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 / Chapter 13 / Chapter 14 / Chapter 15 / Chapter 16 / Chapter 17/ Chapter 18 / Chapter 19
STARS APPEARED IN THE JET-BLACK sky, and Madison almost squealed when she saw a full moon. Light was essential. On unfamiliar terrain, she would need all the help she could get with navigation. She squinted through the window. During the evening, Blue Eyes came into her line of vision, popping in and out of the other hut. Low voices murmured. Sam. He had yet to show his face. Madison shuddered.
Now Blue Eyes slumped in a deck chair facing her hut. Several empty beer cans at his feet glistened in the moonlight. Maybe he was asleep at last. He hadn’t moved in a while.
Madison paced and prayed while she waited to make her escape. What if she failed? There was a huge possibility she would enrage her captors and end up in an even worse predicament. But what else could she do? Sleep wasn’t an option. Nobody would stumble across her on this little beach. It was almost pitch black in her hut, but the snorkel equipment mocked her in the corner. Had Sam placed it in here to prove a point? To torment her, knowing she would never have the courage to use it, even in escape?
No way would she flee via the ocean. She had to run. It was her only option. But when? Would her kidnappers presume she was sleeping by now? Blue Eyes called her Sleeping Beauty. A precious princess. And Sam wouldn’t expect her to make such a bold move. He knew her weaknesses all too well. Of course he did.
Her time with Sam was a period of her life she would rather forget. He came into the picture when she was already a fragile wreck, grieving for her beloved mom and dad. She touched the gold signet ring on her finger—a sweet sixteenth birthday gift from her parents. Their death had ended a part of her. Her personality was robbed of its spark, and she faded to a feeble, needy shell of her former vibrant self. It was weird how Sam was so attracted to her, and she often questioned him on why he chose to stay by her side. She should have known it was all too good to be true. Yet he claimed to love her and wanted to walk with her through the grief. He offered the bright future she craved. The scumball.
Madison rubbed her arms as goose bumps appeared with the memories. It was all a lie—the love, the safety, feeling cherished. Why had she not been suspicious of the unexplained absences? Silly girl. She presumed he was planning their wedding, when in reality he was planning his fraud.
Just as well he hadn’t shown his face yet today. He must know what she thought of him and the reaction he was sure to get. Her Christian charity would be pushed to the absolute limit. Forgiveness was one of the hardest and most painful processes she experienced in her new faith. It was doable when she didn’t have to look at him. She had pictured him scurrying off to the other side of the country like a wounded dog. She’d even pitied him at one point; how desperate must he have been to do such a callous thing? After this fiasco, there would be even more forgiveness to work through.
If I get out of this alive.
Madison closed her eyes and bit her trembling lip. Why the muffins? Why taunt and tease at this stage in the game? Why not keep his identity a secret?
Because he’s heartless, cold, and calculating.
Before the betrayal, on Saturday mornings they had enjoyed a sweet little ritual. Madison always baked the pumpkin-chocolate-chip muffins after her run; then Sam arrived and they would enjoy breakfast together before heading to downtown Seattle for a wander around Pike Place Market or a shopping trip. Sometimes they took in a ball game and then a romantic dinner out somewhere special.
We must have looked so in love. What a sham.
This evening, the muffins were a real stab in the heart for Madison. Sam played the game for so long and so well, she struggled for months afterward to distinguish truth from lies, real life from imagination. She even went down the “maybe it was my fault” route for a while, thinking somehow she deserved it. He overpowered her weakness with ease.
How close had she come to ending all the pain? She owed her life to God—He saved her from complete devastation. And eventually her eyes were opened to the truth and she knew the problem was all Sam. She wasn’t to blame for his cruelty back then. And here she was, his kidnapping victim in Jamaica.
But Sam doesn’t know the new, improved Madison. Now she had God on her side. Faith. Truth. Justice. Salvation. Hope. Love. True love. A family in Christ. The kidnapping wasn’t her fault. She might still have fears to work through, but she was not weak. She had a future worth fighting for. Maybe even a future with Luke.
Madison opened her eyes and checked outside again. The jeep was still parked at the side of their hut, so Sam must be inside. Probably scheming his next evil plan. She would have to take a chance that he either was engrossed in his work or had dozed off. Blue Eyes still hadn’t shifted positions, and from the way his head leaned back, he was asleep for sure.
This could be one of a series of kidnappings if Sam develops a taste for it.
Her escape could save some other poor, unsuspecting woman from going through the same in the future, as long as Sam was arrested. Fueled by that thought, Madison stretched her legs and limbered up. This could be her longest run ever and she had no idea where it would lead. She prayed like never before and took a deep breath. With one more glance through the window to ensure everything was peaceful and motionless, she walked over to the door.
It’s now or never.
She twisted the doorknob a fraction, and it creaked. She froze. Nothing. One more twist. And again. And again. Maybe the tree frogs’ constant croaking outside would disguise any clicking. Madison’s heart pumped like crazy and she took steady breaths before inching open the door.
With no light in her hut, she prayed nothing would attract attention to her movements. The cooler night air was a welcome relief, and Madison closed her eyes for a few seconds and allowed a gentle breeze to wash over her. Energized, she looked to the right, the opposite direction from the guys’ hut, and knew that was the path out of her prison.
On tippy toes, she crept across the soft sand toward a section of lush foliage. Her hut would prevent the guys from seeing the escape initially, and after that, she would run for the trees.
Madison tasted blood and realized she was chewing the inside of her cheek.
Okay, this is where I break into a light run and get out of here.
