From the Author
I jerked, starting awake with a sharp intake of breath ... and relaxed as I felt the warmth of Braedon's body against my back. It was just a nightmare. I sighed, sagging against him, until the tug came again.
Disoriented from sleep and the unexpected darkness, I lifted my head to find Maria lurching as a small wave capped the side of the catamaran behind her. A surge pushed up under the trampoline, soaking Braedon and me.
I cried out and Braedon cursed. We scrambled to untangle ourselves from the tarp and each other. The sky lit up, lightning scattering spider-like legs through the ominous black clouds.
Finally free, he tossed the tarp aside and leapt to the deck. I landed behind him, clutching his taut arm as a swell lifted the catamaran and then dropped it. My stomach stayed up in my throat.
Braedon staggered to catch his balance. "Why didn't you wake me sooner?" he shouted at Maria.
Maria screamed back, "I fell asleep, all right?" A new wave crested the side of the catamaran and flooded the settee area.
In spite of already being wet, I sensed a cold sweat break out over my body. I wouldn't think about the sharks. I wouldn't. I reached my shaking hands toward a bucket.
"No." Braedon grabbed my hand, turning me toward the trampoline again. "You have to help me get the sails down. Maria, take the wheel and keep it pointed into the waves."
Even with Braedon supporting me from behind, I staggered on the uneven rope. Without the moon's glow, there was nothing to help me find the way. Lighting pierced the sky, followed by a boom of thunder. Like a sick amusement park ride in the dark, the catamaran shot up into the air, freezing at the top of the wave for a precarious moment.
The boat dropped at an angle and my stomach flipped. I careened to the side, a powerful gust of wind throwing me off my feet.
"No!" Braedon roared, his hands digging into my arms.
My fingers clawed into the trampoline ropes, legs kicking wildly. A wave caught us head-on. The force of the water pushed me farther over the side.
Braedon planted his feet against the catamaran's edge. Grunting, he straightened his knees and dragged me back onto the trampoline.
My entire body shook as I clung to him. "We have to get the lifejackets."
"You--" A wave dashed against us, water flooding his mouth. He gasped and choked.
I rolled off his chest, pulling him over onto his stomach. With a painful rasp, he forced in a breath, ending in a spasm of coughs. The ocean surged, lifting our end of the catamaran.
"To the edge," he wheezed, dragging me with him.
A sudden flash of lightning nearly blinded me, but I saw the danger even as our weight on the edge brought us level with the heaving ocean again. We couldn't let the wind capsize us. The sharks might still be out there. Braedon moved toward the canvass again. "We have to get the sail down."
"Here!" screamed Maria, her shadow barely discernible. As she tossed something, the catamaran heaved to the side. She cried out and fell with a curse.
Two objects flew toward us, the wind catching one and almost blowing it past Braedon. He darted his hand out, stretching like a volleyball player in a save, and caught the lifejacket. Before I knew what he was doing, he was shoving my arms into it. I handed him the one I had caught, and he buckled it on while I snapped shut my belt.
"The sail." He scurried to the edge of the trampoline.
The sail's swollen rope wouldn't give. A powerful gust of wind pushed against us. Lightning flashed in the sky. In a slow-motion kaleidoscope of grays and whites, the large sail veered down as though a giant hand had flicked it. My stomach contorted as the catamaran rose again. I slid, clutching the trampoline.
Braedon and I clung to the netting. Our eyes met for an instant before a huge wave crashed against us, his body taking the brunt. I blinked and he was gone. Pain stabbed my chest and I screamed. In the light of a flash, the ocean seemed miles below. I couldn't see him.
Another gust of wind pushed against me. My cramping hand muscles slipped, and I fell.