Welcome back to our Wednesday and Saturday serial installments! We are happy to continue to share The Glass Bottom Boat by Laura Thomas.
Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 / Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9/ Chapter 10 / Chapter 11 / Chapter 12
MADISON CRACKED ONE EYE OPEN and then the other. Where am I?
Some sort of hut. Stuffy and hot. Sunlight poured in through a single window as she pulled herself up to a sitting position. Nice…and…slow.
Nausea swept over her like a tidal wave and she forced herself to hold still until it passed. She leaned back against a plank wall and exhaled. What happened? She looked down at her running shorts, shoes, and tank top. Yes, she was out for a morning run. And then someone attacked her out of nowhere and another guy had a yellow cloth…
Her head pounded. Most likely from dehydration, not to mention the aftereffects of being unconscious. She stretched out her limbs and probed for wounds. Nothing, other than a bump on the side of her head. Several bruises were developing on her arms, which felt sore to the touch, but no bones were broken, and she didn’t seem to be drugged. At least, not anymore.
She fixed her ponytail and noticed her clothes were damp and smudged with dirt. The glass bottom boat. The last memory before blacking out resurfaced and Madison clapped her hand over her mouth. Thank the Lord I was unconscious. Had she been out on the ocean with the creepy guy? Wait. There were two of them. What had they done to her and where was she now? Madison’s head spun, and she hugged her knees to her chest. Had they bundled her into a corner or hung her over the edge? Judging from the smudges on her tank top, wherever she had been, it was filthy. Just as well she had no recollection. Oriented, she surveyed the room. An ancient surfboard leaned against one wall, and snorkeling gear was heaped in a pile in the corner by the door. One small wooden table sat below the window, and a plastic folding chair was pushed underneath. No expense spared here. No food or water or bathroom—was this a temporary holding place? What did these animals want with her?
Madison stood on shaky legs and walked three steps to the wooden door. She turned the metal knob. Careful. Best not to attract any unwanted attention. The lock caught. There was no getting out of here the easy way. The window? She stumbled over and inspected it—there was no way to open it at all. She peered through the grubby glass and saw another shack beside hers, small and basic. They were right on the beachfront, the ocean lapping the shore in front of them. Horribly close, in fact. Twenty feet or so? She pressed her ear to the glass. No voices. Just the gentle rustle of palm fronds and the rhythmic crash of waves pounding the sand. Where were her captors?
She stretched her arms above her head, grateful she was not bound or tied up, and attempted to right the crick in her sore neck. Wishing for a watch, she guessed it must be close to midafternoon, judging by the angle of sun and intensity of heat. The air in here
was heavy and humid and smelled of stale sweat and salt. Jamaican heat was wonderful when air-conditioning or a cool swimming pool were available. Like at the resort.
Is anyone missing me yet? Luke would be. She was supposed to meet him at eleven, so he would be worried. Had he waited for her? Had he given up, thinking she didn’t care? No, he would be concerned—maybe he contacted security or even the police. But Chloe wouldn’t have a clue. She was enjoying her honeymoon in paradise, unaware her sister was being held in some shack, goodness knows where.
Madison forced herself to breathe in through her nose and out through her mouth. She was in danger of hyperventilating if she considered the possible outcomes of her predicament. There must be a simple explanation. Could it be some prank? Really not funny. Was someone after her money perhaps? But who? Who would do something so reckless? And why not kidnap her in Seattle? She didn’t know a soul in Jamaica.
Her thoughts shifted to Sam, the most calculating individual she’d ever encountered. He was vindictive and cruel, but he’d been out of the picture for a year, and kidnapping was not his style. He was far too sophisticated for something so base. Unless he hired those thugs. Perhaps it was a complete stranger who plucked her at random from the beach. There was a good chance anyone from their luxurious resort would have money.
