell entrance was Garrett, his gun out, and casually pointed towards the two while appearing to be waiting on my return.

The man’s standard jovial demeanor had gone, replaced with a look of annoyance as he looked me up and down. His hand clenched the gun tighter as he let it drop to his side,

“I have to say, Jackson, fucking with the engine is pretty goddamn stupid on your part. There is the sail, after all.” Garrett spoke with anger laced on his tone. I took a deep swallow, not daring to say anything that might give away the surprise we were all about to have in a few moments. He continued to stare me down as I watched Carter now began to struggle against her captor, Garrett asked,

“Declan?”

Carter answered for me, “That piece of rapist wannabe is in the back, asleep. Just let us off the boat and we will take out chances,” she bit out, looking at Garrett with a pleading stare. He quickly shook his head,

“Sorry, Ms. Magness, not after I googled your net worth yesterday,” he replied and gesturing with the gun to the ex and myself he spoke to Brock, “Take the lads here up the back, Brock. And please, Budi, try for a tighter knot with the lass here, okay?” I stiffened at the insinuation when suddenly, I smelled acrid smoke, and the forgotten burning rag had obviously ended.

A sharp and thunderous bang sounded from behind the kitchen wall, the boat rocking forward more violently and with a greater tilt than a wave could ever do. All the bodies in the small living space suddenly appeared to defy gravity as the boat lurched with abandonment.

The gun in Garrett's hand, still aimed between Carter and Rob as everyone in the cabin was flung backward, shot off. I was flung into the kitchen table with the small explosion and I quickly grabbed it to steady my body, while watching the others sail back towards the bedrooms, my heart frantic at the thought that Carter was now shot in the chaos.

The lurched ended just as quick, and I saw Carter and Budi, his hands now off her, were thrown into the small living room wall. I breathed a sigh of relief to see her wetsuit unmarked with any visible wounds. Budi’s head had hit the wall, and he was reeled over in pain and confusion. The other men had been thrown back into the hallway, and I strode over on shaky legs to grab a stunned Carter, pulling her to the stairway. A line of fire quickly lit in front of me as the flames took to the absinth like old friends, blocking the exit across the stairwell.

Carter’s hand quickly tugged me back, and above the sound of flames and the other men starting to groan with pain at wherever the explosion had thrown them, she said, “Rob, get Rob.”

I broke my stare away from the mesmerizing fire beginning to eat my boat to the hallway and the three men that were beginning to move around. A stunned Declan opened the cabin door, while Brock and Garrett were nearly on their feet. Rob laid prostrate on the floor. He didn’t move, not even a flinch, and I took two steps past her to see why. The gunshot. The only shot out of Garrett’s gun had hit Rob straight at the base of his throat.

Blood was now pooling quickly out like a broken faucet and I looked away, striding back past Carter and leading us both to the stairs and the line of rising fire. I didn’t answer her question, there wasn’t any time. I knew although it had seemed like a big explosion, there was an extra can of gasoline in the far cubby. Once the fire found it, there might not even be any wood left to burn.

The cabin was quickly filling with smoke, and I hollered into Carter’s ear, “Jump over the fire! To the stairs! Fast!” She nodded and took my direction, giving a large jump over the flame, landing unevenly on the bottom step. I looked back into the room, the men at the end now seeming to understand what was happening, and coughing with the thick dark smoke hovering on the ceiling. Without another thought, I made the leap and followed Carter up the stairs.

The back of the revenge, where people would come in and out of the water had been obliterated, wood broken, and thrown open like someone had taken several sledgehammers to it from within. I steered a coughing Carter to the side of the boat, away from the flames that were enjoying the fresh night air.

Directing her to the side and over the railing, I spied Cairns lighthouse much farther off than I had guessed, just now a small blip in the distance. Shit. Carter might be able to make it, but without a wetsuit for me, it would be a stretch. She grabbed my arm as her leg hoisted over the railing, preparing to jump into the water.

