Gray tried to avoid the worst of that roiling gristmill, flying at full throttle.
Still, more towers fell. Walls tore apart with explosive retorts. Windows shattered in showering bursts.
Floating debris choked their path, growing more treacherous by the minute. Gray jigged and jagged his way through the worst of it. The boat’s resilient carbon-fiber hull took care of the rest.
He needed a way out to open water, but rubble and ruin seemed to block him at every turn.
“Gray!” Seichan clutched harder to a brace.
“I see it.”
Ahead, a huge cross-section of a spire under construction—nothing more than a frame of iron—broke loose, hit a condominium tower, then rolled in their direction. Like some coin in a pachinko machine, it bounced and crashed toward them.
Kowalski swore coarsely.
A sentiment shared by all.
There was no way past it, and Gray had only seconds to act.
He sought the only cover available—but it would be tight.
He swung the jet boat to the right, spun the craft 180 degrees, and slammed it sideways under the protruding upper-story balcony of a sunken building. The tumbling monstrosity of iron clattered over them—then bounced away.
“Nice job parallel-parking,” Kowalski commented.
With a blast of the jets, Gray blew the boat back out of the shelter.
He turned, dug in, and sped for the distant glimmer of open water.
But even that path was closing.
Ahead, two residential towers leaned drunkenly against each other. The one to the right crumbled against its partner, dropping slowly, raining broken glass and debris.
“Go for it,” Seichan said.
Gray had no choice. He gunned the engine, firing the jets behind him into a roar. The boat blasted away like a rocket, striving to duck under that lowering guillotine of steel, concrete, and glass.
Kowalski curled over Amanda, whom he cradled on his lap. “I can’t watch.”
Seichan reached over and gripped Gray’s forearm.
Tucker braced his legs against the back of the captain’s seat.
Only one crew member had a different assessment.
Kane came forward, tucked under Seichan’s arm, and jumped up to bring his nose into the wind. His tail wagged fiercely, striking Gray in the shoulder.
With that bit of encouragement, Gray tightened his fingers on the wheel. The jet boat screamed across the last of the water, skimming along the surface at over sixty miles an hour.
Ahead, the building fell faster, the path below it pinching closed.
But Gray was already committed.
“Down!” he yelled.
Seichan’s fingers dug hard as she ducked, keeping Kane pinned under her arm.
The jet boat reached the gap and shot under the toppling tower, shattering through a rain of falling glass. For several seconds, the world filled with the scream of tortured steel and the thundering grind of concrete.
It felt like a derailed freight train tumbled past overhead.
Then they burst clear—
—as the tower crashed into the sea behind them, casting up a huge wave that shoved them, along with a flotilla of debris, farther out into the dark waters.
But those waters weren’t entirely dark.
A cordon of lights blocked the seas three hundred yards out, including a yacht-sized cutter.
The island’s security fleet had set up a blockade.
Gray slowed their flight.
“Maybe they didn’t see us,” Seichan said.
Gray glanced doubtfully back. As he turned his attention forward, his fears were confirmed.
A trio of those lights broke away, coming toward them.
He spun the jet boat and raced in the opposite direction. More lights hovered out there, too, other vessels in the blockade. But that wasn’t his goal. Once he gained some distance, he swung behind a floating pallet of construction lumber.
“Don’t think hiding here is going to work,” Kowalski said.
Gray stood and pointed overboard. “Everybody out.”
Seichan grabbed his arm. “What are you thinking? We can outrun them.”
“Not weighted down like this,” Gray said, speaking fast. He pointed to the fuel gauge. “Almost out of fuel. Don’t have enough to make it to the mainland.”
“Then what are you going—?” Seichan looked harder at him. “You’re going to lead them off.”
“It’s the best chance for Amanda. I dump you here, run off, and get them to chase me for as long as possible.” He pointed to Kowalski. “You’ve got Jack Kirkland’s homing device. Maybe he survived and can reach you. If not—”
Kowalski eyed the stack of lumber. “I’ll build a boat.”
“Do your best,” he said.
The others quickly shed boots and outerwear. Tucker stripped the vest off of Kane, so his partner was not weighted down.
They left Amanda in her hospital gown. She had begun to shake off the anesthesia, but she remained in a dull haze. Gray feared she was edging toward shock. He hated to leave her floating in the sea, but what other recourse did he have?