Then she remembered the guy with the icy blue eyes. Yes, he was the one who kidnapped her, and it was no chance encounter. He followed her all weekend, biding his time and waiting for an opportune moment to strike. He was bad news. Why did I chance going for a run on my own this morning? Tears surfaced. Yesterday was so wonderful, she let her guard down. And now here she was. Not just followed, but kidnapped.
Madison shuddered. What would he do to her? Hopefully, he wanted only her money. She gulped. What if he planned to take her away somewhere? Marry her off or keep her prisoner forever? Rape, maim, or even murder her? Then there was the other man on the dock to consider, the one with the cloth. What was his part in this plan? Several nasty scenarios ran through her mind and she started to pace the room. With four steps in each direction, she felt like a caged lion.
Something outside slammed shut—a door perhaps? A key turned in the lock of Madison’s door and she froze in place. The door burst open, bringing with it a brief, refreshing gust of cooler air—and the hulking figure of Blue Eyes.
He marched in and thumped a bottle of water onto the table and then approached Madison, his piercing stare the most menacing she’d ever encountered.
“You’re trembling, princess.” Madison took a deep breath and jutted her chin. “Nice sleep, sweetheart?” He grinned and trailed one finger down the side of her face. Madison flinched and backed up against the wall. “Who are you? What do you want?”
He let out a cold laugh and wiggled his bushy blond eyebrows. “You’ll have to be patient, beautiful. You might want to make yourself comfortable here. It’s going to be a long, long night.”
He stood close enough for Madison’s senses to be overpowered by the stench of aftershave, cigarette smoke, and beer. No chance trying to defend herself against his bodybuilder physique.
“Get away from me.” “For now…” He smirked and then turned and stormed back out through the door, locking it in his wake.
Madison sank down the wall and collapsed onto the slatted wooden floor. She might have been able to remain composed in front of Blue Eyes, but now she dissolved into tears. All her previous fears and insecurities paled in comparison with what she was feeling right now. Helpless and hopeless.
Wait. No. I’m not helpless or hopeless. That was the old me. I have God with me now. He’s my help and my hope. Father, forgive me for forgetting You are in control here, not some bully. Please give me the courage I need to get through this. I can’t do it on my own. I can’t.
Her sobbing subsided and an inner strength took over. Madison stood and stumbled back over to the table. She twisted off the bottle cap and gulped a swig of water. It was far from cool and refreshing, but it would keep her from dehydrating. She needed to keep her strength up and stay strong and alert. There had to be a way out of here.
She sorted through the junk in the room, hoping to find something to use as a weapon or at least in defense. There was nothing sharp or heavy, other than the chair. She picked it up and lifted it above her head to see whether it might work as a battering ram of some sort. Madison was so out of her comfort zone. Should have taken those self-defense classes with Chloe years ago. She unleashed her inner tigress, growled, and raised the chair again, ready to take aim at her captor. A movement at the window caught her attention, and she spun around to look. She dropped the chair and screamed.
There was Blue Eyes, his face squished up against the glass in a horrific leer. Her skin crawled.
Why hadn’t she checked the window for spectators before acting like a gladiator? Madison threw back her shoulders and retreated from the window to the sound of her kidnapper cackling outside. She could also hear the other guy’s muffled voice. Two against one. Two men against one woman. She bit her lip and forced herself to breathe.
God, I know You’re bigger than all this. Please help me not to fall apart here… The door swung open again, and Blue Eyes swaggered to the table, a cell phone in his hand.
“Okay, Miss Grey. We have a little phone call to make.” “You know my name?” Her stomach lurched. This was personal.
“I know everything about you, beautiful. I know you’re a rich young lady, thanks to the hefty inheritance that dropped into your lap. Bad luck for your parents, good luck for you, and better luck for me.”
Madison clenched her fist by her side. Best not to slap his smug bronzed face. “Are you from Seattle? You sound like you’re from farther south, but you seem to know plenty about my family. How long have you been following me?” Her voice sounded tinny and hollow in her ears. Keep him talking. Find out anything that might give a clue.
He held up one hand. “Enough. I’m the one who gets to ask questions here. And I’m about to question how much your little sister loves you.”
