Welcome back to our Wednesday and Saturday serial installments! We are happy to continue to share The Glass Bottom Boat by Laura Thomas.
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 / Chapter 22 / Chapter 23
SEVERAL MINUTES LATER, LUKE SPOTTED a commercial vessel bobbing next to the dock at another beach. No resort. One more dock ahead, but that was empty. This place was deserted. He flicked on the small flashlight and studied his map. This small beach was close to Morant Bay, and according to Nathan’s list, there were no glass bottom boats here. Interesting. This boat had the familiar shape and canopy he was looking for and was attached to the dock by a lengthy rope. Maybe it had come loose and drifted, but it needed to be checked out with care.
Luke turned off his lights, as there was no ocean traffic whatsoever. He couldn’t be spotted if it did happen to be the vessel in question. He got closer; his pulse raced. The sign on the side of the vessel was clear: “Glass Bottom Boat.”
He surveyed the area. A couple of shacks dotted the stretch of beach, with a vehicle parked next to one of them. A jeep, judging by its angular shape. People must be here but not enough to merit having a boat like this. His skin prickled. One of the huts had a dim light shining from within. They could be sleeping or keeping watch. Extra caution was required. Luke looked down at his trembling hands. He couldn’t fall apart now.
Focus over fear.
He stayed a good distance from shore and turned off the motor. Without a sound, he drifted past the beach and the boat. Something caught his attention in the silence. What was that? The sound of weeping floated into the night air. Heart-wrenching sobs belonging to a woman came from inside the boat. He strained his ears. Did it sound like Madison? It was hard to tell from a distance. And then the sobs stopped and a voice he recognized seemed to be chanting. No, she was praying.
Madison. It’s really you.
Luke ached to rush up next to the boat, pluck her from the wretched nightmare, and whisk her away to safety, but it wouldn’t be quite that simple. Anyone could be on the boat with her. He had to be smart and let his head rule his heart here.
A quick glance to the shoreline. Two guys, one lit hut, one vehicle. Were they both in the hut? Or was one in the boat with Madison? His stomach knotted. Okay, Lord, I have to trust You in this. If they could both be asleep—preferably fast asleep—onshore, that would be great.
The goal was the next vacant dock along. Not too far away for Madison to swim but far enough to avoid attracting attention.
It took a few minutes for Luke to maneuver his boat past the beach with minimal noise and attach it to the other dock. It was in rough shape, but he wasn’t in a position to be picky. He secured the rope and looked back toward the glass bottom boat. The distance was nothing for him, but swimming at this depth would seem like a marathon stretch for Madison. She’s going to hate me.
Next, one quick phone call to Nathan and Chloe. They needed to know his plan and location in case something went wrong. Which was a possibility. James Bond he was not.
He dug out the phone from his pocket and prayed once again for cell reception.
“Nathan, can you hear me?” He kept his voice down to a whisper.
“Yes, but only just. I have you on speaker phone. What’s up?”
“I found Madison.”
“What?” Chloe screeched, and Luke covered the phone with his hand. He couldn’t get caught by the kidnappers now. He was so close. “Tell us both what’s going on.”
He kept his voice just above a whisper. “I’m at a little beach south of Morant Bay, according to the map. There’s a glass bottom boat tied up here and it’s not on the list. I passed by and heard a woman in there, and I’m positive it was Madison’s voice.”
“Madison?” Chloe squealed. Luke shot a look at the hut. No movement. “She’s alive? Could you hear what she was saying?”
How could he tell her sister she was sobbing? Focus on the positive. “I think she’s okay. I couldn’t make out the words, but from the cadence in her voice, I’d say she was praying.”
“Really? Do you think she’s alone?”
“I would guess so. Come to think of it, I can’t imagine her praying aloud like that in front of her captors, and it looks to me like the hut on the beach is occupied. The light is on, and there’s a vehicle outside. Plus, if she’s scared stiff because she’s on the boat, I think prayer would be the first thing on her to-do list.”
Nathan whistled into the phone. “This sounds like showtime, then, bro. What’s the plan?”
Luke struggled to keep his voice down. “I need you to phone the police immediately.”
Chloe gasped. “Are you sure? What if it goes wrong and they hurt Madi? You heard what they said about the police.”
“I know I’m taking a chance here, but I believe it’s the best way to go. I’m almost certain the men are in the hut on the beach, and there’s zero movement, so I’m hoping they’re out cold.”
“What if they’re not?” Nathan raised his voice. “This could even be a trap. Why would they allow Madison to be out on the boat alone? I don’t like the sound of this.”
“Babe, Sam knows Madi is petrified of deep water. He’s relying on that fact to keep her there. If she’s on the boat, he’s created her own personal prison on the ocean, and there’s no chance she would swim away.”
Luke ran a hand through his hair. That was his fear. What if she refused to get into the deep water?
“Bro, how are you going to get her out without the dudes seeing you? Or are you going to wait for the police?”
Luke rubbed his grainy eyes. “I can’t chance waiting. If they come outside to check on things, they could see my boat hitched way up on the next beach. They might get spooked and take off with Madison again. I won’t stand by and watch that happen.”
“I hate to ask.” Nathan hesitated. “But what if these guys have weapons, man?”
Luke checked his phone battery—low-power mode. “I don’t have time to worry about that. I’m going to swim to the boat and get her to swim back with me. She can make it. And we’ll have to slip away without a sound so the kidnappers don’t suspect anything. There’s no guarantee the police will make it here before we escape.”
The phone was silent for a few beats before Nathan spoke up again. “There’s a lot that can go wrong—”
“As soon as it’s safe, I’ll call you again. Now, get on the line to the cops. Make sure you tell them we’re going to head straight back to the resort in the boat and they can question us all they want once we’re there. I have to go. See you later.”
Luke ended the call and stared at the phone for a second. For a last dose of courage, he clicked on the photo of Madison one more time. I’m coming to save you, beautiful. He put his phone on the seat, pulled off his shirt, and kicked his flip-flops into the corner.
Lord, I can’t do this in my own strength. I need You to calm Madison’s heart and help her understand what we need to do. Please keep us safe. I want to live long enough to have a future with this woman.
Careful not to make a splash, he slid into the ocean and swam in the direction of the glass bottom boat. The water was cooler without the sun warming it but not unbearable. The ocean was Luke’s comfort zone, and his fear dissipated with each stroke. The familiar act of swimming cleared his mind and refreshed him for the next task, which was a big one. He could literally be saving a life.
Within a few minutes, he reached the dock and stopped to assess the situation. All was well. No crying from the boat and no movement over at the beach. A solitary light still shone through a window in the hut. Eerily peaceful.
The challenges before him made his head spin. If Madison was free and ready to escape, would she have the guts to jump off the edge of a boat into the pitch-black ocean? Was he expecting too much from her? She could have a broken leg or a concussion, for all he knew. She needed to swim back with him. Period. That would mean facing her fears head on. He gazed up at the dock he hung on to and sighed. They could chance climbing onto it and running to the beach, but then they would be dangerously close to the hut and could run straight into a trap. No way he was going to put her anywhere near those buffoons. No, the swim was their one option. I’m so sorry, Madison.
Luke took a deep breath and plunged down deeper into the water with huge strokes until he was below the glass bottom boat. There was only one way to make sure Madison was alone in there. And she was not going to like it.
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