Can't Let Go GO PL(2)

By: Barbara Freethy


Had he just said shark?

She swiveled around in the water, suddenly seeing dark shapes everywhere, some between her and the beach. Were they shadows or were they sharks?

Her heart began to pound and her fear returned in huge, paralyzing waves. She couldn't move. She wanted to scream, but her breath was stuck in her chest.

Finally, she started to kick her feet, but was that making things worse?

The churning water, the terror, almost made her pass out.

Something bumped into her leg.

Oh, God!

And then he was there, grabbing her arm, hauling her onto his board with an ease that seemed unimaginable in the moment.

His body covered hers as he paddled toward shore, and she more than appreciated his hulking, powerful male figure. It seemed to be the only thing between her and a pack of sharks.

When they hit shallow waters, he vaulted off the board, took her hand and pulled her onto the sand.

She sank down in a boneless mess of terror, looking at him through wet strands of tangled hair, her heart beating way too fast, her breath coming in short, ragged gasps.

He squatted down in front of her, and for the first time she saw his face—his ruggedly handsome, masculine face that was square, with angled planes and a strong jaw. He had blue eyes that were bright against his tan skin, and his gaze as it raked her body made her shiver for another reason.

She thought he'd pulled her out of danger… Now, she wasn't so sure.

"Are you all right?" he asked in a gruff voice.

"I—I think so."

"Didn't you hear me yelling at you to get out of the water?"

"I—I didn't," she said, her teeth chattering from cold and fear. She'd been so caught up in her happy little victory moment, she'd lost track of everything around her, but she wasn't going to tell him that.

Looking past him, she saw other people gathering around in a half circle. A Jeep pulled up, and two lifeguards jogged across the sand. The taller one squatted down next to her rescuer, asking them if they were okay while the other moved the gawking crowd back a few steps.

Her rescuer stood up and moved away as the lifeguard peppered her with questions.

She wanted to tell the surfer to wait. She wanted to say thanks, because it occurred to her that she had not expressed even one word of gratitude. But when the lifeguard finally finished questioning her, and she found the energy to get to her feet, the man who had rescued her was gone.

Her gaze swept the beach and then moved to the water where the beachgoers had turned their focus from her to the half-dozen sleek shapes that seemed to be swimming very close to shore.

For a second, she had thought maybe the sharks had been in the surfer's imagination or hers…but they were very, very real.

She felt sick to her stomach at the memory of something smooth and heavy hitting her leg. Had it been a shark?

If the surfer hadn't pulled her out of the water and onto his board, she could have been attacked. She could have lost a limb or her life.

She bit down on her lip as waves of nausea ran through her.

She'd thought she'd given herself an easy test, a way to win, to feel good about achieving something, but she'd almost gotten herself maimed or killed.

Turning away from the sea and the sharks, she walked over to the towel she'd left on the sand. She pulled on denim shorts and a tank top, grabbed her sandals and then headed across the beach to the eight flights of stairs that led up to the bluff, to her apartment, to safety.

When she got to the top of the cliff, she took one last look at the beach. The crowd had dispersed, and she could no longer see any dark shapes in the water. It was over. She should feel relieved, but she was too stressed to breathe freely, the adrenaline surge still working its way through her body.

She walked down the street to the four-unit apartment building she'd moved into six weeks earlier, lucky to have been offered the beachfront sublet by an actor friend of hers, who would be shooting a television series in Boston for the next six months. He'd offered it to her for a steal, asking only that she keep his plants alive.

Climbing the stairs to her second-story apartment, she unlocked the door, and tossed her towel and keys on the coffee table in the living room. The apartment had an open floor plan with a sofa and loveseat facing a big screen television in the living area closest to the front door. A dining area with a long, rectangular table sat adjacent to the kitchen, both rooms facing a wall of windows and a stunning ocean view.