Madison gasped. “My sister? Leave Chloe out of this. She’s on her honeymoon, for goodness’ sake.”
“You’d better hope she put her honeymoon on hold for you, sweetheart, because she’s your only chance. If she refuses to cooperate, I’m not sure what will become of you. But you can kiss your old life goodbye. That’s for certain.”
“What do you mean?” Her heart raced and her mouth went dry. What did they have in mind for her? Breathe. Pray. Lord, help me.
“The boss has too much invested in this. There’s no going back, and only your little sister can make it happen.”
“And who is your boss?” “He’ll reveal his identity when he’s good and ready. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that. In the meantime, let’s have a nice chat with your newlywed sister, shall we? Unless you would prefer her to be a widow by the end of the week. Or for that husband of hers to be a widower…”
“Don’t you lay a finger on my little sister.” Madison’s breath came hard and fast. “Yeah, she’s not having a good day today. She’ll be bawling her eyes out after reading that sweet note I left for her this morning. But don’t panic. If we’re going to lay a finger on anyone, it’ll be on you.”
Madison wiped clammy palms on her shorts. “What do you want? Money? Is that what it’s all about? You don’t have to hurt my sister or me. We’ll give you your stupid money.”
“Let’s hope so, for your sake. You had better behave yourself and play nice, okay? I can’t promise to keep my hands to myself if you misbehave.”
He looked her up and down, leaned a hip against the rickety table, and dialed a number into his phone.
Repulsed, Madison glanced away at the chair. If only she had the strength to pick it up and smash it over his head. But even if she did, what about the other guy outside? She steeled herself, ready to run or shout a message to Chloe. Something. This could be her one chance to give her sister a clue. But what would she say? “I’m in a little hut on a beach somewhere”? No help whatsoever. God, any wisdom would be great about now. Blue Eyes stared directly at Madison and she knew what clue she could give.
“Yes, room 400, please.” He raised a brow and sneered. Madison inched closer to the table, hoping to hear Chloe’s voice, even if it meant getting closer to the stinking hulk.
“Hello?” Chloe’s voice was shrill. “Who is this?” Madison closed her eyes, thankful her sister was safe and hadn’t tried anything foolish.
“I’m glad you received our message, Miss Grey. Or should I say ‘Mrs. Alexander’? I’m the one who has your sister.” Blue Eyes winked at Madison.
“What do you want with her? How do I know she’s all right?” Chloe’s voice cracked. “I need to speak with her.”
“First things first. I need to make sure we will have our money at noon tomorrow. I hope you’ll be waiting for our call. I’ll give you details of the drop-off location then. And remember, no police. And that includes hotel security. We will know if you break that rule—and you’ll all be sorry. So, will we have our money?”
“Yes, yes. We’re working on it right now. But I have to know Madison is safe.” “She’s safe. Shaking like a leaf, but if you do your part and we get our money, you can have a sweet family reunion.” He chuckled at his own humor.
“I’ll get the money. I don’t care about that. But please, don’t hurt her. Can I speak with her now? Your note said you’d give me proof she is alive.”
He moved the phone toward Madison. “Blue Eyes has me.” Madison screamed the words to be sure her sister would hear. Please let Chloe or Luke know who I’m talking about. “Silly girl.” Blue Eyes slapped Madison’s cheek so hard, she staggered back across the room and landed in a heap by the snorkeling equipment.
“We mean business.” He yelled into his phone and then snapped it shut. Madison flinched when he strode past her, but he didn’t even look down to acknowledge she was there. He slammed the door behind him and locked it from outside. Tears flowed down her burning cheek, and she curled herself into a ball, closing her eyes. They must have heard her. If so, it was worth the slap. If it were a nightmare, maybe she would wake up soon—she would quit feeling more alone than ever before, and this fear of her unknown future would evaporate. With no idea where she was, who her captors were, or whether she would even get out of the sickening situation alive, she cried until sleep finally claimed her.
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