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 / Chapter 20 / Chapter 21
MADISON SIGHED. SHE LAY IN the hammock, idly rocking from side to side. It was rhythmic and soothing, and even though she must have napped for hours, she didn’t want to wake up. Why was she so exhausted? Snap out of it, girl. This is pure laziness. But surely she needed to rest? Her body insisted. So, so sleepy.
Eyes still closed, she ran her fingers over the hammock below her. Something wasn’t quite right. It felt too solid for a hammock, and why was there no wind? There was always a brisk breeze in her backyard, and this was her favorite spot under the trees, where it was cool and secluded. She did her best dreaming right here.
Weird. Why are my hands stuck together?
Madison gasped for air and sat bolt upright, eyes wide open. Still the rocking, but it was nighttime. Dark. What was she thinking? She wasn’t at home in Seattle at all. She was in Jamaica. The kidnapping, her failed escape, Sam and Blue Eyes—it all came flooding back. The swaying wasn’t from any hammock.
Her heart raced, head pounded. A thick cord bound both hands together and dug into the flesh on her wrists. She managed to curl her legs around and kneel up. Rubbed her grainy eyes as they adjusted to her dark surroundings. Looking up, she saw a white canopy. She was no longer being held hostage in the rickety beach hut.
No. The gentle rocking could mean only one thing.
The hut was paradise compared with this. As she grabbed fistfuls of hair with her bound hands, the truth dawned. She was alone in her nightmare. They had dumped her in the glass bottom boat.
Moonlight provided enough visibility for her to see she was the only person on board. Completely alone. She could be anywhere on the water. Fresh air enveloped her, the ocean breeze rustled her hair, and the salt water permeated her nostrils, all confirming her suspicion.
Nausea rose from her stomach, and fear prickled her skin. She hated throwing up. Please, not that on top of everything else. Her breaths came in short, sharp bursts, and darkness beckoned. No way was she going to faint either. She had to be aware of her captors’ next move, wherever they were.
God, help me stay conscious. She inhaled through her nose and exhaled through her mouth. In and out. Square breathing—that’s what she needed to do: four seconds up breathing in, hold for four seconds across, four seconds down breathing out, hold for four seconds across. A trick she learned in counseling after her parents’ deaths. She visualized the square as she repeated the exercise over and over until the shaking subsided.
This boat was an exact reenactment of the dreaded nightmare she experienced over the years since her sailing accident. Tonight was her one chance to survive it in real life and conquer the demons that refused to leave her alone. She may be powerless in her dreams, but now she had the opportunity to make brave choices. To overcome. Lord, help me get over this fear. I trust You.
She was able to see everything now. She stayed still and concentrated on breathing while she evaluated the situation. She knelt on a coarse blanket at the back of the boat. Holding on to a rail with a death grip, she inched forward, still on her knees.
Before her were a series of rectangular glass panels on the floor of the boat—windows to the depths below. As a young child, she always dreamed of going on a glass bottom boat, but that was before the accident, back when the ocean fascinated and beckoned.
Madison averted her gaze and concentrated on the solid wooden sides of the vessel, where long planks created benches for passengers to sit on while viewing the ocean through the glass. Careful not to rock the boat in case she was being watched, she clambered up to a bench and sat with her head between her knees and eyes pressed shut.
While she waited to fully come to her senses, she stretched out every finger and toe until she was convinced she had no major injuries. Her ankle no longer throbbed like before, although it was sore and looked puffy. Whatever they used on the cloth to knock her out, it was potent and served its purpose well. Other than thirst, exhaustion, and aches all over, she was okay. Bruised, but not broken. Be grateful for small mercies.
Her breathing returned almost to normal, but her wrists throbbed from the binding cord. She tried to loosen it with her teeth. Her efforts were futile. Fear gave way to anger in the pit of her stomach. How could Sam be so cruel?
Then again, anyone vicious enough to sabotage a plane and plot to steal her inheritance wouldn’t think twice about using her greatest fear against her. Almost as if he hoped she’d have a major panic attack so he could watch her squirm.
A year ago, that would have been the case for sure.