“Where’s Rob?” she asked, breathless. I just stared at her, the light from the flames tearing the back of the boat illuminating her face as she watched mine, trying to figure out how to tell her he was already dead.

“The gunshot…” I replied, but couldn’t think of anything else. Carter’s eyes grew wide with the statement before welling, and she took a deep exhale, gripping the rail as she brought another leg over. I watched her steadily, while in my periphery, smoke was steadily billowing from the cabin below. The four men still inside would be coming up any second, and I braced myself to pull her into the water if needed.

My throat clenched as I looked down at the black water, when suddenly to the left, maybe a kilometer away, a familiar blue light flared on top of the water. It quickly vanished, but two seconds later, flared again and I said a silent word of thanks to whoever was looking after my ass tonight.

The bioluminescent bacteria we had spotted a lifetime ago had finally moved North, and from what I knew of them, they only flared to life when they were crashing into something. There was land closeby. Grabbing Carter by the shoulders and out of her shock, I pointed her towards the light,

“Swim towards that blue light, okay? And do not absolutely stop until you’re swimming in it, okay?” I commanded and she wiped a tear and took another deep breath before nodding. A shout and several people coughing behind me sounded and without thinking, I pushed her off the boat, quickly following her into the dark water.

There was nothing in the blackness surrounding my body. Blackness and silence as I stroked beneath the surface. I rose in the the water, only slightly chilly, and gleamed from the fire now coming out of the cabin’s windows. I watched and kept in stroke with Carter as she began to swim freestyle in the direction I had pointed her, raising her head every other stroke to look at me beside her. My mistake quickly became apparent, leaving on my shoes and jacket, dragging my arms down, and feeling like I was swimming for two people’s lives, rather than just my own.

Another large explosion boomed from the boat, the explosion reverberating in the water, even as we were some hundreds of meters away, helped by a current. I glanced back at my home away from home as flames finally seemed to be everywhere on the inside and were reaching the bow. I floated in the bobbing water for a minute, looking at it with a mix of sadness and relief, when Carter tugged at my arm to keep going. I followed her and continued to stroke overarm through the water, keeping the faint blue light in my sight through the waves.

After an age, Carter in front of me began to stroke, and her arms lit up in an electric blue pool. Her shape silhouetted in the fantastical light and I sighed in relief as mine began to do the same. A few more strokes and the wave outline of water hitting sand emerged with the electric tide. A large sandbank now distinguished by the natural phenomenon that probably saved our lives.

My feet hit sand, and Carter and I crawled with exhaustion up onto the shoreline. The light of the blue water ran down her legs as we both laid on the beach, heavy breath filling the silence in between the small waves lapping at our feet. It was a cloudless evening, the stars out in their full force so far away from any light pollution and I grabbed Carter’s hand to squeeze it. Making sure she was still there, we still had each other.

Eventually, I lifted my head to the Revenge, a fair distance away, and sat up. She had started to tilt back, obviously taking on water. The flames were now everywhere, even running up the mast, the cloth sail giving it more fuel. We sat together on the beach, grains of sand littering upon our bodies and Carter brought her hand over to mine, entwining it beyond fingers, twisting until our arms were brought into each other. The flames of the Revenge continued to burn, licking the surface of the sea. No one was getting off that boat if they hadn't already, and it certainly was beyond saving.

Another explosion rocked it, a barrage of wood flying off the side of the sailing boat, and I guessed the fire had finally found my reserve fuel. With a hole like that, it wouldn’t be long until the whole thing was sitting on the bottom of the reef. I just hoped someone on the coast had seen it.

I swiveled in the sand, looking at the sky over the silhouetted and dark coastline. Nothing. No helicopters, seaplanes, boats yet coming to our rescue. I returned in my place next to Carter where she grabbed me around the waist and hugged me close, leaning her head onto my shoulder. Reminding me that we were alive, that we were lucky. Calm exuded from her in that hug and I relaxed into her.

“Don’t worry, they’ll come for us soon enough. I guarantee that people are already looking for us,” she said with a confidence I now realized was behind the secrets she was keeping. I squeezed her hand and said with as much deadpan as I could muster.