He helped Tucker and Kowalski get her overboard. At least the surface waters were temperate, as compared with down deep.
“Keep her head elevated,” Gray warned.
Kane splashed in next to them.
He turned to Seichan. She remained fully clothed, with her arms crossed.
“You’re not coming with me,” he said, guessing her intent.
“We’re not both going to sacrifice ourselves.”
She frowned and looked him over as if he were crazy. “Who said anything about sacrificing myself? You want a distraction, something to keep those boats from poking their noses over here.” She pointed beyond the lumber pile. “See that big boat? That patrol cutter?”
“Time to turn the tables.” She lifted an eyebrow. “It’s high time we played pirate.”
Tucker could no longer hear the whine of the jet boat. He had watched the initial chase, saw them tear off to the side, leading the trio in a wild pursuit, running along the edge of the blockade.
He hoped their plan worked, but he had his own mission to address: to keep Amanda safe. After pulling her off that surgical table, he felt extra responsible for her—especially as he’d abandoned her newborn in the rush to escape.
I should have been more thorough in examining her.
But there was nothing to be done to correct that mistake, except keep Amanda protected.
To that end, he swam out toward where a plastic trash barrel floated on its side. He grabbed the handle. The plan was to build a nest around their hiding spot, to do their best to camouflage themselves amid the debris field.
Off to the east, the skies were already growing pale with the coming sunrise. He wanted better cover before then.
He didn’t expect they would have to remain in hiding for long. Maybe two hours. A disaster of this scope—the sinking of an entire island—would draw a global media circus: scores of television helicopters, curiosity seekers, and news reporters. Only then would it be safe to move Amanda out of hiding and search for a rescue, something to be caught on film.
That exposure should keep Amanda safe.
Such a story would attract a large audience.
Nothing like blood in the water to draw attention.
As he turned and dragged the barrel, a fin rose out of the water ahead of him. Then another. And another.
He forgot that blood drew more than just attention.
He pictured the hammerheads he’d seen earlier.
Something bumped his leg.
He let go of the barrel and yanked out his dagger. He’d left his pistol tucked in the stack of lumber.
He searched, twisting all around, but the waters were pitch-dark. Even the fins had vanished.
Then something touched his ankle. He kicked, striking something hard. It rose up under him, shoving him high. Seconds later, black water sluiced off the glass deck of the Ghost.
The hatch popped open, and Jack Kirkland poked his head out. He eyed the dagger still in Tucker’s fist. “You planning on attacking my boat with that knife? After all I went through to save your sorry asses?”
Tucker sheathed his blade, wanting to hug the man.
“You try swimming through a crumbling forest of concrete with an island falling on top of your head.” Jack wore a huge smile. “Was the time of my life! Now let’s see about getting you all on board.”
By the time that was accomplished, Jack had turned more somber. Especially seeing Amanda’s condition. She was shivering, blue-lipped, and pale, on the edge of shock.
Kowalski wrapped a dry blanket around her, from the stores aboard the Ghost. He was surprisingly gentle for such a lumbering fellow. But a blanket was far from enough.
“She needs immediate medical help,” Tucker said as he settled her into one of the seats.
Kane sat next to him, leaning against his knee.
“I know where she can get it,” Jack said. “Close by. I’ve got a state-of-the-art facility aboard the Deep Fathom. We can be steaming out of these waters within the hour and get her somewhere safe.”
Tucker sank into his seat, grateful and relieved.
Jack lowered the Ghost back under the water and piloted them away. “What the hell did they do to her?”
“I don’t know,” Tucker said numbly.
And I hope I never do.
“What about your other friends?”
Tucker looked up through the glass roof and admitted the same.
“I don’t know.”
“We’re on fumes,” Gray shouted.
At least, I hope I have even that.
Seichan sat next to him with her two SIGs on her lap. She glanced over at him. A glimmer of fear shone in her eyes—she wasn’t stupid—but it seemed only to ignite the larger excitement found there. She smiled, her hair whipped by the wind, the collar of her blouse snapping, showing the length of her neck.
“Let’s do this.”
Ever a woman of few words.
He grinned back, which only made her smile deepen—still hard-edged and purposeful, but now shining with something darker and softer, something he wanted to explore.