I’m stronger now. Not by much, but I have a God who is all powerful. Way more powerful than Sam Kinkaid. She recalled her conversation with Sam earlier and sucked in a breath. Wait. I’m dealing with a maniac. He killed my parents. He caused their accident…and then I loved him.
A groan escaped from her lips. Had he laughed at her grief, knowing he was the cause? With the horrific reminder, the pain of her mom and dad’s absence was as sharp as the day she had received the devastating news. She might never get over the accident, but now knowing Sam had orchestrated the whole thing—that was beyond sickening. Madison pressed her hands into her stomach. How could he? The time he spent in the Greys’ home after the accident, supposedly grieving alongside Madison and Chloe, making himself comfortable in their house, and helping the girls come to terms with their loss. It was all a scam. He was a murderer. A murderer? She had loved a murderer…
It was too much to process. How would Chloe react? The rippling effect this news would have on everyone who loved the Grey family was beyond comprehension. The accident would become an open murder investigation and expose old wounds. On top of embezzlement, attempted fraud, and kidnapping. More grieving would come, but survival was first on the list. Right now, she needed to compartmentalize and prioritize her thoughts.
She looked down at her hands. Really? They were fastened together in prayer mode—a constant reminder not to rely on her own strength. Blue Eyes didn’t think of that. There had to be a way of loosening the cord. Her eyes darted around to anything sharp within her reach. Nothing. That would be far too easy. The edge of the bench was going to have to suffice. She bent over and tried sawing the exposed cord against the wooden edge. Useless. God, give me strength and wisdom.
Madison took a deep breath and stood on weak legs. Sure enough, she was out on the ocean alone. She glanced toward the captain’s chair and sighed. Even if her hands were free, she wouldn’t know how to drive a boat. She peered with caution over the side of the boat and noticed a long rope attached to the dock. Her heart sank. The dock was a good distance away, meaning she would have to get out and swim for it. Sam knew she would never dream of doing such a thing. Did his cruelty know no bounds? She could grab the rope and haul herself closer to the dock but what if Sam saw the boat move? He could be watching her even now from his vantage point in the hut. Better to keep her distance from him.
She swiveled and squinted at the dimly lit beach. The moonlight enabled her to recognize her tiny prison from earlier, and a short distance along the beach she spotted the other hut, the outhouse, and the jeep. The huts had to be at least twenty feet from the shore, a hundred feet or so from where she sat in the boat. A light shone from her captors’ window, and she guessed they must be inside. It didn’t matter whether they were sleeping or not because she was stranded and they knew it. Sam had her right where he wanted her.
What was the point of screaming for help? No one else was here. They had chosen this location for that exact reason. There was one more dock up ahead, but it was empty. The desolate stretch of beach had one light shining from it, and that came from their hut. Madison was in no hurry to see Sam or Blue Eyes anytime soon.
She peered beyond the beach to see the hint of a road. No traffic would come anywhere close, as she had discovered from her earlier attempt to flee. How would anyone ever know to look for her here? The severity of the situation hit her again. She was alone. Just her and God on the ocean in the midst of her worst fears. She sank back onto the hard bench.
Memories of the last time she was out of her depth in the ocean came back in a flash. The transition from thrill to terror when their catamaran capsized during the crazy windstorm so many years ago. Her father’s cries muffled by the pounding, relentless waves, and then suffocating darkness and the weight of water pinning her down. Burning lungs, flailing arms, then nothing. She shuddered.
The near-death experience had the potential to either make her stronger or be her ruin, and unfortunately for Madison, it had the latter effect. Through the years, she had longed to overcome her fear but never possessed the courage to see it through. Tonight could be her turning point. Or it could be her peril.
Surely, with God in her life, she could overcome anything. What was that verse? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” She could do with some strengthening about now. Baby steps—Madison leaned over the glass floor from her perch on the bench. Below her, the strange window was clear and dark. It separated her from the great expanse of water, the unknown demon that haunted her since childhood. She mustered enough courage to kneel and peek through the glass. She didn’t expect to see anything other than darkness but could make out underwater life of some sort. There were fish and seaweed. Something moved underneath the boat, and she froze. She couldn’t do this. It was too much.
Sam must hate her with a passion to put her in this position. Defeated, she shuffled back up to the bench, putting as much distance between herself and the ocean as possible.
So much for overcoming my fears.
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