“Because you’re an American mining heiress that probably had your own security team before this year?”

Carter’s breathing stilled and I felt her jaw tense on my shoulder. After a moment of silence between us, she pulled away, and in the faint blue glow, I could see the shock on her face, and for the first time in days, I laughed.

“How….”

“I got snoopy the day we came back to work, and you don’t clear your internet history,” I answered. She kept the confused look on her face. “Right under all the Visa sites, you looked up ‘Magness Industries’ on the New York Stock Exchange.” I shrugged my shoulders, keeping some of the humor in my confession at googling my girlfriend. “Just enter in the words Carter, Magness, and Colorado, and you even have your own ‘Images’ section on Google.”

Carter’s face had transformed in the soft light, now looking worried as she nodded. “You were acting strangely that morning…” I nodded in understanding and wrapped my arm around her shoulders again, bringing her back into my body where she belonged.

“I decided it doesn’t matter. You told me the biggest secret about that girl, and I am betting you didn’t tell me because you wanted a fresh start, wanted a change. I could understand that. The rest is just...stuff.” Carter’s head abruptly left my shoulder and brought her lips to mine, kissing vigorously, expediently, thankfully. After a moment, I broke our lips, now confessing to her,

“I have to remind you though, your boyfriend’s sole source of income just exploded. Plus I am probably looking at some jail time if I do not get an excellent lawyer. I’m not the best bet for a relationship for someone like you.”

Instead of chiding me as I expected, Carter bit her lip, guilt flooding her face again before admitting, “About your business, I was hoping we could be partners.” I frowned at the offer and simply began to look at the Revenge, still burning and sinking into the Pacific but Carter continued, “I kind of bought Triton’s Fury a few days ago.”

My eyebrows nearly left my face and she chuckled in a similar manner as I did, not two minutes ago.

“I might need someone to show me around it if you don’t mind?” She added and without another word, I leaned down to her, pressing her body into the sand, entwining together in the otherworldly blue water. We laid there for minutes, kissing, pouring into her what I wanted to say but couldn’t find the words. Until the sound of a helicopter could be heard coming from the South. I leaned up off of Carter, looking in the distance. Two different sets of lights were speeding over the reef, coming right for us, and I sighed in relief. The blue light would eventually draw the rescue team's attention.

Together we came off the sand, a subtle smirk on both of our faces. We watched as the helicopters passed by, heading for the boat, now half in the water but still burning like it was in a race to the fiery end. The two flew past us, one with the standard red and yellow reflecting in their lights. The other seemed to be a private helicopter, a larger one with many people in rescue team apparel hanging out its side.

I eyed it curiously, never having ever seen such a large rig with what appeared to be a professional crew. Beside me, Carter sighed and gripped my arm with her two hands, coming closer to my side as we watched the helicopter starting to search the waters around the burning ship.

“You love me, right?” she asked casually. Off the cuff, like she already knew the answer but wanted to confirm it before some catastrophic event could change my mind.

“What do you think?” I looked down at her, still glowing perfectly in the blue tide sweeping up at our feet. She looked away from me, over the water,

“You love me,” she confidently stated again, watching as the helicopters began to circle the ship, looking for survivors. I didn’t answer, instead wrapping our bodies closer to each other as it appeared the private helicopter saw the faint blue electric water and headed out way. She took a long exhale.

“Just remember you do, okay?” And I looked down to her while waving my hand above my head, thinking the helicopter might spot us. Carter was now biting her lip in consternation, “I think you’re about to meet some extended family,” she added with something akin to dread. I looked back up to the helicopter with a relaxed air.

“I’m not worried, they will probably be my family soon.” I said and looked down to her with a cheeky grin but feeling more resolution than ever before. Carter and I had just survived something I shouldn't have. There was no way I was letting her go. She shook her head at my presumptuous comment but I saw the knowing grin creep through, and I dragged her back into my arms, thrumming with life among the electric reef.

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