Too afraid to look behind, she focused on the palm trees and prayed they would lead to a road of some sort. Careful not to turn her ankle on the uneven ground, Madison pumped her legs, fought back the overwhelming nausea, and soon found her rhythm.
Keep moving. Don’t look back.
Relieved to be off the beach with firmer ground beneath her feet, Madison picked up her pace a little. She could keep running for a good hour if necessary, and by then she would find help. But who might be wandering around a deserted area of Jamaica in the middle of the night? She gritted her teeth. What were her options?
Her ears were pricked to recognize the sound of running from behind, or even worse, the sound of a jeep following her. The night was still. Only the chirping tree frogs and normal night sounds filled the air. Some soothing worship songs would go a long way in calming her frantic thoughts right now. What happened to her iPod? The beach at the resort—it would be buried in the sand by now.
She spotted something up ahead through the tress—a small run-down building of some sort. Abandoned, judging its current state, but it was a good indication a road was close by.
She slowed her steps to see whether anyone was inside. No chance. It must have been a fruit stand at one time but was no longer in use. A dilapidated sign and a bunch of cobwebs were all that remained. Madison leaned over her knees and caught her breath. She let out a single laugh—where did this brave Amazonian woman come from? Here she was, running through the junglelike foliage in the middle of the night in a foreign country, trying to escape her kidnappers. Ridiculous and so out of character, it was hysterical. As she straightened, she noticed a rock path leading up to a ridge. She checked behind her and then started up the path. It was a gentle incline, and at the top, she stopped for a second.
A road. Thank goodness.
The ridge brought her straight onto a paved route, and Madison resumed running at a decent speed. The moon gave enough light to see where she was going, and for the first time all day, hope welled within her. Skinny palm trees dotted the sides of the road, and lush foliage in between would provide quick cover if she needed to hide.
The road meandered for quite a distance, and Madison started to worry when not one vehicle passed by. She could be anywhere on the island, even some remote place where nobody ever visited. She may have to run all night, but that was okay. Adrenaline would take her a long way, hopefully far enough before Blue Eyes realized she had disappeared.
Madison cringed. She’d left the door to her hut wide open. The thought of it creaking again was enough to leave it as it was, but in hindsight, she should have made the effort. Bad mistake. She should have taken the time to shut it. With a closed door, the men would have no reason to suspect she wasn’t fast asleep in her prison until they checked on her in the morning.
Mad at her sloppiness, Madison powered on and started praying for a route to take her off the main road. If they came looking for her at all tonight, they were sure to drive along this way.
Something flitted past her head from behind, and she screamed. What on earth? She shook her hair to make sure nothing landed on her and then spotted another flying creature up ahead.
“Bats? Really?” She tried not to cry. Instead, she focused on the road in front of her and rallied every ounce of courage she could muster. “I hate bats.”
More praying, faster running, and the need to get far away from Sam kept Madison moving along the narrow road for another ten minutes or so. She didn’t come across any more bats, and the ever-increasing distance from her hut boosted her confidence.
Rounding another bend, Madison’s eye went straight to a small light in the distance.
Is that an actual house? They must have a phone—I can call the police and Chloe and Luke…
It was nestled among the trees from what Madison could make out, but it certainly appeared to be a house. What else would have a light on in the middle of the night? With renewed hope, she increased her pace, desperate to find someone home. A phone. Safety.
In her haste and with her eyes on her destination instead of the ground, Madison veered from the stable section of the road, misjudged her footing, and slipped on a patch of loose stones. Pain shot through her ankle. She hopped on her good foot for a few seconds, then tried to put weight on the sore ankle. Fire rocketed up her lower leg and her eyes filled with tears. She lifted her foot. No. Not now.
Tears leaked down Madison’s cheeks, this time from desperation and frustration.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” She cried into the silent night. “A twisted ankle when I’m trying to escape from kidnappers? This only happens in the movies.” Or was God protecting her from an even worse fate up ahead?
It wasn’t injured enough to stop her, but it would slow her down. Hobbling now, she continued along the road, staying clear of any loose stones. The foot took her weight, but with each step agony shot up her leg. After a few strides, she was able to continue running. In pain.
Focus. Not much farther to go.
Madison forged ahead to the haven. Would it be safe? There could be a house full of men, or it could be a crazy party with lights on at this hour. On the other hand, it may be a kind family up with their baby. They may take her in and drive her straight back to the resort or even to the police station, wherever that might be. She decided to focus on the nice-family scenario. Wait. There were no vehicles that she could make out. Her heart sank. She would have to stay here overnight because there was no way she could run much farther. Her ankle could give out at any moment.
“Here goes nothing.”
She was about to take the long, winding path down to the little house of refuge when the road lit up from behind. Her gaze darted around—where was all that foliage? She was exposed here with nowhere to hide.
Madison’s heart slammed in her chest. It was an immediate decision she had to make. Either scamper down to the house, which could be going from the frying pan into the fire, or she could turn and flag down the vehicle, which could be her route straight out of here. Of course, it could also be Sam or some other night prowler. Her throbbing ankle made the choice for her. She couldn’t outrun a car anyway.
“Hey, stop, please? I need help.” Madison was breathless after her run, but the thought of being rescued brought a glimmer of hope. She shielded her eyes as the car slowed and headlights shone in her face.
She bent over and rested her hands on her knees while her breathing returned to normal. The car screeched to a stop. This was it. Thank You, Lord.
She took one deep, grateful breath and stood up to thank her hero. She pulled the sweaty hair back from her face and saw it too late—the shape of a jeep, the big guy jumping out and coming straight for her, the dragon tattoo visible from the headlights.“No!”
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