Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. As always, this is your chance to read a scene from works in progress. Many thanks to Jean Joachim who makes this weekly blog hop possible.
Here’s this week’s scene from Wedding Bell Blues, the continuation of Paul’s heart-stopping rescue of MJ.
Paul held MJ in his arms as the engine on the small craft coughed to life. The fishing vessel bobbed on the horizon. How had they drifted this far from it? He couldn’t imagine having swum that distance in the turbulent water. He blinked. The ocean was now as smooth as glass, the sun’s reflection turning it the same color as MJ’s eyes—mermaid’s eyes as Lucette’s grandmother had called them.
He exhaled, his heart still beating frantically in his chest, his knee throbbing from the exertion. He would be limping for a day or two, but that wouldn’t matter as long as she was okay.
MJ’s eyes were closed, pink tinging her cheeks. The reassuring rise and fall of her chest as she took each steady breath should be calming him, but the adrenalin rush from the rescue and the fear he’d lost her wouldn’t be appeased—at least not until he got his hands on the man responsible for this. People around here might believe in Quimbois and mermaids, but he was ruled by facts, not myths and legends.
As soon as the smaller craft came alongside the larger one, hands secured the vessel while others eased him away from MJ so that they could lift her onto the deck. Paul followed the basket up the ladder.
Bill and Mark stood at the gunwale. Seeing the man responsible for all this standing there snapped what little control Paul had over his emotions. His hands fisted.
“Is she okay?” Bill asked, his face almost as pale as MJ’s had been, his forehead creased.
“Yes, no thanks to him,” Paul said, reaching for Mark, grabbing his shirt with his left hand and pulling the man to him, his face only inches from his. “How could you do it? How could you push her into the water like that?” He raised his right arm and pulled back his fist.
“Are you frigging nuts?” Mark asked, losing what little color he had. “Look, I know MJ and I have had problems, but I would never do something like that. My God, she’s a lousy swimmer. She could’ve drowned.”
Bill grabbed his arm before Paul could deliver the punch. “Back off, Paul. If someone pushed her in, it wasn’t Mark. He was below deck with me and Melena when the alarm went off. I don’t know what history you two have, but as far as this is concerned, you’re dead wrong.”
Paul released Mark so suddenly the man almost fell to the deck.
He ran his trembling hand through his hair, shaken to the core by what he’d almost done. If Bill hadn’t stepped in, he could well have beaten Mark to a pulp.
“I’m sorry,” he said, looking down at MJ, her open eyes huge in her frightened face.
Mark straightened his shirt. “No hard feelings,” he said. “Given what’s happened between us, it’s a logical conclusion, but no matter what you think of me, I would never endanger someone’s life like that.”
Before Paul could comment, the man who’d approached him earlier stood beside him.
“Sorry, buddy. I’ve been around the boat twice, and I haven’t been able to find the man I saw.” He shook his head, pointing at Mark. “It definitely wasn’t him, but like I said, the guy was reaching for her, not pushing her in. It makes no sense. The captain doesn’t understand how that door was opened. It hasn’t been opened in years. It was bolted shut months ago when they started doing charter tours. Here he comes with Nate. Ask him yourself.”
“Let me by; I’m a doctor.” The man with the captain pushed his way through the gawkers, forcing Paul, Mark, and Bill aside. He knelt beside MJ still strapped into the rescue basket. “I’m Nate Jeffries. How do you feel?” he asked, unbuckling the restraints. Any pain anywhere?”
MJ smiled weakly and shook her head. “My head aches and my chest is sore, but otherwise, I’m fine,” she answered, her cheeks turning red. “Can I get out of these wet clothes?”
“In a minute,” the doctor said, reaching for her wrist. “You have a hell of a bump on your head, but the cut isn’t deep enough for stitches. The soreness in your chest probably comes from the CPR.” He glanced up at Paul. “You gave your hubby a damn good scare. Now, take a deep breath for me? Does it hurt any more than it did?”
MJ shook her head.
Paul looked for signs that her asthma was acting up. Surely if anything was going to cause an attack, that misadventure would, but MJ was surprisingly calm—obviously embarrassed, but calm.
“My sincerest apologies, madame,” Captain Pierre said, stooping next to the doctor. “I don’t understand how that gate was opened. The bolts have simply vanished. It makes no sense. And the turbulence—I haven’t seen anything like it in all my days on l’Étoile de la Mer. It’s as if it came from beneath us. The wind gauge was barely registering.” He scowled. “I’ve radioed for information on underwater quakes, and given them our position at the time.” He shook his head, looking out at the now calm water, wringing his hands.
“Captain, I’m fine,” MJ said. “It’s my own fault. I thought I saw something—maybe a dolphin or a small whale. I leaned over to get a better look … It was just an accident. I’m prone to them.” She shrugged. “In my wild imagination, I thought I’d seen a mermaid.”
The captain’s eyes grew large, but he just nodded.
“You swallowed a lot of seawater,” the doctor said, cracking an ice pack to activate it. “Put this on the bump for now. I suggest you go below deck and change into something dry. When we get back to the resort, have their medical staff check you over.”
Paul moved closer to MJ once more. “Thank you for helping her. She’ll definitely see the doctor as soon as possible.” He squatted awkwardly beside her, his knee barely strong enough now to hold his weight. “Ready to try and stand?”
“Yes,” she answered, taking the hand he offered her and rising as he did. He pulled her into his arms.
“Doctor Jeffries was right about one thing. You scared the living daylights out of me.” He pressed a gentle kiss to her mouth, releasing her much sooner than he wanted to.
“I’m sorry,” she said, her eyes bright with unshed tears. “What I would really like right now is a drink. All I can taste is salt and whatever else was in that water.”
Christy materialized beside them with a bottle of mineral water. “Here. I suppose champagne isn’t a good idea until the doctor checks you out.”
“Thanks,” MJ reached for the bottle and drained it.
Paul held her tightly to him, afraid to let her go. “Can we go below so I can change now? You probably should, too.”
“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me.” Stone-faced, looking over her head, Paul watched the sailors hoisting anchor. Vanishing bolts? Missing men? What the hell had happened here?
Now, don’t forget to check out all the other posts on Tuesday Tales.